Machine had a roller coaster weekend in Frisco, TX at the 2015 USAU National Championship tournament.
On Thursday, Machine came out strong against a familiar opponent in Madison Club, going up 8-6 to take half. Despite receiving the disc out of half, Machine would falter down the stretch, allowing Madison to creep back into the game. A trend that would continue through the entirety of the day saw Machine's D-Line being able to generate breaks in the first half, but unable to force turns or apply pressure in the second half. Madison capitalized as Machine's O repeatedly threw into the Madison zone, and came roaring back to win 14-13. (Ultiworld's Round 1 Recap)
While the first round loss was frustrating, Machine continued to focus on building consistency, so that they would be playing their best ultimate of the season by Friday morning's elimination bracket. This mantra was put into full affect in the first half against their second opponent, Philadelphia's Patrol. Machine once again grabbed an 8-6 halftime lead, and sought to apply more defensive pressure in the second half than in their game with Madison. The idea was easier in theory than in practice, with Patrol's offense hitting layers well in the second half, and finding open receivers for mid range away shots into the end zone. As the Patrol offense began to click, execution errors began to plague the Machine O-line, and in similar fashion to the first game of the day, Patrol closed the gap and took the game on universe 15-14. (Ultiworld's Round 2 Recap)
A third round bye could not have come any sooner, allowing Machine to clear their minds and replenish food and drink prior to facing off with San Francisco's Revolver. The game carried little significance on tournament outcome, with Revolver already locking 1st in the pool and Machine locking last. Despite that, both teams came out running full rosters in an attempt to make the most of the final opportunity to fine tune their execution before Friday's elimination bracket. Revolver's staunch defense forced some early turnovers, and the Machine D-line saw more offensive reps than normal, as they came in to combat Revolver's zone. Revolver maintained an early lead and expanded it down the stretch to win 9-15. (Ultiworld's Round 4 Recap)
After a team dinner on Thursday night, the team held a meeting to re-group and review the tactical game plan for Friday morning's match-up with Denver's Bravo. While Bravo had won their pool, Machine was confident in their game plan, and fired up after losing a 1 point game to Bravo on Bravo's home turf in Denver earlier in the season.
On Friday, Machine came out very aggressive in their match-up with Bravo, using a steadier wind to their advantage as they pushed the Bravo receivers out. Machine took advantage of hanging hucks, generating 50/50 D's, and patiently working it down on the turn. At half, Machine found themselves in familiar territory, up two breaks. In the second half, Bravo' s D pressure increased, leading to a break. However, unlike day 1, Machine's D was able to break back in the second half, maintaining the arms length lead. The D-Line had a chance to break for the win at 14-12, but could not keep Bravo out the end zone. Receiving up 14-13 with the wind at their back, the Machine O-line benefited from a short field after Bravo received their third TMF of the game on a controversial observer ruling over language. The Machine O patiently swung the disc until they found Bob Liu on the break sideline, who continued for another break throw to AJ Nelson in the end zone. Machine celebrated after defeating the defending National Champions 15-13. (Ultiworld's Recap of Pre-Quarters)
A showcase game for Chicago's mixed team in attendance, UPA, helped fill the gap during the round two bye before Machine began ramping up their energy in anticipation of their quarter final match-up with Raleigh's Ring of Fire.
Ring of Fire had beaten Machine in all 12 match-ups in the team's history, and had knocked Machine out in Pre-Quarters of the 2014 Nationals. Both teams were loud and physical early in the game, both looking to assert themselves en route to a trip to the semi-finals. Two small execution errors near the end zone allowed Ring of Fire to take early command, but the Machine O-line was resilient in their ability to prevent any multi-break runs. Down at half for only the second time in the weekend, Machine had learned all to well on day 1 that first half leads do not mean the game is over. In the second half, Machine's D-line finally found success in slowing up the Ring offense, who had been marching downwind with ease in the first half. Staying aggressive, Machine took big shots on their turn opportunities, and 6'6'' George Hughes ripped a hanging disc out of the sky to help lead to a big upwind break. Stealing control of the game, Machine received tied 14-14 for universe point. The offense moved quickly, getting 15 yards out of the end zone, and repeatedly resetting the disc off the trap sideline to maintain possession. With a chance to score, Goose Helton took an up-line shot to Brett Matzuka prior to a poach defender colliding from the back side. The disc went off of Matzuka's hand and the defender initial did not contest the foul call. After additional discussion, the defender did contest, and neither player opted to go to the observer, instead sending the disc back to Helton. Helton swung the disc, and after a series of short throws, found Bob Liu on the break sideline just out side the end zone. Liu then threw a no-look lefty continuation pass to the end zone for the game winning score. 15-14 (Ultiworld's Quarter's Recap)
Semifinals would not come until Saturday evening at 8:00pm, giving Machine the entire day to relax and prepare before the live streamed game on ESPN3. The day started with a full team brunch prior to a meeting to discuss the strategic game plan for the evening. Players then split up, some watching a movie at a local theatre, others reviewing game film and watching the first Men's semifinal from the hotel on live stream. After crew dinners, the team got to the field complex early to warm up and practice throwing with the stiff headwind.
Machine took the field for player introductions, singing "we rowdy" as the rosters were read. Having seen Revolver three times prior during the season (Revolver leading the series 2-1), both teams were more than familiar with the other's personnel. Under the lights, after receiving the opening pull Machine would falter first with a lead hammer just out of reach and a hanging huck leading to two very quick break scores. From there, both team's settled down, and offenses shined with neither side able to generate breaks. Machine came into half down 7-8, reiterating their experiences coming back from a deficit in their quarterfinal match. After trading to start, Machine was able to generate multiple turns on a point, leading to their first break of the game. Two points later Revolver would break back, before turning the disc back once more. Machine had a chance for a short field break going up wind to bring things to 13-12, but a miscommunication on a swing pass gave the disc back to Revolver, and the boys from San Francisco would ride the momentum to close the door with a final break and 15-11 victory. (Ultiworld's Semi's Recap)
Despite the fun of playing a highlight packed semifinal under the lights, Machine left the field frustrated and wondering what could have been, motivated to return to the lights in 2016 after finishing tied for 3rd in 2015.
After being eliminated in semi-finals, Machine would spend timing bonding the rest of the weekend over drinks, repeatedly chanting stuff about being rowdy, getting stuck in a hotel elevator, indoor go-karting, and watching the Sunday finals.
Machine wants to thank Nemesis and UPA for being very loud and very rowdy during our semi-final game. We would also like to thank all of our friends, family, and fans who supported us over the season. It is more than appreciated!
Note: Jonathan "Wego" Hatcher was on hand all weekend to film the action, so best believe a tournament highlight video will be coming out over the winter.