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: