After a week in which the temperature in Chicago swung from 80 degrees to 30 degrees in less than 3 days, Machine was thrown-a-back by the jarring consistency of the mid 70’s weather upon landing in San Diego for the USAU Club Championships.
Unfortunately, the weekend started on unfortunate circumstances. Upon landing in San Diego, Machine coach Andy Neilsen learned his father had unexpectedly passed away. Neilsen would leave the next morning to be with his family, and the team sent all of their love and support with him. Before leaving, Neilsen’s message to the team was simple, to play with joyful energy at all times through the weekend, and at the same time go out and rage on the field. That message would permeate within every huddle and unite the team’s focus throughout the weekend. While his physical presence was not with us, Andy’s spiritual leadership was very much present throughout the weekend despite the very unfortunate circumstances.
When games started on Thursday, Machine opened the tournament with a live streamed game against Raleigh’s Ring of Fire. After a rocky start offensively, getting broken on two of the first three O points, stingy defensive pressure and some impressive individual plays to generate blocks got Machine back on serve quickly in the first half. From there the offense began hitting on all cylinders, allowing the teams to trade out for an 8-7 half-time lead. Machine would convert another break in the second half, but squandered the few other turns they were able to generate. Raleigh then made a strong final push to break twice after soft-cap, and came away with a 15-14 universe point win.
The early loss served as motivation going into Machine’s next game with Vancouver’s Furious George. Very tight reset D early in the game put Furious into several high stall situations with no reset options available, and netted coverage sacks for Machine. The D line worked with more assertiveness on the turns, and ruthlessly converted break opportunities. Meanwhile, Machine’s O efficiently scored on less than 4-5 passes per point. After a bit of trading in the second half, Machine closed out the game with a 15-11 victory.
After a bye round, Machine squared off with Atlanta’s Chain Lightning. With the 4 team pool structure, nothing was guaranteed, and a victory was needed to lock Machine into bracket play. Machine came out dialed-in, and worked to disrupt Chain’s small ball rhythm. With mounting pressure, Chain had several turns on drops, while trying to squeeze the disc into tight windows. Machine was aggressive on the turn, and piled on the breaks early en route to a 15-7 win. With the game wrapped up quickly, Machine was able to watch the end of the Furious vs Ring game, in which Furious had a late lead. A Furious victory would have netted Machine a pool victory and bye into quarters, however Ring made a late run to win the game, and push Machine into second place in the pool.
The second place finish moved Machine into pre-quarters against a familiar foe, Michigan’s High Five. The one advantage of a regional opponent in bracket play, is that the short turnaround time for scouting is a less of a concern, albeit an equal advantage for both teams. Machine came into the game absolutely ready to rage. The offense was patient in executing the system, and players stepped up to make big plays at every opportunity. Meanwhile, the D-line was flying around the field, disrupting High Five’s flow and quickly converting on every turn opportunity that arose. Aside from a single second half point that saw two turns on hucks from the O-line, Machine otherwise had no turns for the O or the D. Clean play led to the quick victory, 15-8 Machine.
Next up, Machine would meet New York’s PoNY in quarterfinals, with a trip to semi’s on the line. Early in the game, Machine picked-up right where they left off, with consistent O-line play, and nightmarish D-line play. After early trades, Machine’s D pressure started leading to turns, and breaks on the first few opportunities. Machine mixed up the game-plan using zone looks to generate multiple passes, and it eventually turned into offensive miscues by PoNY. Unfortunately, sloppy play on the turn left several breaks on the field, including three chances to go-to half when the score was 7-4. Instead, the door was left open for PoNY to claw back and push back on serve at 8-7 for half. Machine recovered well and made an early second half surge to get back out ahead, up 11-9 when the soft-cap went off, making it a game to 13. After a PoNY hold, Machine’s offense began pressing, and some close call deep shots would not connect. PoNY did not give the disc back on each opportunity and closed the game with three breaks to win 11-13.
After the tough exit, it is easier said than done to bounce back and play for consolation. Despite great effort, mental miscues allowed Doublewide to run away with an easy win just minutes after the quarterfinals loss to PoNY. The next morning, Machine would again come out flat in consolation, dropping their last game of the weekend to a High Five team playing with more energy.
Machine came into USAU Club Nationals seeded 9th overall, and that is also where they would end-up when all was said and done.
We appreciate everyone’s encouragement and support this season. It was a great feeling to be playing our best ultimate of the season at Nationals, even if we could not maintain it down the final stretch of bracket play. We have learned a lot from this season, which we hope will allow us to build to greater heights in 2019.
We will be back early in the spring to host a GUM ultimate clinic for girls in the Chicagoland area. More to come!
Chicago Machine heads to San Diego, CA this week for USA Ultimate Club Nationals. The tournament runs from Thursday October 18th to Sunday October 21st, and features the top 16 teams in the country from the Men's, Women's, and Mixed divisions.
This season, Machine comes in seeded 9th overall, pitting them in a pool with Raleigh Ring of Fire (#4 seed), Vancouver Furious George (#5), and Atlanta Chain Lightning (#16). 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 Ring of Fire twice this season, losing in pool play at the US Open and Pro Championships
Machine has yet to play Furious George this season
Machine is 1-0 against Chain Lightning, winning a consolation game at Elite-Select Challenge
While a few players are working through injuries, including Alex Champe (knee) who will be out of commission, 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, and is also seeded 9th.
Machine's first round game against Ring of Fire is slated to be live streamed via USAU. Depending on performance, Machine may be featured in additional bracket play live steams. Full schedule here: http://tct.usaultimate.org/2018/10/04/39-game-broadcast-schedule-national-championships/
I was reviewing some old stuff about regionals from some old friends. What comes through more than anything else is how special it is. You've got some happy-to-be-theres, full of college kids. You've got the shoulders full of chips, who scrap and fight regardless of outcome. You have contenders, who look like monoliths from far away, and who close up are full of cracks and flaws. And you have teams on the edge, for whom regionals contains all the potential and worry that you could cram into two days. So what was it like, all these flavors together?
Well, Machine lined up against BroCats from beautiful Athens, OH. Their squad featured several old Madcow and High Five players, challenged Machine from the start, swarming deep throws and setting a difficult 4 person cup on a turn. The good guys persevered, Suzie Q’ing their way to a 13-3 victory.
Next up was the Greater Gary Goblins X squad. This team, composed of mostly college players from Northwestern, University of Chicago, and Notre Dame (in order of descending latitude), featured a lot of young grit, heckles for their college teammates on Machine, and at least three Abby Shure Nemesis jerseys. The GGGs fought hard, but couldn't match Machine's defensive intensity, and, even though Alex Evangelides couldn't get a D point to save his life, the Rowdy Boys prevailed, 13-0. Big ups to the young men on playing for a team that prioritizes player growth and competitiveness. We look forward to seeing them at tryouts next year!
After a significant break, the squad took the field against Mango Tree from Ann Arbor for the last game of pool play and a spot in the semis. Mango Tree exhibited strong dedication to both singing the "Bingo" song about Mango Trees all the way to the end and playing an effective clam defense. The Machine O line was broken for the first time all day, and the D had trouble getting turns as Mango Tree cleaned up the trash on multiple tipped disc. The D ratcheted up the pressure and left the O on the sideline, and the Chicago squad took the game and the pool, 13-6.
Semis. Brickyard. The third place finisher in the region three years in a row, but this time without Machine supercrush Jake Fella, who has been sidelined with a knee injury. Brickyard looked fast and broke first for a 2-3 lead. Machine broke back, and had the rock to take half 8-5, but turned it and got broken on the next point on a popped up under, eventually holding for half 8-7. The theme of the day continue, and increased pressure and team D proved too much for the Indy squad, and Machine earned a spot in the finals, 15-9.
Saturday afternoon featured college football in hotel rooms, eating a lot of suspect pizza with new arrival Sam Kanner, a predictable outcome to the Credit Card Roulette for the dinner bill, and early bedtimes. On Sunday, a team meeting in the morning, watching the start of Nemesis against Rival in Women’s finals (which Nemesis would go on to win!), and then the warmup.
Finals. For the sixth year in a row, Machine faced bi-staters High Five in the regional final, this year after two close losses earlier in the season. This time without AJ to beast anyone. Someone else would have to do the beasting. Again, Machine was broken first, and a fired up High Five defense forced turns on each of the first four O points. The O punched it in on the next turn, and the D tied it after a huge run-down deep from Von. After a pair of holds, Machine broke twice to take half with much difficulty and many turnovers, 8-5. The second half featured more pressure as well as the D line's inability to move the disc efficiently, leading to lots of turns, but no breaks. After holds by both teams, High Five got two short fields and quickly broke twice to tie the game at 9-9. A Machine timeout led to a hold and another break as Nate put his man on skates in the endzone set, and Machine led 11-9 as the soft cap went off, game to 13. Some excitement ensued, but netted out in two holds, and Machine won its third regional championship in a row, 13-11.
Cheers, smiles, and some Mad Dog later, the squad headed back, with two new members set to get their first taste of club nationals. Machine and Nemesis celebrated with an evening of rooftop BBQ’ing, overlooking the city. The faces change, but the flavor doesn't, and we can't wait.The team will head to its annual Sports Day retreat next weekend with a lot to improve on in the lead up to nationals in San Diego.
The 2018 USAU Club Series is in full swing, and Machine is looking to qualify for Nationals this weekend at the Great Lakes Regionals in Aurora, IL. Chicagoland spectators are encouraged to come out the Stuart Sports Complex to watch the Rowdy Boys live! Full tournament details (address, directions, etc…): https://glueultimate.com/event/great-lakes-regionals-2018/
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 at the 2017 National Championship, and attendance at two or more USAU Triple Crown Tour event's (the Pro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge, the US Open, and the 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 (9) and Michigan's High Five (10) 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: https://play.usaultimate.org/events/Great-Lakes-Mens-Regional-Championship-2018/
Machine expects to have their full roster healthy and in attendance, with the exception of AJ Nelson (wedding) and Michael Pardo (injury).
To follow along for live updates: http://twitter.com/machineultimate
Check back after the tournament for a recap, highlight video, and more!
Do you notice and recognize miracles?
Machine started the weekend against the hometown team, PoNY, and their big-time off season acquisitions, Ben Spielman & Joshua Stevens-Stein. PoNY galloped to an early lead, but two early second half breaks narrowed the gap, before Machine eventually took the lead with meticulous patience from the D line’s offense. The hard cap horn sent the game to universe with Machine on O, but a high stall huck came up short, and PoNY was able to convert for 12-11 victory.
In game two, Machine squared off with Raleigh’s Ring of Fire, and a series of immediate errors and 3-4 pass conversions put Machine in the deepest hole in team history at half. The D-line would get a few second half breaks back, but even that was not nearly enough to close the gap on a 6-15 laugher.
Machine’s offensive struggles would carry into the final game of the day versus Philadelphia Patrol, going down 0-3 to start. A single hold was enough to right the ship, and the offense steadied for the rest of the game (save a centering pass miscue late in the second half). The defense would again show patience on the turn, converting a high clip of opportunities and eventually stretching the lead to 15-11.
On day 2, Machine would face Denver’s Johnny Bravo to advance to quarters. Day 2 also came with more reserves as Pawel Janas and AJ Nelson were both able to attend, and later in the day Alex Evangelides would arrive (unfortunately this was off-set with his Carleton counterpart Sam Kanner having to miss day 2). Both the O and the D were consistent early, leading to a comfortable 2 break lead for the majority of the game. In the second half, defensive pressure dipped, and brother, when the O faltered, the D was not able to step up to the occasion. Late breaks mounted for Bravo, and Machine fell 11-13 on hard cap.
Consolation saw in region rival High Five. The teams traded breaks and leads throughout the game, but High Five was stingy with the disc late in the second half, and made Machine pay for each and every turn. A 13-15 loss sets the stage for what should be a strong regional battle for the Great Lakes later in September (September 22/23 in Aurora, IL).
The final game of the weekend for Machine brought another opportunity to work on core process goals, and saw another match-up with Philadelphia’s Patrol. While Machine did not get in an early hole this time around, Patrol stayed tight, and another light performance by the D-line kept it close through the finish. Fortunately, the O put together a stronger performance, and was able to hold Patrol at bay 14-11.
After games, Machine headed to the house of teammate Michael Pardo. All 25+ guys piled into the sprawling country home and enjoyed a night full of barbecue, drinking, and bonding. (Things obviously escalated into a full on house party). On Labor Day, the team enjoyed a hike into the forest to dip in a secluded reservoir. From there, the boys in five shades of blue ventured into NYC for some sights, pizza, additional flight delays.
Up next, the series.
The boys in five shades of blue have one last test before the USAU regular season concludes next week. The Pro Championships is the final leg of the Triple Crown tour, and will bring together ten of the country’s best teams in Middletown, NY this Labor Day weekend. Last season, Machine rode a hot Sunday performance to a second place finish at the three day tournament.
Tournament Details: https://play.usaultimate.org/events/TCT-Pro-Championships-2018/
Machine’s pool features several familiar faces, with former Machine’s Goose Helton, Brett Matzuka, and Bob Liu on Ring of Fire, as well as Ben Spielman and Joshua Stevens-Stein on PoNY. Machine will also see Johnny Bravo and Patrol, two teams they have previously encountered earlier this season.
ESPN and Ultiworld will be on site to film games. Machine is not scheduled to be recorded, but could end up being filmed dependent on bracket play outcomes.
For live updates over the weekend: http://twitter.com/machineultimate
Machine will be sending a roster of 20-23 active players. Kurt Gibson and Kyle Rutledge will be missing the tournament due to pre-existing conflicts, and Kevin Kelly will be out with a shoulder injury. Pawel Janas and Alex Evangelides will be missing Saturday and some of Sunday’s play. Sam Kanner will be missing Sunday. On the flipside, Machine Coach Andy Neilsen will be returning after a two tournament hiatus in which he was preoccupied coaching the US Boys U20 team to a World Championship gold medal!
Check back after the tournament for a recap, highlight video, and much more.
ICYMI - Highlights from our previous tournament, the 2018 Elite-Select Challenge