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Season Start & Select Flight Invite

Recaps, Tournaments

Monkey

Okay, so here’s the story.

Every year, we pore over the calendar and try to find a solution to our competing priorities. This year, with the tournament invitations we received as a Select Flight team, an outlandish, unprecedented, but nevertheless very tempting solution presented itself: compressing the entire regular season and qualifiers into one month.

Select Flight Invite, Carmel, Indiana, Aug13-14

Bro Flight Finale, Madison, Wisconsin, Aug20-21

Sectionals, Washington, Aug27-28

Regionals, Washington, Sept10-11

Why did we elect to do this? How is it turning out so far? Read on.

The crowded and overlapping collegiate, professional, and club seasons presented all their ordinary challenges, but almost every year, some variety of world championship throws a special wrench somewhere into the calendar; this time, it was WUGC in London. With a dozen athletes committed to three national teams, the cost to our season was much heavier than face value. With training camps in the days preceding the tournament, the week-long grind itself, and some vacation time following it, the national team programme realistically represented a three-week blackout period during which any kind of Furious efforts would have been utterly hamstrung.  And with the Riptide‘s 15 remaining athletes holding the AUDL fort in their absence, our principal talent assets were burning out both at home as well as abroad. And any rookies we hoped to assimilate (or even returning veterans who had not been playing professionally) would need time to establish their roles. If we wanted to select, form up, and prepare any kind of functional team, August was the earliest this goal could be achieved. Although it meant sacrificing a campaign to CUCs in Edmonton, when we looked at the Select Flight tournaments to which we had access, the overall healthiest alternative was to separate our club season completely from pro and national teams, and to shift our club calendar into the fall.

Our first of these, the Select Flight Invite, took us to Carmel, Indiana — a balmy, semi-agrarian satellite to Indianapolis. And by any respectable opinion, it was monsoon season.

It is grossly unreasonable that any place outside the tropics should be able to maintain a committed 28oC while churning out cask-strength thunder squalls, but so it was. And within hours, all our worldly things became spongy with an uncomfortable soup of sweat and hot rain. During lightning delays, you could seek shelter in your hot and foggy cars (which offered no relief) and pass the time driving around the parking lot, hunting Pokemon. Alternatively, you could huddle together for warmth like wet penguins in a shockingly air-conditioned recreation centre: the antithetical yin to the outside yang.

Poetical complaints aside, the tournament was still a good experience for us, a team trying to re-learn how to focus, and circumstance made it very necessary. We only had 18 players rostered for this event, and from one stroke of bad luck or another, we lost a player to some sort of injury almost every game, eventually ending with 13 healthy bodies. And with the weather being what it was, these were often turnover-laden games. It was physically exhausting stuff. But what Furious needs most right now is learning to externalize fatigue — to keep it from becoming something visceral, that affects how you think, feel, and play. It’s ironic to those of us who have played for Furious for long enough, because this team was — for several years — only a mildly skilled one that just happened to possess powerful faculties of concentration and determination. This particular edition of the Monkey is one of the most skilled cohorts we have seen in years (even opponents tell me so), but with an uncultivated focus that wavers, slips in and out of the game plan unpredictably. It is a completely different kind of skill-building we have to work on, and it seems appropriate that we have to reforge this part of our identity in the Year of the Fire Monkey.

We opened against Temper with flying audacity, going up 5-1 early, unflinching in the face of the weather. It was the kind of game wherein the team making the pull felt more comfortable than the receiver, though, which is to say that it was a game of runs. Temper recovered, lightning struck, incurred a delay, and the entire game culminated in what was effectively a 15-minute game to 2.  Mathematically, all we had to do was hold a one-point lead for 15 minutes to edge out a win, which should be easy. It’s funny how circumstances like these, in the heat of the moment, can seem larger and more significant than they really are. In ultimate, if the offense only wants to maintain possession, it is pretty difficult to deprive them of it. But we made a few silly errors on our goal line, and Temper capitalized, and they turned the tables on us.

We bounced back again against Space City. The final score, 13-5, superficially looks very commanding, but it conceals  a struggle on our part to adapt to a team that played a very different style of ultimate, and one that actually worked surprisingly well for them. The fact that that we were able to intellectualize the fight, to act on our coach’s strategic adjustments, was the moral victory we were looking for from this game.  There were times our offense gorgeously isolated one cutter after another all the way up the field in the fluid way that whiteboards trivialize. As we keep emphasizing in huddles, we try to remind ourselves that it does not matter whether we win or lose, but whether we can succeed in playing our game, on our terms. This game was a success by that measure.

Our peak performance of the weekend came in our quarter-final against Condors.  We did not start well, and we did not play consistently well, but we ended well. They employed a very effective poach-and-switch defense that demands a coordination and intelligence we aren’t able to practice yet ourselves. However, we finished on a note of succeeding in adaptation, and against a very steady, smart team. We edged out a universe-point victory, starting on defense, and  it was a long, grinding effort of a point, and we delivered the Condors’ first defeat of the season. There were flashes here of the team that we once were and who we would like to become again.

Unfortunately, we were unable to sustain that.  Whether fatigue or numbers had eroded us to that point, I cannot say, but HIP from Texas revealed the weakness in our armour again. Again, they were a team that played a very unfamiliar style of ultimate to us, keying off of Bennett’s unique throwing skills. They also deployed a zone, effected frequent stoppages, and we fell prey to the combination.  Our spacing collapsed; we began trying to play a game of possession and keep-away in tight quarters.  Even though we maybe did that well, we were fighting the wrong battle — an illusion of what we had to try to do to win. When we next play HIP this weekend, a real test of our growth as a team will be our ability to see the field for not what it appears to be, but for what it really is, and to answer their defense with the appropriate offense. We have to reclaim our spaces, re-invest effort in movement, and make throws that seem challenging but which are strictly necessary.

So, that is where we stand.  If there is one thing that can be said for this schedule, it’s that we are not lacking for reps.  Two more days before Wisconsin. See you there.

 

Alex Davis

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