The culmination of a full year’s hard work, the final event of the UK outdoor season, the top 16 teams in the country pitted against each other over a weekend. Nationals!
Our team came prepared, albeit slightly light in number, ready for whichever teams we would face. Following a fairly expected regionals we were seeded 10th out of 16 for the season finale, giving us a 7v10 round-of-16 match against Brighton City to start the weekend. Brighton started strong, going a break up for the first point of the game with both the assist and the goal coming from their returning GB players. We soon found some early rhythm with the Gold line putting in a nice flowing offensive point before the Black line broke back to lead on the scoreboard 2-1. We had previously played Brighton twice this year, at both Tour 1 and Tour 2. On both of those occasions we had come out on top so we attempted to take those strong performances into Nationals and build on the success. It was clear that Brighton were more up for the challenge this time around and after trading to 4-4 they racked up 3 breaks in quick succession to take the half 8-5. They never let up, taking the win 15-9. Nevertheless, we had played well in our first game, lacking a solid killer instinct in front of the goal line and giving away a few easy turns but well enough to know that we could do some damage later in the tournament.
Nationals is an unforgiving beast, each round is a knockout of sorts and both us and Fire 2 (our second round opponents) knew that two losses to start the tournament would drop us into the bottom-4 round robin. Both teams started with intensity, making up for what we lost in efficiency. With the scores level at 4-4 again Fire 2 put in their offence followed by a break to close in on the half. Reaching the half first always seems like a good mental step to winning the game and fortunately for us we rattled off 6 of the next 7 points to lead 10-7 going into the final half an hour. Our long game started to click relieving some of the pressure on our under cuts and for the first time in the weekend we got close to the standard we expressed at Tour earlier in the year. We ran out winners 15-10, cementing our place in the top 12.
From here the tournament works like a ladder of semi-finals with the winners of each set of semis moving up to play the losers of the bracket higher up. Starting in the 9-12 semi bracket a win would see us move up into the 7-10 semi from which another win would see us into the 5-8 semis and final. Conversely, a loss would mean taking the 11th/12th seed and waiting for seeding games higher up before playing a 9-12 bracket semi and final to attain a final seeding. Our seeding match opponents were Manchester, a team we have only faced once so far this year in the quarterfinals of Tour 3. That match was somewhat tainted by poor sportsmanship and both teams seemed to come into this match with a better temperament, allowing for the frisbee to do the talking. We traded to 3-3 in what was turning into a close game before Manchester eeked out a break to go 5-3 up followed by another to take the half 8-5. The game was scrappy, strewn with turnovers from both teams but Manchester were managing to get over the goal line where we were not. In what was starting to become an ugly theme of our weekend we were slipping up in the simplest of place, turning over when the disc was seemingly safe. There aren’t any stats of blocks from the weekend but I can imagine the number of times we were blocked or D’ed was relatively low with the majority of our turnovers coming from our personal mistakes. That aside, Manchester strung together an impressive run of 6 points to take an unassailable 12-5 lead, trading out for a 15-8 win. This put us firmly in the 9-12 bracket playing the loser of Glasgow-EMO for a place in the plate final.
Dominos on the Saturday night at National has become somewhat of a tradition so despite the regular Dominos being closed for renovation we managed to order over £120-worth of pizza from the next closest outlet further into Southampton. It pissed it down all night, not ideal weather for camping in a field, and it was still trying to rain when we woke up the next morning.
Losing the last game on Saturday meant that we had a late start on Sunday, always a bonus! Whilst we warmed up under a gazebo to stay out the rain EMO put in the final few points making Glasgow our next opponents. As a side note, Si Hill came over during our warm up to give us the Mixed Nationals trophy from last year! Un-inscribed since 2010 and in our possession for half a day but it was nice to see it nonetheless.
As per the rest of the weekend our defence worked well, getting turns on most points. Unfortunately we kept giving the disc back though leaving us a couple of breaks down at the half. The theme continued after the break and despite the rain letting up Glasgow ran out 15-8, leaving us in the 11-12 game against Leeds to finish the weekend.
Leeds have had a very different year to us. Tour 1 and 2 were probably weaker than they expected but an influx of young talent and a renaissance at Tour 3 led them nicely back into A Tour and Nationals. Having had the same record as us over the weekend until this point it was set to be a good competitive game from the off. The score flitted between them and us. 0-3, timeout, 4-3, timeout, 4-6. Finally both teams managed to step up their offence and we traded to 8-9, Leeds up by one. Two breaks one the trot later and the game was out of sight, Leeds taking the win 15-11. Not the ideal way to finish the tournament for us but we showed tenacity throughout.
All in all I think we had a good Nationals. Not great but we played well when we got the disc moving and our man D was strong against every team we played. There are lots of things we can take from this year to move forward, experiences we can use to boost performance next year. Throughout the season we’ve accomplished things we wouldn’t have been able to without having the cohesive team that’s been building for the last three to four years. I’m looking forward to next year and I hope the majority of the team is still around to see what we can do. For now through, a break! If I don’t see you before, see you all on the field at the beginning of next season …or at training every Tuesday between now and then…! #holdtight #4yearplan