20 Days of Nationals: Day 1
The Cornell Buds may have been in the most unique position out of any ultimate team in the nation. Normally a team that loses 10 out of 14 starters would require a year of rebuilding before making another run at Nationals. However, with a severely weakened Metro East and virtually no chance of getting an extra bid, the Buds were still the favorite to win the region. If you knew that early season games had no impact on your situation later in the season, how would you handle your team?
Jonathan Neeley spoke with Captain Alex Kadesch early this winter for an early preview, where he laid out this plan. “We do realized that we are in a unique position. We acknowledge that the new Metro East is possibly one of the weakest regions in history. We don’t care about that and winning our region is only one of the stepping stones to our ultimate goal of winning nationals. We don’t train to be the best team in our region, we train to be the best team in the country. The other captains and I have made sure that the new guys understand this. We have put together a very competitive spring schedule to make sure we are getting competition outside of our region, and so that we know what to expect when we get to Boulder.”
In the fall, rather than even try to win a tournament, Cornell looked to grow. Kadesch, .”We did equal playing time for the entire team during fall tournaments to get everyone experience. Our goal was never to win a tournament, but instead to make sure every player was better at the end of the tournament than at the beginning. After a rough start to the fall season, we concluded with a strong showing at Huck a Hunk of Burning Pumpkin . We knew we would have some mixed results early as we were putting players on lines together who had never played together before. ” This philosophy carried over into the fall, where the Buds would concentrate on playing at the top tournaments. Trips to Florida for Warm Up and to Wilmington for Easterns, led to a 3-12 regular season record. Their only wins coming over South Florida and California.
Cornell has shown the ability to hang with teams for a while if they rely on their top 6-7 experienced players who have the experience of playing nationals caliber teams over the last 3 years. Captains Neil Butler and Alex Kadesch are two way cutters that give Cornell consistent options. Garrett Bernstein, Brian Grundy, Bo Li, round out the rest of the experience and bring solid throws and hucks to the Buds arsenal. The new faces are Nick Thompson, and Adam Shih are sophomore cutters that add to Butler’s and Kadesch’s experience. Adam Salwen has joined the handling corps, and can be found sending back hands deep. If you hear calls for a “Guppy” on the sideline, you may be looking at one of the rookies who got play time during the Metro East Final.
I spoke to Kadesch before the Metro East Regionals, and the plan seemed to be consistent from earlier parts of the season.
“This has been a unique year for us because of the restructuring. We played against more competitive competition this year than we have in any previous season with the goal of improving throughout the season and peaking at nationals. We didn’t emphasize early season results, in part because we are a younger team than a year ago, but also because we know all that matters is placement at nationals. In past years, we put a much higher emphasis on nationals seeding and tried to do better earlier in the season.”
Regionals wasn’t expected to be a struggle for Cornell, since the highest finishing team from the previous year had finished 7th. They cruised through pool play, quarters and semis, until they faced that 7th place team. NYU had a sizable senior class, and a play maker in Husayn Carnegie. Instead of dominating play like earlier in the tournament, Cornell was down 6-4 and 8-7 at half. Instead of being down on themselves, there were not many signs of frustration, but a call to up the intensity. They would rally, going up 12-8 before stifling a late comeback by NYU. Metro East champs for the third straight year, winning 14-11. Check out the final point and interview below with Kadesch.
Cornell very well may be playing with a chip on its shoulder. After constant Metro East heckling over the years, this club isn’t just happy with a trip to nationals once again. Alex Kadesch, “We feel like we have something to prove to any team that thinks they can beat us, but also something to prove to the country which has more or less counted us out as a competitor for the title this year.” If the plan has worked, the lack of early season success has helped Cornell prepare for the gauntlet to come in Boulder.