Machine ventured west to the Rocky Mountains for last weekend’s Pro-Elite Challenge in Denver Colorado. An almost full squad ended the weekend with a 5-1 record and a 3rd place finish.
Missing only Nick Prozorovsky (wedding) and Percy Stogdon (in attendance but injured), Machine started the weekend out against regional counterpart High Five (Michigan/ Ohio). Both teams traded points to start the game, but Machine was able to gain separation after High Five had a series of miscues in the backfield, as they adjusted to the thin air carrying discs further than expected. Machine played comfortably to a 7-3 halftime lead before High Five was able to pressure Machine into several throwaways in the second half, leading two breaks. Machine was able to respond after both breaks, and after a few late breaks of their own, finished with a 13-7 rout. An underlying story to the game was the seamless integration of several players not in attendance at the US Open, including D-line starters Mike Schwenk, Alex Evangelides, and Stephan Mance, as well as O-line stalwarts Ron Kublanza and Brett Kolinek.
After a second round bye, Machine faced off against local Denver squad, Inception. The hometown men came out aggressive, connecting on several deep shots in stride to a 4-4 stalemate. The Machine defense was then able to tighten the screws, slowing down disc movement, and capitalizing on the turn by converting 7 of 8 opportunities to convert a break score. A 7-4 halftime lead was stretched to a 13-6 final, as the Machine offense did not have a single turnover for the game.
In the last round of pool play, Machine matched up against Kansas City’s Prairie Fire, with a chance to win the pool and earn a bye into Quarterfinals. Despite a poorer conversion percentage on both offense and defense, Machine was able to grid to another 7-4 half-time lead. The Machine o-line grinded hard on the turn, getting the disc back several times as the team pushed ahead for 13-7 victory.
With an early end to the day after winning the pool, Machine was able to take advantage of the great outdoor Colorado scenery, with several players enjoying the opportunity to swim in the Platte River rapids.
On Sunday, Machine crossed paths with Madison Club in the quarterfinals. Madison jumped out to an early lead off an offensive miscue, and controlled the game early on. Machine brought Goose Helton, AJ Nelson, and Brett Matzuka over to the D-line going into half and was able to break to put the game back on serve 7-6. Madison would respond again early in the second half, and Machine saw itself playing from behind in a second half for only the second time this season. At 12-12 Machine pulled on universe and was able to generate a high pressure turnover before working it up for the game winning score.
Advancing to semi’s, Machine took on another local squad in Denver’s Johnny Bravo. Both team’s traded until 3-3, when Bravo was able to take advantage of Machine execution errors. As the game wore on, Machine looked flat, and Bravo continued to accelerate scoring on quick string plays and capitalizing with break side hammers and blades for efficient breaks. A late push was not enough, as Bravo extended a 7-5 halftime lead to a 13-10 victory. The weight of the loss fell heavily on the Machine D-line, who was unable to generate many turns, and had very poor conversion percentages on the opportunities they did receive.
Out of contention, Machine dropped to a 3rd place consolation game against High Five, who had lost to Truck Stop in the other Semi (Truck Stop would go on to beat Bravo in Finals). The rematch from day 1 had a very different feel, as High Five played clean offense and regularly found deep receivers for 1-2 pass points. Losing Pawel Janas and Ron Kubalanza to injury, Machine’s offense had up and down stretches, and High Five was able to convert break opportunities to take half. Similar to the Bravo game, Machine’s D-line struggled to convert break opportunities, but some timely conversions closed the gap in the second half, giving Machine a late lead at 13-12. With the cap not yet on, each team would trade until hard cap, with Machine squeaking out a 15-14 win and 3rd place finish.
With time to kill before flying back to Chicago, Machine met up with Chicago’s elite Women’s team, Nemesis, for some bocce and bags prior to departing for home.