Chain Lightning’s 2012 season has gotten off to a solid start. However, as club teams get into the meat of their season, with rosters filling out and roles being defined, the team knows there is room to grow. A minimal amount of roster turnover means leadership, philosophy, and attitude have a measure of continuity, but the roster has undergone some changes. Their offensive line in particular is integrating some new pieces and a few elite open rookies are being broken in on the defensive line. Chesapeake, and a subsequent west coast trip to Labor Day, will give Chain a prime opportunity to evaluate their roles and their strategies.
The Atlanta squad has competed in two events with notable successes in both. At the US Open in Colorado, they opened the season with seven wins, and their only losses coming to eventual champ and at-the-time buzzsaw Johnny Bravo (by scores of 15-11 and 15-12). Next, they defended their hometown turf at Terminus, notching wins over some up and coming regional opponents and splitting a pair of games with Truck Stop. Fortunately for the reigning champs, their victory came in the finals to the tune of 15-10. They sit atop the Southeast with a 6-0 record, with wins over Ring of Fire as well as Tanasi and Florida United. Captain Mark Poole feels Chain is “fortunate enough to beat [Ring of Fire] twice.” In addition, they drew a weather-shortened tie with NexGen’s all stars, featuring Chain’s breakout star and last season’s Callahan winner Nick Lance.
While Lance will rejoin the team later this season, the roster is looking for players to step up into new roles. Losses such as playmaking cutters Kiran Thomas (Doublewide) and Grant Lindsley (Sub Zero) have left spaces to fill in the downfield lanes; the same can be said of the shut down defensive abilities of Peter Dempsey. It’ll be interesting to see who rises to the occasion out of a list of admittedly big names. “We expect big things top to bottom,” explained Poole, but he also noted that “the next two weeks will be really telling for guys who will be difference makers.” On offense, Poole moved over from the defensive line and former Ring of Fire handler Jared Inselmann joins the athletic group. Stud athlete Sam Gainer and the tireless dependable cutting of Ben Spears should also help keep the disc moving, especially with the team down Sammy CK in Maryland. With huge throwers like Dylan Tunnel and one of Ultimate’s most skilled handlers in Greg Swanson, the huck will remain a dangerous weapon, aiming for Gainer and returning speedster Asa Wilson.
On the defensive line, Jolian Dahl may finally hit the lofty ceiling of his considerable talent, as he looks like he is in great shape and ready to be a leader. Georgia sophomore and second year Chain player Elliott Erickson, now healthy after some lower body injuries last season, has the quickness and instincts to force big play turnovers and could be in for a big year. Poole confessed to having high expectations of rookie Matt Bailey, also formerly of UGA, as his big frame could allow him to replace his former college Captain Dempsey. Veterans like lanky Joel Wooten, rock solid Robert Runner (out for Chesapeake), fiery Russell Snow, and versatile Andrew Hollingworth will pair with these players and rookie handler Tyler Conger (Tanasi) to give this group a number of options to scare any offensive line.
Chesapeake is the first of back to back weekends of high level Ultimate for Chain. They will be able to test their depth throughout the weekend and give each and every player the chance to shine. More importantly to ATL’s leadership, it will give them tough tests. “We’re really focusing to develop team chemistry in tough situations,” said Poole, adding, “If we prepare – which we have – the outcome will work its way out.” Matchups against some teams they haven’t seen this year in PoNY and Condors will allow the defense to test out some of their junk sets, but with a possible crossover game against Truck Stop or Ironside – two teams Chain has recent history with – on the line in Pool Play, being efficient will be critical. Chain’s focus is internal and the games in Maryland will provide them with just the opportunity they need to find out just hard Chain Lightning’s mettle is at this point in the season.
Chain’s Players to Watch This Weekend
Greg Swanson, Offensive Handler
Matt Bailey, Defensive Cutter
Jolian Dahl, Defensive Handler
Asa Wilson, Offensive Cutter
Elliot Erickson, Defensive Cutter
Andrew Hollingworth, Defensive Handler/Cutter
Ben Spears, Offensive Cutter
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire (UltiPhotos.com)