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.