The new tier version of the old Tour structure meant that the first Open event of the year left a lot of room for movement, add in the new ‘knockout pools’ format and this year there was no time for slow starts. Seeded 17th, Birmingham 1 could finish anywhere from 5th to 34th!
First up for us this season, was a new team this year; BLU. Formed of a whole cast of experienced Brighton and London players this was not an easy first game. Fortunately for us though, as they were a new team together, we were able to take advantage of some errors that they maybe wouldn’t have made later in the weekend, and we took the lead early on. As we were building a cushion they started to find their range a bit more and the game tightened up, but we had enough of a margin to see it out 15-11.
The second game in our little bracket of four was Bristol 1, effectively a game to decide who finished top of our ‘knockout pool’ and earn a chance to cross up into the top 12. This turned out to be a game of real momentum changes; as one team looked like they were in a position to take control, the other fought back and the score swung back and forth all game long. Perhaps fittingly, it came down to a final point with scores tied at 11. Both teams forced a turnover before we took the time to hold onto the disc, regain our composure and put the point in to take the game.
Our cross up was against SMOG 1, who appeared to be pretty unlucky to be here after a pair of 13-14 losses in their top 12 pool. As if to emphasise that point they came out hard and took a sizeable early lead, despite our pressure on D. As the wind picked up and our zone became more effective however, our pressure started to get us the turnovers and we were able to chip away at the lead. Despite the hole we had dug for ourselves we fought really hard to get back into the game and by halftime we were back on serve at 7-8, with all the momentum going our way. Straight out of half though we made a couple of fatal mistakes and they raced back out to 7-10, relieving all the pressure we had built. They then reeled off the next couple of points while our heads were down, and even though we regrouped eventually it was too late and they won it 10-15 in the end.
That loss put us into the 13-20 bracket for the rest of the weekend – still an opportunity to improve on our initial seeding – with the next opposition being Reading 1 first game on Sunday. The wind had picked up overnight but both teams scored their first points upwind before the conditions started to become more of a factor. Our downwind zone D was limiting their progress and forcing turnovers, while our upwind offense was still looking dangerous, and the two combined meant that we started to pull away. Despite some longer points and even though the game felt much closer, we suddenly had a big lead; in the end it finished 14-5.
The opponent in our semi-final was Fire 1, who had recovered well from a tough start to their weekend. Their momentum from the previous games meant they started loudly and we just about managed to hang with them in the early going. The change in pitch orientation meant our tactics from our game against Reading needed some tweaking and while we figured things out we did enough to keep ourselves in the game. In the pretty variable crosswind our ‘O Line’ just kept chugging away and putting the points on the board, either getting any turnovers back or even when starting on D a couple of times. That left the ‘D Line’ free to go all out and get us the turns we needed and we snuck ahead just as time ran out. A couple of brutal points later we had secured a 10-8 win and a game against GB Masters to finish the weekend.
Our final game of the weekend was for 13th, against the GB Masters who had started the weekend in 7th but in a pool with the teams that ended up 2nd and 5th overall. As you would expect from a team of this quality they started the game well and any mistakes were swiftly punished. After the initial setback we steadied ourselves and showed how we had got here with some flowing under play and big deep shots. In the second half however we started to lose our discipline a little and against their zone we took some risky options as legs began to tire. Contrastingly, their continued discipline made it very tough to get the disc back and they began to rack up the score, the game finishing 8-15 to them.
Another great weekend overall; some really encouraging things to build on, as well as some lessons to learn from for the rest of the season and beyond.
Full results can be found here.