When the 2012 season began, Sockeye’s leadership was staring down the empty barrels of nine open roster spaces left by players not returning from their 2011 Regionals loss. It was the most turnover Sockeye has ever seen in a single year, and since 2010 the Fish have dropped all-stars like Ben Wiggins, Andrew Fleming, Alex Nord, Ray Illian, and Tim Gehret to retirement, injury, and other teams. Only Nate Castine, Matt Sewell, Mike Caldwell, and Moses Rifkin remained of the 2007 title team that sent Sockeye to the 2008 World Championships in Vancouver.
Sockeye accepted the upstream challenge by continuing its tradition of dipping into Seattle’s deep talent pool as well as pulling from some of the best college programs in the country. The team promoted players from Seattle Voodoo and brought on Duncan Linn and Matty Zemel, two standout college athletes from the University of Washington and Colorado University, Boulder, respectively.
Mainstays of the program such as BJ Sefton, Adam Holt, and Tyler Kinley have put the team on their back at times, but the contributions of first and second year Fish have been nothing short of crushing. “We picked up such a dynamic group this year that they all provide something we can utilize based on the team, the conditions and the strategy,” says Karlinsky.
Still, with only 24 roster members when USA Ultimate allows for 27, Sockeye is swimming with a smaller team. In addressing the team’s big turnover, current captain Danny Karlinsky said that Sockeye sliced their roster up into polar offensive and defensive groups to focus on reps and chemistry. Instead of learning to play with 23 new players, Sockeye rookies only had to learn how to play with 12. And they wasted no time playing like a two-thirds team. Even with a reloaded roster Sockeye has learned very quickly how to win and keep winning. The Fish have gone undefeated since their loss to Ironside at ECC. That’s 16 games straight including a double game point win over the reigning World Champions, Revolver, as well as a double game point win over Rhino to clinch the Northwest Regional title.
This sense of team has ground down Sockeye’s competition leading up to the Club Championships. The ability to lose a third of their roster and still emerge in 2012 as a team to beat speaks not only to the Seattle community’s collective talent but also to Sockeye’s dedicated leadership. “We all we got! We all we need,” the club’s rallying cry, echoes the mentality that they are a program that can take whatever a season may throw at them and turn it in to shoulder-to-the-wheel success.
How They Do
Sockeye is an offensive machine in perpetual motion. With athletes as quick and deadly as Sam Harkness, Aly Lenon, Nate Castine, Danny Karlinsky and BJ Sefton in the handler slots, teams just can’t keep up with the tick-tack movement of Sockeye’s small ball. Add in a few dime shooters like Adam Holt and Chris Kosednar airing it out for frequent goal scorers like Matt Rehder and Phil Murray and you have yourself one wicked crew. One unfortunate alteration to that equation is that Matt Rehder injured his arm at Regionals and is unlikely to return for the Championships.
On the defensive side of the disc, the Sockeye is held down by deep anchors Reid Koss and Frank Devin Barich in some quick transition zones, but they also feature hard man to man defense that will squeeze turns out of even the most careful of teams. On top of that, they have the nasty 6’4″ four man cup in their back pocket to startle any team if bad weather or antsy handlers should show themselves in Florida.
Strategy aside, if offenses can limit BJ Sefton to one block a game they’ll be lucky. And that’s a big if.
Fish to Florida
After a year of bid hiatus the Seattle Sockeye resume their annual migration to Sarasota with a chance to contend for the USA Ultimate title.
The Emerald City Classic, Sockeye’s home tournament, did show that the Fish were vulnerable as the squad squeezed by with double game points over GOAT and Doublewide and losses to Truck Stop, Revolver, and Ironside. But that Ironside loss was Sockeye’s last of the season and the team has gone 17-0 since. Karlinsky chose not to mention it, but as the third seed going in to the tournament the team has every reason to set its sights on a championship.
It’s a long road to the finals and only the actual games will show if Sockeye can put together another string of performances as spectacular as their Labor Day and Regional wins. While this is a young team wherein nine players on the roster have never been to the Championships with Sockeye, it would be foolish not to put pencil the team into in semis. Seattle has consistently shown that they know what it takes to win and how to do it as a team.
There’s not a single player that will bury you in Sarasota. There are 24.
Feature photo by Jeff Bell – Ultiphotos.com