Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Safari Beer Pong Tournament

This 16-team fundraiser tournament was split into four pools. Bonds and I dressed up in green basketball jerseys and NBA headbands and called ourselves the Bausten Ballers. We were in Pool A with Meeko and Jamison, Iris and her girlfriend, and Annie and Allen. Meeko and Jamison won the pool without much competition. Meeko went on fire twice in our game against them, and even though we were playing as well as we could have hoped to, they beat us by at least two. We beat Iris' team when Bonds sunk Iris' death cup when we were up 6-2. Like champs, they drank all eight cups. Allen's defense was impressive in our last game of pool play against his and Annie's team. A few times it seemed like they weren't paying any attention, but he would come out of nowhere and swat our bounces away. He never missed a chance to tell us that he's on the D-line.

The pool winners went straight to quarters while the third and second place teams played pre-quarters games. We finished second and won our pre-quarters and quarters games. Neither were too exciting. Once we got to semis, though, we realized we actually had a shot at winning the whole thing. Something magical happened at that point. We rose to the occasion and played beer pong like we'd never played before. I think we won that game by six, earning our place in the finals. We expected to play Meeko and Jamison again since they'd been so dominant, but MA and her partner pulled off an upset, knocking them out.

I'll do my best to tell the story as it happened from here on out, but I can't make any guarantees. As it was 3am, we also didn't have many fans still standing that can confirm or deny the sequence of events. We went up in the finals and took MA's team to 4-1, but then couldn't sink the last cup. MA started her trash talking and it was working on us. They pulled it to 1-1, hitting the rim of our last cup a couple times before I sunk theirs. Like ameteurs, we celebrated our win before our opposition's rebuttle. MA's partner missed his shot, but MA made hers, sending the game to overtime. Back at 1-1 in overtime, our opponents continued to hit the rim, stopping my heart every time, but sometime later, one of us sank the last cup again and they couldn't match it. Neither of us can remember which of us it was that made the last cup or how long it took but I suspect it was Bonds after quite a few turns. In euphoria and disbelief, Bonds jumped into my arms and we celebrated the Cinderella win nobody expected.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Things Loryn is bad at

1. Leaving messages
2. Drinking
3. Field vision for anyone but Joule
4. Deciding what to do with her life

There aren't a lot of things that Loryn isn't really good at. If I missed something, let me know.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Psycho Season Recap (Part 2 of 3)

Unlike its name suggests, the Stanford Invite was not held at Stanford University, but rather in the town of Ripon, which lies about an hour and a half east of the campus. It was initially disappointing to have to travel to what seemed like the middle of nowhere instead of two of my teammates’ and my hometown of Palo Alto, where the tournament was held in the past. As it turned out, Ripon wasn’t so bad. The population of Ripon is around 10,000, yet somehow we had an old teammate that lives there and she kindly offered up her house to the team. We quickly discovered that Ripon had other things to offer, including endless almond orchards, possibly the nicest people in the world, and, fortunately for us, a brand new soccer complex with beautiful fields. We’d been warned about rain, but the weather was gorgeous on Saturday morning and throughout the weekend. 16 teams were split up into four pools, and we were seeded third in a very strong pool. Our first game was against our pool’s top seed, Washington. First-game jitters plagued us at the start and Washington hucked it for a quick first score. We hung in for a while, but couldn’t adjust to Washington’s accomplished deep game. They were able to stretch out the field again and again, handing us a 13-8 loss. In the second game of the day, we matched up against Berkeley, the second ranked team in the pool and finalist at the Santa Barbara Invite. We started the game with intensity and built up a 5-2 lead. Joule essentially neutralized Cree Howard, preventing her from gaining excess yards on us by forcing her to cut in every time, but Berkeley had other tools at their disposal. Our spirits were high at first, but we disappointingly let our lead slide away. The score was close for most of the game, but then Berkeley went on a hot streak to finish us off with a 13-8 win. Our last game of pool play was against North Carolina–Wilmington, a team ranked fourth in our pool, but above us in the latest NUMP poll. We had watched them beat Berkeley during our bye, so we knew that a win against them would put us into a three-way tie for second in our pool, which would come down to point differentials. The top three teams would move on to the Championship bracket. Before the game, Ros gave us a pep talk about what she called “drunken hookup defense” and “relationship offense”. The idea was that on defense, you have your hands everywhere grabbing at everything and it’s exciting, but on offense, you should stay calm and keep your composure because you know you’re going to score. The talk seemed to be effective because we quickly pulled away in the beginning. However, UNC–Wilmington refused to go down without a fight, and a fight it was. Even though the game was under the watch of two observers, we experienced more vicious contact in it than they did in the whole rest of the weekend. Two key players went down with injuries after opposing players collided into them. First, Ferris hurt her ankle. Lying on the edge of the field in pain, the first words out of her mouth were, “Was it a turn?” She was out for the rest of the game, most of this time spent waiting for the trainer to arrive. Later in the game, Ziggy went down with what we would later discover was a torn ACL, ending her season. We had expected the game to be a little dirtier than the others, but you can never plan for injuries like that. Despite the losses, we held on to our lead for our first win of the tournament with a final score of 13-8. This set up a three way tie for second place in the pool and point differentials placed us in third, which was good enough to move onto a pre-quarters match up against Western Washington. Perhaps this behavior should no longer surprise me, but Ferris toughed it out and played on her hurt ankle. Western Washington perpetuated the trend we saw from the other Washington team and favored the deep game. Alyssa Weatherford was a threat to throw deep every time she had a hand on the disc and they had several fast cutters that would chase her throws down. They swiftly pulled away before we began making adjustments to our defense and we couldn’t catch up. The score was the same as every other score that day, 13-8, and we were knocked out of the Championship bracket. On Sunday morning, we set our clocks forward and our sights on a ninth place finish. It would be a great day for me that I now attribute to be the turning point in my ultimate career when I first realized I could be a valuable member of the team. We arrived to dark, foggy fields covered in a thin layer of Northern California frost. After a valley sunrise, we geared up to play Texas. They scored the first point, but then we went on a long run, pulled far ahead of them, and never let our lead slip away. Seven first-possession scores helped us decisively win the game 13-3. Our next game against North Carolina–Chapel Hill was offensively dominated. With eight first-possession scores, we didn’t spend long on defense, but when we did, it was apparent that some of us were beginning to feel the fatigue of the weekend in our legs. The composure of the older handlers played a huge roll in our eventual 13-10 victory. This win sent us to the Consolation Championship, where we would play USC for ninth place. The game began pretty even, but USC began to pull ahead with the help of a few goals pulled down by Lindsey Cross. The wind picked up to a breeze and we switched our defense to a 3-man cup, but USC continued to find ways to move the disc up the field. USC wrapped up the game with a well designed open side cut off a dead disc, beating us 13-9. We finished 10th, dissatisfied after that last loss but true to seed. I was undaunted and bought a ticket to Nationals when I got home to prove it. Like Pres Day, UCSB took down Oregon in the finals. For another recap and some stats, check out Meeko’s only blog post.

We mistakenly drove 100 miles out of our way towards San Antonio on our way to Austin for Centex, and maybe we should have just stayed there. There’s no way around it- Centex was a disaster for us. A week in Surfside for Spring Break left us with one casualty before the tournament even started and there would be many to come. Ferris had a busted-in tooth, but toughed it out and played on the Vicodin she had been prescribed by a dentist she found in Austin. We began pool play against Ottawa in a strong, gusty crosswind. The two teams traded points in the beginning of the game, and we were up 3-2 after five very long points, but it was all downhill from there. It was a game of field position, so we forced a lot of deep throws, many of which fell incomplete. However, Joule did well catching in the unpredictable wind and came down with some spectacular grabs. Our zone defense was effective at first, but Ottawa was able to break it down later on and we fell behind in the end. We lost to the eventual tournament champions 11-6, but this was the closest score they would see until the finals. Our next game was against Western Washington. After seeing them in Ripon, we knew their greatest threat was the deep game, which we anticipated would be debilitated by the strong winds. They instead worked the disc up the field with shorter throws and were able to run away with the game 15-8, a greater margin of victory than our previous game. We faced Dartmouth in our last game of pool play. The wind was calmer than the hurricane we had experienced in the morning, but was still strong enough to affect most throws. We threw our four-man cup at them and were able to severely minimize upfield throws, often causing Dartmouth to turn the disc over on a swing close to their own end zone. I started experiencing some lateral knee pain early on in the game, but kept playing because it wasn’t that bad. Unfortunately, it was more serious than I thought, and I aggravated it so much that I couldn’t move left during one point while I was playing in the cup and had to take an injury. It was a reoccurrence of ITBS that I didn’t fully recover from until a couple months after the end of the season. Bonds was huge on defense, managing to get a hand on the disc wherever she was on the field, helping us snatch our first victory of the weekend. This would also be our last victory. Long points against formidable opponents clearly were taking their toll on our bodies. In our game against Colorado for a spot in the quarterfinals, we were beginning to get low on numbers. Dada was fighting a knee injury and Ferris had been whacked in her injured tooth, so they both had to sit out. Our healthy players were fatiguing faster with so few subs and Colorado easily beat us 15-6 with their higher intensity level. Losing so severely to a regional competitor was a let-down, but the team still had the spirit to go out and celebrate Bonds’ and my 21st birthday, which was that day. Tambler bought us our first legal beer and we rocked out to a live band at the Tiniest Bar in Texas with some of my favorite people in the world. We called it an early night since we were serious about doing well in the consolation bracket, but I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday celebration given the circumstances. In terms of injuries, Sunday was even worse than Saturday. I thought I felt a little better in the morning and cleated up, but had to walk back to our sideline halfway through the warm-up lap. Sir Robin was too sick to play and Meeko was hurting everywhere on her body except possibly her left forearm. We suffered a few tough losses to Claremont, Arizona, and Michigan State, all teams seeded far below us. The 11th seeded team finished 32nd, otherwise known as dead last. Out of a roster of 20 players, nine were active by the end of the day on Sunday. It was difficult for the team to play without the talent of a few of the top players on the team, including both captains, but the situation provided a unique opportunity for other players to step into leadership roles on the field and gain valuable experience. One of the few positive thoughts we took home from Centex was that this excess game experience could be advantageous for our younger teammates to develop into big time players. In a much different bracket, UCSB found themselves once again in the finals after an amazing comeback victory over Wisconsin, but this time, Ottawa took the win and came away as Centex Champions. A lot of good stuff about other teams and a little bit about how big of a disappointment we were can be found in the Huddle feature on Centex.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Psycho Season Recap (Part 1 of 3)

2008-2009 was a season of varied expectations, mild highs, and remarkable lows. A great deal of uncertainty regarding how the team would recover after our one-year suspension surrounded us. We lost many key players that played important roles in the past due to either graduation (Beignet, Spipit, Brenda, Slavia, and Yahtzee) or traveling abroad (Ultra and Ashley). Of the 22-woman roster from 2007-2008, only nine players returned. Fortunately, these nine included a solid handling veteran core of Meeko, Sir Robin, and Guano (and Ferris against her will). After we played Sean Ryan in Santa Cruz and hosted the So Cal Warm-Up, our try-out tournaments, six B-Team pick-ups and five rookies were added to those original nine to make a the team complete.

Our first tournament after the split into A and B-Teams was the Santa Barbara Invite. It gave us a preview of our regional competition and some other nearby teams. A total of 16 teams came to the UCSB campus to compete, all from California except Scorch. We were seeded sixth and began pool play against Stanford-B (Pretty Fly). Bonds had a huge game. On the first point, she got the D and then immediately the score. A light sprinkle turned into a heavy rain by midgame and our inexperience with a slippery disc resulted in lots of drops. Despite this sloppy offense, our defense was able to hold them out of the end zone for the most part and won 11-3. In the second game of the day, we played Irvine and won 13-3. Then, we faced BLU in our third and final game of pool play. We fell behind immediately as they scored a few quick points, and then the wind began to pick up. The rest of the game was characterized by frequent turns and long points. We lost 4-9 on hard cap. Since we finished second in our pool, we had a pre-quarters game that afternoon against Midas, which we easily won 13-1. On Sunday morning, we were scheduled to face UCSB, the overall top seed, in the first game of the day. The field conditions were appalling, with several huge mud patches extending across the field and high winds. The mud was the worst I’d ever played in (since we didn’t go to Vegas this year). There were four fields, and the field we were on was by far the worst. More mud than grass was visible and it would build up in your cleats until it was like you were wearing platform shoes from 1972. Then, everyone would slip around making huge banana cuts because it was the only way not to fall over. The wind was a factor as well, so both teams ran zone defenses, capitalizing on the difficult throwing conditions. It was questionable whether a zone was the most effective defense, though. It would take our cup too long to run across the muddy field on their swing and, needless to say, running though mud is incredibly tiring, so it would get worse and worse as the point wore on. Despite some encouraging moments, we lost 5-11 and were bumped out of the championship bracket. We played Scorch in the 5th place bracket in the same windy, muddy environment, so once again, we got to practice our zone offense and defense. The conditions were so bad that it was less of a competition of which team was better and more of which was struggling the least. We took the lead in the beginning but lost 6-7 and tied for 7th overall. Our last loss was surprising and startling for those of us with high hopes, but we came out of the tournament with what we hoped for going into it. The goal was to come out as a more experienced team. It was the first tournament with A-Team for the majority of the team and playing time was evenly distributed, so rookies and other younger players were able to benefit immensely from the experience. Stanford was seeded fifth and was never really tested, beating Berkeley in the championship game to win the tournament.

Our next tournament was our own Pres Day Invitational. Loryn and a few helpers brought Pres Day back in a huge way, enticing the best teams in the country to come, and making it into one of the top tournaments of the preseason. It was a three day tournament with roughly a day of pool play, a day of power pools, and a day of elimination brackets. We were seeded fourth in our pool of five. Our first win of the weekend was also our biggest win of the weekend. It came against Carleton, who was seeded second in our pool. They jumped out ahead initially, but we clawed back in the second half to win on universe point. This game was probably a poor representation of how Carleton would be playing late in the season though. Since it gets so cold in Minnesota, they have to practice inside during the winter and couldn’t have been prepared for that gloriously sunny San Diego Saturday. We took on Stanford in the next round and were brought back to reality as we lost 13-5. The wind picked up to a slight breeze by the time we were scheduled to play Sonoma State, the Pres Day Qualifier Champions. Our four man cup effectively shut down their handlers and they were able to produce very little offensive. They had most of their success throwing over the top, but even that wasn’t very effective, so they spent most of their time near their own end zone unable to get a throw upfield. We took the game 13-3. We needed one more win to finish in the top two places in our pool and move into the power pools on Sunday. This win would need to come against Colorado, seeded third in our pool. We pulled it off with a 10-4 victory and secured our place in the power pools. It was an exciting game for more reasons than just was riding on it though. It gave us our first idea of the type of competition we would see at Regionals. I found out later that their whole team wasn’t there since they had also played at Vegas the weekend before, so they may not have been representing their best play. Our power pool was stacked and we didn’t have much of a shot of sliding through to quarters with a top two finish. Our first game on Sunday was against Oregon, a well-balanced team that was ranked as the best team on the west coast at that point in the season. They absolutely dominated without even having an obvious star player. They had great spirit, which is easy when you’re winning, but also managed to be really vocal without being annoying at all. I’m really fond of that team. We fell to Ottawa in the second game of the day, but no one fell harder than I did. A concussion during that game put me on the sideline for the rest of the weekend. Finishing last in our power pool placed us into pre-quarters later that day against Illinois. Tania Reitz was phenomenal. She seemed to be able to do anything, but it wasn’t enough to get the win. On double game point, Ferris hit Joule in the end zone and sent us to quarters. Rain was in the forecast for Monday, and we had to move the tournament as moved to our backup fields in San Bernardino for the final day of play. Meeko saved the day before it even began by bringing extra cleats and letting Godiva wear them since she forgot hers. Not only was it raining hard, but it was cold, which not every team prepared for as they packed for San Diego. The weather affected play tremendously. A slippery disc and rigid hands combined to make offensive play difficult, but we counted on efficient handler motion to move the disc up the field. Our veteran handlers stayed composed throughout the challenging conditions, drawing on mostly short passes. Our top players had to stay in all game because they got too cold when they stopped moving for a point. Sir Robin and Meeko had lots of D’s and shut down their deep option. We made them work hard for their 11-5 victory, which ousted us from the championship bracket. Like nearly every other team, we chose not to play our next game and were done for the weekend. The most surprising move of the tournament was a forfeit from Ottawa. They destroyed UCLA in quarters, and then dropped out, giving UCSB a free ride to the finals. Of all the teams that couldn’t take the cold, I didn’t expect a Canadian team to be suffering the most. Later, an Ottawa player told me that this was their spring break trip and they hadn’t brought any warm clothes. UCSB eventually became tournament champions with a win over Oregon in the finals.