Skyd Magazine’s coverage Windmill Windup is brought to you by Five Ultimate.
Ultimate is full of universal truths: it’s smart for cutter defenders to jump behind the deepest man when a handler gets open upline. A strong sideline trap limits throwing options and forces turnovers. Accurate hammers are lethal against junk defenses. Massive early season tournaments are pretty much the greatest.
Mor Ho!’s Chorche Turan, an exemplary teacher of that third lesson, noted his team’s downfield players are less experienced those that usually play and guard the handler position. His Bratislava-based team had just fallen to Chiniya Rada, a squad of RISE UP coaches and friends, 15-3 in Windmill Windup’s first Open round. “We tended to squeeze instead of spread out, which caused a lot of turnovers and miscommunication. When we spread out we did a lot better.”
Stagnant downfield play is common for developing teams like Mor Ho!, a team that has has been rebuilding since Worlds in Prague in 2010. “Last year some experienced players decided to quit so we had to start over,” said Turan. “This is our first time together with this new team.”
Windmill has an interesting dynamic about it. Nearly all of the teams here are working to develop strategy and chemistry and to earn wins over common opponents in Europe; the Swiss draw format, wherein after every round winners play winners and losers play losers, means constant parity throughout the weekend. And at the same time, everyone is camping, tournament central has a ferris wheel, and you pay for food with carnival tokens rather than Euros; the whole event is a celebration of the European ultimate community and beyond.
“We’re definitely here for the party, and I think that’s why we get invited back,” said Dan Gardner of Aye-Aye, a team from Norwich, England. His team is an example of the potential for growth that’s in front of many of the continent’s teams. “We’re a university team so people graduate and move on. 99% of the time they’ve never played before so there’s never more than three years worth of experience.”
Still, others are here to test their metal. “We think we can do pretty well,” said Cambo Cakes captain Tjeerd Ates. His team was about to face England’s Blue Arse Flies in the second Open round. “Internationally, we just played Disc Days in Cologne, Germany, where we finished 4th. But the competition is pretty stiff here. It’s mostly good teams. I think if we can make top 16 we can be great.”
“We have a goal for every match,” he continued. “We want to come out hard and take the first two or three points and avoid slacking off. We’ve had problems with that early in the season.”
The day started well for Cambo Cakes: they beat Blue Arse Flies 15-8 and were third overall heading into the final Open round, before running into a strong Bad Skid team and falling 15-5.
Basel, Switzerland’s Freespeed gave Friday its most exciting Open game by pushing Chiniya Rada to the brink of defeat. The team took half 8-6 on the strength of fantastic deep throws from Luca Miglioretto and others as well physical, stingy defense more reminiscent of US Nationals than a fun tournament in Europe.
“They were really tight on handlers and they did a nice job of poaching off of non-throwers and sticking onto big ones,” said Ben Wiggins. “It was like playing a team that scouted us.”
“They were good, straight up,” said Mario O’Brien. “They were just good.”
Freespeed continued to play strong out of half, taking the score to 9-6 and 10-7, and 13-11 despite Chiniya Rada’s attempt to slow them down by clogging throwing lanes. Freespeed felt a huge momentum boost when Peter Bjorn got up over Teddy Browar-Jarus for a score, and the game looked in hand once they reached game point, 14-12. But Chiniya Rada spent the game’s proverbial fourth quarter ramping up both its defensive pressure and its offensive conversion rate and climbed back to force double game point at 14-14.
Freespeed lost a chance to win with a drop two meters out of the endzone, but would regain possession on a Chiniya Rada huck that sailed out of bounds. But even with another chance to win, Freespeed looked anxious as the Americans’ marks became more active and their defenders matter-of-factly established their presence. A flying poach block in the endzone by Tyler Kinley gave Chiniya Rada the disc back, and this time they converted for the win.
“We didn’t know what that team was gonna be about,” said Miglioretto after the game. “We heard there were Americans and knew it was probably the strongest opponent here. We didn’t have an idea how the game would end but we play our best when we go really hard. We knew if we didn’t, we’d get smashed.”
“We had a really good start playing an offensive game and we managed to keep ourselves on a mental level to keep the game going to be really focused and hot. The level of this game beats the finals we played in previous years. It’s the best I’ve played in Amsterdam.”
“In the circle we said that we were quite sad because we thought we should have won that game,” said Miglioretto. “Not because we started with that attitude but because as the game got toward the end we thought we should have won. But we said ‘let’s take the good things out of it: we need to go like that into every other game.’”
His closing thought is a good one for all of Windmill. Dance music is currently blasting from the DJ booth while players scarf down burritos, stroopwaffles, and beers. Herbie the giant inflatable elephant is standing guard at the entrance of the carnival tent, a reminder that the night’s silliness will increase as the sun goes down and the dance floor fills up. If Windmill can go into tomorrow with the same energy as today, we’ll all be in a good place.
Feature photo: Freespeed huddles at Windmill Windup 2012