The learning curve in ultimate is very steep. It's just a fact of the game, and one that makes for very overwhelmed rookies at the beginning of the season. However, once it clicks, it just clicks. Somewhere between PleASUre Fest and the first game of SoCal, everything just clicked for our rookies. And for our vets, for that matter. The flow was there. The throws were there. The cuts were there. The connections were there. Everything. Just. Clicked. And it was amazing.
We started out Saturday morning with a re-rematch game against Occidental. Despite an unpromising warm up, Scorch came out fired up and ready to go, dominating throughout the game. We took half at 7-0, then went on to win the game 13-2. We had our fair share of drops and missed connections, but played hard on defense to make up for it, and left Occidental stunned. The Scorch team out on the field in this game had made leaps of improvement since the first time we played Oxy, and it was fun to be able to measure ourselves against the same team multiple times and truly see the extent of that development as a team.
The next game was against the UCSD-X team, a half-team that still managed to have more than 20 players! We all were a bit jealous in looking at the size of the UCSD program (we have fewer than 20 players on our one team), but decided that we love the intimacy and close-knit community formed through a smaller program like ours much better than having large numbers. UCSD definitely brought an intimidation factor through their numbers and intensity and ferocity, but Scorch answered back with flow and Scorchie love, pulling ahead of an initial UCSD 2-3 lead with a 11-1 run to take the game at 13-4. Once Scorch got started, we just never stopped.
After the UCSD game, Scorch moved straight into a game against the Claremont Greenshirts, a small but mighty team. The Claremont team had quite a few very skilled players and the game was much closer than the two Scorch had played earlier in the game. Though Scorch took half 7-4, Claremont then came back to tie it up at 7-7 as the game moved into hard cap. This brought the game to universe point (whoever wins the point, wins the game), and Scorch put out a stacked line to finish up the game. After much back and forth, D's from both teams, and a few heart-stopping close-calls, Annie found A-Jam in the endzone for the final score of the game. Much celebrating ensued, with many wide eyes as we realized that Scorch had just pulled off a 3-0 record for pool play, the complete opposite of our PleASUre Fest record and an upset according to our last-in-pool ranking heading into the tournament.
After winning our pool, we faced Long Beach No Regrets in a crossover game for bracket placement. All of our legs and bodies were exhausted at this point, but we all knew the necessity of pushing through and playing hard in this final game of Saturday. It was in this final game that the depth of our team truly came out. Everyone's bodies were aching, a few had to pull themselves out due to injuries, and we had to rely on every last person able to go out and play. The two teams traded points back and forth, neither able to pull ahead. Scorch took half at 7-6, with no easy cushion allowing us to let up in any way. At this point, I have to give a bit of background: the game against Long Beach had started late, and we had been promised by the women's Tournament Director that we would be able to play the full 65 minutes to soft cap, 75 to hard cap, despite there being (men's) games starting right after our game. For this reason, our teams took the halftime break. During halftime, one of the men's coaches came up to our coach to say that their TD had indicated that we were over our time, and our game should be done. Our coach, the Long Beach coach, this men's team coach, and the two TDs had a little powwow to discuss things, while those of us playing decided to get out there and start playing again, to get in as many points as possible before they made us stop. Scorch managed to score quickly in the first point after half, bringing the game to 8-6, at which point we were told that the game was over, and we really had to stop playing. We wished that we had been able to keep playing the game out to its end, but nonetheless were excited about pulling ahead and winning once again! Scorch had gone 4-0 for the day, greatly exceeding any expectations that anyone had for the tournament.
After such a successful day, the team headed to lunch/dinner and then straight to the beach to play in the ocean. The majority of the team took ocean ice baths, relaxing in the cold water and enjoying playing around in the ocean. As we stood on the beach with the sun setting, the excitement and love in the team was palpable as smiles abounded.
We were all excited about our Saturday performance, but everyone knows that Sunday ultimate is the important thing. Sunday is where everything is determined; you can do well all you want on Saturday, but if you can't perform on Sunday, then you won't get anywhere. With this mindset, Scorch warmed up in a light drizzle on Sunday morning before facing the other half of the UCSD Psychos army, the UCSD-Y team. From the start of the game, Scorch came out to prove that the Saturday results were no fluke, and we weren't about to let up just because it was a new day. We started the game with a 5-0 run before letting UCSD to catch up to 7-2 at halftime. The game went into soft cap, but Scorch continued to play well together and with intensity, finishing it up at 12-5.
The win over UCSD-Y put us into the semi-finals, where we got the chance to re-match against Claremont. The Saturday game had gone to universe point, and Claremont had combined their two teams for Sunday play, so we knew that this would be no easy game. Our two teams traded points at the beginning, until Claremont pulled ahead to 4-7 at halftime. Things looked a little bit bleak and energy levels were low, so after a bit of a pep talk, Scorch played Look up-Look down to lighten the mood. The win was not out of reach by any means, but Scorch knew that we needed to pick things up a bit heading into the second half. Claremont managed to take the first point after half, but after that it was Scorch's game. Scorch came back to tie the game at 8-8 after a few long points, and just in time for hard cap. The tie meant another universe point against the Greenshirts, with Scorch starting on defense. The excitement and intensity was high, and Scorch came out with ferocity. We got the D quickly, and Jessi found Kayla P waiting in the endzone with open arms for a put over the others on the field, winning the game and putting Scorch into the championship game. The. Championship. Game. Against Santa Barbara.
The Santa Barbara Burning Skirts are one of those programs that can almost qualify as an empire. In the past few years (other than this past year), they have consistently made it to nationals, and often to the finals of nationals. I have no idea what their team composition looks like this year compared to past years (as far as rookies vs. returners), but the bigger programs are often those who draw high school players, and so we always assume that they have a huge advantage in this are over those of us who have to teach our rookies everything. Anyway, we were thrilled to find ourselves in this championship game, and terrified that it meant the we had to play against Santa Barbara. Scorch managed to score the first point, but after that Santa Barbara pulled ahead with a 6-0 run. At this point, we finally got over our intimidation and replaced it with determination. Sure, this was the Burning Skirts that we were playing, but that was no reason to let them stomp all over us. The next point would be for halftime, and we weren't going to let them take it that easily. After the game being at 1-6, Scorch answered back with a 3-point run before Santa Barbara scored again, taking half at 7-4. Due to starting late once again, both teams agreed to play through half, which turned out to be a great advantage to Scorch. After Scorch taking the first point after half, the game unfortunately reached its hard cap (once again, a shortened version due to the game starting late and butting up against when the men's games were supposed to start). In this last point, Scorch fought hard on defense, causing UCSB to turn the disc and eventually scoring with Nancy finding Kayla P in the endzone to bring the game to 6-7. Despite having lost the game, Scorch managed to score five of the last six points of the game, and who knows what could've happened if the game had been able to continue.
Nonetheless, Scorch was very very very proud of their second place finish, and the way that the team had played throughout the whole weekend. Everyone stepped up, and we truly looked like a team with a lot of promise. We certainly have many things to work on, but I would be worried if we didn't, and know that we all look forward to improving on those things and continuing to develop as a team in these coming months!
As a side note:
At SoCal, we tried out a new iPhone/twitter app for keeping track of stats and scores. If you would like to see a play-by-play of our games, please see our twitter feed at https://twitter.com/Scorchapolis. If you would like to see a summary of the stats generated, please see the breakdown at http://www.ultimate-numbers.com/team/111004/main.