What to say? What to feel? In the immortal words of Jann Arden,
How do you turn your eyes from the romantic glare?
How do you stop the sound of a voice you'd know anywhere?
And I'm not even talking about Neal singing Moana at Captain Curt's.
I'm talking about Nationals.
Machine entered the tournament as the 7 seed in a pool with Sockeye, Florida United, and PoNY. Sockeye, Machine had beaten. PoNY had gotten the better of Machine twice, and Florida was a black box of unknowns. Would the squad's momentum from a regional championship carry them through? With a focus on the present, could they come up with the results? Come with me. Let's find out.
Machine faced PoNY first, and things looked great to start. Turnover free holds in the heavy-moderate diagonal wind for the O line gave way to struggles from PoNY's O. The D was playing unfortunately like Rich Girls ("Don't you know that it's wrong/to take what is given you") and kept gifting back the turns from PoNY's O. The teams traded until an upwind downwind break combination led to a PoNY lead of 8-6 at half. That, in retrospect, was enough, and though Machine fought hard in the second half to adjust to PoNY's upwind upline game, the squad fell 11-14.
Hearing that Sockeye had been beaten by Florida United during the round only distracted Machine from its central truths, and the second game followed a similar pattern to the first. Lots of opportunities on D that they weren't able to cash in, and an O line that seemed to wear down as the game wore on. After Florida's giant brought down a downwind break D chance at about 11', Florida punched in their upwind O point for a 11-13 lead, breaking on the following point to hand Machine its second 11-14 loss.
Facing championship elimination, Machine switched fields from the good field to the bad field to match up with Seattle Sockeye, who was also 0-2 after a loss to PoNY. Machine started by getting broken going upwind on offense, but that didn't deter the Rich Girls. They responded with an upwind break of their own, and that was the first of many reversals in the first half. It seemed the Machine O couldn't score upwind, and the Sockeye O couldn't score downwind. A thunderous AJ Nelson footblock led to an upwind break, and a Rowdy Boys only line converted the downwinder for an 8-6 halftime lead. Big blocks from Von and Jesse in the second half kept things out of reach for the Fish, and Machine came away with their first game win of the tournament, 13-10.
As dear sweet Fate would have it, this win combined in the heavens with a Ring of Fire loss to Ironside to match these star-crossed lovers together in the bracket for the 4th year in a row. With several Machine alums on Ring, the squad found their biggest focus challenge of the week. Don't think about pink elephants they said.
Machine found a small margin for error in the elimination rounds, and after what looked like classy holds on the first three O points, the throwaway, drop, and inefficient-spacing-slash-stall-count-management bugs all bit at once, and Machine found themselves in the blink of an eye on the shit end of the 3-8 halftime score stick. While things calmed down in the second half, the damage was done, and Machine was broken again for a 7-15 loss.
Hearing that the loss did not mean the end of games to one, the boys got a little #rowdy and took 15 such games in a row against Patrol. In the quiet words of the narrator of the Big Lebowski, "sometimes you eat the bar, and, well, sometimes the bar eats you." Life is weird.
After a bye, the squad suited up in white for the sixth game in a row against old Central Region friend Sub Zero. A slow start got the boys down, but after hanging tough through some early second half adversity, they clawed back with three breaks in a row to force double game point at 12-12. Unfortunately, the Sub Zero O went all Benihana on the Rowdy Boy D line and sliced and diced into the endzone in frankly anticlimactic fashion, handing Machine a 13-12 loss and an 11th place finish in the tournament (accompanied by a 3rd place finish in overall team spirit scores: http://tct.usaultimate.org/2017/10/25/2017-national-championships-spirit-scores/).
From there, the Rowdy Boys would ride out the Siesta Key sunset by running with the bulls all the way from the Captain Curt's karaoke stage to the Daiquiri Deck dance floor.
And then it was over. The squad chilled at the fields in the waning overcast twilight and thought about eternity for more than a few beats. Every year it's striking how much the team reconstitutes itself into something new. It's a mistake to look at that as a natural phenomenon, though, as much as its inevitability makes it feel like one. The team grows like a weed solely and with no other factors than the blood and sweat and sacrifice of its constituent members. 24 deep and with many of those greener than an early spring crabapple, Machine experienced just a wild amount of team and individual growth. Pride's a sin and I know that's right, but damn if it is not pretty tempting when you look at this squad.
You can get along if you try to be strong, but you'll never be strong. Much love 2017 Machine.
Chicago Machine heads to Sarasota, FL this week for USA Ultimate Club Nationals. The tournament runs from Thursday October 19th to Sunday October 22nd, and features the top 16 teams in the country from the Men's, Women's, and Mixed divisions.
It has been over five years since the last time the Club Championships were held in Sarasota (after a 13 year run from 2000-2012). Only 8 members of 2017 Machine have been on the squad long enough to remember the white sand beaches of Siesta Key, and the legendary escapades of Captain Curt's/ Daiquiri Deck.
This season, Machine comes in seeded 7th overall, pitting them in a pool with Seattle Sockeye (#2 seed), Florida United (#11), and New York PoNY (#14). Pool play games will take place on Thursday, leading into Pre-Quarters/ Quarters on Friday, Semi-Finals on Saturday, and Finals on Sunday. (Link to USAU Score Reporter Page)
The Nationals tournament format has been adjusted as of 2016 so that the First place finisher in each pool receives a bye directly to quarterfinals. Second and Third place finishers advance to pre-quarters, and Fourth place finishers are eliminated from the championship bracket.
- Machine has played Sockeye once this season, winning a close quarterfinals at the Pro Championships in Burlington, WA.
- Machine has yet to play Florida United in 2017.
- Machine is 0-2 against PoNY, having lost on universe point at the Pro-Elite Challenge in Colorado, and in a lopsided affair at the Elite-Select Challenge in Appleton, WI.
While a few players are coming off of minor injuries, Machine will have a full roster in attendance.
Machine is not the only Chicago based team attending the tournament. The Chicago women's team, Nemesis, will also be attending. Both teams will be staying in the same beach villa complex in Siesta Key, creating a Chicago home base in the Sunshine State.
None of Machine's game's are currently slated for filming/ live streaming, but Machine will be filming games to be used for a post-tournament highlight video.
Oh regionals. Aren't you the best tournament? Are you where dreams are made and broken? Don't you set apart the wishers from the doers? Who can escape your call? WHOSE HEART CLUTCHES NOT WHEN THEY HEAR IT?
Certainly not the ROWDY BOYS. With the trepidation of a blushing bride, the Rowdy Boys pulled up to Voice of America Park in sweaty West Chester, OH for the privilege of earning one of two bids to the 2017 USA Ultimate National Championship in Sarasota, FL next month. Could the RRRs find focus with all the pressure? With all the heat?
It turned out that the answer was yes. Tight defense efficient offense led to a 1 turnover first half 7-1 against fellow Chicagoans Beachfront Property. The 'front got rolling on O a little bit in the second half, but not enough to prevent a 13-4 win for Machine.
Next up was Baemaker, who ran into the Mike Schwenk buzz saw. A dime from Michael Wormley was the lone bright spot. 13-1 final.
In a faceoff for the pool, Machine took on Four from Ann Arbor. While early mistakes plagued this brightly camo'd crew, they did get some second half beastings in on some certified big doggs, and for that you've got to give them credit. Machine wins 13-6, and takes the pool.
That dub put Machine in the semifinals against Brickyard from Indianapolis. Brickyard came out intense on D, but a huge sky muted their cheers for the 1-0 Machine hold (GIF below). They held on a big grab of their own. The Machine D got hungry, and after a hold a mind bending Von Alanguilan layout sky kicked off off three breaks in a row, and got one more to take half 8-2. Determined to continue to ramp up in the heat of the day, Machine fought hard despite the excellent play of Rick Gross and Jake Fella, eventually winning 15-6.
A few placebos and a team meeting later, the Rowdy Boys were sawing logs in preparation for the final against regional rival High Five.
Coming into the final, lots of external factors came at the Rowdy Boys. Bids to nationals. An opponent they had lost to handily just four weeks earlier. The sweltering Cincinnati afternoon, and the possibility of a longer time in it if they lost. But as our mentors have said, "you can get along, if you try to be strong / but you'll never be strong, whoa."
This is all to say that Machine defeated High Five 15-11 in an intense final that Machine led wire to wire. An opening hold from the O line on some strong under work, and the D line punished an errant swing for the 2-0 lead. After a pair of trades each, Machine broke again on another missed swing, and the teams traded out to an 8-5 halftime lead for Chicago, a perfect 6-6 on O line possessions. The second half tightened, and the D couldn't punch in multiple turnovers from High Five's offense, while the O line saw its first turnovers of the game. The D line broke through for a 12-8 lead, but High Five answered with a poach D 10 yards outside the Machine endzone and flipped in a fast break to narrow the lead to 12-10. The O line answered on diving catch by Tim Fergus on an aggressive Alex Evangelides bomb for a 13-10 lead (GIF below), and Machine capitalized on an errant endzone shot with a Kevin Kelly huck to Brad Bolliger for a 14-10 lead. Multiple D possessions on the next point couldn't find the winning score, so the O line sliced through the High Five D on the following point, keeping the stall under 3 the whole point and scoring quickly for the 15-11 win.
The squad earned its second consecutive GL region title and will be back at nationals for the 12th year in a row. Instant hot takes were recorded afterwards as part of our ongoing "Ten Yards with Travis" Twitter featurette: https://twitter.com/MachineUltimate/status/912028102179553280
Look out for a highlight video and nationals preview coming soon!
In the meantime, we would like to extend a big time thank you to the USA Ultimate volunteers and the on-site tournament volunteers through Oshadega, as they did a fantastic job before, during, and after the tournament!
Additionally, we would like to thank our sponsors Five Ultimate (ultimate jerseys and apparel) and Mint Ultimate (ultimate gloves)!
And... while we are at it, thanks to all the former Machine big dogs who laid the foundation for the 2017 program.
The 2017 USAU Club Series is in full swing, and Machine is looking to qualify for Nationals this weekend at the Great Lakes Regionals in West Chester, OH.
The USAU Series involves a sequence of elimination tournaments starting with Sectionals, then Regionals, and concluding with Nationals. Machine was allowed to skip Sectionals and advance directly to Regionals based on qualification for the 2016 National Championship, and attendance at two or more USAU Triple Crown Tour event's (the Pro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge, and Pro Championships).
Each region receives 1 automatic bid to Nationals, with additional bids being earned based on the number of in-region teams who fall within the top 16 of the USAU regular season ranking algorithm. The Great Lakes region has two bids to Nationals up for grabs this season as both Machine (11) and Michigan's High Five (5) finished in the top 16 of the USAU regular season rankings.
Machine enters the tournament as the overall number 2 seed, and will play three pool play games before entering into a bracket during the final round on Saturday. Pool winners will move directly to semi-finals, second place pool finishers will still have a chance to qualify by advancing through a backdoor bracket, which culminates with a "game to go" against the loser of finals.
Full Game Schedule: http://play.usaultimate.org/events/Great-Lakes-Mens-Regionals-2017
Machine expects to have their full roster healthy and in attendance, with the exception of Cullen Geppert (doubtful due to work obligations).
Machine will also be keeping close tabs on the Women's and Mixed division play over the weekend, which takes place at the same complex. Chicago's Nemesis and UPA will both be competing to make the trip to Sarasota in their respective divisions (the Women's division has two bids, while the Mixed division has 1 bid).
To follow along for live updates: http://twitter.com/machineultimate
Check back after the tournament for a recap, highlight video, and more!
Machine took their show on a West Coast Tour for the long weekend, and turned up in style with a 3-3 record and a second place overall finish at the USAU Pro Championships. Machine will be gearing up for Regionals in three weeks with some intense practices and team time in preparation for our biggest test of the year.
Machine's weekend started early on a cloudless Pacific Northwest morning against defending national finalist Revolver from San Francisco. The squad from the Bay came out sloppy to start, making mistakes against Machine's junk and 1v1 looks alike. Machine rode their strong defensive conversion rate to a 8-5 halftime lead. Revolver looked intent on coming back, but a layout block from Von on an under in the first point out of half led to another Machine break for a 9-5 lead. Machine tacked on another two breaks for a 13-7 lead before Revolver flexed its muscles with three straight breaks to make it 13-11. Machine's O got back on the board, and traded the game out for a 15-12 win.
Next up was Denver's Johnny Bravo, against whom Machine couldn't generate much pressure in a 10-15 loss. Execution mistakes early gave Bravo a 4-1 lead to start, and they would carry that advantage to a 5-8 halftime bulge. Machine couldn't close the gap, and managed only three turnovers on Bravo's O line, who relentless broke the mark and challenged deep. Though Machine's offense stabilized in the second half, the damage was done and the team dropped their second game 10-15.
For the last game of the day, Machine faced the ostensibly second team from the Bay Area, Oakland Guerrilla. Machine looked tired in their cutting lanes and on defense, and gave up an early break for a 3-4 deficit. Oakland spread the field well and raced Machine's out cuts well. Machine equalized, the only break conversion out of 7 tries in the first half, but Oakland broke for half, 6-8. Machine's D line came out in the second half with fury, breaking twice to tie the game, and just missed a connection for the third. Machine would eventually take the lead, but low cutting action and high-stall mistakes gave Guerrilla all the chances they needed, and an invert sealed a 13-15 win for the Bay.
After games on Saturday, leadership from Machine participated in Gender Equity discussion amongst Men's team representatives, while the rest of the Rowdy Boys refueled with chocolate milk-based placebos and a dip in the beautiful Skagit River, leading into an early bed time in preparation for top-ranked Seattle Sockeye in the quarterfinals the next day.
Sockeye's speed on offense would be a major weapon in this game, and Machine focused on slowing them down with multiple looks on D. Sockeye obliged by giving break opportunities in under- and overthrown discs. Machine's D line looked composed on the turn, capitalizing on Seattle mistakes and taking half 8-5. As the previous day against Revolver, Seattle pushed back and tied the game at 10-10 after some big plays by their D line. Machine put the D in for a hold, and found Walden Nelson on a little dog sky over a poaching defender. After Sockeye's run, Machine found one of their own, breaking three times in a row for a 14-10 lead. After a Sockeye hold, Pawel Janas found Michael Pardo deep for the 15-11 win.
This strong win set up a pool play rematch with Johnny Bravo, who easily dispatched SoCal Condors in the previous round. This matchup found the Machine D generating much more pressure and blocks, and the D line showing confidence on the turn. Machine's deep game was connecting, and they took an 8-6 lead into the half. Bravo ratcheted up their own defensive efforts, and chipped away at the Machine lead in a back and forth second half, eventually breaking to tie the game at 14 in a game to 15. Machine's experience in games to 1 this weekend gave them an edge here, and after he turned an initial deep throw to Pardo on a Jimmy Mickle block, Cullen Geppert got a ground-shaking layout block on an under, and Janas threw a short away shot to Travis Carpenter for the 15-14 win.
Machine caught some shade while watching the Molly Brown/Brute Squad semifinal, then got a great meal together in a part time sauna, hitting the sack early again for a 3pm final. Waking early, the crew followed Seattle native, Julian Childs-Walker into the mountains for some beautiful scenery, and then headed to the stadium for their rematch against Revolver.
Building on their focus from the previous rounds, Machine locked in to committed defense and multiple looks for the Revolver O line. They would need it after a first point break for Revolver, and finally got it on a layout in the zone from Alanguilan, which tied the game at 4. The teams would engage in a gritty trade battle, with Revolver notching one more break to half 7-8. Machine struggled to create pressure in the second half as Revolver's offense settled in, and some execution errors from the Machine O line led to Revolver pulling away, eventually sealing the game with a break, 10-15.
Big ups to all our fans, as we're going into the thick of our preparation, getting ready for an intense regional competition in three weeks. Until, then enjoy a few Twitter video clips from this past weekend, and look out for a tournament highlight video in the next few weeks.
Labor Day weekend marks 3 years since Machine last travelled to Skagit River Park in Burlington, WA to compete in a Triple Crown Tour event. Machine is hoping to duplicate those results by once again winning the USAU Pro Championships (previously known as the Pro-Flight Finale).
Tournament Details: http://play.usaultimate.org/events/TCT-Pro-Championships-2017/
The final regular season weekend of the USAU club season, eight of the top men's teams in the country will be in attendance at the Pro Championships, with 10 other top men's teams on the opposite side of the country at the New York Invite. Machine's pool features San Francisco Revolver, Denver Johnny Bravo, and Oakland Guerrilla. Only three games will be played on Saturday, leading into a reseeded 8 team bracket on Sunday. The finals for the men's, women's, and mixed divisions will take place on Monday at Archbishop Murphy High School.
Machine will be sending a roster of 22 active players and coach Andy Neilsen. Missing from the weekend will be AJ Nelson, Vinny Ciaramitaro, and Xtian Guerrero (who will not be joining Machine this season due to an elbow injury requiring surgery).
To follow along for live updates and our new feature, 10 Yards with Travis: http://twitter.com/machineultimate
Check back after the tournament for a recap, highlight video, and much more throughout the season. Until then, please stay humble.
ICYMI: Highlights from our previous tournament, the 2017 Elite-Select Challenge
If you squinted from high above on Friday night, you might have been able to pick out a loose caravan of Machine cars driving up to Appleton, WI for their first road trip tournament in recent memory. Without the classic game of how-late-can-you-get-to-the-airport-without-missing-your-flight, how could Evange and Stephan get pumped for game time? Our fans would have to wait and see.
Machine started off hot enough with a 13-8 win over Inception. Smothering reset defense from Walden and the handler crew and a passel of downfield beastings from Schwenk and Jesse brought a 7-4 halftime margin to the boys in their fresh new kits courtesy of 5 Ultimate. More of the same in the second half as the offense turned in a 1 break performance and the D continued to roll.
After a second round bye, the squad faced off against some familiar foes in Madison Club. The deep game was dialed in with Pawel striking deep as a cutter and as a thrower, and Chicago took half 7-5 up a break. Madison couldn't stretch the field as the wind picked up, and the Machine defense got opportunities to break in bunches, converting on four of their first five chances. A 5 turnover apiece point ended in a Madison hold for 12-10, and the Machine O line closed it out quickly for the game, 13-10.
Tournament photo album by Vince Fergus: https://www.flickr.com/photos/123594130@N08/albums/72157685517200324
The next game brought Machine's first 2017 look at regional rival High Five. With all the anticipation of a blushing bride, the game started with holds for both O lines before High Five broke on a missed huck for a 1-3 lead. Machine's mistakes mounted, and playmaking from the High Five D line led to a 3-7 halftime deficit. Machine tightened the screws for the second half, but couldn't capitalize on break opportunities, losing the game 8-13.
With a trip to the quarterfinals on the line, Machine drew a rematch of the last round of PEC pool play against New York's PoNY. This contest would be more lopsided, as a 7-6 halftime lead melted away with 5 consecutive breaks after half. Machine finally punched in the hold, but the next D point couldn't get a block, and the squad lost 8-13.
Down but not out, Machine regrouped later that evening with some team bonding and recovery at Cryotherapy of Wisconsin. You can see their Facebook video of the experience below:
Matched up against Rhino and Machine 2014 alum Chris Vandervoort in the 9th place bracket, Machine was up early with vengeance in their eyes. The Rhino squad was missing some key players due to injury, and repeated mistakes by their O line resulted in a cascade of breaks for Machine's D. The pressure continued in the second half, and the D line was ruthless in its efficiency, converting 8 of 9 possessions for the 13-5 win.
Last up was a crew from Canada, with Furious George representing the Northwest. Despite some great deep shots to speedy receivers, Furious's attack was not enough for a hungry Machine D line, who again rode a strong conversion rate to a 13-7 win.
The season heats up now for the Rich Girls, with the Pro Flight Finale looming in less than two weeks, and Great Lakes Regionals just two weeks after that. Machine will be tuning up and ready to ramp up for the big tests ahead.
Before leaving Appleton though, the boys were able to support the Chicago Women's team, Nemesis, as they went on to win the Women's division finals over Seattle's Underground. (Things got a little rowdy and Machine was asked to tone things down....)
One final note: The weekend saw the introduction of a new online video series titled "10 Yards with Travis". A spin on USA Ultimate's "40 Yards with Evan Lepler" in which Lepler interviews members of the US Worlds' Game team, Travis instead interviews Machine players for a recap after each game. The Tweets can be seen here: