Wednesday, March 30, 2011

West Coast to East


No way to sugar coat it, we got worked over at the Stanford Invite a couple of weeks back. Whether one chooses to blame the Pacific time zone, or a depleted squad, or an ingrown toenail, the fact remains that for the whole of the tournament we were listless on the field, lacking energy and playing complacent.

Perhaps a solid outing at Florida Warm-Up made us feel that we were well on our way - a way that like a greased slide would effortlessly lead us to Regionals. What we proved is that no matter how much talent we have, we are only as good a team as the effort and work that we put into each point of each game. We eked out a few victories, but it was the resignation during our losses that was most troubling. We came back from Stanford with only a week before Spring Break, and a lot of work to do.

The Hodags left icy Wisconsin to their beach house along the shores of the Atlantic in Myrtle Beach. In contrast to last year's destructo-fest, that left little of the house intact, this year's week of bonding was filled with throws and touches. Beach time was an opportunity to throw with a brisk breeze, and the team organized a few team-wide practices to stay fresh and to work on fundamentals - an important focus for any team.

That work paid dividends at Easterns where, team-wide, unforced errors diminished. We found ourselves in a dogfight against Colorado to take the pool but could not convert the score on double-game point, so despite a win against pool winners and eventual semifinalists Michigan we played a prequarters game and faced Florida in quarters.

Our eventual 7th place finish was disappointing to much of the team, because we played well for 4/ 5ths of every game, but we were unable to close games against our stiffest competition and it cost us dearly. However, the silver lining is that our defense generated turns and breaks against all teams present, and we led late in the second half of every game we played. Being able to stay tenacious and shut the door on teams once we've established a lead will be crucial for our success, and we're currently placing our O-line in do-or-die situations at practice where they must convert in straight possessions or lose the game.

Arriving back from Easterns, we were greeted by a sunny spring in Madison. The weather has been brisk, in the 30s and 40s, but when the sun is out we get sweaty and it feels like summer is around the corner. The weather's cooperation has been a blessing to us as a team, and we're outside taking full advantage. Considering that we've only had 5 outdoor practices since the beginning of 2011, we're nowhere near our ceiling and we leave each practice a little better than how we arrived.

Up next this weekend is Huck Finn, a late addition to our schedule to get the younger players on the team reps, and to help us gel on the field. While I won't be in attendance, I think that will probably work in their favor, as each player will have to step up and be accountable for themselves, to each other.