After a bit of a topsy-turvy regionals that saw our second team qualify for Open Indoor Nationals whilst the first team dropped out of the top 8, we ended up sending a team which was a mixture of the two …and Will.
Despite none of the regional winners attending, the 16 team competition looked really strong and all the Midlands teams who qualified had been able to add strength to their squads. I couldn’t comment on the teams from other regions but those in our pool certainly looked the business.
Free of any expectations a couple of people on our team were quietly confident that we could come away with a decent result. Looking at the teams around us I thought top 8 would be very good, maybe top 4 if we could produce a really top performance at the right time. Instead, we just pulled out 8 great performances and absolutely stormed it! Here’s how…
Pool Game 1: 10-4 Win Vs Ka-Plop!
Against the tops seeds in the pool and second seeds overall this could have been a daunting first game. A bit of insider knowledge suggested they had some “monsters” who we could expect to bring down a lot of the high stuff and a couple of D-machines that could get run through D’s and point blocks on just about anyone …anyone but us apparently.
From the off we showed great defensive discipline and determination to trap them in their own half, completely taking away their unders and forcing them to throw deep from deep to get turnovers.
Our offence was as clinical as I have ever seen it; scoring extremely quickly on a turn when it was there, or treasuring the disc as if it were our O point. They didn’t know how to react and needed a time out at 7-1 down to re-group and try to make the scoreline respectable, they couldn’t.
Pool Game 2: 9-4 Win Vs GFM
A relatively unknown team to us but, judging from their warmup, very focused, aiming to place highly, and not to mention pretty tall. We employed the same plan on D; to force any deep throws to come from distance by not giving any yards on the unders and, despite having played one game at such a high intensity defence already, we did not let up at all and took another commanding lead.
Chasing the game brings its own pressures which perhaps caused a couple more drops in and around the endzone than a team of obvious quality would normally produce but we capitalized on them aggressively and it felt comfortable in the end.
Pool Game 3: 13-6 Win Vs Shake-and-Bake
Having despatched the top two seeds in the pool relatively comfortably we didn’t want to let it slide by being complacent in the final game and although our offence was not quite as clinical, our intense D got us the turns we needed to take the game away.
We would go into the power pools as second seeds and carry over a very useful 10-4 win with us.
Power Pool Game 1: 8-9 Loss Vs LED
Up until this game we had been very well behaved on O. We had kept the disc when we needed to and gone for the big shots when they were on. We lost this for the first two points of this game, perhaps feeling a little bit more pressure having played so well up until now, and went 2-0 down. Our D still remained good and we were able to claw our way back to 2-2, but it just didn’t have the same bite as in the first two games. We would regularly hold them to a stall count of 6 or 7 but a slight lapse would allow a scuba to go uncontested or they brought down their hail-mary shots into the endzone.
After 2-2 both teams kept their offence and the game stayed on serve and LED, commendably, kept their nerve with the last possession to take the win.
Power Pool Game 2: 11-3 Win Vs ∆
Knowing a poor result could see us lose out on top of the pool and have to play a crossover there was perhaps a little bit of apprehension before the start of the game, which was not helped by me not really knowing what the time was and we still hadn’t flipped before the hooter went. Fortunately the other team were even less prepared and only just managed to get five on the line for the first point.
It wasn’t our most fluid and composed performance on offence but we did what we needed to do, and then some. A tight win for GFM over LED ensured we topped the pool and were guaranteed top 8. Perhaps on another weekend I would have been satisfied with a top 8 finish, but we had played so well against the top two seeds in our pool that I knew we could go better.
Quarter Final: 7-4 Win Vs Purple Cobras
A huge 8 game gap preceded our quarter final, but we were able to watch our opponents take apart Sandwedge in their crossover into the top 8. We knew a game against this quick, athletic team would be tough but it did seem a better prospect than the giants of Sandwedge who had crumbled under some intense defence.
As expected this game was fast and furious. Somehow Kabul managed to steal a yard and Marius put an inch perfect, pitch length, sidearm straight down the line to an onrushing Kabul who didn’t even need to break stride to score our first two points in exactly the same way. Beyond these points every score was a slog. Their tight D almost forced a couple of stall outs but we were able to show great composure under pressure to keep the disc well and put it in when an opportunity came.
Similarly our D had the Cobras pinned back in their quarter for long periods until the pressure told and we got a turn. A couple of breaks up we were happy to protect the endzone and keep the disc on O. Our game management had been good on Saturday and with the addition of Jeremy on Sunday we were fast becoming a very difficult team to turn over.
A very hard fought win had put us in the top 4 and I couldn’t help but think we had stumbled onto a way of playing that could take us all the way to the final.
Marius and Will had found their range very early and nearly every disc into the endzone was perfectly placed into the corner allowing the cutters to catch it under very little defensive pressure. All we had to worry about was our feet.
Nick Fine of course got horizontal for some impressive D’s and Nick Lawson did a great job containing some of the taller and more athletic players we matched up against. Both kept the disc moving well on offense, often bailing me out with an open side cut for an easy gainer under.
Luca was really solid on offence; I don’t think he turned it over once, and was effective on D helping the team to continuously build pressure until we forced a turn or rash throw away.
Kabul was, well, Kabul. A couple of spectacular grabs, including a great toe-in in the final, helped us over the line in more than one game and his relentless D put our opponents best players under immense pressure.
On the Sunday we gained a player, Jeremy, who added composure on offence and another dimension on D. His poise on the disc definitely helped us see out some, potentially very tight, games relatively comfortably.
Semi Final: 9-4 Win Vs Flump
Over the two days we had seen Flump play a couple of times, they were often on the pitch in front of where we chose to hangout, and despite a few draws early on it looked like they were just getting better and better. We knew to expect a fair amount of zone, which we hadn’t seen much of on the large pitches of the Cranford Superdome, and plenty of high shots to their tall receivers. In short; a tight game of fine margins.
Instead it felt like they played right into our hands. The zone, although good, didn’t put enough pressure on the dump and we were allowed to reset the disc relatively easily. Happily we swung the disc back and forth until their up field defenders started to bite and allowed too much space in behind. Well timed shots into the endzone took full advantage of any momentary lapses and we were soon a couple of breaks up.
Our defence forced them to take deep shots from well inside their own half, often going too far for even their 6ft plus receiver to bring down.
Even when down Flump stuck to their zone D, and despite Jeremy’s insistence that we didn’t need to score, we still put the points on – but only after swinging the disc around the back for a few minutes first.
Looking back, even the five point goal difference doesn’t quite do justice to how comfortable we made this game look. Not because our opponents did not play well, nor because of the lack of effort it required, but because of how confident we were with the disc and how difficult we made it to make any forward passes. It was as complete a display of indoor Ultimate as I have seen Brum play.
We had made the final and, given our performances, deservedly so.
The Final: 6-4 WIN Vs Danger
With 5 minutes to go we were warmed up and ready to go. Team talk completed we had a clear defensive focus and knew if we held our O as we had been we were in with a chance, despite the fact that the Regionals runners up had bolstered their team from that weekend with some very handy players, including Bruin from S&L who weren’t competing here.
The anticipation was building, and we were made to wait even longer when the 5v6 took forever to find a winner. Eventually it was game on!
From the off our D kept them pinned inside their half, allowing swings and sideways movement but anything up field was hotly contested. Having started on D, the pressure told and we were able to force early turnovers. Despite having to earn two turns in the first point we were able to convert and did the same in the second to go 2-0 up.
Although Danger did score with a couple of characteristic blades into the endzone they were few and far between. A strong force and plenty of “flash and back” help defence restricted these shots and forced them to play through us rather than over us. The points were long and our defence really had to grind and work hard to get any turnovers, but they came.
Similarly their defence was always tight on our shoulders and to begin with much tighter on the dump than any game that weekend. This forced a few errors from us and we were probably turned over more in this game than any other. However, our O really came together when it needed to and a couple of quick scores, including Kabul’s ridiculous endzone grab from a shot down the line, in clutch points helped us see the game out and finish the weekend 1st, UKU Open Indoor National Champions!
What a weekend! I think our point difference (+35) shows we deserved to be in the final as well as the final finishing positions of our opponents (2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th); we couldn’t have had a more difficult route to the final.
Everyone on the team was a pleasure to play with and made it really easy to ‘captain’. All I had to do was tell people when we were playing, and even that I always asked Marius for anyway. People took individual responsibility for getting game ready and started every game exactly how we wanted, fast and focused.
I often thought that people would look across at our line and think we weren’t all that, but we showed with a strong team performance, playing with a single focus, we can beat just about anybody.
Not bad for a second team!