Game 1: Max Power
Our journey at nationals started out against Max Power, from Toronto. We expected a tough game playing against former MuD players Andy Kubinec and Eric Blanchard along with others from the Toronto Rush and Union. This team definitely had talent to spare, but we were able to contain them by playing zone on a very windy afternoon. They struggled to find space beneath the zone and the wind took away a lot of their over the top throws, leading to a straight-forward win for us. This game also featured a ridiculous number of hand blocks from Jake Redekopp including the one pictured here.
We ended up winning this game 13-7.
Game 2: Quest
For our second game, we played against Quest. While this game was not close, ending in a 15-4 win for us, it was super fun. Quest were clearly having a great time playing ultimate and it rubbed off on us during the game. They were laughing, racing to the line, and just generally enjoying their time at Nationals. It was a delightful game.
Game 3: Animals
Our final game on day 1 was against Animals from Sherbrooke, QC. We had played them before at Comedy of Errors in the quarterfinals and were looking forward to another great game. We came out with a lot of energy and a stifling zone defense and took an early lead. Animals hung in the game with some excellent handler motion inside of the front of our zone, but could never get the game back within reach (some timely point blocks helped here again). We worked hard to the end of this game and ended with a 13-8 final score.
After day 1, we were 3-0 and feeling good about how things were going. We had succeeded in winning games with the depth in our roster and had got into a bit of a groove in the wet, windy, weather. Following our games, we went back to Neil’s house for supper and to hang out.
Game 1: Bunny Thugs
Day 2 started with a game against Bunny Thugs from Saskatchewan. They played an aggressive swarming zone defense as it was still windy and we struggled a bit in the first half. We gave up a break to open the game, and threw a Callahan later in the half to keep things close. Luckily, our defense was firing on all cylinders like they had been all weekend so far and punched in a lot of breaks. Once the offense got rolling, the game opened up and we ended with a 15-8 win.
Game 2: Raft
Before our second power pool game against Raft, the energy and passion from the team was palpable. Without even having to say anything, it felt like we understood that this was a big game and that we needed to bring it and bring it we did. We started out on defense going upwind and took a couple breaks to start the game. From there things kept on rolling and we took half 8-2. Raft continued to fight hard in the second half, but we kept them at arms length with clean offense and hard work on defense. This was the best ultimate we’d played all year and it was after this game that I first felt like we might have a chance to win the tournament.
After this game, a few of us hung around to watch the pre-quarters game between Sea To Sky and MagnetX that would decide who we played in the morning, while most of the team headed over to Jon’s house for supper. We enjoyed some fine asian cuisine while preparing ourselves for the next day’s toil.
For quarterfinals, we were set to play against MagnetX from New Brunswick. We had played them once before at Comedy and were looking forward to another good game. This game followed the now familiar pattern: we started on defense, got a break and kept pushing from there. This game featured a huge grab from Heather Neary over the top of a MagnetX defender who very clearly had a better angle at the disc. Maybe the play of the tournament for us.
We took half easily and rolled to a 14-10 final. After the game we had our first ‘spirit circle’ of the tournament which was awesome. MagnetX were a great opponent and they told us that we were the most team-like team that they’d lost to this tournament. Since one of our goals is to develop our full roster from top to bottom, this was possibly the nicest thing they could have said. A great game with a great team.
Our semi-final matchup against Backdraft was a struggle of titanic proportions. More than any other team we’d played against so far, Backdraft was prepared to match our work ethic and drive for a full game. The weather was dreadful, and we struggled mightily on offense throughout the game. On their side Steve Armitage provided more speed than we were used to and they put so much more pressure on our bails than any game so far. As usual, our defense played awesome and got some early breaks, but we couldn’t hold the lead despite a huge sky by Jake late in the first half.
We led for most of the game, but gave up back to back breaks late in the second half to give them a 10-9 lead. Instead of playing our usual O line, we went with our D players who had played an awesome game so far to try to bring the game back. The hard cap horn blew and we turned the disc, but got it back on a huge play by Cam Bruggeman flying all the way across the field in our zone to get a D on the opposite sideline. We then worked it up the field carefully before Cam threw the disc over Neil’s head at the front cone of the end zone. Incredibly, Devy, as she has done so many times, somehow got to the disc as it settled in the end zone, tieing up the game at 10s. An incredible athletic play to set up a massive universe point to get to the finals!
With the game now tied at 10s, Cam B came through with another D around midfield to get the disc back for us. From there, Matt and Nate worked it methodically up the away sideline before finding Cam in the end zone for the final score! I’m pretty sure Cam held onto that disc for about 20 minutes after making the catch. It was an incredible end to the game!
We followed up with another spirit circle where both teams showed the respect that they have for each other and the energy which they put into the game. This may well be the most exciting, hard working game of ultimate I’ve ever played in. We were off to the finals in sensational, very emotional, fashion so we celebrated by going to the Mongolian Grill for supper. Delicious!
Final: Max Power
Turns out that in the other semifinal, Max Power had defeated Local613, bringing our Nationals journey full circle back to where it started. On paper, looking at our previous score against Max Power (13-7), you might have thought we should be heavy favourites going into the final but this was not true. The weather on Sunday was very different from Thursday with light winds and sunshine, and Max Power had had lots of time to figure out what worked for them on the field over the past 3 days. They’d clearly found their way to success and we were ready for a battle.
We started the game on defense (as we like to do) and for the first few points, everything went to serve. Both teams had to work hard for their points, with a few turns going each way but it took a while for anyone to get a break. The first break came to us to take the lead and then we got another to follow it up and that was all for a while. We gave up a break just before half, but were still up one 8-7 at half time.
If our game against Backdraft had been about the defense, this one was more about the offense. Despite defensive switches and an attempt at zone, Max Power struggled to find ways to stop us from marching the disc down the field. Wayne made a great throws through the cup and Lindsey and John-Eric moved the disc patiently side to side as necessary.
Heather and Dayna played incredibly well for us this game, Dayna finding space and gaining yards underneath while Heather was open in the end zone all game long, scoring many many times in the game. Overall, 11 of our first 12 points were scored by our women with Dayna, Bry, and Christa also getting in on the action.
In the second half, we kept things rolling on offense and eventually got another break to widen the margin to three. Nate did an incredible job containing Cam Harris throughout this game and he and Matt combined for some excellent handler motion after the turn.
We gave up a break (only the second we’d allowed in the game) at 13-11 to narrow the gap to 13-12, but we scored the next point to get the game within one at 14-12. After they got one more to make it 14-13, we went back out on the field to try to win the game. We started off moving well, finding space in the middle of the field, but eventually they got us stuck on the sideline near the stands with limited options. With many of their players crowding and poaching near the disc, Lindsey found Jake over the top at a very high stall count to open up the field. Jake threw to Heather, Heather dumped it back to Dan who then threw a break to Jake in the endzone for the winning point.
We’d won the game and won a National Championship! It’s a great feeling! Heather was name MVP of the game having caught many, many points in the game, including this huge grab off a way too floaty huck from me.
Congratulations to the other 4 Ontario teams on making it a top 5 all from Ontario this year! Well done everyone! Congratulations also to PPF also from KW for winning their first Nationals this year! And finally Congratulations to Maverick from KW for beating GT in the 5th place game in the Open Division! An awesome year for touring ultimate in the region!
Photo credits go to Ed Kung, Eye to Ngai Photography, Phurazar Bhada of E-Fire, and Kevin Schuster and were downloaded from Facebook. If any of you would prefer that we take your photos down, let us know and we’ll do so.