Last year Pride of New York (PoNY) enjoyed its most successful year to date. They stormed through Metro New York Sectionals and then snuck through the back door bracket of Northeast Regionals to knock off rivals GOAT and Bodhi and steal the second bid to Sarasota. At Nationals, they were knocked off by Truckstop in the pre-quarters, settling for 10th and their best finish since their inception in 2005. Captain Dan Heijmen says, “if we can continue to work hard and play our style we can be successful again.”
Though PoNY has not released a roster yet, there are plenty of players to look out for. Captains Dan Heijman, Ben Van Heuvelen and Chris Gore are all returning after leading the team last year. Additionally, the Pride have added a 4th captain in long time member and NYC legend Joe “Smash” Anderson, who will bring a defensive focus to the team’s leadership.
As the Summer goes on we will see the full PoNY roster emerge. Heijman says, “We’ve added some young blood and veterans,” calling the team a “Nice mix of young and old”. As with many other teams that have enjoyed consistent success, PoNY will rely on the strength of every man on the roster rather than banking on the play of a few stars. Anyone who saw PoNY during their Nationals run last year can attest to the fact that they are a deep team on both sides of the disc. As Heijman says, “Everyone is an impact player.”
Strategy, Leadership and Philosophy
As a unit, the Pride has always focused on team success above individual plays. This year looks to be no different. Rather than playing the deep game and hoping to get the disc back, PoNY will play a fast-moving, balanced offense designed to put the D line back on the field. Heijman describes it by saying, “we move the disc quickly and play hard defense.” At 2010’s Northeast Regionals, it was tenacious man D and smooth under-cuts that allowed PoNY to take out the other contenders.
Heijman describes his team by saying that they are, “Mostly hard working, gritty guys,” and there is no doubt that opponents will agree. In the semis of the backdoor bracket of Northeast Regionals last year, PoNY came up against a seasoned GOAT team that was looking to return to Nationals for the 4th year in a row. The hard working, gritty attitude that Heijman refers to was evident as the Pride never let down and won on double game point. The returning core leadership from last year’s run will no doubt instill the same dedicated, never give up attitude in PoNY 2011.
Thus far PoNY has had a relatively successful 2011 season. At Bell Crack they took care of fellow National contenders Southpaw twice en route to a second place finish, falling only to Ironside the whole weekend. Cazenovia pitted them against stiffer competition as both GOAT and Southpaw avenged prior defeats on double game, leading to a 4th place finish for the Pride.
Apart from solid wins at these tournaments, PoNY also developed a strong team dynamic. According to Heijman “We learned that we can be very good if we play within ourselves. No hero ball.”
Regular Season Schedule
In addition to the Boston Invite this weekend, PoNY will attend the New York Invite, Chesapeake Open and Labor Day.
Heijman says that this seasoned PoNY team has a very clear-cut goal: “To compete at the highest levels in the country.” After last year’s success, the team will have a target on its back in the Northeast and is ready for the ensuing challenge. Far from just qualifying for Sarasota, they are determined to “win the Region for New York,” in the captain’s words, “To continue to build the Pride.”
Stationed in one of the largest cities in the world, PoNY has numerous opportunities for outreach. The team has a strong connection with Ulti NY, an organization determined to foster the growth of the Ultimate community in New York City. Heijman also says that “many of our players have strong relationships with local high school and college teams.”
PoNY doesn’t look to be losing much from last year’s Nationals squad, though it is hard to tell without a finalized roster released. The Northeast Region is going through a bit of a shake-up as Ironside has lost some of their stars and Bodhi is rebuilding under new management. Strong performances down the stretch will be important as PoNY tries to repeat last year’s success. It seems clear that PoNY can stack up against GOAT at this point in the season, but only time will tell if they can push past the Canadians at Regionals yet again and challenge Ironside for the Northeast title.