I wrote these questions on Friday evening before heading out to watch Northwest Regionals, where I was hoping to see some good ultimate and find some answers. By Sunday evening, I had them.
What is up with Furious George? The departure of Morgan Hibbert signaled the end of an era. Hibbert was one of the last remaining ties to the Monkey’s glory days; to leave for a marginally better GOAT in the middle of the season is perplexing at best. At worst…
This team is in bad shape. The jerseys are the same shiny red with the an angry monkey on the front, but the the team is not the same. They rolled over to Sockeye and Rhino and squeaked out halftime against the Powderhogs. They managed to punch their ticket, but expect a bagel at Nationals.
Is there more to Rhino than Dylan Freechild? Portland has quietly put together a very nice season, going 17-1. It’s been against admittedly weak competition, but still. 17-1 is 17-1. Despite being pretty young, the core of this team has played together a number of years and is capable of putting together some quality ultimate. But Freechild is very good and teams often get overly reliant on his talents.
Definitely. This team plays nice, balanced offense. Freechild is a piece of this and provides a nice amount of creativity, but they have a solid core of players capable of functioning without him. He wasn’t much of a factor in their finals against Sockeye, but then neither was much of the rest of the team. Rhino is just so young. Their median age is something absurd (like 24) and it shows — they can play great ultimate in stretches, but they make mistakes they don’t need to make.
Can Riot play consistent offensive ultimate? This team can play defense, no question. But their World’s win over Fury was a sloppy affair and their ECC loss to Brute Squad was… hm, how to put this delicately? It was the result of a long break and little practicing. Still, all that really stands between Riot and a trophy in Texas is the ability to string together groups of four or five possessions without a turnover.
Yes, provided they can hit their deep shots. The opening half of their finals against Traffic, was quick and clean with both teams scoring at a consistent clip. Riot hit on a number of hucks and threw about 50% fewer passes than Traffic — unless they were forced into their endzone offense. Dominique Fontenette is a revelation; her understanding of space is unparalleled and I’d highly recommend watching her work. Charlie Mercer’s layout to end the final was the best single play of the weekend.
Will Schwa be a team? Portland has a lot of young talent, but they aren’t playing unified ultimate yet. They will, but it’s unclear if that will happen in 2014 or 2015.
They played well in their qualifying win over Underground. If you remove a couple very ugly points, Schwa completely controlled this game, slowly pulling away from the Seattle women. There is still a lot of room for improvement; beyond the hell-points, their defense squandered opportunities throughout the game. Had they punched it in at a higher rate, this could have ended 13-6.
Will Sockeye play like a contender? The Fish have some very mixed results this season. Are they the team that banked silver in Lecco and handled both Bravo and Ironside at the US Open or the team that lost to Furious, Sub Zero, Chain and GOAT? Yes, they are, and that’s the problem. With a four-seed at Nationals looming, inconsistency isn’t going to get it done. A contender rolls through this tournament in clinical fashion, notching perfunctory 15-10 wins over the I-hope-we-make-it teams.
Yes. They casually and confidently took care of business at Regionals. The finals against Rhino were boring; most spectators left to watch Furious versus Powderhogs. The thing is, Sockeye didn’t play particularly well. It was so clear that they were going to roll to victory that the intensity and focus from both teams dropped significantly. But great teams have the ability to shift gears — you can’t play at the top of your game 100% of the time, and Sockeye played well enough to win and win easily. As an example of this throttle control, after giving up a break late in the game they came back and scored promptly and without drama.
Is Traffic for real? If they are, they need to beat Riot. It’s actually that simple.
Too tough to call. Yes, they played beautifully in challenging Riot, but they still lost. Nationals is a really different challenge because there are teams above and below to push against you. For a team like Traffic at Regionals, they’ve really only got one game to focus on. But once they get to Nationals, they are stuck trying to beat the 1-seeds above them and hold off the teams below. This is the difficulty of being a quarters-level team – everyone thinks they can beat you.
Is Underground just a second team? Underground has been around long enough to gain momentum and personality as a team. It is always hard for second teams to gain ground because they are usually losing their best players to the first team, but Riot’s roster has been really stable, which stabilizes Underground’s. This is a great opportunity for Underground to take a step forward as a team. With qualifying a lock, they can really look to challenge the teams above them.
Yes. They were outclassed by Schwa. Defensively, they are fine but the thing that often separates first- and second-tier teams is the quality of offensive play. Underground never found easy goals, the hallmark of a great offense. They scored, but it was always hard work.
Can Voodoo make Nationals? From Kodiak to Diesel to MFU to Voodoo, the second Seattle team has come oh-so-close so many times. Can Seattle really claim status as a premier ultimate city when it has failed to do what Boston and the Bay have done on a semi-regular basis: send two teams to Natties? It doesn’t seem very likely, but lightning has to strike somewhere.
No, and they should be pissed. This was a golden opportunity.