The Great Debate: Who Will Be the 2011 Club Open Champion?

by | October 18, 2011, 10:00am 0

Co-written with Joaquin Nagle, Tyler Kinley, and Alex Cooper.

Our objective here is to explore this year’s serious title contenders in a point-counterpoint fashion.  Think of this post as the minutes for a round table discussion about the top teams in the land.  We’ll make a case for each team and describe what needs to go right for them to win.  We’ll also make a case against each team and identify what conditions/events could spell the end of their seasons.  Whoop!

Our panelists:

  • Joaquin Nagle is a co-editor of Inside Breaks and coach of the UC Santa Cruz Slugs, and he was a member of the 2011 Boost Mobile team.
  • Ian Toner is a regular contributor to Skyd Magazine/Inside Breaks and was a member of the 2011 Virginia Squires.
  • Tyler Kinley is a regular contributor to Skyd Magazine and co-captain of Seattle Sockeye.
  • Alex Cooper is a regular contributor to Skyd Magazine/Inside Breaks and was a member of the 2011 Tufts E-men.

Our contenders:


  • Their depth is close to unparalleled at the elite level.  Unless Robbie gets hurt, they’re capable of inserting a number of players into different roles and still finding success.  No Russell Wynne on Sunday of Labor Day?  Let’s just thump Chain 15-6.  No Devon Anderson at Regionals?  Sure, their offense was slower, but they still went on to win another Regional title.  And I haven’t even begun to talk about the number of defenders that can be switched in and out of rotations with ease.  Eric Halverson, Nick Chapman, and see below!  -IT
  • Look at any of Mike Lawler’s Ultimate Projects, and you’ll appreciate how efficiently their D-line operates in relation to many other elite teams.  Ashlin Joye, Sam Kanner, and Ryo Kawaoka have proven themselves capable of anchoring Revolver’s defensive unit and punching in breaks.  -IT
  • They have the best big dump defenders in the game.  Few players of Mac Taylor’s or Mark Sherwood’s stature have their agility, and these players have proven their reset defending skills in big game settings like 2010 WUCC and 2011 NW Regionals. -IT
  • Revolver has the strongest mental game in the nation, anchored by its IHD philosophy (Intensity, Humility, Discipline). It is clear that the entire team has bought into their system of slowly building towards nationals, demonstrated by loose warm-ups, a lack of a need for anger or crazy pump-up speeches, and a noticeably calm and collected reaction to being broken or down a point or two. Watch their half-time and post-game speeches from their Regionals win over Sockeye. -TK


  • Bart Watson’s throws can be on or off, and the team’s success can ride on his completion percentage. He usually throws in a manner that gives his receiver’s defender no shot at the disc, but also gives himself little room for error (think of a quick OI flick to the outside shoulder).  Sure, everyone can have an on or off day/game, but he is a central figure in their offense, so inconsistency from him could mean serious trouble for Revolver’s O-line.  -Joaq
  • Revolver’s O line defense isn’t particularly great, as few starters on that line are known for their block-getting ability.  Anderson was playing big for them this year, and his absence at Regionals made their O noticeably slower.  -Joaq
  • Winning your first championship means proving to yourself and the world you can do it. The second is just holding your spot, and there’s nothing like that first one. The mental battle to win back-to-back titles–to repeat that same fire and performance against another team who’s battling for perhaps their first–is a major hurdle. -TK

Chain Lightning

  • Chain is as athletic as ever.  Athleticism can’t win games without strategic backing, but it can be a difference maker if a game starts to get sloppy.
  • Last year Chain seemed to struggle to put some of the pieces together.  They’ve seemed much more organized this year, having built more chemistry over the course of the season.  I especially think Jolian Dahl has fit in better this year than last. -Joaq
  • The Chain of ‘09 won with patience, looking for high percentage hucks and using consistent resets to wait for these looks. If they can maintain this level of patience, they have the depth, size, speed, and talent to challenge any team. -TK
    • A big part of `09 Chain’s strategy was a DoG-like willingness to accept whatever the other team gave to them and rise to the challenge. If the other team forced them under, they could make in-cuts all day, then dump, swing, score. If they challenged deep threats, both cutters and handlers could put up deep shots. While there are times of confusion, Chain’s O-line looks like it has the potential to do this all over again. – AC
  • Chain has one of the more dynamic offensive rosters.  Dylan Tunnell often begins offensive points as a handler, and there are few downfield threats as potent as he is. Similarly, Nick Lance has seen time as the first downfield cutter, proving his deep game early on and also able to come back and handle aggressively.  Add to that 2-3 dimensional players like Grant Lindsley, Jolian Dahl, Sammy CK, and more and you’ve got a lot of potential for mismatches across the board. The only problem, then, is using that dynamism well. -TK


  • Zone offense is still not their strong suit.  If they see a team with a good zone that’s helped by a little wind, they’re going to have a hill to climb.  To see these struggles in action, watch their game against Sockeye at Labor Day.  -IT
  • Chain’s dump system still needed some work as of Labor Day.  There were too many instances of Greg Swanson having to dance his way out of coverage at a high stall count to get a reset.  If teams can effectively trap Chain on the sidelines or just play solid dump defense, they could generate important break chances against Atlanta.  -IT
    • I have to agree here, I’ve seen Chain often work the disc 50-60 yards with in cuts (they have really good cutters) then get stuck when they’re out of downfield options and they have to throw a reset. -Joaq
    • Watch Chain and you’ll see that even the players on the field recognize that they live or die with how their handlers are playing. If Dylan Tunnell, Greg Swanson, and Nick Lance are putting up good hucks, they’re extremely hard to stop. If the three cannot produce, the offense stagnates. -AC
  • It is difficult to pinpoint the “culture” of Chain this year. Revolver is calm and serious, Furious is boisterous and loud, Ironside is goofy yet focused; what is Chain? Lacking in an identifiable something lends itself to confusion as to how to react to any given situation. When s*** hits the fan, are you angry or calm? What do you draw upon to get “in the zone?” Without this established culture built into the year’s tourneys, Chain might not all be on the same page come a tight, big game. -TK
    • Part of this might be because of the lack of a Chesapeake Open this year.  Maybe they would have had a more defined culture at Labor Day had they had that extra weekend against top flight competition… – Joaq
      • That would definitely have helped. Tourneys go a long way towards cementing a culture.  Or, at least, finding one that fits well and is consistently successful, that you can then build upon. -TK


  • Their star-studded offensive line makes it difficult to plan to shut down just one or two playmakers.  What’s often overlooked is that all of their weapons make space for each other to get the disc.  Brodie and Kurt are great, but their effectiveness is augmented by the respect that K-Rich, Jarrod Wolfe, and Jake Anderson command downfield.  Try poaching off of those giants for too long/far and see what happens.  -IT
  • The Florida system is not one built on full team chemistry, but instead a high degree of chemistry amongst a very small number of dominant players. With Kurt and Brodie together, teams will be hard-pressed to stop their combo. However, missing just one of those two is akin to removing 3 or more starters from another team’s O-line. -TK
  • Last year in the semis of Nationals, and this year in the final of Colorado Cup, Doublewide moved players from the O and D lines effectively. Most teams separate their lines, but there is something to be said for being able to play your top players when there is only one game to win. -Joaq
  • Doublewide’s willingness to take chances could either be their downfall (if it’s the wrong chances) or their rise to a championship. When many other teams will be taking it easy and working it under, don’t put it past DW to put a 50 yard hammer into coverage (see: 2010 Semis); while this strategy may not seem ideal, it makes it a lot harder on other teams to predict the decision making and prepare defenses for them. -AC


  • Labor Day showed how dependent their offense is on a select few playmakers, and how vulnerable that offense is without them.  If K-Rich and others are still hurt come Halloween weekend, or if offensive mainstays go down with injuries during the weekend, they’re in serious trouble.  Sarasota is no time/place to be grooming offensive depth.  That being said, captain Max Cook has noted that everyone but Stephen Presley (broken leg) should be healthy for Nationals.  -IT
  • Do they have the composure to make sound decision making when the heat is on?  Last year’s national semifinal saw many double coverage hucks that Revolver ate up, proving that Brodie and Kurt could be stopped and questioning the flexibility of Doublewide’s offense when its primary looks are challenged.  -IT
  • Doublewide has the roster to force other teams to play their game, but has not yet shown the dynamism to change up strategies if “their game” isn’t workin.. When the Brodie huck show isn’t working, there is no plan B. -TK


  • One of the few club teams with a dedicated coach, having that single figure off the field to guide the team’s sub-calling, composure, and strategic adjustments takes a massive burden off the players, and allows everyone else to focus on their own game, both in games and at practices. At an elite level, this can be a difference maker, where very little can tip the scales in one direction or another. -TK
  • Though this is supposed to be their “rebuilding year,” their O-line looks remarkably similar to the ones in years past. With just Stubbs moving over from the D-line and the additions of Rusty Ingold-Smith and Jake Taylor, the O-line has most of the same guys who were playing a lot in last year’s finals (eg. Rebholz, Zalisk, Danny Clark). -AC
    • Peter Prial has stepped up to fill Jeff Graham’s cutting void quite well.  Not to say that their offense hasn’t missed a beat, but given that Boston’s offense was a major question mark heading into this season, he’s helped provide a dangerous punch to that unit.  -IT
  • Though young, their D-line has a number of guys with abilities to make big plays. Add in the experience of a solid handling crew (in Jacob Goldstein, Brandon Malecek, and Dan Forseter) plus Colin Mahoney, and you have a line of guys who can not only get a turn, but who can punch in the break. -AC


  • Emerald City Classic showed the human nature of Matt Rebholz.  His importance in relation to Ironside’s offense rose with Graham and Will Neff’s departures, and if he can’t provide stability at the center handler position, Prial, George Stubbs, and others will have to do a lot of work to get the disc back.  -IT
  • There are a number of a new faces on Ironside’s roster, and not all of them have played together in the Sarasota pressure cooker.  Calm, experience, and poise are difference makers on Saturday and Sunday, and without big game experience across the board, Ironside could have difficulty keeping it together mentally.  -IT
  • Ironside has had no real challenges since ECC, taking the Regional final 15-8 over GOaT. The cancellation of Chesapeake led to a long August for them with just practices; will that lack of much playing time together be a factor? -AC

Furious George

  • Revolver might like to think that they’re always rising, but Furious is doing their best to keep up with them.  Time and again this year, they’ve figured out how to claw back from multiple-break-deficits and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (see: CUC finals against GOAT, backdoor semifinals against Sockeye). -IT
  • For three years, Furious has built a new core of younger players who are now realizing their potential in the absence of former stars. In combination with the pickup of Gabe Saunkeah, they have a roster that can compete with the best. Similar to Sockeye 2010, the lack of expectations for this team plays to their advantage and when they gain momentum, especially late in games, they can be dangerous. -TK
  • Furious’ offense rivals Revolver’s for use of space. Clearing lanes and deep well, and utilizing the length of throwers John Norris & Andrew Brown as well as the breaks of Nick Menzies and Oscar Pottinger, Furious is able to consistently strand defenders in one-on-one situations and take what is given. In addition, their resets have gotten markedly better throughout the season, often putting their throwers in power positions.  When their deep looks are connecting, this is a potent offense to stop. -TK


  • Furious has peaked too early, putting together their best performances against Sockeye and Rhino on Sunday at NW Regionals.  No one’s saying that this team won’t put in work before Sarasota, but their best days could be behind them.  The parallel that comes to my mind is 2010 Truck Stop–won the region and went into Nationals with their highest seeding ever (5th), but they couldn’t make it past the quarterfinals (yeah, Revolver was an unlucky draw). -IT
  • They’ve succeeded twice now in major tournaments (CUC & Regionals) where the talent has been top-heavy but thin, with a few challenging games mixed with easy games. Nationals will test their ability to win EVERY round, something that proved too difficult last year. Their depth will be the difference-maker, and is a serious question mark. -TK

As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments.  Were their problems from earlier tournaments fixed at any of the Regional tournaments?  Have new ones arisen?  Let us know what you think.

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