I first met Aaron Liu when I was 17 playing in the 2007 BC junior Ultimate Championships. He wasn’t what I would imagine the ideal ultimate player should look like. He was short, stocky and constantly losing his glasses only to paw around on the ground to find them. One thing was for certain though; “The Prez” could play.
The nickname “Prez” came years later but thinking back, it always applied. I played three years of high school ultimate against Liu never besting his Prince of Whales DFA squad (until he was graduated of course). In 2008, Liu was selected to represent team Canada Jr. Open at the WUGC in Vancouver, BC. He helped lead that junior team to a silver medal.
When I joined the University of Victoria Ultimate team in 2008, Liu was already a year deep into becoming the defensive backbone that held the UBC T-Birds together. Every game we played against the Birds, it seemed we had an opportunity to take them down, but Liu always managed to quell any chance we could muster by delivering backbreaking d-blocks and pinpoint throws.
Liu’s stifling defense and his unassuming demeanor are among his best traits. Always matched up with the other team’s best handler, Prez quietly goes entire tournaments eliminating the most dangerous threats from the field, always giving his team a chance to win.
I first had the pleasure of being teammates with Prez in 2010 when he joined Furious George. He walked on as a starting defender. He didn’t play the traditional Angry Monkey defense, which relies on physicality, intimidation and speed. He brought his own brand of D to Furious. Liu was clever, creative and crafty. Just what the D line needed to lead a bunch of brutes.
We all knew shutting down top college handlers was his job. I wondered if he had what took to play big minutes against big throwers at the club level. To no one’s surprise, Prez continued about his business, routinely shutting down the best handlers in the game giving the Angry Monkey a new defensive threat and a better chance to win.
Prez stumbled into his nickname in 2010 as he bowled over a Sockeye player during the Flowerbowl final. There is some debate about how it came to be but my recollection is that some clever gentleman from the cheering section yelled, “You just got knocked over by the president of the chess club.”
Needless to say, it stuck. It seemed so fitting. His fumbling for his glasses, his calculating defense, and his precise throws. It all made so much sense.
That same summer, Prez was selected to join the Canadian U23 team bound for Florence, Italy. On universe point, he placed the final pull deep in the Japanese end zone and came flying down on the their primary handler. He shut him down and forced the turn, which ended in a Canadian Gold Medal. Again, the Prez’s cold, calculating D gave his team a chance to win, and they took it.
Prez continued to hone his defensive prowess and coupled with the fierce offense of the 2011 T-Birds, formed one of the most dangerous college teams of the decade. It came to no one’s surprise that part of the reason for the Birds early exit, was an injury to the Prez (among other key injuries).
The 2011 Canadian Club Championships saw yet another of Prez’s moments of glory. He was given the nasty assignment of covering Derek Alexander for the majority of the game. As we mounted our comeback, the Prez was responsible for two clutch turns and then smartly found the end zone, playing garbage man for the championship-winning goal.
His story does not end there.
In the 2011 club series, with our backs against the wall and a filthy, dirt road to Sarasota lay ahead; Prez was charged with covering Danny Karlinsky of Sockeye. The shifty, skilled handler had been killing us all season. Prez brought the fire in our backdoor semi versus the Fish. Liu’s iconic wraparound layout block on Karlinsky late in the game helped lift the team to victory. He followed it up by generating multiple turns and converting on several breaks in our successful game to go versus Rhino.
Being able to play with and against Prez over the past 7 years has been a wonky combination of frustration (when he single handedly stalls our UVic’s offense) and jubilation (when he wears the monkey/maple leaf on his chest and goes to work). With 5 years of college under his belt, UBC’s D-line will sorely miss Liu. He has left his mark though as T-Bird defense still remains a force to be reckoned with the nasty Northwest.
Deservedly so, Prez was asked to join the NexGen tour for their second trip around the continent. Unfortunately for the ultimate community, Prez had to decline the offer. Wouldn’t it have been a treat to watch his filthy D three times a week?
Prez was once again selected to represent his country, this time in the open division at the 2012 WUGC in Sakai, Japan. Although it was not the result we were looking for, Prez was on the field when everything rested on one point. Along with the rest of that universe D point crew, they were tasked with stopping arguably the most potent offense of the past 5 years. We may have come up one point shy this year, but you can bet the President of the chess club will be 3 moves ahead in 4 years when he dawns the maple leaf back again and goes for gold!
(Feature photo by Jeff Bell)