Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Just wanted to jot a few quick thoughts on playing in Missouri this past weekend while they're relatively fresh.
A Midwest autumn weekend is a very mercurial creature, resisting predictions and expectations. A short month ago during our own No Wisconsequences tourney, we played Saturday in conditions that began promising but became progressively wetter, and Sunday morning found the fields swamped as rain poured unabated from the skies, cancelling play for the day. Columbia, MO this weekend greeted us similarly, with a manageably windy Saturday full of sun giving way to heavy winds and heavier rain Sunday, as the mercury dropped, and the cancellation of games after the second round. I assume (or hope) that teams from this region are used to the variable conditions, which make guaranteeing the completion of the tournament a shaky proposition. The Hodags were happy for the opportunity to play as a team for the first time since our final roster was announced, and while we would have loved to Sunday's weather to echo Saturday's, we understand tourney directors can't call on Taoist magic to control the elements.
Our Saturday brought games against Iowa, Carnegie-Mellon, Michigan, and Arizona in a showcase game. While Iowa has some solid players, their handling core seemed very inexperienced, and the stiff wind proved too difficult to overcome. They gave us several short-field possessions on miscommunications in their backfield which gave momentum to the Hodag feeding frenzy. In the field next to us, C-M was bewildering a Natty Mich caught off-guard, so they came into our game with a win and tremendous positive energy. Two Downtown Brown candidates, their primary handler (#47?) and a cutter (#1) were surprisingly effective and the handler has my respect. His throws and movement helped the less experienced teammates receive the disc in more favorable positions and his play elevated the team as a whole. I look forward to hearing more about him and hope his play continues to progress (and impress). Our game against Natty Mich had a chippy midsection, but our younger players from last year are stepping into larger roles on the team with success, and our depth carried us over our opponents in the second half.
Our showcase game was against an Arizona squad which had surprised both CUT and Mamabird in their pool, and it was clear early on why. They have several outstanding receivers, including one with absurd wheels who caught the final goal of the game in the hard cap. The sure-handed receivers, in challenging wind, complemented their savvy primary handler, who despite his unassuming frame and shorter stature has high-release throws that allowed Arizona to effectively spread the field. Our game against them was very spirited and friendly, and seeing their execution this early in the season be as crisp as it was bodes well for their spring. I hope to be able to measure their progress in Madison come late May.
Rumors of Luther's demise have been greatly exaggerated. While they did lose EJ and Graffy, lil' Johnson still commands respect and has throws that rival (but don't match) his brother's, and they have a few big men that played an imposing cup in their zone defense. While they clearly won't be as deep or experienced as last year, if the North Central secures a healthy number of natty's bids again this year, they have the time to grow enough to challenge for one of them. Whether they do or not remains to be seen.
The Hodag-CUT rivalry is as robust as it's been. They lost some dudes, we lost some dudes, neither is giving the other any room to get comfortable. We expect to see them at most of our spring tournaments, and as always our meetings will be a test of each of our preparations.
Our strength at this tournament, and the new roster, brings to mind comments made prior to the tournament on rsd and elsewhere predicting results. Several wondered how Wisconsin will fare with the departure of Simmons and other players we relied on heavily last year. Well, a year prior we fielded questions about how we would ever replace Bergen and Feldman, and the year before that Klane and Crumb, and Foster and Gayor before that, etc. I love my teammates, and I will certainly miss the ones who aren't coming back this season, but I'm not asking myself how we will replace one player or another; I'm focused on how to develop the talent we have for this year, and confident that, like in so many years past, we will.
p.s. One gripe about MLC: please please please get some port-o-johns on site. The fact that the players had to wait almost half an hour to drop a deuce throughout the entire day should make it glaringly apparent that the current facilities are deficient.