Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fort Collins Club Ultimate - The Katfish Written History - Part 6: 2016 - Hops/shame./Trainwreck/Force Collins

Part six is here! We're finally caught up and it only took 15 months. Check out 2004-2005, 2006-2008, 2009-2012, 2013-2014, and 2015.

2016 was easily the most successful club season for northern Colorado, at the very least, since DTL's nationals runs in the early 2000s. I think it's a reasonable argument to mark it as the best club season for the area ever, given the depth of play across so many different club teams. 


For years there had been a push to start a women's club team in Fort Collins. There were subtle whispers here and there, but it never fully came together until 2016.

Again, my 1st hand knowledge of what exactly finally happened for all the pieces to come together is non-existent, but I know that these whispers became meetings, mixers and full-on conversations in early 2016.

Lance Everette took on the role of coach with a core of players drawing from shame., Force Collins and other women around town. Surprisingly there wasn't much (or any) of a presence from the college women, as many of those ladies elected to play for Small Batch out of Denver.

At their first tournament as a team, Fort Collins Solstice, Trainwreck struggled, winning only one game, but playing Jackwagon (Denver) close. They didn't elect to travel out of state for any other tournament. They initially considered Ski Town Classic in Salt Lake, but weren't able to drum up enough interest to submit a bid.

At sectionals, their season of work culminated in a win over Jackwagon and a second place finish behind top-select qualifier Small Batch. The ladies were proud of their result, but again couldn't drive up enough interest to travel to Tulsa for regionals and declined their bid.

To my knowledge, there is a great deal of enthusiasm for the 2017 season to perhaps expand the travel schedule beyond the local options and to compete at a regional level. Regardless, the ladies are talented and have a great team culture and work ethic. [Edit 9/12/2017 - It has been pointed out to me that vast amounts of credit for getting this squad together and maintaining the group should be given to the legendary Stephanie Freier]

Force Collins

Unfortunately, the forming of Train Wreck hurt Force Collins' female numbers quite a bit. Additionally, a couple more of their players from the previous season joined Hops and shame., further weakening their core.

They did put together a team for sectionals and I wish them the best in their upcoming season, but the total numbers may just not work for this small(ish) community to support four club teams; we'll see what happens...


Technically, shame. finished 8th at 2015 regionals. However, I think just about everyone with any knowledge of the team knows they had a much higher ceiling than that finish would indicate.

For 2016, big man Jake Juszak doubled-down his efforts to recruit more impressive athletes to the squad. He knew they needed a deeper roster and I would guess this motivated him and new captains, Nate Roth and Kelcie Glick, to expand their recruitment efforts.

They added some unbelievable talent to an already loaded roster: Nick Snuszka, Mike Lin, Henry Adams, Zack Fleming, Jade Mclaughlin, Doug Stenclik, Joel Anton, Joshua Ackley (although I don't believe he played a point)... the list goes on and on.

They steamrolled the regular season, losing only one game,  on universe point to Love Tractor in the finals of Solstice. They secured an additional nationals bid for the region then stormed through regionals as well, capping off the finals with a win over Public Enemy, and looking like the class of the region and perhaps even a national contender.

Nationals didn't quite confirm their 'contenders' status as they technically finished 16th, but that placement was similar to their regionals placement in 2015. I don't think any team at nationals questioned the talent they had; they simply punted the placement games after a tight loss in quarters.

I was really excited to see a Fort Collins team back at nationals for the first time in 11 years. I loved watching my old teammate, Nick Snuszka, finally get the opportunity to show the entire country how dominant of a player he is. I'm not sure exactly what Jake, Kyle and friends (hue) have planned for upcoming season, but I wouldn't be shocked if they reloaded with even more all-star players and made a run to semis or better at nationals. Best of luck to them!


2016 was a pivotal year for Hops. Both Chan and myself knew that the 'ringer' team wasn't going to happen. Team members loved the core principles. The attitude and team culture was strong. People enjoyed playing for Hops, there was no question about that. However, we knew the team's ceiling wasn't particularly high unless we asked our team members to buy in more to growth of a system and commitment to a season.

We decided to make practices required (with a few allowed absences). We asked that all players attend the full tournament slate across the season. We knew this was going to cost us talent. Our top all around player, Stephen Gross, joined Inception (he couldn't commute up for practice). Two of our top athletes, Nick Snuszka and Mike Lin, joined shame.. John Marcy, another key playmaker, moved on to Sweet Action.

All of these guys very much enjoyed the team and didn't bail because they were averse to practicing, they just couldn't reasonably commute. Snuszka didn't cite that specifically as a reason he joined shame., but both Chan and I understood and supported his decision. He's easily one of the best athletes in the sport (anyone who has seen him play knows that) and he'd never been to nationals; this isn't what he told us specifically, but I assumed this was the case.  We knew we weren't competing for a nationals berth and shame. certainly was.

The plan was to re-load the team with a younger core. A group that would grow together, improve as a team and continue to build the team culture. We were losing some experience and athleticism, but we were banking on chemistry and system to prove more valuable to us competitively in the long run.

At Solstice, our growing pains showed. We took an early loss to Iso Atmo, a rebranded and refocused Vertigo squad from the previous year. We lost to Inception in quarters and won out our placement games for a 5th place finish.

At Ski Town Classic we posted a 3-4 record, but didn't even make the championship bracket out of pool play.

Our struggles continued all the way through sectionals where the only win we secured was a forfeit. We still qualified for a bid to regionals, but some of the frustrations were palpable within the team.

Chan and I pleaded with the guys to stay patient. It was all about 'the process.' Our one competitive goal, set at the beginning of the season, was to secure select-flight status (within four spots of the final nationals bid at regionals), and while our results thus far weren't stellar, we were still completely on track to achieve that goal. We had rotated our entire roster through every tournament. We had focused heavily on playing our game; accepting in-the-moment struggles for long-term growth. The pay-off, we told the team, was going to be regionals.

At regionals, Hops was seeded almost dead last: 14th. This didn't matter. We were finally going to cash in on a season's worth of growth and get some results that were truly reflective of the quality of our group. We opened the tournament off with a universe point upset of #8 seed Space City Ignite. We lost to Bravo shortly thereafter, then rounded out pool play with another upset win over Supercell 15-12, finishing 2-1 and second in the pool. We won our 2/3 crossover over 9th seed Premium 15-9; securing our spot in the championship bracket quarterfinals for Sunday.

Sunday morning we started the day off with a game against #2 seed HIP, a very athletic group who took us down 15-9, en route to securing the second nationals bid out of the region behind Bravo.

This dropped us down into the second place bracket against Plex. We fought valiantly, but lost the game 12-15. This was a fun game and disappointing loss, but the goal of select flight was still firmly in our sights. A season's worth of hard work and struggles all came down to a final game against Dallas United: Desperados. Hops responded well in our 8th game of the weekend, securing a couple early breaks then holding tight through the second half earning a 15-12 win and 2017 select-flight status.

We were ecstatic. We never billed the team as a nationals or bust. It was simply a group of solid players who would set realistic goals and work hard to improve our results every single year. In 2013, we didn't make regionals. In 2014, we finished 8th in the region. In 2015, we finished 7th in the region, In 2016, we finished 7th again, but also secured select-flight status and hopefully with it, an invite to the Select Flight Invite tournament for the 2017 season.

Both Chan and I  are very proud of the past four years of this team. We also knew that regardless of the outcome of the 2016 season, this was likely our last. Chan has joined the Peace Corps and is leaving for Namibia in April and I'm taking the season off to prepare for my own new adventure: fatherhood! I wish the new leaders the best of luck building the team and taking Hops to new heights!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Centex - Colorado State

Colorado State came into Centex ranked 12th in the USAU rankings. We were excited to play against some other top teams on what we knew would be sublime fields.

We packed up, anticipating heavy rain, and drove the 15 hours to Texas. We stayed just north of Austin in Georgetown, avoiding some of the South by Southwest prices and traffic.

The initial schedule had us slated to start the day with two games against the defending national champs (Minnesota) and the national runner-up (Harvard). We were ready to play the best.

Game 1 vs Harvard

Harvard had supposedly lost a large portion of their nationals core from the previous season, but they still had superstar, John Stubbs. We felt confident in our ability to match-up against Stubbs with our own lock-down defender, Cody Spicer. We hoped that our depth behind Spicer would be able to secure the win. Teams with a specific standout, high usage player tend to be our bread and butter since we have someone who can take any match-up.

It was drizzling by game time, but since we played the weekend out on brand new turf, the field surface was never an issue. The rain intensity increased throughout the day.

We started the game out with a young line: athletic freshmen who I knew were chomping at the bit to prove they could play with the big programs. They didn't disappoint as freshman Dylan "Slendy" Custer secured a nice layout block that we punched in for a quick break to go up 1-0.

Harvard held and on the next point we dropped a pull to give them the break back. We broke again to make it 4-3; they were struggling against our force-middle. They decided on a new tactic: they isolated three handlers shallow and sat their stack 40 yards deep of those three. They threw ~20 passes without gaining much before finally getting around the mark for a big huck and score.

They broke twice more, as our offense struggled to find a rhythm and we found ourselves down 5-7. We steadied the ship and were able to get one of the breaks back before they took half 7-8.

The second half we clamped down defensively. We only allowed one more score: Stubbs making an amazing trailing edge catch after Slendy tipped the deep shot to him - finishing the game on a 4-1 run and securing the 11-9 win.

The Spicer/Stubbs matchup was the story of the game. Stubbs certainly lived up to the hype, but Spicer contested him on every cut, specifically making him work on his backfield resets, shutting down several that lead to turns for us. The pundits said it best:

Game 2 vs Minnesota

We had a bye before the Minnesota game and we took the opportunity to cheer on our B-team as they took on Texas A&M B.

We were excited to play Minnesota. We played them twice in the 2016 season, knew what they liked to do, and were confident our defense could contest some of their better looks. Nobody shuts down Ben Jagt, but we also knew Spicer would do fine with the match-up.

We started on O, punching in the first score, then had a marathon D point, where we forced 3+ turns as they struggled to find space against our force middle. Despite the defensive effectiveness, we couldn't complete the breaks. They finally scored the point after a time out and traded subsequent points to make it 3-3.

They secured the first break of the game to make it 3-4, then a couple points later broke again to make it 5-7. We punched in our O and Spicer D'd Jagt on the next D point, but they got a layout block to get it back and took half 6-8.

Out of half they held to 6-9 then broke us again to make it 6-10; the game felt like it was slipping away. We could force turns on their O but were struggling to complete the breaks. We held to 7-11, then finally found some D-line offense as we rattled off three straight points to make it 10-11. Unfortunately, it was too little too late as cap sounded and we went through the ignominious routine of scoring the final point, but losing the game.

Despite the loss, the guys were happy that we had finished strong. Defensively, we held our own and offensively we knew what we needed to improve - cleaning up our decision making.

Game 3 vs Illinois

The rain really began coming down at this point with the wind kicking up just a bit to make the conditions slightly more challenging than in our previous two games.

Both us and Illinois played a surprisingly clean first half. We broke once, but they returned the favor to finish half on serve 8-7. This was the first team we'd played that ran a horizontal offense and we struggled to generate appropriate pressure with our downfield positioning. They also seemed the most comfortable against our FM look, which again was surprising as I originally developed it to challenge horizontal based offenses like split and spread back in 2007. They even played FM against us one point (a mistake, we practice against it all the time). I'll have to check in with one of our alum who coached at Illinois and see what the deal is with their preparedness... KIDDING!

In the second half we traded to 10-9, but it felt like our defense was generating more pressure than the first half. We finally secured another break to make it 11-9, but immediately gave it back to tie the game up at 11-11. We scored the final point as cap sounded, finishing with a 12-11 win.

I have to give them props, whether or not it was just the nature of how they teach their horizontal offense or that they studied up for the game, they were one of only two teams all weekend that didn't need an adjustment period (A&M being the other) to account for our atypical base defense.

Game 4 vs Texas A&M

Despite being a fellow South Central team, we hadn't played A&M since a 13-15 loss at 2013 regionals. I was excited for the game as A&M tends to play a fearless, athletic game, which usually plays in our favor given the limited deep spacing we allow with our base defense.

However, A&M came ready to play and we did not. We had another bye after Illinois and this game started at 4:45pm. We had been at the fields, in the rain, for 10 hours when the game began. On the very first pull, we signaled readiness, then the disc slipped out of our puller's hands, giving them the disc on the goal line. This pretty much summed up how the game went. The rain was pouring, we had multiple turnovers from hard fakes that slipped out of our throwers' hands, and we just didn't put a reasonable amount of energy onto the field. A&M, to their credit, was super energized and pounced on our miscues aggressively. We fell behind 0-4 before we knew what had happened and despite a time out to regroup; we just couldn't recover.

The conditions were no excuse; they were the same for both teams. A&M was ready to finish their day strong and we were not. There isn't much more to say than that. They cruised to an uncontested 15-6 win. I won't say that we're the better team by any stretch, but we're certainly better than that score.

We huddled up and discussed, as a team, what we can do in the future to better prepare for late afternoon games and challenging conditions. I got some good feedback from the guys on why they felt flat and we tweaked our Sunday warm-ups to account for some of those factors.

Props to A&M for a very solid weekend. They may have lost in pre-quarters but they put together very strong games against good teams and their point differential should be enough to secure, at the very least, a second nationals bid for the SC; perhaps even a third.

Game 5 (pre-quarters) vs Arkansas

Between daylight savings and the 12 hour Saturday we were a little sluggish getting to the fields, but still managed to be the first team warming up. The big story from Saturday night was our main man, Spicer, getting food poisoning. He spent the whole night sick and likely wasn't going to be able to play Sunday.

There wasn't any rain but rather a pretty distinct wind that was cutting across the fields, making the games significantly upwind/downwind. We knew Arkansas had a standout player, Kaplan Maurer, and the game plan had been for Spicer to take the match-up. With Spicer sidelined, we rotated a combination of different defenders onto him that would contest his play in different ways: length, quickness and speed - but the task largely fell to second year player and Austin native, Hudson Martin.

Due to the nature of the wind we also changed our O/D structure. Our D line played downwind offense and our O and secondary D played the upwind points.

They got the first upwind break of the game after a drop on a swing pass but we broke back quickly to make it 3-3. Our youngest line, the "BGs", promptly broke again upwind to make it 4-3. We traded upwinders to 5-4 then the young guys broke again to make it 6-4. We traded out to 8-6, the final point on a beautiful, pinpoint huck from freshman Mo Scott to freshman Will Mcdonald. Both Will and Mo are huge, core players for us: #allfreshmenlocks

Kaplan did everything he could including some big over the top throws against our zone, but in the end our depth proved too much for Arkansas. Even without our top player we were able to break twice more in the second half and secure the 13-9 win and quarterfinal match-up against UMass.

Game 6 (quarters) vs UMass

We were stoked for another fun game against elite competition. I don't know UMass well, but I like their approach to the game. I come from the school of scheme, disruption and smart play and it seems as though they do the same. I expected several different zone looks from them defensively, including their infamous 1-3-3.

We punched in our first O against their zone. It wasn't the expected 1-3-3 but rather what looked to be a 3-3-1 with additional defenders having the freedom to stay shallow and even enter the cup at times. We're a pretty solid team vs zone as we practice against non-person defense quite a bit ourselves and this look didn't give us that much trouble.

We traded to 2s, forcing a few turns but being unable to complete the breaks against their very athletic O-line. We dropped a wide-open deep on the our next O point and they worked down the field for the break and the 2-3 lead.

They would get layout blocks on both of our ensuing O points to secure two more breaks, jumping ahead 2-5. We punched in the next O then broke to make it 4-5. From there we traded out to half 6-8. They threw one point of 1-3-3 but beyond that seemed pretty committed to person defense and their 3-3-1.

In the second half we traded to 9-11 before fifth year, Jordan Trepp, got a catch block and we worked up to the upwind end zone and took a timeout. They set a cup on the disc and after three lateral passes got a hand-block and quickly punched in the down-winder. It was a pretty big disappointment as this was the golden opportunity to bring it back to within one and potentially double up the break with Umass having to score offensively, upwind.

Both teams would secure one more break before the game's end but we wouldn't get within striking distance again and finished the game with a 12-15 loss.

Just based on the buzz around what we'd heard about the team, we were keying our top defenders on Tannor Johnson, but by far the MVP of the game for them was their shorter, lefty handler, Ben Sadok, I believe. He broke the mark at will. They weren't short, easy to contain breaks. They were huge, field chunking breaks. He single-handedly destroyed our FM. I had planned on Spicer matching up on Johnson, but had he been available we would have quickly shifted him over to Sadok. I was extremely impressed with his skill-set.

Game 7 (semis of 5th) vs JBU

John Brown may be a DIII school but I was mightily impressed with their performance. Their top 2-3 guys were excellent players, and while we certainly had depth significantly in our favor we didn't match-up well against #14 (Ethan Penner?) and #15; both extremely talented.

The first half stayed on serve as we found space against their zone and they beat our FM with nice high-release passes. We rotated heavily through our younger core and I felt confident that our fresh legs would start to win out in the second half.

This indeed was the case as we broke several times in the second half, culminating in a 14-10 lead. We put our 'future' line (7 first year players) out to try and win it for us on D. JBU put up a trailing huck to the endzone with big man Mason Kiefer in good position to get a block. The JBU receiver, with Mason tight on his back, jumped from in-bounds and flipped the disc back for a pretty impressive greatest score.  They fed off that energy and broke us twice more before we finally put the game away 15-13.

I think this squad was our favorite opponent of the weekend: a very spirited, hard working crew. Between Air Force, Colorado College and JBU, the south central looks like a DIII powerhouse.

Game 8 (for 5th) vs Harvard

We finished our weekend the way we started: with a game against Harvard. I was concerned initially, knowing we didn't have the match-up for Stubbs with Spicer out, but that proved to be a non-factor. Harvard played admirably but didn't have enough left in the tank to run with our young crew.

We had rotated pretty liberally through our 26 person roster on the weekend and this game was affirmation of our depth. We largely ran our youngest guys through this game and they didn't disappoint. After a tight early game and a 3-4 deficit, we broke through and would finish the game on a 12-3 run and 15-7 final.

Stubbs still did some Stubbs things (a couple of crazy 40+ yard hammers), but his supporting cast couldn't keep up and around 10-5 he took his cleats off. Huge props to our young guys finishing the weekend strong and a shout out to old man Jordan Trepp (Dr. Flick) for one of the cleanest layout Ds I've seen in five years of coaching him.

With the exception of the A&M game, we were very happy with our weekend and very happy with our Sunday performance. The team showed a great deal of maturity adjusting to Sunday games without a guy who is so integral to our O and D in Spicer. Younger guys like Hudson Martin and Mo Scott really got to showcase what they're going to bring to the team for years to come.

Great job, Hib!

All Tournament Team (from just the teams we played)

Cody Spicer (CSU)
John Stubbs (Harvard)
Kaplan Maurer (Arkansas)
Ben Jagt (Minnesota)
Ben Sadok (UMass)
Tannor Johnson (UMass)
Ethan Penner (JBU)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Stanford Invite (M) - By the Numbers

Another "By the numbers" piece for the Stanford Invite. If you'd like to check out the evolution of these pieces, here is the Santa Barbara InviteFlorida Warm Up numbers and Warm Up Pool Play.

The conditions at the tournament made for some interesting results, but I think that in the end, the reasonably typical format and good seeding made this the least surprising piece I've done thus far.

I've again updated my strength of schedule formula to factor in USAU rankings rather than tournament placement finish.

The full tournament results are here.

The full numbers are at the end of the piece.

The Final Standings/Rankings

Final PlacementStrength of SchedulePoint Differential+/-
Oregon State15th13th10th-4

Strength of schedule = average opponent win/loss percentage + opponent average USAU rank

Oregon and Georgia technically tied for third as I believe this game wasn't played out.

Projecting the  Results with the Algorithm Seeding

Program reputation sways the seeds! I have absolutely no issue with how this tournament was seeded, but the reality is big, historic programs get seeds higher than they sometimes deserve (Oregon, in this case), given their current results. By the end of the season this often corrects itself and it makes sense in hindsight. Heck, USAU even adopted the exception to the "regional-finish ranking" rule a couple seasons back. But let's look at what kind of match-ups we see in the bracket if we seed purely by USAU rankings (aka math) and projected the results. 

The result projections are based on head-to-head from the actual results and final actual placement. E.g. UConn over SLO because UConn finished higher than SLO. 

Initial Seedings

PittColorado GeorgiaCarleton
Virginia TechUBCTexasOregon
Oregon StateAuburnConnecticutTufts

There's some shuffling at the bottom but the big standout situation now of course is Pool D, where Oregon is a 3 seed. 

After Pool Play

PittColorado GeorgiaCarleton
Virginia TechSLOWashingtonStanford
Oregon StateAuburnTexasTufts

Stanford comes out on the short end of this with two brutal pool-play games which leaves them with easily the toughest pre-quarters match-up in Wisconsin.

Projected Bracket


The quarterfinal participants are largely the same, we've swapped Uconn for Stanford. Who's playing who is mostly different as well. What the 'over-seed' of Oregon did in the real results relative to these projections was keep a Uconn team out of quarterfinals - a team that vastly over-performed in pool-play relative to their ranking (aka they beat 10th ranked Washington). 

This would lend to the idea that seeding Oregon at 3rd, based on program history, was fair; it gave us very competitive quarterfinal match-ups.  However, the actual quarterfinal match-ups ended up the way they did only because of Oregon was upset in pool play. In that sense, you could argue that Carleton got the short end of the stick as they should have gotten Wisconsin (had the Oregon 'upset' not happened), Connecticut or even perhaps SLO (projected pre-quarters teams) in quarters rather than Oregon. 

The last piece little bit of the rabbit-hole (straying from math into speculation here of course) is whether or not that first round bye was a disadvantage given the conditions. Two of the four one seeds have pretty confusing results in their quarterfinals losses, not because Oregon and Georgia didn't deserve their wins, but because the margin of victory seemed greater than should have been given what Saturday play had told us. Perhaps a game to get used to the fields/conditions/wind ended up being a boon for the pre-quarters winners as even the Colorado and Pitt wins were closer games than the team's previous results would suggest should have been. [EDIT - It's been pointed out to me that the pre-quarters games were played out Saturday afternoon rather than Sunday morning so this whole paragraph is completely inaccurate. That's why I should stick to MATH! Thank you TDs]

End all be all, the placement in the tournament really doesn't mean anything. Carleton may have boosted their ranking more with blowouts in the placement bracket than they would have playing out semis/finals anyway. Whether they'd prefer a shot at Pitt or Colorado I can't say, but overall, I can't imagine they're unhappy with their performance. 

Thanks for reading!

The Full Numbers

USAU RankWinsLossesWin %OpponentsOpponent WinOpponent LossOpp Win %Avg Opp Rank+/-
Pitt1601.000UBC, Texas, SLO, Stanford, Oregon, Colorado18.0020.000.47416.17+19
Colorado2510.833OSU, Tufts, Stanford, UBC, Georgia, Pitt22.0021.000.51222.83+16
Oregon15420.667Auburn, Vtech, Wisconsin, Tufts, Carleton, Pitt20.0016.000.55625.17+7
Georgia6420.667Washington, Uconn, Carleton, Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado18.0017.000.51421.00+6
Carleton7510.833Uconn, Washington, Georgia, Oregon, Stanford, Wisconsin18.0018.000.50019.83+31
Wisconsin14330.500Vtech, Auburn, Oregon, Georgia, UBC, Carleton20.0017.000.54123.17-2
Stanford9340.429Vtech, Tufts, OSU, Colorado, Pitt, Carleton, UBC26.0016.000.61923.86-7
UBC32340.429Pitt, SLO, Texas, Uconn, Colorado, Wisconsin, Stanford22.0021.000.51218.57+1
VTech36330.500Stanford, Wisconsin, Oregon, Auburn, Uconn, Tufts15.0022.000.40532.67+1
Tufts50240.333Stanford, Colorado, OSU, Oregon, Texas, Vtech18.0018.000.50021.50-16
Uconn65240.333Carleton, Georgia, Washington, UBC, Vtech, Texas18.0018.000.50019.83-16
Texas28150.167SLO, Pitt, UBC, Georgia, Tufts, Uconn19.0018.000.51427.50-16
Washington10230.400Georgia, Carleton, Uconn, Auburn, SLO14.0016.000.46726.40+2
SLO11240.333Texas, UBC, Pitt, OSU, Auburn, Washington15.0020.000.42925.50-6
Oregon State39230.400Colorado, Stanford, Tufts, SLO, Auburn13.0018.000.41923.00-4
Auburn43150.167Oregon, Wisconsin, Vtech, Washington, SLO, OSU16.0018.000.47120.83-14