The following article was written by Scott Gurst and was originally printed in the December 1990 issue of USA Ultimate’s (then UPA) Newsletter. Skyd thanks USA Ultimate for generously sharing this article with the Ultimate community at large. Skyd will be posting articles from USAU’s newsletter archive on a regular basis.
New York Ultimate, rallying behind team leader Kenny Dobyns, became the first team in ten years to repeat as Open Division champion by defeating the West Region champion Iguanas by the score of 20-14. New York reached the Finals by crushing the over-matched Windy City by the score of 21-9, while the Iguanas engaged in a mean-spirited 43-goal marathon, scoring the last two goals to defeat First Time Gary, 22-21, in the Semi-Finals.
Warm temperatures, bright sunshine, and a mild breeze greeted the players as they lined up to start the finals. After trading downwind goals to make it 1-1, blocks by Vanderschraff, Warsen, Dobyns, Yonda, and Blau lead to five consecutive goals for the New Yorkers, who appeared to be scoring at both ends with relative ease. New York’s tenacious defense was stifling the team from Southern California, who looked tentative and nervous in their first national finals appearance. At 6-1, it appeared that this could be a classic Super Bowl type blow-out.
But it wasn’t to be. The Iguanas scored downwind to make it 6-2, and then Brent Russell point blocked Dobyns and caught the upwind goal to make it 6-3. Now putting with the wind at their backs, the Iguanas slapped a zone on the New York team and forced a turnover. Russell made a nice layout grab in the end zone to cut the margin to 6-4. Suddenly, it was a game again.
The two teams traded downwind goals to make it 7-5, then played the next four points without a single turnover taking the score to 9-7.
After Dan Weiss missed Mike Yonda with a pass, the Iguanas began to work upwind against New York’s tough zone defense. Unable to move upfield quickly, handlers Scott Epps, Greg Pinz, and Rich Gallagher showed great patience against the zone, working laterally across the field, going upfield to popper Rick Dinacola. The Iguanas couldn’t break the zone, however, and after 51 passes, threw the disc away. The tired New Yorkers called time out.
After the time out, New York came out flat and immediately turned the disc over. The Iguanas wasted no time hitting Cliff Smith in the end zone for the upwind goal, cutting New York’s lead to a single goal. The Iguanas were now playing tough, playing with confidence, playing with the wind at their backs and a chance to tie the game.
However, as he always seems to do, Kenny Dobyns came up with a big play when New York needed it most. At 9-8 and going into the wind, Dennis Warsen floated a pass into the end zone for Dobyns who was well covered by Brent Russell. Dobyns, giving away a few inches, anticipated the path of the disc, established position, and out-jumped Russell for a critical upwind goal, taking the score to 10-8.
Once again, with the wind advantage, New York applied the zone, and once again, after exhibiting great precision and patience (or 72 passes) the Iguanas turned the disc over courtesy of a block by Dave Blau. Vanderschaff then hit a horizontal Blau with a nice inside-out toss to make the score 11-8 at half.
There were no dogs at halftime.
In somewhat of a surprise, the Iguanas came out bombing at the outset of the second half when John Ryan launched a 60-yard shot to Jim Ingibritsen. However, the disc sailed untouched into the New York end zone. Seven passes later, New York had an upwmd goal, and a four-goal lead.
Again, the Iguanas fought back. Ingibritsen skied over two New York defenders at midfield to tear down an errant floating pass, found an uncovered Gallagher who knifed a tough upwind backhand to Kurt Kuelz for the score.
After trading downwind goals to take the score to 13-10, Yonda blocked an Ingibritsen pass, and Warsen found Paul Shields for another upwind goal to take the margin back to four.
New York again showed zone, but as they had done before, the Iguanas played patient offense, and after 66 passes, answered with an upwind goal of their own when Jack Jacques, who was instrumental in breaking down the zone, hit Kuelz through the heart of the defense to make it 14-11.
The teams battled to 16-13 when the Iguanas Cliff Smith got stuck and lofted a short pass that caught in the wind. Several players attacked the floating plastic, but all missed, and the disc wound up in the hands of… Cliff Smith. After checking the disc to the ground. New York marched upwind and scored to push the lead back to four.
It appeared as if the Iguanas would once again be able to respond upwind, but a goal-saving defensive play by Juana Flores aborted the comeback attempt, and a great layout by Kevin Cande closed the deal. Pat King connected with Juano Flores for the game-winner and a 20-14 victory.
While it wasn’t the Helsinki summit, this year’s Finals were much cleaner than last year’s disgrace (discgrace?). Perhaps the most disgusting (disc-gusting?) behavior came from the grandstand where spiteful players from eliminated teams exhibited their “mutual respect” for other players as specified in Spirit of the Game.
Honors go to Kenny Dobyns, who only attempted 10 passes, but scored 5 goals, including the big one when they really needed it. New York does a great job of spreading the offense around, (no single player accounted for more than 20 percent of the offense), and Dobyns appears to have become more of a role player for the New York team. In somewhat of a surprise, Dobyns, in a post-game interview, stated that he is quitting Ultimate after this season.
Kudos also to Rich Gallagher, who completed an outstanding 93 of 94 passes. and the rest of the Iguanas who kept fighting back against a team that traditionally doesn’t let an opponent off the canvas once they smell blood. And, of course, congratulations to the National Champions, New York Ultimate, who once again have earned the title of best Ultimate team in the country.