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Northwest Regionals

Recaps, Tournaments

UltiPhotos: Sunday Round 3 &emdash; nw_regionals-2645
The Monkey Takes the Dirt Road to Florida

The story of Furious George at Regionals has an amazing prologue of unfortunate circumstances. You’re not going to believe this.

Well ahead of the tournament, we knew we would be missing some players. We knew we would lose break-mark artist Andrew Brown to a wedding, as well as towering D-line receiver Matt Berezan — tough, but manageable losses by themselves. The cruel obligations of real-world life, though stole a couple more from us. Deprived of Alex Chan and Alex Hughes, we shrugged — these things will happen. Not to be outdone, the injury fairy stepped in and condemned deep strike Brendan Wong to a dislocated shoulder. Then Aaron Koenig fell victim to an ankle sprain. The number of apologetic e-mails accumulating on my phone was by this time decimating our starting line-up. We had entered the realm of the ridiculous.

So when I woke up on Saturday morning and learned that Seraglia had crumpled under appendicitis halfway to Oregon, that was the last straw. That was the snapping point. Throwing any sense of sympathy out the window, I clenched my fists and thought, “How dare he. . . !”

Sooner or later, everyone in sport will find themselves in a situation wherein there is no back-up. There is no one left to lean on. The outcome — sink or swim — rests entirely on their shoulders, whether they are ready for it or not. And it can be a haunting feeling when it takes you by surprise. We looked our rookies in the face and let them know this bald truth; we needed them to start being stars.

UltiPhotos: Saturday Preview &emdash; nw_regionals-7984

Saturday

We opened against our friends from Calgary, the Ghosts, and the defense hit hard right off the bat with three quick breaks. Andy Collins intercepted the very first pass of the game for a Callahan. But despite strong defense, the Monkey’s offense was far less sharp. The game felt more like practice than a tournament, with many players in unusual roles, playing with unfamiliar partners. We won handily (17-10) albeit inelegantly.

UltiPhotos: Saturday Preview &emdash; nw_regionals-8542

Our performance against Sockeye was a write-off, an unmitigated disaster that handed them the easy road to the final. Sockeye played well and focused, advancing the disc through their characteristically handler-driven offense. Our offense, by comparison, struggled. Sockeye’s agile handler-covers challenged our throwers to get open, and our cutters seemed puzzled in the face of poaches. Nevertheless, Kevin Underhill artfully wormed the disc into our handlers’ hands many times, and Nick Menzies could be counted upon to get himself open in a tight spot. Where we really suffered was on preposterously simple things. Furious threw the disc out the back of the endzone on a half dozen occasions! We also lost possession a couple of times on what should have been elementary endzone connections. With a final score of 17-8, it was an embarrassing outcome. There was nothing to do but to shrug it off and to try to find a new rhythm with the personnel we had.

UltiPhotos: Saturday Preview &emdash; nw_regionals-8399

The semi-final against Rhino was better, but not by enough. Offensively, Rhino was keying off of Mario O’Brien and Seth Wiggins especially well. They played their shifting vertical offense to create isolation plays on the fly, and they worked the disc effectively to all their go-to cutters. On three occasions, Wiggins caught the disc at a full sprint and exploded the defense with a dumbfounding cross-field IO flick. But the story of this game did not lie in offensive prowess — it was really about competing D-lines. Furious and Rhino traded the first few breaks, but then Oregon mounted a decisive run to take the first half. In the second half, the Monkey mounted our own defensive run, challenging the in-cuts and forcing turnovers. We clawed our way back to 9-10 — with the disc on the goal line — but that’s where the run ended, and Rhino returned the favour. Final score was 15-10. It was frustrating.

UltiPhotos: Saturday Preview &emdash; nw_regionals-8519

Sunday

So Sockeye and Rhino had punched their tickets to Florida on Saturday, and Furious had to walk the dirt road to the game-to-go yet again. I woke up on Sunday morning to that sobering reality. It’s a hellish repetition — digging ourselves holes and trying to climb out, but it seems to be our tradition, and we are getting fairly accustomed to it. It’s our thing.*

UltiPhotos: Sunday Preview &emdash; nw_regionals-1444

After an early start against Darkside, we faced Voodoo in the qualifying game for the championship. This was a game that the team leadership took very seriously. It was our last shot into Florida, against a team with an awful lot of darkhorse potential. Sometimes, we underestimate our opponents — badly — and we just could not afford that attitude this time. A quick glance at Voodoo’s record reveals how many good teams Voodoo has given a scare. What’s more, there is a lot of video available of Furious, and not much on Voodoo, leaving us uncomfortably in the dark, and giving Ben Wiggins plenty to analyze.

Knowing that Voodoo’s athleticism is their core strength, we entered the game preparing to test their skill. The Furious D-line hurled the whole kitchen of aggressive junks and poaches at Seattle — anything that would interrupt their flow or force an unfamiliar throw. Outside of their usual modus operandi, Voodoo began turning the disc. Our offense was looking the cleanest it had been all weekend. Even when we made mistakes, we made the plays to keep possession, and the Monkey mounted an 8-1 run to take the first half. Voodoo revived in the second half, and even notched two breaks at the very end of the game, but by this time the Monkey had a commanding lead, and the game concluded at a score of 15-7. Thus, Furious qualified for the USAU Championships for a third year in a row, via the back door, as always.

UltiPhotos: Sunday Preview &emdash; nw_regionals-1474

The last game of the day was a rematch against Rhino for seeding. The latter had just lost a double-game-point barn-burner to Sockeye. I wish I could say this last game featured the best of both teams — an elegant ballet of offense of defense, maybe. No. It was a turnover festival of preposterous proportions. Like two tired boxers, Furious and Rhino exchanged brash and obstinate hucks. The defense on both sides was bullish and strong, and frustrated O-lines kept throwing into the defenses’ teeth. On universe point, Oscar Pottinger flew around Matt Melius for a layout block ten yards from the goal line. Final score: 12-11 for Furious George.

UltiPhotos: Sunday Round 3 &emdash; nw_regionals-2652

Next stop, Florida.

*Jeff Cruickshank (Furious alumnus, coach for Traffic) said to me, “You need to know how to lose in order to win.”
“If that’s what it is, Shank, then give me a PhD.”

Alex Davis

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