Chain Lightning 2011 Preview

by | August 10, 2011, 6:00am 0

With contributions from Ian Toner.

Chain celebrates after a point at Worlds 2010.

Recent History

With two semifinals appearances earlier in the decade, Atlanta’s Chain Lightning finally broke through in 2009, beating Revolver in the final and becoming the last UPA national champion.  Who can forget the spectacular catch Josh Ziperstein had off Josh Wiseman’s attempted D in that finals matchup?  While many main pieces were still in place in 2010, including Ziperstein, Dylan Tunnell, Will Lokke, and John Hammond, Chain fell short.  Josh Markette and Joel Wooten’s departures ended up really hurting Chain, and though star additions Kiran Thomas, Jolian Dahl, and Sam C-K cut well individually, it was often hard for Atlanta’s offensive units to establish rhythm.  Sockeye upset a star-studded Chain roster (with Dahl, C-K, Markette, and Wooten) at the semifinals of WUCC 2010 in Prague (Markette and Wooten later played for Ironside and Southpaw in the Series, respectively) and then ended Atlanta’s season in Sarasota in the quarterfinals of the USAU Club Championships.  It was clear that Chain had difficulty integrating its new talent efficiently, with many players still trying to figure out offensive roles deep in the season.  However, as the team moves forward with a plethora of top young talent, Chain appears ready to take on the offensive chemistry and talent integration challenges in an attempt to bring another title back to the ATL.

Roster Turnover

The biggest losses include former captains Ziperstein and AJ Tiarsmith, both long time Chain leaders and playmakers.  Other departures from the 2010 roster include former Kennesaw State big man Taylor “Tree” Goforth, veteran handlers Brandon Perales and Paul Vanderberg, and defenders Will Moore and Rob White.

Josh Ziperstein, a game-changing Chain veteran, extends to catch a goal in the WUCC 2010 third place game against Buzz Bullets.

2011 captains Dylan Tunnell, Russell Snow, and Mark Poole explain, “The losses of Zip and AJ cannot be overstated. Their contributions to the team on the field and in the classroom are irreplaceable.”  With the exodus of experience, the captains have worked to infuse the team with some young athletic talent.  Carleton cutter Grant Lindsley and Colorado College/NexGen utility man Nicky Spiva were arguably two of the best college players from 2011, and Elliot Erickson has just finished his freshman year at Georgia after playing in the WJUC.  Other additions include former Minnesota Callahan nominee Michael Arenson and Emory grad Byron Liu.  Big man Joel Wooten will return to Chain’s roster after a brief stint with Southpaw, and Sam Gainer will return to the Chain roster, as well, giving the roster more size and speed.

Strategy, Leadership, and Philosophy

Tunnell, Snow, and Poole are eager to note, “We are very excited to shift gears and mix it up this season. With new leaders at the helm and an initiative to get younger, Chain Lightning is very excited for the 2011 campaign.”

Chain’s O-line definitely missed Josh “Cricket” Markette in 2010, and it will have to move on without Vandenberg in the backfield, as well.  Identifying consistent offensive handlers and continuing to develop offensive chemistry will be a priority for Chain’s leadership during the season.  Poole and Tunnell have already shown prowess behind the disc, and one can expect them to work with other handlers on the team provide stability to Chain’s offense.  If the NexGen game is any indication of what Chain might look like this year, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Atlanta doing more dumping and swinging than in the past.  Isolating Snow and Wooten appears to work well for their offense, too.

Chain’s defense is particularly physical—in the past, they’ve been known to body cutters on clears, thereby making it difficult for offenses to establish and continue smooth flow.  Look for young handlers Nick Lance and Robert Runner (and former Georgia Callahan nominee Peter Dempsey) to continue to guide Chain’s defense and value the disc on turns.

When asked about their plans and line rotations for the 2011 season, Tunnell, Snow, and Poole answered that they’re playing for the chicks. “It’s no secret here,” the captains explained, “chicks dig the long ball. Plan accordingly.”

Season Goals

“The end goal,” says Poole, “is to win a national championship, year in and year out. Along the way we plan to integrate the talent and personalities into the Chain Lightning style of Ultimate. We have an incredible group of guys from different programs and the trick will be to bring them all together as a cohesive unit. This is the year to put it all together.”

There are 8-10 teams across the nation to plan on contending for a national championship. With so much competition, and only one champion, what constitutes failure?  The captains add, “Teams continue to get better and stronger across the country where a handful of teams can conceivably make it to the semifinals on any given day, so to say a semifinals finish is a failure is unrealistic. As long as we keep our 30 year Sectional game winning steak alive, everything else is icing on the cake.”

Robert Runner prepares to release an inside break against Sockeye in the WUCC 2010 semifinal.

Spring Results

A Chain veteran and tryout team won Monkey Bowl in Nashville back in May.

Regular Season Schedule

Chain won Club Terminus and will attend the Chesapeake Open and Labor Day Ultimate Championships before the Series.

Community Involvement

The AFDC (Atlanta Flying Disc Club) is one of the most prominent local ultimate organizations in the country and teamed up with Chain to hold Club Terminus.  Well-known players have come up through the high school system as Paideia is home to one of the best programs in the country.  With their elite status, Chain has been able to bring in players from around the country, but still can find a lot of recruits from local colleges.  Tunnell elaborates, “We prefer Georgia guys over Tech guys—they aren’t as smart and are more athletic than engineers. In all seriousness, Chain has been fortunate to be able to attract the top players from their respective colleges regardless of the size of school.  Players on the team also devote some of their free time by giving back to the community by coaching local high school and college teams, and running skills clinics for the youth ultimate players in the area.”

2011 Outlook

Doublewide is more than formidable regional competition, and Chain will have to use its athleticism well to defend Doublewide’s large, quick cutters if it wants to take home another regional title.  Chain will also have to identify the character of its offense much sooner than it did last year, and it has some capable cutters and hybrid players (like Spiva and Lindsley) coming aboard who can fit into dynamic roles well.  Should Chain’s offense start clicking early in the Series, the team could make it to quarters and/or beyond.

Chain regularly posts updates on its Twitter account (@ATLChain), its website (, and its Facebook page (  Spin Ultimate also sponsors Chain Lightning and fans can visit to purchase exclusive team merchandise.

Comments Policy: At Skyd, we value all legitimate contributions to the discussion of ultimate. However, please ensure your input is respectful. Hateful, slanderous, or disrespectful comments will be deleted. For grammatical, factual, and typographic errors, instead of leaving a comment, please e-mail our editors directly at editors [at]