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.