By now, we all know how intense the NorCal Mixed section is. With 17 teams, this past weekend was an open battlefield, waiting for teams to break out and beat the top seeded teams. Capitol Punishment rose to the test, moving from 15th seed to a 7th place finish, snagging the last spot to Regionals. We hear so much about teams that have been around for years, those ranked at the top and are making their way steadily back to nationals. In a section full of top-ranked teams, how does a first year team rise eight spots to qualify for Regionals?
Recruitment and Philosophy
CP’s initial recruiting was done mostly by word-of-mouth. The captains, Jeff Valeros, Michelle Metzler-Allen, Tyler Walker and Matthew “Nuken” Holkeboer, started talking about their idea of forming a Sacramento-based club team during the off-season. They were able to gather enough momentum to start having practices, and because Sacramento doesn’t have a recent club history, the captains made practices open to anyone. Their aim was to build an environment that would encourage players that may not normally consider playing on a Club team to join and learn. There was only one requirement: Every player should be committed to practicing and learning how to play ultimate as a team.
The team had a few goals, with their biggest as making Regionals. Jeff Valeros outlines their season-long inspiration: “When the team was formed, this looked like a long shot, but it was our motivation all season long. When practices got hard, we’d visualize ourselves in the game to go to regionals to get us fired up.” CP is also fighting to put Sacramento ultimate on the map. Many of the area’s best players regularly drove 2 hours to the Bay Area to get in on the Club action. A final, long-term goal is to build a team that would last, to build up the rep of Sacramento ultimate and make a team that will be a perennial contender. To help match these goals, the team tried to learn from every game, improving every tournament. CP found their best preparation throughout the year was tournament Sundays. They took every extra opportunity to play; whenever they had the option of playing an extra game on Sundays they always took it, knowing that they would need that physical and mental toughness to pull out a tough win in the backdoor bracket at Sectionals.
Rather than throwing in some complicated strategy or lots of set plays, CP’s prime goal is possession with a lot of smart, crisp throws. Watch out for Tyler Walker (UCSB), a 6’8” (I’m not sure I can even conceptualize that) monster deep threat who has some great college nationals experience. Also keep an eye out for Shante Brown, a workhorse with hands of glue and consistent throws. CP’s D-line is anchored by Matt Hughes, Nick Minyen, and Trung Pham. Their elite-level speed and will to hit the ground enables them to hang with anyone. Another big player is Connor Murphy, a great handler whose layout Ds were a huge part of their run at Sectionals. The whole team’s commitment to the team is very noticeable; even when players aren’t in every point of the big games, they make the most of their time on the field, with game-changing layouts and Ds.
The Road to Regionals
Knowing your ultimate goal is to qualify for Regionals, it’s got to be hard to start seeded 15 out of 17. Indeed, CP didn’t feel too great about it going into Sectionals. But they were stoked to prove the rankings wrong. Matt Holkeboer put it best: “We knew we were primed for a breakout, but we had to come together like we never had before.” With a lot of teams above them that they had struggled against all season, they knew they’d have to step up their game. One of those teams was the Bay Area team Butter, CP’s first matchup Saturday morning and the second seed in their pool. Throughout the season, they had consistently lost to Butter by four or five points every time they faced off. Though Saturday’s game started off as more of the same, at 12-8, CP stepped up the intensity and scored six points in a row to win the game 14-12. According to Matt, “After that game you could see the confidence our team had increased, and people started to believe that we could really do something special.” Check out video of the full game here.
That confidence showed, as they went on to upset Feral Cows, snag a win over That’s What SHE Said, and win a tight game to go over AIR 16-14. Check out the pure jubilation of a team that has worked the whole season to realize their goal by the slimmest of margins. It kinda reminds you of why you love this game so much, doesn’t it?
Follow Capitol Punishment
Check out their website at www.cp-ultimate.com, their Facebook page, and their game-to-go on YouTube. I know I’ll be waiting for some more awesome film from their run at Regionals.