Next Stop: Frisco
Truck Stop goes 4-0
Sunday, September 28, during the Mid-Atlantic Regional Final, Peter Prial was standing 35 yards away from the end zone with the disc, a pick call having halted play as Truck Stop’s offensive line was marching the disc down field. Ahead of him, the field was wide open except for rookie Mark Vandenberg, who waited with a few steps lead on his man. The score was 14-7, Truck up over Temper.
The disc was tapped in and Peter threw a smooth flick down the line, hitting Mark in stride for the regionals winning goal. We flooded the field, celebrating as we clinched our 2014 trip to Frisco, TX. The final score was 15-7 over the revamped Pittsburgh club squad packing serious heat in their roster.
For Truck Stop, the goal capped our most complete game as a team all season, on the biggest stage we had yet to play, against a team we knew would be coming at us hard. It was a big change from the last competitive game we had played in Chicago, more than a month before.
We headed into Chicago eager to take the next step. Our two previous tournaments were full of universe point wins and losses, and we felt confident we were ready to start winning more games by bigger margins.
From game one, things went poorly. San Diego’s Street Gang would hang with us the entire game as we traded goals and breaks, pulling away late for the win. The rest of Saturday was rained out and we were left to stew in that loss all day. Mega bummer.
On Sunday, after we spent most of Saturday killing time at the hotel pool or an indoor golf driving range, we were keyed up for a chance to play Chicago Machine. The last time we saw this team, we lost on universe point and we lost Alan Kolick when he broke his wrist at Chesapeake Invite.
From the start, we were off. We turfed throws and open receivers dropped passes that hit them in the chest. Though our o-line fought hard and through multiple turn points, we fell behind to Machine and never really got back in the game. In the next two rounds, we played Columbus Madcow and then Philadelphia Patrol, putting together solid wins against each and starting to find our confidence. But the last round, against Michigan’s High Five, started late and we lost eight guys who had to catch flights home.
From the start, High Five came out flying and the athletic squad never looked back. With low numbers, we split into two even lines, rotating points regardless of O or D. We had some great plays, but also some miscues and the game was out of hand quickly, a blowout to end our regular season.
The Waiting Game
The period from Monday, August 25 until the morning of Saturday, September 27, was one long wait. We didn’t know at first if the Mid-Atlantic would have one or two bids. We knew it was out of our hands, so Coach Will Smolinski and the captains turned the team’s focus inward.
This was the first time since we had set our roster that we were able to practice more than twice in a row. Our weekends were full of double practices where we walked through the offense, talking after each point about what worked and what didn’t. Our track workouts got more competitive as the razor’s edge of post season games loomed. Practices got more intense, guys more aggressive with each passing weekend.
At the beginning of the season, Coach Will said we didn’t have to win a single game until regionals. Obviously that was a mantra we didn’t want to take literally, but we knew with a roster full of new guys and a new offensive set being implemented, progress needed to be viewed through months, not weeks. Still, we were eager to put a new memory in our minds and leave Chicago behind.
Finally, regionals arrived. The Mid-Atlantic had held on to earn two bids to Nationals, meaning some combo of us, Temper, Philly’s Patrol and maybe New Jersey’s Garden State, Pittsburgh’s Dire Wolf or Baltimore-Washington’s Medicine Men would likely be in the mix on Sunday for the right to play disc in October.
A Truck with all of its Parts
Regionals marked the return of Alan Kolick, long a centerpiece of our team, whose boyish good looks, lefty breakmark throws, and fabulous man-bun hair style have developed a cult-like following around the world of ultimate. Even better, Sunday would be the first time the entire team was together at any point since Chesapeake (the Gordons and Markham missed Saturday for weddings).
Saturday we rolled through local competition, playing against guys we knew well and had played with or against in past years. In the second round, scrappy second-year team John Doe gave us a good fight and showed they are bringing along some of the up and coming talent in DC, eventually scoring the most points on us of any team all weekend.
Medicine Men, the long-running Baltimore-Washington team that counts among its alumni Truckers Tom Doi, David Cranston, Keven Moldenhaur (that’s how long Medmen have been around) and Rico Johnson, scored a big win over Pittsburgh’s Dire Wolf to meet us in the semis. We had held joint tryouts twice with Medmen to start the season, and to see them score a key victory was exciting.
Just not against us, of course.
They played us hard and hung on early before we started forcing turns and punching in breaks to pull away and earn a spot in the finals the next morning, where Pittsburgh Temper waited.
At this point, it should be noted that some of Truck’s top successes over the past nine years are tied pretty closely to Pittsburgh. Though it was a core of primarily University of Maryland guys who first started the team in 2005, the roster benefited from Pitt alumni for many years. Even though Temper is a first year team, we know them well and they know us. Between the DC Breeze and DC Current, alumni like Sean McComb and Brent Bellinger, as well as Truckers-turned-Temperers (?) Rob Dulabon and Jake Christian, there’s a ton of overlap.
The game started off fast as each team scored on hucks and very efficient offense, 3-3. Wodatch caught easy huck scores on three of our first five scores. Our cutters worked the downfield space well and generated most of the assists early. We made the first turn, trying to hit Tom Doi too close to the sidelines, but Wodatch got the disc back on a floaty pass that hung too long. After punching in the score, our d-line finally broke through, with Mark Lin getting a run through d on a dump pass and then eventually finding Keven in the endzone.
Our d-line kept putting on pressure and generating turns, and then breaks. Cranston threw a perfect hammer to Keven, who was poached at the back of the endzone, to take half 8-4. The o-line, when it was on the field, was clean, fast, and efficient. They only turned the disc twice the entire game, and weren’t broken once. After Chip Cobb got a run through d and then kept booking it for the bookends score on a huck from Brent Bellinger to make the score 11-5, Temper turned its focus to the backdoor game and we cruised to a 15-7 regional final victory.
Next stop, Frisco, TX.