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. 

Trainwreck

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...

shame.

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!

Hops

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!






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