Exit Interview: NY BENT

by | December 13, 2013, 11:14am 0

This season for New York’s BENT was a definite improvement on last season, as they climbed up the USAU rankings and challenged at both the Colorado Cup and the Chesapeake Invite. Still, Nationals was a challenge for NY, finishing 13th in the field. What follows is a great interview with BENT captains Liz Middleton, Cara Brown and Cassie Wong and their coach, Adam Goff, about the season. Be sure to read what captain Cara Brown has to say about the direction of USAU’s Club Division at the end of the interview.

Skyd Magazine: It was an up and down regular season for BENT, with a lot of close losses to some of the top teams. How did the team approach tournaments this season?

BENT Captains & Coach: Losing is always tough, so we tried to carry the intensity from the end of one close game into the start of the next and come out strong. We played our best when our players on the sideline were as engaged in the game as players on the field.

Skyd: Your regular season play put you at 12th in the USAU rankings. Was this more or less where you expected yourselves to finish?

BENT: We were very happy to make it into the top 16 in the regular season rankings after beginning the season as a select team. We mostly lived up to our own expectations during the season and at regionals, with a few exciting wins and a few tough (and usually close) losses against top teams. Next year we really need to be more consistent about bringing our top game to every game and we should be able to keep moving up!

Skyd: How did you like playing within the Triple Crown Tour?

BENT: The elite-select crossover was a great opportunity for our team, because even though elite and pro teams weren’t required to go, the level of competition was very high.

However, one of the most frustrating aspects of the TCT for the Women’s division overall is the vast parity from the #1 to the #30 team as compared to the other divisions. It means that planning for a competitive season requires very different tourney planning, which we realized this past year after being slated to the Select tier. To highlight the parity, one only needs to look on score reporter. The Open division has 150 teams, the Mixed division has 169 teams, and the Women’s division has 59 teams – the level of competition and the rankings are in view for all players who care to look and evaluate. The TCT while trying to offer up “better competition” during tourneys, does not do so as well for the Women’s select division as it may for other divisions. We were very lucky to have the opportunity to play the high level teams that made the trip to Chesapeake Invite – which gave us some great competition in the late season.

Skyd: What is it like game-planning to play Fury in pool play?

BENT: We went into the Fury game planning to work on our offense and defense and play our hardest. On defense in particular we wanted to contain Fury’s deep game, which we were able to do pretty successfully. It was a great opportunity to adjust to unique defenses they played and play defense against some incredibly talented players.

Skyd: Going into prequarters, you were playing Texas’ Showdown – a team that upset the order a bit in Pool D the previous day. Did that change the mentality of playing them in the elimination game?

BENT: We were excited to have Showdown as our prequarters match-up, since we thought we had a very good chance of beating them, which we proved by taking a 3-1 lead to start the game and staying ahead of them through the first half until the actual halftime when we were down 7-8. Unfortunately, after half, our game was quickly capped and we did not convert on our Ds or score consistently on our offensive opportunities allowing them to take the game 11-8. The pressure of elimination really helped our team get psyched up and we played with more intensity than in most of our pool play games.

Skyd: What did you think of Nationals in Frisco?

BENT: There were several changes from nationals in Sarasota where there was room for improvement. It is much harder to find houses or condos for a whole team to rent near Frisco, so our team was split between a smaller house and a hotel. The fact that most teams only played two days was problematic for us, since two of our players could not get to the tournament until Friday, so they were only able to play one day. We’d prefer to play on all grass field and it seems that not charging spectators to watch games, especially on Thursday and Friday, may be a way to be thankful to those who actually make the trip to attend all four days of play. Also, there were no food options at the Thursday/Friday fields besides stadium junk food. That needs to change. We are athletes at a competition. We need access to real food.

The quality of the semis and finals appeared more professional; however our team was very torn on whether this was an improvement. For some, it made game watching more enjoyable and for other it seemed almost sterile. Those of us who did not like it, missed sitting on the grass next to the fields with friends with a beer enjoying the sun and ultimate. However, all of us agreed that watching two full days of watching ultimate was just too much. We missed the old format with games on Saturday.

Skyd: At the end of the day, you finished 13th at Nationals, after a strong finish to your Friday play. How do you classify this season? A success? Room to grow?

BENT: We were hoping to move up in the rankings at nationals, but that wasn’t possible with the new nationals format after a pre-quarters loss. But we were happy to finish the tournament with two strong wins and proved to ourselves in our other close games that we can play with any team. We hope that with a lot of players returning next year we’ll be able to build off these results and do even better next year!

Skyd: And what will next year bring for BENT?

BENT: BENT has a lot of young talented players who really grew throughout this past season and will continue to be a huge factor in our success next year.

Skyd: Anything you’d like to see changed in USA Ultimate or the Triple Crown Tour going into next season?

BENT: We wish there were more options for the required tournaments for each tier, which would offer some flexibility. (For example, if a majority of our team couldn’t attend the elite-select challenge this season it would have been a huge issue.) As a Top Select team with a shot at Nationals, we probably felt this most, because we needed high level competition to elevate our ranking during the regular season. So for us, it was a MUST attend tourney, but for Elite teams, it was a flexible tourney. Although we had great competition and enjoyed the tourney, it seems to diminish the importance of the Elite/Select crossover and give less opportunities for Top Select times trying to improve, if the Elite teams are not required to attend.

As a personal note from Cara Brown:

We also would encourage a continued appreciation for the differences in the Women’s division as compared to Mixed and Open. For example, given that in the Women’s division there are less teams overall, with 1) the requirements for Pro/Elite teams to attend a certain number of tourneys, 2) the flexibility of the Elite teams to attend the E/S crossover, and 3) the (surprising) importance of the regular season standing in post-Nationals rankings – there seems to be no incentive for Pro/Elite teams to attend “Select” tournaments – which really hurts the Select women’s division, which is the majority of the 59 teams listed in score reporter. Less volume and more parity means different considerations for the USAU to recognize and address. Overall, USAU needs to be much better at timely communication with the players regarding changes in the season, season format, Nationals format…and whatever else they are planning to change in upcoming years. The last minute Nationals changes were very frustrating and somewhat surprising (i.e. the reliance on regular season ranking to stratify us for the consolation games and set us up for 2014).

As players, we spend extraordinary amounts of time after our full-time jobs and out-of-pocket money playing a sport we love. Changes made by USAU need to keep in mind that although it would be great to have some of the same recognition as sports that are viewed in a “professional” setting, we are not currently a professional sport. It feels as though some of these changes that are being made seem to be forgetting that aspect.

Photo by William ‘Brody’ Brotman of UltiPhotos.com

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