This past weekend will be a memorable one for the hundreds of ultimate players who attended the mud bowl that was Deep Freeze. Chattanooga, Tennessee had a lot more rain than usual, meaning that the tournament had to move to the backup fields at Camp Jordan for fear of destroying the better-quality soccer fields. Although the backup fields had spots with both mud pits and water puddles up to ankle height, surprisingly, the field conditions did not slow down or intimidate players from going all out. Players embraced the conditions: the cold, mud and intermittent wind, which say a lot about the coaches and getting their teams prepared and ready.
Very few upsets took place Saturday with all top five seeded teams in the tournament advancing to the championship bracket: Paideia High School, University School of Nashville, Lakeside High School, Independence High School, and Madison Central Slow Bros. Paideia Gruel’s first game of the tournament was against Montgomery Bell Academy. The score showed it was close but as one MBA player proclaimed, “Paideia was firing off on all cylinders.” With a 11-5 final score, Paideia survived the scare, but this was not the only close match on day one. With both Lakeside and Independence winning their pools they both had tough cross-over games against USN and Paideia, respectively. Independence Flight’s first ever game against Paideia was at Deep Freeze 2011, where Gruel won a decisive 13-2 game. In the cross-over game, Flight was down 6-4, but took Paideia by surprise with two straight breaks making it an even 6s. Then, Paideia’s discipline took over to won 11-7, ending on a perfect 4-0 first day. USN had a shorthand roster on the first day and got by two tough final games against White Station and Lakeside. The senior-filled roster held their second overall seed headed into championship bracket on Sunday. Madison Central graduated key players but the Slow Bros did not seem to care as they finished with a 28 point differential on Saturday. With a cloudy Saturday in the books, the teams returned to their hotels to clean their uniforms and cleats for a long, mud-filled bracket play day.
The first round on Sunday had many trap games for teams looking ahead to the quarters. Lakeside won a close 8-7 push from Lexington Catholic High School. Across the bracket and the parking lot was a matchup of two Georgia schools that know each other quite well, Brookwood Inferno and Grady Gauntlet. The two teams that participated in HS Southerns last season fought hard until a sloppy hammer score for Brookwood gave them the 10-9 universe win. On field one, I felt sorry for any team who ran a vertical stack offense, who in this case was Independence. Facing friendly rival Blackman High School, Flight players had to start their cuts ankle deep in water but surprisingly consistent though the mud slowed down their fast cutters and movement. Flight won the sloppy in-state match against a very young Blackman team, 8-5. Cardinal Gibbons High School had the upset of the weekend, starting out as a four seed, but winning their first round game on Sunday. Despite their great efforts to prove they were better than originally seeded, they would lose to USN 11-2, in quarters ending their trip back to Chattanooga. Another “darkhorse” team who made quarters was Birmingham Forge, who got into the championship bracket with a win over home team McCallie School. “For us it is hard to attend tournaments because we all come from different schools… Tournament directors look at us as an all-star team which we aren’t.” a Forge player about his frustrations with trying to grow ultimate in Alabama. (Place the score reporter link here or somewhere else)
People are probably wondering what happened to last year’s Cinderella team, Woodward Academy, and how they did. Just watching one game of them playing Saturday, it was clear they are rebuilding, but the future does look bright. The first day was rough: they went winless and were sent straight into the C-Bracket, but the Eagles looked at it as an opportunity. They went on to beat Hardin Valley, a steadily growing Bearden team, and Paideia JV to win the C-Bracket. When Catholic High School lost in the first round of Saturday they headed back into the B-Bracket; the Havoc was last season’s B-Bracket winner. Catholic continued on and pulled out a win against Madison Central, number five overall team coming in, 11-9 to repeat as B-Bracket Champions. I love it when a team never gives up despite the circumstances. Good job not just to Catholic and Woodward, but to all of the teams that did not quit because of a little mud.
Semifinal games in the championship bracket were flipped from the previous day’s cross-over games and provided some good in-state matchups: Paideia vs. Lakeside and Independence Flight vs. USN. Paideia took care of business but across the park the other game went down to universe point. At one point Flight was up 8-6 on their opponents but USN stayed confident and pushed on to win 9-8.
As I sat down during the first point of the championship game, I immediately noticed a difference between USN and Paideia. Granted, both teams had great disc skills, good flow and great fundamentals but Paideia had the upper hand- for two reasons, the first being the team’s conditioning. Make no mistake, USN players are hard workers, but when a team has to come back and win on universe, then has no time before the championship game, the odds are probably not going to be on their side. The second reason was the discipline and field vision of Paideia; they already knew USN was tired after the first point, but they successfully weakened USN even more by swinging the disc back and forth and cutting onto the break side after every swing. After the first long point Paideia scored, they knew they had the advantage by extending their cuts, working it under, and eventually hitting the long shot every chance they got. USN’s defense had no answer, with Paideia going 5-0 and eventually taking half 6-1. The second half was a waiting man’s game, USN took shots and went deep into their roster, but the damage was already done. Paideia won 11-3, taking home the Championship Wooden Disc. Congratulations to Paideia Gruel for winning 2013 Deep Freeze Open Division, they really deserved it. Thank you to the tournament directors, volunteers and people at the Spin Ultimate tent. Despite the circumstances, this tournament was a blast and, like I said, this one will be memorable for a lot of kids.