I was recruited by Michelle Ng and Without Limits to write about my experiences in my final season of College Ultimate. 2011 has many possibilities...let's see how they pan out. E-mail me (robyn-fennig@uiowa.edu)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Centex Danceoff: Thoughts from the Fire Baton Girl

I’m excited to offer the world a fresh voice in this guest blog post. Many of you may not recognize her on the field, but I am positive you remember her as the “Fire Baton Girl” from the Iowa Centex Dance. Chelsea Russell is not only a Division1 College athlete and the Golden Girl (aka Feature Baton Twirler) at the University of Iowa, but someone, who like many of us, leads a double life. Everyone at Iowa knows her, but everyone else, meet Chelsea Russell: Saucy Nancy ultimate player and seven-time World Champion athlete.
Chelsea performing at a Hawkeye football game

For 18 years of my life I spent nearly every Saturday competing across the country in a little known sport that has trouble garnering respect from the general public. Sound familiar? Competitive baton twirling has been fighting to earn recognition as a true, viable sport since the 1940’s. Despite the fact that I was only introduced to ultimate a few short years ago, I’ve known what it’s like to participate in a semi-cult-like, yet decidedly awesome sport since the age of three. The transition from baton to ultimate was an odd one – most people assumed my ability to catch a baton under my leg or without looking would help my performance on the field. I found out pretty quickly that wasn’t the case. Any member of Saucy will back me up when I say my first practice as a cutter wasn’t exactly graceful. In fact, I’m still working out my growing pains when it comes to ultimate. So imagine my surprise and delight when I first learned of the dance competition at Centex – when Robyn first sent me the video of SOL’s winning routine from 2010, I was immediately psyched to get started working with Saucy on a dance of our own.

At first, I could tell the majority of our team was a little wary of getting their groove on in front of a large crowd. Approximately two people showed up to our first meeting – myself and one of our fearless captains, Andrea Uhl. I think most of those two hours were spent playing Just Dance 2 and trying to figure out how we were going to convince the other 26 members of our team to get involved. But eventually we decided on the ridiculous disco anthem “Rasputin” as our song and things started falling into place. And by falling into place I mean, of course, an impromptu dance lesson with five of my teammates the night before we left for Centex and an hour long “dress rehearsal” in our hotel’s parking lot after we all arrived in Austin (procrastination is for winners, in case you aren’t aware). For weeks Dre and I had been trying to wrangle Saucy into figuring out our dance, but because our season had been going so well it was obvious our minds were more focused on strategy and, you know, actual ultimate practice. After the 18 hour ride to Austin, it was even clearer how much our team really didn’t feel like putting this thing together.
Chelsea showing off her move between games last spring

Yet, fifteen minutes after I started 5-6-7-8-ing the girls into place, everything seemed to change. Saucy Nancy is generally a giggly team, but girls were literally cracking up as they hip thrusted, Bernied, and attempted to stick their hips out at the proper angles. Getting to watch Katie “Rage Kage” Johnson sky a girl with her absurd vertical is outrageous, but getting to watch her awkwardly shake her booty?  That’s fricking hilarious. I’ve been choreographing both dance and baton since I was 15, but I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun putting a routine together as I did in that bug-ridden parking lot.
Excelling at a sport is both physically and mentally taxing. Before long the pressure of having to consistently perform to the best of your ability will get in your head – no matter how much mental toughness you happen to have. The weeks leading up to Centex were filled with plenty of injuries, bouts of the flu, and just plain exhaustion for starters and rookies alike. Yeah, we had an insanely tough tournament we had to focus on – but everyone needs a break. What better way to take our minds off the daunting task at hand than a chance to rock shiny spandex leggings and make complete asses of ourselves?!

There’s been some talk of whether the Centex dance off is beneficial to women’s ultimate. Do I personally think it’s a great addition to our sport? Hell yeah. Here’s my reasoning: it’s not often every single member of a team gets the same amount of play time at any given tournament. The dance competition creates an opportunity for each player to participate equally, unifying teams in a way normal play can’t. I cannot express the sense of camaraderie I felt within my team while people were screaming and cheering during our performance. Not only that, but I was having so much FUN while doing it – and every member of Saucy expressed the same sentiment after we were finished. For those few hours during the dance competition, our team was stress-free. There’s something to be said for stepping back from the intense nature of competition, taking the time to do something extraneous, and straight up enjoying yourself.

Featured photo from TWIRL Magazine. Showing off her fire skills.
In response to those that claim participating in a dance off takes away from the integrity of women’s ultimate…I’m going to go ahead and say I think that’s completely ridiculous. The open division doesn’t have a dance competition, but maybe they should. Just because the women are brave enough to throw down their sickest dance moves while wearing some fabulous costumes doesn’t mean we don’t still play hard (sometimes harder than the guys, have you ever seen Chelsea Twohig’s game face?). Dancing doesn’t degrade us to the level of stereotypical “girls,” prancing around and flaunting our assets. Sure, some serious ass shaking and other various suggestive moves (ie: Backpack Girl and her Kansas cronies) occurred on Saturday night. But that’s part of the fun – the dance competition goes to show we can be sexy AND hardcore ultimate players at the same time. Every single woman I saw participating in the dance competition on Saturday was a certified BAMF – they love their team, they love their sport, and it was pretty apparent they loved dancing, too.

One major part of my life involves wearing pounds of rhinestones, a fairly ridiculous amount of make-up, and smiling throughout my routines. Another includes weather at its most extreme, slightly obscene team cheers, and at times more than a bit of mud (understatement of the year). Both encompass countless (and oftentimes badass) injuries, dedication, and most importantly the experience of sharing something with an incredibly unique and diverse community of people who have an unparalleled love for what they do. So I might not shine on Saucy Nancy the way I’ve been fortunate enough to in baton twirling. But this past Saturday night I got to contribute something more to my team than just my (obnoxiously loud) voice from the sidelines, and I know a lot of the rookies felt the same way. Doing our Centex dance, no matter how ramshackle or last minute it may have been, was something we did completely, entirely TOGETHER – and that’s something that can’t be replaced.

Check out some of Chelsea's moves on these vids. She's talented and Saucy could not be more proud of her individual achievements outside of ultimate. She's a selfless teammate and wonderful person, as well as a talented twirler. Thanks for this post Chelsea!! :-)

Centex: Recapped by yet another person who was there.

Saucy vs. Washington Element
We came out super flat with no intensity whatsoever in this game. It was frustrating. We made some adjustments in the second half to take away their deep game and shut down the break side of their vertical stack better—but it was too little too late. We came out short. But I think it was the kick in the butt we needed. We can’t come out flat against good teams and expect to win all the time.

Saucy vs. Northwestern Gungho
We came out like we needed to against Washington in this game. We were fired up, had intensity. It was wonderful. We controlled the tempo of the game from start to end. Our rookies got play time in a huge tourney, and really stepped it up. Jojo caught multiple goals in this game. She’s going to blow up soon, I’m telling you.

Saucy vs. UCLA BLU
The intensity from the Northwestern game carried over. We were having fun. Everyone was contributing. It was more solid Saucy offense, and intense D. We were capitalizing on turns and had really open lines. Jojo and Jenny really improved this game, making some really good cuts offensively, becoming more assertive as the continue cut. Really stoked for them.

Dance-off. I’ll have a guest post about that. It’s looking good. You’ll love it, promise.

Pre-quarters: Saucy vs. Cal Pie Queens
I feel like after the first three points, we controlled the flow of the game. An-Chi is a baller, everyone knows this. But she had so many uncharacteristic errors…wide-open drops in the endzone, particularly. If she catches those, like she normally does, the score is closer. The story of this game is how Saucy was able to capitalize on turns. The wind was pretty strong in this game, and they struggled a bit with our zone. We punted a few times for field position. I was a little turned off by the things their coach was yelling. For instance, they turned the disc on their endzone line (upwind endzone). Mikey told me to punt it, so I throw a hammer over their zone. Cal coach’s response was to yell “yeah, they’d rather do that than play.” Well, when their team turned the disc 2 throws later, and we put it in easily. I’d say, you’re right…I’d rather play smart all day. I guess I always have this overarching respect for what I call the “California dynasty” teams. The UCSB-Stanford-Cal-UCLA dominance in our sport. Some of his remarks turned me off a bit. The girls on Cal, great SoTG, great sportsmanship. Great team to play.

Quarters: Saucy vs. Michigan Flywheel
We saw Flywheel at Easterns. We knew that we’d be seeing the team from the second half at Easterns, not the first half (i.e. they would not be giving us easy chances to score at the endzone line like they did they did in the first half). Every point was a battle. Breaks were important in this game, as the wind was not that huge a factor. Both teams showed that their defense could manufacture breaks. I think that Michigan is becoming one of my favorite teams to play. They are solid, top to bottom. There is no doubt that this team is a quarters or semis team at nationals this year. I’m calling it now.  We came out on top, and were able to win on hard cap.

Semis: Saucy vs. UNC-Wilmington Seaweed
*Someone please tell me what "FTB" on the back of their jerseys stands for...haha
Every time I see them play, I’m impressed with their athleticism and ability to pick up the other team’s junk (for lack of a more eloquent way to put it). They are a really good team. Kelly Tidwell really gave our team some troubles. She’s a baller. Well, we went up something like 5-2…something to that effect. They came back and tied it up. They take half. We’re down mentally. Personally, I think our man-to-man was weak in this game. We couldn’t shut down the force side. Their handlers just ran the show…strike cutting us to death. (Something to work on in practice?) I think we were pretty evenly matched. Look forward to seeing them again in the future…lost on hard cap. I really had fun in this game. Seaweed is a super fun team to play…super intense, but I’m impressed with how much fun they have with each other playing the game. I loved my matchup with Sara Casey (did I spell her name right? I hope so..haha). She challenged me and she was a super spirited athlete. Baller.

3rd place game: Saucy vs. Tufts EWO
Well…I am unsure what happened in like the first 4 or 5 points. I had a phone interview that I had to do (fyi, I got my spot…so I guess that’s some good news in this game). Some points, we played brilliantly. Working the disc without a turn. Other points, we played sloppy. We played poor defense. Some points, we couldn’t catch a goal. I mean, there was a point (2nd from end of game) where we could have won the game, but we turned the disc over FIVE times in our endzone. Unforced turns…we had a HUGE case of the drops. Oh well. I think this game was a mental battle for us. People were still dwelling on our semis loss to Seaweed. It’s something our team’s gotta learn to do better. Bounce back from losses. Not lose the mental game. Something to look forward to.

Overall thoughts:
-In response to a recent SkydMagazine post: yes, our team is for real. We finished 4th at the best pre-nationals tournament of the season.
-The Northwest didn't perform as strong as everyone thought they would. While I was attempting to change in the parking lot, I overheard some players complaining about how their region failed to perform. I like to think of it more as other regions are finally stepping up to the plate and improving a ton! I think it's great for our sport.
-We have a ton to work on going into the post-season/series. We are not close to peaking…I’m excited to see our team perform at the Conference and Regional Championship tournaments.
-We have the ability to be scary good if we can overcome the mental game late in tournaments.
-My legs are le tired. But I had the time of my life at my last regular season college tournament.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Buy Into the Team

So I’m heading into the LAST tournament of my college regular season. It’s sad. It’s exciting. I’m stoked. But what scares me is our team hasn’t even begun to peak yet…I just hope we get to peak this season. And that we peak at the RIGHT time. Peaking at the right time is key to accomplishing  team goals.

One thing that can be detrimental to the development of a team mentality:  negativity and failure to “buy into” the team. These two traits, regardless of how small/minor they are, act as a poison that can derail the success of talented team. It’s frustrating to me to see a team like this. I have been on the other side of the coin for years: having a team of people who buy into the same thing, but we are out performed, falling short of qualifying for nationals.

Let’s break it down.

It’s really easy to buy into something at the beginning. “Yeah! Everyone wants to win nationals! Alright!!” Lou Buruss makes the great point in his recent blog post that talk doesn’t equal action. Until you start putting these words into action, you can’t achieve it. Often, this action does not make everyone happy. Everyone doesn’t get equal playing time. Not everyone gets equal opportunity to shine. What often separates a successful team from one that falls short is how teammates react to this “unequal opportunity” clause. Some take the route of getting frustrated, yelling at teammates, getting mad at themselves. This in turn affects the way they play and the way their teammates play with them. This further affects your team in a negative way. Sound familiar?

The battle is getting this person to realize that their role may not be the big play maker. However, I find that the more a teammate spends on the sideline, the more that they are seeing what’s working, what isn’t…quick in-game adjustments that I don’t see. This role is important.  Also equally important it is the vocal sideline. Having mobile, active, loud sideline participation is crucial.

People say, “Robyn, it’s really easy for you to say this. You are not that player who doesn’t get to play.” Quite frankly, I HAVE been that person. I HAVE played on plenty of teams where I filled one or both of these roles. I can honestly say, that is why I truly place a high amount of value them. I know that mentally, that role is way more challenging and taxing than playing a ton. It takes a lot to travel 8+ hours away and not see the field or court. But it doesn’t change the fact that my teammates NEED me.

Once you lose one person, you start losing many. Be a good teammate. When you see a teammate miss a routine throw, or make a poor decision that results in a turnover…my response tends to be one of “Come on Saucy, let’s get the D.” Take the focus off of a mistake. Turn it into an opportunity. There’s nothing I’d rather do than pick up one of my teammates and help generate a D. When you see a teammate bummed because she’s not playing, talk to her. Reiterate how much you appreciate her perspective. Because you do! Ask what she’s seeing on the field, what you can do differently. Does she a good match up that you’re missing?  Can you isolate a weakness on the other team that you’re not taking advantage of?

Remember at all parts of the season, it’s important to re-evaluate if everyone’s buying into it. Are you filling your role? Can you help your teammates fill theirs?  It’s easy at the beginning, but gets harder as the season progresses.

I’m fortunate enough to play on a team where this holds true (I think). I think that everyone buys into our goal of making it to nationals and doing well. I think that everyone understands how important their role is: everyone is integral to getting us there. Sometimes, I see my teammates get down on themselves…putting too much pressure to contribute to making the big play. Soon, it’s a head game. It doesn’t need to be.

Everyone gets their chance. My coach, Mikey Lun, is possibly the best example of this. I saved this e-mail for almost 3 years because it really motivates me and reminds me that everyone has a shot. Courtesy of Kevin Seiler (aka the Baron, and provocative mind behind “The Baron’s 300” on the Ultimate facebook page). Unlike the rest of my Alpha Cobra Squadron teammates, I absolutely loved Kevin’s long e-mails and saved most of them. In really In relation to play time, Kevin sent this out to the large 29 person roster of Alpha Cobra Squadron:

Mike Lun was on CLX in 2004, went to nationals and caught one disc, with zero throwing attempts.  He probably played an average of a point or two a game.  In 2005, he spent most of the season playing very little as in 2004, and then around regionals, made some big plays.  He went to nationals in 2005, made two outstanding plays, and suddenly he is a major contributor to the team and playing 10-12 points a game.  His current performance certainly dictated a need for more playing time.

Buy into it. Your team can be for real. You’ll get your chance to shine. Mikey did, now look at him. He’s “CLX Standout” Mikey Lun…Kevin wrapped up his e-mail like this:
1.     Be ready to give it your all when it is your turn to play.  There is going to be a lot of sitting around and waiting, but it will be imperative to be ready to compete when you are on the field.
2.      Don't try to do too much.  Sometimes those who play less than others get on the field and think they have to make something happen.  This has the potential to help the team, but also has the potential to hurt the team and your chances of gaining any extra playing time.
3.     If you are disappointed or upset with your time, bring it up after a game to the captains, whomever you feel most comfortable talking about it with.  In some cases, there may be things to do about it, but in others, there may be little to do about it.  Brining up such things during a game is harmful to the focus of the team.
4.     When you find yourself as one of the 22 players OFF the field, do what you can to contribute to the team, whether it means helping players with "up" calls, communicating with players on the field, taking water to timeouts, giving players back/foot rubs, etc.  Trent Troyer was a multi-year player on CLX who was most likely last on our playing time list, but he was an overwhelmingly positive sideline presence running water out, giving high-fives, and watching the game for strategies to try. 
I buy into THIS team: University of Saucy Nancy 2011.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Is it too soon to think about Centex?

Hard to believe that we'd be where we are if you would have asked me last January. At the moment, I am extremely pleased with the team I have gotten to be part of in my final college ultimate season. Such a great group of players and coaches and other entourage members.

Anyways, the common theme of my season is looking forward to the next thing. I really have tried to avoid dwelling on any win, or any super awesome thing that has happened to Saucy thus far in our season. I'm trying to remain focused on what our next challenge is and doing whatever it is that I can to contribute to success once we get there. I mean, it's all about prepraration, right? I'm sitting at home (on spring break) after doing nothing but homework for most of the day, my parents' dog on my lap, reading, thinking, daydreaming about ultimate.

So what's next: Centex. Yes, preliminary pools have been posted. (Check 'em out HERE). Speculation will come sometime in the next week....I'll be going over all sorts of film this week (starting Sunday?) in Iowa City prior to our Thursday night departure. If pools/seedings stay as they are, we'll see both Michigan and Northwestern again. For Sauce, we are most excited to get a shot to play some teams from the West Coast. I think I am going to start the official petitition to bring the other 2 members of our coaching staff (DK and Steve) to Centex.

One other thing that's most exciting: I get to throw outside. I've been blessed with awesome weather in the Midwest this week (while most of my teammates are still down south), and I've gotten to get outside and throw a lot (thanks huge yard, windy conditions, and stack of discs in my trunk). Granted, I'm aiming at my little sister's pitching nets, it's something to get excited about. 2 or 3 practices until Centex.

Nothing left to do but enjoy the weather, watch the Twitter feed of Open Easterns (shameless plug for how much I want my boyfriend to rock this weekend), and be somewhat studious.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Easterns Recap

After a really long car ride, no sleep, and an extremely long night of sleep...here's what I've got. (I'll apologize for terrible typos, grammar mistakes. I'm really tired. I don't feel like editing right now)

Day 1:
Pool Play Game 1 vs. North Carolina State (Jaga)
They were an athletic team, always looking for the strike and deep throw. They had a couple of really strong throwers, #16 was a ridiculously smart, fast cutter. If they had a consistent deep game, they'd be more than a bubble team. Saucy played some sloppy points, but overall, controlled the tempo of the game. Many of our newer players got the chance to play in this game, which was exciting. We mostly focused on man-to-man defense, as the wind was definitely not a factor. We came out on top, 13-4.

Pool Play Game 2 vs. Michigan (Flywheel)
I was really nervous/excited about this game. Flywheel returns a roster of stud athletes with great ultimate skills. Much of them got some exposure to elite mixed ultimate with Overhaul. Their offense is anchored by Paula Seville, Katie Poulos, and standout cutter, Becky Malinowski. Saucy came out incredibly strong. Moving the disc well, taking advantage of our solid deep game. We transitioned quickly, taking advantage of our quick cutters. Flywheel had some turns right on the endzone line. I find this quite uncharacteristic of Flywheel...but either way, we were able to go up 5-0. I don't remember a whole lot of turns from our O during the first half. It was awesome to be able to capitalize on some turns, to create a good lead. Huge grab in the endzone by Audrey Erickson. I'll find a picture and add it as soon as Sedg posts 'em on Fbook. We ended up taking half 7-2 (I think). We knew that some adjustments would be made. Essentially, we saw a completely different team in the second half. The second-half Flywheel team was the national contending
team we were expecting. We experimented with some new things and opened our lines a bit. Flywheel came back, and we tightened up a lot more. We pulled out a win 13-10, which felt good.

Pool Play Game 3 vs. Harvard (Quasar)
We came out flat in this game. However, one thing is that we opened up the lines completely in this game. Everyone got lots of play time. Sadly, we went down a few right away. I mean we were down like 0-4 or something like that. I wasn't even worried, though. Mikey called a timeout, we regrouped, and never looked back. The wind was a lot more intense this game than it had been all day. I think it threw us off a bit. But we came out on top. 13-7, Sauce.

Day 2:
Game 1, Quarters vs. Iowa State (Woman Scorned)
We have a tendency to ALWAYS play ISU no matter what tournament it is, where we are...we love playing each other. Woman Scorned tends to always come out hard against Saucy, no matter what (Saucy does too, so it works). The Saucy O was calm, the D was stifiling. We worked the break side a lot in the game, and the ISU D couldn't shut it down. Chelsea Twohig's throws were huge in this game. Again, the wind didn't affect us a ton. Sauce on top, 13-6.

Game 2, Semis vs. North Carolina (Pleiades)
This game showcased the Saucy Nancy depth and overall skill. We demonstrated that we can succeed by working the deep game, working the disc under, using a calm-collected zone offense, going over the top of zones, working it through a zone, creating solid matchups in a man-to-man defense, zone defense...whatever was thrown at us, we reacted with poise and intensity. I was extremely impressed with our team energy in this game. All twenty-something of us came out with 100% intensity. They came out in a 4-man wall-like D. The wind wasn't a factor, so we went right over it, attacking the weak spots. There really was no hammer-stopper, as the wings were pinched in pretty tight to the zone. As long as we kept Leila Tunnell deep, we had the over pretty easily. Catching the inverted throws=not a problem for Sauce. For much of the game, we used man-to-man defense, focusing on keeping the disc out of Leila's hands as much as possible, as well as not biting on the huge fakes. Not biting took away the backhand hucks of the Pleiades handlers, forcing them to put it deep with the forehand. We had some huge deep D's by Jen Nowak, Katie Johnson, and Chelsea Twohig to keep the hucking game to a minimum. With their vert-stack offense, we found that by helping deep and sometimes switching on the unders, we could contain a lot better. Saucy also focused on cutting off the arounds, forcing them to work up the disc on the force side. This win felt phenomenal. Saucy on top again, 13-7.

Game 3, Finals vs. Wisconsin (Bella Donna)
Rematch from last weekend at Midwest Throwdown. Bella came off a huge 8-6 win vs. UNC-Wilmington in their semis game. We had some great energy going from our semis win. The sun was out, the wind picked up a bit, though it changed directions a ton. In the first half we focused on man-to-man D, in the second half, we focused on zone. I didn't see Sarah Scott there, which I think hurt the Bella deep game a bit. Primarily, the O was running through athletic cutter/handler, Jenny Gaynor. She was their go-to receiver. They were really trying to work the McKain/Gaynor connection. We focused on shutting down Gaynor, and kept Chelsea Twohig on McKain. Chelsea got a quick handblock off the pull on McKain, which allowed us to go up quick 1-0. If you're looking for a good play by play, Michelle tweeted the whole thing on the Eastern's Twitter Feed. Check it out HERE One thing I was a bit shocked about is why Bella didn't go deeper into their roster. Our players consistently commented about how the newer Bellas were the most stifiling on the mark, as they were often fresher than the folks running for points on end. We tried to keep fresh legs out there, and it really helped. Our Mikey-created conditioning/lifting/plyos are really starting to show late in the tournaments, as our players can run and run. This game showed the world: Saucy Nancy is back. Our Throwdown win wasn't a fluke. We can play in really poor conditions (See: Midwest Throwdown) or really nice conditions (See: Women's College Easterns).

Overall thoughts on the weekend:
1) We were able to switch it up between man and zone. Our zone is stifiling. I love it. Throwing different things at different times. We can vary the looks we throw, and throw them well.
2) We need to swing bettter. We have these points where handlers hold the disc (cough, cough, ROBYN). When we swing, we succeed. No one can shut it down.
3) We have a deep team. We really can match up well, and keep the legs fresh in big games. I love looking around me between points, and be confident that we'll win the match ups every time. And in the event that we don't, we don't let it bring us down.
4) Our sidelines are second to none. We have a huge team, and we'll let you know it.
5) Michigan's going to turn some heads. I'm waiting for them to blow up soon. (See: Women's College Centex)
6) UNC-W is the world's most beautiful campus. Holy cow.

I need to enjoy my spring break/sleep more.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Looking Forward: Easterns

What happened was last weekend. One thing is certain: our team has a ton of work to do. Personally, I am really looking to be a bit more conservative going upwind...especially as we approach the endzone. Mikey's right, "the upwind endzone is like a baby: take care of it."

For me, I think that getting outside and throwing a few times this week, as well as improving my mental game is my focus. Let's be honest, I'm not going to see any drastic improvements in my skills, speed, strength, etc. from now until Saturday. I have been thinking through a ton of scenarios where my decision may have worked, but execution wasn't the best or the risk-factor was surely against me. I'm still adjusting.

Yo’ Saucy, the time for complacency is not now. Now is the time for improvement and adjustments. Let’s take this momentum and bring it to practice and keep the effort and intensity there.

Preparation for next weekend is essential. The wind forecast in Wilmington is looking at 10-12 mph on both Saturday and Sunday. I'll be in Iowa City until Wednesday night. I have a field trip Thursday-Friday in Chi-town for my planning program, which means I won’t have a disc in hand until Friday…if we get to NC early enough. We’re still working on details.

We’ve got a tough Pool-Play match-up vs. Michigan on Saturday. I’m really excited for that. Missing Chelsea Twohig will be tough, but it will also allow some other players to step it up quite a bit.

See y’all in Wilmington!

UIOWA SAUCY NANCY, ST. LOUIS KPLR TEAM OF THE WEEK


Saucy Nancy Ultimate: KPLR Little Caesar's Team of the Week (March 6)

http://www.kplr11.com/videobeta/d73695c5-81b2-46df-b61e-c23627b08925/Sports/Team-Of-The-Week-Univ-Of-Iowa-Ultimate-Frisbee

This is pretty cool. I've never been interviewed about ultimate on camera before. It was kind of intimidating, I'm not going to lie. They got some pretty good action footage of women's ultimate and the championships of Midwest Throwdown, as well as asked some pretty cool questions.

Thanks again to MWTD for a great tournament!

MWTD Day 2

Wow, it finally hit me: I was actually part of a college tournament victory...well since High Tide 2007, my very first tournament ever, and a few small indoor tourneys with SOL. Iowa really came out fired up in every game, always going opening up with a run (with an exception in the Championship game vs. Wisconsin)

Conditions on day 2 were similar. slight upwind/downwind, cold (for first 2 rounds), and really muddy on all fields.

Pre-Quarters vs. Carleton College-B (Eclipse)
This team is hands down the team to watch in the D-III Championship runnings. They have great throws, intense D. I'm excited to see how their season pans out. They put our zone-D to the test, really working it, in the lighter wind. Their handlers were confident and collected, but were stifled by hard Saucy D. We controlled the tempo, coming out on top 11-4.

Quarters vs. Iowa State (Woman Scorned)
We play Woman Scorned a lot. I'm not sure if I can personally remember playing a college tournament without playing them...some really good friends on that team. We came out so fired up, really intense...lots of tenacity on defense. We really focused on minimizing turns, and capitalizing on every possession. Katie "Rage Kage" Johnson, Kelli "KP" Parsons, and Chelsea Twohig really stepped it up for Saucy on D. Our zone and man D looked pretty good, pressuring every throw and catch.
Saucy 11, Scorned 4

Semis vs. Colorado (Kali)
Saucy lost to Kali at MLC in fall in the semis. Knowing what we had to do, we were ready to get down to business. We busted through the Kali zone in the first possession. Breaking the zone without a single turn. Taking advantage of a lack of wind (and some encouragement from DK to do it...) I scoobered over the top to Apple, who moved the disc upfield to Chelsea and Liza. It was one of the quickest, most efficient zone O points I have ever seen from Sauce. Hands down, we controlled the tempo against a good Kali O, taking half 7-0. Sara Timko and Anna "FOTY" Pritchard were stifling on the mark. I was on the sideline with Chelsea Russell, and we decided that Anna was batshit crazy on the mark. Kali came back from half with a solid, really fired up. I have to say, out of all the teams competing this year in the women's college division, from what I have read, no other team fights tooth and nail to the end of a game like Kali. They never give up and battle back from any deficit, no matter what it is. It really says something about their character as a team. I remember playing against grad student handler Katie Patterson back in the day when she played for Vanderbilt. She always continue to impress me every season with her disc skills, and ability to stay collected no matter what. She is definitely one of those players I have admired as I made a transition to handling. For Saucy, Liza Minor really made some clutch plays, with some ridiculous layout grabs to keep the Saucy momentum going strong. She is playing years beyond her experience. Good catches, seeing the field well, and really making good offensive decisions (in addition to tough D).
Sauce came out on top 10-6.

Championships vs. Wisconsin (Bella Donna)
Even after listening to a little Jay-Z "It's a Hard Knock Life," we came out a little flat. Bella went up 2-0 before we even came close to putting it in the end zone. This game was definitely the most mentally challenging of the season for Saucy. We were starting to show signs of exhaustion. I'm not sure what happened, quite honestly. It's like we weren't even present there. Next thing we knew, we were down 2-5 to one of the best teams in the country. Mikey took a time out. We chatted and came back out fired up. Suddenly, we clicked again. The Saucy magic was back. We were smiling, having fun...all in all, doing our thing. It was 6's, and we pushed to half, 7-6. Chelsea Russell really said it well at half, "Look at how much fun we're having." It's this game of ultimate that brings all 28 of us together (granted we didn't have a full 28 at MWTD). We love this game, and we love playing it with each other. We love pushing each other, cheering for each other, and working hard together as a team. Bella came back and tied it in soft cap at 7's. The next point that ensued was pretty long. Bella worked it down, but on a slightly misplaced throw on the sideline, the observer got in the way. It was a turn. Though a bittersweet way to get a turn, Saucy capitalized on it. Working it down, and putting it in on a break throw to Chelsea Twohig. The hard cap horn went off during that point, going into effect after the point. Since we were up 8-7, the game was done, and Saucy came out on top.

I'm looking forward to a different Bella team at Easterns. Bella was experiencing a ton of injuries (5 players injured=3 on the sidelines, most notable Al Ellis and Sydney Dobkins, and 2 playing). Sara Scott, I think is a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the disc. She asserts herself with her play, intense D, bidding all over the place...and her deadly throwing arsenal. Her forehand huck is one to be reckoned with. One thing that is unique, is that from such an intense, skilled player, her sportsmanship is second to none. You can just tell that she loves to play the game. You know she leaves it all on the field, and has fun playing. Rebecca "Reebs" Enders really showed some brilliance this weekend also. Her throws consistently improve from one tournament to another. Keep your eye on her. Jenny Gaynor and Emelie McKain anchor a talented Bella team, bringing the fire to the team.

As for Saucy, I cannot express how refreshing to come in at every huddle, every timeout, between every point, that there are ridiculously sick players surrounding me at all times. I have full confidence in my teammates, and that every single person is a necessary part of the whole to succeed. This weekend demonstrated this to the highest level.

Thanks Michelle, WashU Ultimate, and Without Limits for putting on a great tournament! Saucy had a blast :-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

MWTD Day 1

Holy Kittats. It was really cold. And windy. And muddy. It's not like I can focus on real school work right now anyways (at least until after I eat).

Game 1 vs. Saint Louis University (SLULU)
We came out fired up, playing great zone D. We were pretty nervous about playing in imperfect conditions (cough cough, have you seen our indoor facility?) We got some quick upwind breaks. The first three points were really fast. Minimal turns-ish. SLU scored one down-wind, but didn't score any breaks. SLU rotated between some man and zone. We primarily threw a zone, but got some opportunities to play man. I think that the Saucy downfield D is what helped us control the tempo. We took half 8-1. The first point out of half became somewhat of a marathon point. Shout out to Laura from SLU, she had the sickest upwind layout grab, but hurt herself. Dislocated shoulder and a strained muscle. As both teams froze waiting for the ambulance, the captains decided to call the game. I hear she's doing well, and hope she's back in action soon enough.
Saucy 8, SLULU 1

Game 2 vs. UW-Eau Claire (SOL)
My alma matter.  They were close to full roster (pending Emily Karoblis' acceptance into her grad program), which was exciting for me. It's always interesting to see how SOL is doing. I love when players like Estelle and Mariah make sick plays, as they were easily the most improved players from last season on SOL. Saucy won each battle, point-by-point. Some points, faster and more efficient than others. I think that by the end of the game, Saucy really found our rhythm, and cleaned up the O a bunch. SOL came out in a man-to-man defense, while we ran lots of zone. They didn't look to punt a lot going down-wind, but rather did more punting up-wind. Jess Haller (SOL #1) was SOL's best and most consistent thrower. Keep your eye on this girl. Saucy played some good team D, and pushed hard every single point.
Saucy 15, SOL 0

Game 3 vs. Northwestern (Gung-Ho)
Coming into the game vs. the #2 seed in the tournament, we knew that the game tempo would be very different from the previous 2. Lien Hoffmann, Sara Miller, Sarah "Chunks" Hong, and Angel Li were theh standout handlers, working the disc up patiently up the field. Northwestern came out in man-to-man defense, but Saucy was able to break upwind, pretty easily. They switched to zone, and we had to work it a lot more. There were a few flawless points, but most were capitalized on 2 or more turns per team. We were able to capitalize on some key drops ...Saucy went up on a 6-0 break. Northwestern scored a quick 3, to make it 6-3. We pushed 2 to half, taking it 8-3. The points were really long after half...soft cap went off, then hard cap. Lien Hoffmann and Sara Miller were the go-to-throwers. Aside from Chunks, very few throws went up upwind. In several longer points, our zone-O struggled. We were getting tired from trudging through several inches of mud that covered. They started to punt more going down-wind in the second half.
Saucy 10, Gung-Ho 5

Quick update. More tomorrow if I have time after games tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MWTD Preview

MWTD Pools are up. I think seedings are final? I hope so, because I'm going to write anyways.
Division 1
Pool A:
I look for Wisconsin to come out on top here, with no surprise. I did like the match up between Iowa State and Wisco at the Iowa Indoor. They had some good even match ups. No one on Wisco could cover Jasmine "Jazz" Draper. From what I saw, the Gapstur/Jazz connection was pretty strong. I pick ISU in the 2 spot over Colorado. Talking to some of the Woman Scorned players, they are ready to go and looking good. As this tourney is practically in their backyards, I assume a full roster. I am predicting a universe point win for Bella. Colorado, from what I heard, brought a smaller roster to MLC in fall, and played a tight rotation. If the weather is as bad as they forecast, I predict some long points. ISU has the legs to overcome Kali, I think. I haven't seen much from Kansas this year.
Prediction: Wisco, ISU, Colorado, Kansas

Pool B:
It could be my bias towards Saucy, but I'm predicting an upset here as well. Knowing a good deal about the ladies of Gung Ho, I know that they are a handler reliant team. Lien Hoffman is their go-to player. I feel that Saucy has too many "one-ups" in the 1v1 match up. Granted, I would look for Iowa, UWEC, and SLU's earlier games to be a little sloppier...as they are the first outdoor games of the season. I think UWEC will have a stronger showing, as their roster was lacking vets in the Iowa Indoor. Adding Melissa "George" Jordan and Emily Karoblis (former UW-Stevens Point standout) into the mix will bring up their level of play. However, their lack of experienced handlers works a bit against them.
Prediction: Iowa, Northwestern, UWEC, SLU

Pool C:
Wash U should take this pool, pretty handily. I think that their depth and handler power really give them the competitive edge. OSU and Notre Dame, having some outdoor experience already this season at Queen City Tune Up should have a slight edge over Colorado College. I have never seen Colorado College play, and really look forward to it!
Prediction: WashU, Colorado College, OSU, Notre Dame

Division 2:
Pool D
Missouri and TSUnami look like the favorites here. I haven't seen Oberlin play in a few years...

Pool E:
Minnesota is an easy pick here. Lefty junior-worlds handler Depalma leads a great squad, and really anchors the offense.

Pool F:
This pool will be a little more hard fought. The ladies of the North Central Region will be battling it out. St. Olaf, led by Brittany Faust, vs. Wisconsin-Atropa, led by Anna Shanedling, vs. a well-rounded Carelton Eclipse team. I think that St. Olaf will pull it off.

Pool G:
Luther should be the standout team, but don't count out Grinnell. Two of my favorite D-III teams squaring off against each other. This could easily be the semis or finals of the North Central D-III Conference/Regional Championships. My prediction is Luther, FTW.

Personally, I am looking forward to the skills clinics. If you're working on "Big Pulls" with Mikey, make sure you say hi to me, as I will be his fabulous assistant :-)