With contributions by Eli Motycka
After this past weekend many youth Ultimate players, coaches, and fans left Chattanooga, Tennessee witnessing and experiencing a little bit of everything. This Deep Freeze was not as cold as editions in the past, but the conditions certainly made everyone, including me, remember bring sunscreen and Chap Stick to an Ultimate tournament. Saying the weather both days was odd during the ‘winter’ tournament would be an understatement. With Saturday having the temperatures start out in the 30’s during the first round of games and change quickly as the sun came out. Then Mother Nature changed the playing curve to most youth player’s worst nightmare; wind. The wind changed game plans for all zone defensive minded teams, making scoring points up wind on certain fields almost impossible. That may stand as the reasoning behind four out of five Open div #1 pool seeds failing to win their pool.
An Underdog Start
When 30 teams arrived to Camp Jordan Park some had pre-tournament jitters but others were distracted by the frozen/muddy field conditions as they warmed up for a full day of Ultimate. The first rounds started out at 9:00 am and that is when the first upset of the day began in Pool E with #4 Brookwood’s dominating 13-3 win over #2 CSAS. The Brookwood Inferno went undefeated that day with winning their last game against #1 Blackman, 12-10 Inferno. With the underdog spirit in the air the #3 seed Grady, controlled Pool C by playing with the wind to perfection and played to their full potential going 4-0. Another team from Pool C #1 Catholic HS from Baton Rouge, Louisiana had their work cut out for them. The Bayou Havoc lost one of their star senior players Garrett Yetman, who was going to try out and had a good chance of making the Junior Team USA, to a broken wrist during the first game of the tournament. With the set back they still managed to fight for the second spot in the championship bracket. Meanwhile in Pool D, #2 Madison Central took care of business by outscoring their opponents 52-6, one of their more impressive wins was their last win against #1 LC Bird, 13-1.
In the toughest pool at Deep Freeze, Pool A, #2 Woodward Academy had a chance at the last upset on Saturday versus tournament favorite and #1 seed Paideia. Gruel was missing a few key players on Saturday due to an injury and a couple students at a school function, and Woodward made the most of it by firing on all cylinders winning 11-9. Even though Gruel had a shaky first day with a loss, plus giving up eight points to #3 MBA and had a lot of miscues, Paideia knew what they had to do to repeat as Deep Freeze Champions.
A New Day
As the sun set on a long first day of surprises and playing in 20 mph wind gusts, players started to ask around for scores before they head off to their hotels. Most of the buzz surrounding players was the obvious stories of Woodward over Paideia, Grady over Catholic and Brookwood over Blackman. But as most of the coaches there knew, that there is redemption on Sunday and a chance to start over.
A close first round game in the Championship Bracket between Collins Hill and Catholic resulted in a close 9-11 loss for Catholic HS. With the Bayou Havoc coming into the tournament as a #1 seed you could say they had a very disappointing weekend. They lost games they felt they should have won on vs. Grady and Collins Hill, but some excuses could have been because their head coach was not able to come to Chattanooga and losing their star player early first game. The easy thing for them to do is give up going into the B-Bracket and pack up for the trip back to Baton Rouge, but not this team. They stormed back with wins over White Station, Independence and Grayson to finish 6-2 for the weekend and a B-Bracket wooden disc.
For the “Cinderella Teams” from yesterday, Brookwood came up short with losing 10-11 due to hard cap against the Slow Bros from Madison Central, even though they did have a first round bye on Sunday. For Grady their Sunday started great with a hard fought 10-7 win against Blackman, a #1 seed coming in, but their victory was short lived with losing 5-13 to a focused Paideia team.
As fate would have it when the Championship Bracket was filled out for Sunday it gave the slight possibility for a Woodward vs. Paideia rematch for the final game. That would be almost too perfect right? With Gruel getting key players, Mark Vandenberg and others, back to Chattanooga that was not there the previous day; they were focused toward winning three games to get to the final. Blowing past Tusken Raiders, score of 13-2, gave them confidence through the first round going into a rematch of last year’s Deep Freeze Championship Game vs. USN. USN had the first round bye and was the only unbeaten #1 seed from the day before, but even though they were well rested and earned their spot in the bracket from pool play Paideia had other plans. Gruel handed USN their only loss that weekend by winning 13-8. After a convincing win over their Deep Freeze rivals Paideia kept their good play going past the semi’s by beating Grady and going into the Championship Game. Meanwhile on the other half of the bracket Woodward continued to roll from their play the day before and breezed past both Collins Hill in the quarterfinals and Madison Central in the semifinals; thus setting up the rematch vs. Paideia.
Championship Game: Round 2
With most teams finished at the tournament; coaches, players and fans of Ultimate stood around field 2 for the final game that matter most. The game started out pretty even as Woodward took lots of deep shots down field; some of them paid off at the start and then the forced throws hurt them. Gruel started to counter Woodward’s hucks by throwing a mixture of zone and man defenses. But with Woodward’s throws being inconsistent and miscues on transition defense they fell behind at half, a tough position to be in against Paideia. After the half Paideia did not let up with quick scores and man defense shutting down Woodward’s game. With tiredness, cramps, other injuries (dislocated shoulder by one Paideia player), and good defense slowing the game down, time ended the rematch. Paideia avenged their only loss that weekend by winning of a hard cap score of 11-6 also winning the 2ndstraight Deep Freeze wooden disc.
Full Results (Oepn)
For the Girls Division Paideia Groove beat both USN Girls and a team of both Atlanta International School and Grady players and won themselves a wooden disc to take home. Congratulations to Paideia High School for winning 1st place for both the Open Division and Girl’s Division at Deep Freeze. With many teams either missing players or coaches, having only started practicing weeks or months ago, needless to say that each team had a lot to take from how they performed and have somewhat of a vision of where they can go. Whether their coach saw some aspect a certain player or the whole team needed to work on, need more conditioning, changing how players both mentally and physically prepare for tournaments, or how coaches need to fix and tweak their offensive or defensive strategies. It is tournaments like these that help teams grow both better on the field as a team, closer together off the field, and just getting back to the root of why people play this sport; to have fun and make memories. There was a lot of talent and potential I saw over the weekend from all teams that took part of this year’s Deep Freeze Tournament, I cannot wait to see how these teams will improve when it is time for High School Southerns in May.
Full Results (Women’s)
Feature photo of the Woodward/Paideia championship game by Josh Colvin