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!