This piece is contributed by Ring’s Victor Smith
Driving out to the US Open in Colorado Springs from Chapel Hill, NC (a 24 hour drive, according to Google Maps) may not seem like the most exciting drive (especially driving through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska… I’ve never seen more corn in my life), however, I was excited the entire time. It was clear that my car mate, Ring of Fire’s Matt Bode was excited as well. We whiled away quite a few hours talking about match ups, expectations and plans for the tournament. Despite the long car ride, the anticipation was palpable, and as we got closer to Colorado we couldn’t help but talk ultimate.
Ring of Fire has been excited about the US Open since they qualified at Club Championships back in October 2011. In preparation for the Open, Ring began their tryout process a month earlier than they traditionally have to try and get the jump on the competition. Moreover, according to captain Taylor Pope “Ring hasn’t played a highly competitive tournament this early in the season in a long time.” It is safe to say that this is relatively uncharted territory for Ring, so it was interesting to see how the team would respond to the challenge. I spent today watching Ring of Fire’s games and taking notes. Here’s a brief recap of how Ring’s day went.
Game 1: Kie
It’s hard to describe the start of Ring’s first game of the day as anything other than “rough.” The O Line turned it in the first point of the game, allowing the Colombian team to go up an early break. Throughout the first half of the game Ring struggled to adjust to the altitude which affected both their throws, many of which went long, and their endurance. Said captain Josh Mullen after coming off from a particularly hard fought D point: “it’s hard to breathe.” It certainly didn’t help that the wind began to gust and would swirl around, seeming to change in direction from point to point.
That said, Ring’s offense began to dial it in (although not before giving up another break), and their separate d lines (Ring and Fire) both began to get accustomed to the altitude at around the 5-4 mark, rattling off three consecutive breaks before conceding one point and going on to break Kie another three times. Eventually, Ring’s size advantage over the smaller Colombian team proved decisive, as Ring continued to generate turns in the air and profited from execution on deep shots.
Game 2: Truck Stop
Ring and Truck Stop have traditionally been regional rivals, often playing each other in the MA regional finals. With the regional redraw this year, Ring and Truck are no longer in the same region, however, that doesn’t change the fact that these two teams are quite familiar with each other. Going into the second game the expectation seemed to be that the game would be a knock-down drag-out slugfest. The teams did not disappoint. Truck started on O and the teams traded for the first eight points before Ring was able to finally break Truck, the score coming off a huck from rookie Matt King to Thomas Ward.
Ring continued to have success with the deep shot in this game, their second break coming off a rookie connection flick huck from Justin Allen to Alton Gaines. Conversely, Truck Stop seemed to not quite have their hucks completely dialed in in the altitude, sending them just a little too far in the thin air. After the half though, everything seemed to change. Ring managed to throw a few too many hucks out the back of the end zone, allowing Truck to come back in the game. From 10-6 Ring allowed Truck to go on a 4-1 run, the one Ring goal coming off a monstrous sky by Ken “KP” Porter. As the regulation period expired, Truck found themselves in a make or break situation, down 11-10 and needing to score the next two points to win. Unfortunately for Truck, Paul Weeks was able to score the final O point for Ring and close out the game 12-10.
Game 3: GOAT
Many of GOAT’s players are playing at Worlds in Japan, so it was unclear what Ring could expect going into this game. It would prove to be the tightest game of the day. Ring’s defense was able to consistently generate turns off of GOAT’s offense, however, capitalizing off of GOAT’s miscues was difficult for Ring all game except for a span of two points where they scored two breaks in a row. In one of those points I counted 9 total turnovers before rookie Mike “New Guy” Gastaldo was able to find Dennis Tarasi in the end zone for the break. With the exception of GOAT breaking Ring coming off the half, the teams traded for the rest of the game until the second to last point, where GOAT managed to break Ring’s offense again, coming off a drop in the end zone.
After this break, Ring and Goat were tied at 11’s with time in the round expiring, making the subsequent point double game point. Rings offense came out and executed a four man pull play, with the final throw coming from Dave Snoke, airing it out deep (and high) for Ken Porter, who came up with another monstrous grab catching the final goal over three GOAT defenders.
At the end of the day, Ring went 3-0. However, in the words of Taylor Pope “At times [Ring] looked pretty raw, but there were some good moments that had everybody really excited for the season.”
Look for more tomorrow.
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire (Ultiphotos.com)