Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fort Collins Club Ultimate - The Katfish Written History - Part 3: 2009-2012 - KILL KILL KILL JOYYYYYY

If haven't yet read part one or part two take a few minutes to brush up and get some context for the Fort Collins club ultimate scene heading into 2009.

In 2008, Fort Collins United flopped. A unification of the two 'factions' in Fort Collins was a big personality clash and the team disbanded after just one year. 

Part of the problem with FCU was the team failed to draw talented young players from either the of the college teams at Colorado State. The largest contingent of male CSU players joined together and formed a ringer team called Noonan for the 2008 UPA series, relying on a laid back attitude and raw talent to finish 6th in the southwest club open division.

This team would continue in future years under the moniker "Interesting Tummy Birds" (ITB) for just the open division of Colorado Cup; bringing together a bunch of talented players for a casual, fun time. ITB prided itself on showing up five minutes before game time, not warming up, imbibing various forms of "Interesting Tummy Brew," and still competing with and beating established club teams. 

Anyway, in 2009 the club scene in Fort Collins was wide open. There were no established club teams in any division heading into the summer.

2009 - Killjoy

In response to lack of quality club options in Fort Collins, Lance Everette, a Fort Collins staple, decided to found a team with an emphasis on a fun culture while still staying driven and focused on competitive goals. 

He teamed up with Wisconsin Hodag alum Greg Vogel and UC Santa Barbara alum Charles Stone to form a new mixed team, Killjoy. I don't know how it all shook out or who decided what, where, but by the UPA series, Killjoy was in full force. 

I'm sure many readers are familiar with Lance, but for those who aren't, he has an infectious enthusiasm for the sport. In recruiting for Killjoy he personally reached out to many good players (myself included), and the genuine excitement he had for the team went a long way both towards recruiting a talented core, but also setting the foundation for a good, positive team philosophy. A lot of people who had been disenfranchised from the club scene from some of their previous experiences were brought back by Lance's sheer force of will and personality.

Killjoy 2009 was a blast. There were some new faces and some old. The team had (in my opinion) a great balance between competitiveness and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with my teammates both on and off the field. I hadn't played organized mixed since the half-season on DTL in 2006 and hadn't planned on making a return to the division but that year's iteration of the team was just a great group of people.

Down in Boulder another new mixed team, "Kapow!", had formed, which had brought together a very athletic core of ex-open and women's players including Beau Kittredge's little brother Camden and Enessa Janes, formerly of Fury. As two first year teams with lofty expectations, they became our impromptu rivals (in our minds at least), and we figured one of the two of us gave Colorado the best opportunity the state had to take back southwest mixed since the end of the DTL/Bad Larry dominance.

Heading into the series Killjoy was lightheartedly optimistic. We slipped up a bit at sectionals, losing unexpectedly to Alchemy out of Boulder, but I don't feel like the team was overly concerned with that result. The "new-team" feel still had us confident heading into regionals in Scottsdale, AZ.

At regionals, we lost to Kapow in pool play 17-12 but secured second place in the pool with a win over Party Van from Hawaii (I'm not sure there's a team miss playing more than those Hawaii folks, a wonderful and fun group). We stomped through pre-quarters over another Hawaii team, Shugga, leading up to a quarter finals match-up with Brown Chicken Brown Cow from LA (featuring Fort Collins native Jake "Jacuzzi" Juszak in his formidable years). In a windy, zone-ridden affair, we came away with a 12-9 victory and a semi-finals match-up against reigning southwest champion Barrio. A win in this game would secure either a first or second place finish and a bid to nationals. Across the bracket Kapow faced the exact same scenario against LA Metro.

Barrio outclassed us. Their athleticism and big game calm trumped ours. We came into the game with a lot of energy but that was quickly squelched as they shut down our main players with very physical defense and showed a level of poise on offense that we could not match. The game was not competitive; we lost 15-4.

Barrio would continue on to nationals finishing 6th, losing in quarterfinals 15-12 to eventual national champion, Axis, from Virginia. Kapow, meanwhile, lost to LA Metro on the other side of the bracket.

Our loss to Barrio was disappointing, but there were three bids to nationals that year and we still had shot in the backdoor bracket. We needed to win two more games and our ticket would be punched.

Game one was against Cougars, another Colorado team who was a 'ringer' team in the truest sense. They were made up of mostly older ex-Bravo/Rare Air players. They didn't practice, they just relied on buttery throws and incredible field IQ to win games. This team also included my future club co-captain, David Chan, who I believe had very recently graduated from Northern Arizona University and moved to Colorado.

It was a defense-oriented game. The wind had picked up enough that both teams were running zone and it was a pitched battle back and forth. They certainly had the experience and throwing advantage, but we countered that with a lot of effort and energy. The game was tight all the way through until they scored the final point at cap for the 9-7 win.

Brown Chicken Brown Cow beat Kapow in the other semi-finals, then lost to Cougars in the final game-to-go. In a further twist, Cougars then declined the bid to nationals, passing it along to BCBC. It was a bit of a disappointment for us as we'd beaten BCBC the previous day, but they had finished one spot above us in the bracket, so they were next in line for the bid.

Despite not qualifying for nationals, I felt pretty happy with where the team was heading. It was a great inaugural season, we had our shots and we played tight games against good teams. It seemed like Killjoy had securely established itself again as the competitive team in Fort Collins and would continue to grow.

2010 - Killjoy

In 2010, Killjoy leadership asked me to join them as a captain, with myself and Charles Stone acting as practice captains (we planned/organized and ran the practices). I also made an effort to recruit some talented CSU alumni to join the team.

On the whole, I think the core of leadership was solid and expected the team to a step forward competitively after the success of the previous year.

The team worked hard early-season to incorporate new players and develop strategy and scheme, however the team had started to become cliquey. Unfortunately, I was a part of the problem with myself and some of the other male CSU alum not integrating ourselves well socially with the rest of the team.

We secured a bid to Mixed Labor Day in San Francisco which was generally accepted as one of the most competitive tournaments in the country, but the team fell flat against nationals-level competition, losing all our games except for an early pool play game against LA Metro. I personally did not attend this tournament and I don't clearly remember how the team felt about the results, but for any team with nationals aspirations finishing 1-6 is tough to swallow.

At sectionals we lost on universe point to Masters of the Universe ( the same 'Cougars' team from the previous year who had eliminated us at regionals, re-branded). We beat out Kapow in the second place game to secure the 6th overall seed heading into regionals. Unfortunately, during warmups before Sunday play at sectionals I re-separated my shoulder (something I had been doing consistently for the previous three years), and spent the weeks between sectionals and regionals rehabbing.

Saturday at regionals we had a good, competitive day, finishing second in our pool and holding seed. We beat a young Mesteno team in the first round of bracket play and were still alive Sunday morning for a nationals berth. I played sparingly Saturday (not by choice), only getting a handful of points in, but feeling good about my play and my shoulder injury.

Sunday, we lost our first game and were eliminated from contention by Red or Green, a team from New Mexico. I played zero points that game. I didn't complain as I watched from the sideline; I had grown up since 2006 when I quit DTL over leadership concerns. I supported my teammates with sideline help and stayed vocal and positive.

In our final placement for 7th I again didn't see the field. It was a big blow to my pride. It wasn't since my first year of college play that I hadn't played a point in a game, let alone a placement game and let alone two games in a row. I was a core handler for the previous year's team who been more competitive. I was a captain and a leader on the squad. The person calling lines for regionals wasn't an elected captain, he was an injured, well-respected vet that the tournament captains turned over line calling duties to.

I internalized all of this and moved on from the team after the 8th place finish. The good-times aura I had felt the first year of Killjoy was gone. The team had taken itself too seriously and become too cliquey (admittedly, I was a part of both these problems).

2011 - Killjoy

I don't have a ton of information on the 2011 Killjoy season as this was the first year since 2004 that I wouldn't play the club series. I am not 100% certain, but I do also believe the team founder, Lance Everette, had either moved on by this year, but it may have happened after this season.

Killjoy again traveled to Mixed Labor Day with better results this year, finishing 2-4. The team stumbled at sectionals finishing 5th, but still qualified for regionals.

Because of the 5th place finish the team under-seeded at regionals: a cold, rainy regionals weekend at Dick's Sport Goods Park in Denver. After a first round win, Killjoy faced off with number one seed 7 Figures from LA. The game was close, but 7 Figures came away with the win 8-7.

Killjoy rolled through the second place bracket winning three games before finally falling in the second place semi-finals game against Colorado Springs Swingline for a 4th place overall finish.

Again, this is largely speculation, but I think the tight game against 7 Figures and the quality Sunday play at regionals energized the team for the next year, giving the core a reasonable expectation that nationals was a realistic goal.

2012 - Killjoy

I don't have a ton of information on the 2012 team either, but I know most alumni of the squad say that this was very much a 'peak' year. I personally sat out the club series for the second year in a row.

2012 saw the redrawing of the club regions. This had started in 2010 with the college restructuring. Colorado was now in the south central region, rather than the southwest. The region had only one bid to nationals and several teams had reasonable shots secure it.

Killjoy entered regionals in Austin, Texas as the four seed overall behind Cosa Nostra from Austin, Love Tractor from Boulder and Mesteno from Denver (nationals qualifier in 2011).

Killjoy finished second in the six team pool play with their only loss to Love Tractor. They cruised through quarters 15-4 against Robot Unicorn Attack, setting up a semi finals matchup with the one seed, Cosa Nostra. This game, it seems, would be the catalyst for sweeping change in the Fort Collins club scene.

I'm not going to speculate too much with just second-hand information but all I know for sure is that Killjoy lost 10-11 and Cosa Nostra would go on to secure the lone nationals bid (and would continue to do so for 2013 and 2014). This game is "the game" that people on that team talk about. The details aren't 100% clear to me, but I got the sense from folks I talked to that it was a very winnable game and something happened that many people didn't feel good about. That's as far as I'll go with that.

After that loss and the sentiments that followed that loss, a large portion of the team's core would not return in 2013. The team didn't fully disband, but this opened up the next chapter in Fort Collins - the renaissance man, David Chan was going to get involved...part 4.

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