2013 Pro Flight Finale

Drag’n Thrust traveled from Minneapolis to Davis, CA over Labor Day weekend for the USA Ultimate Pro Flight Finale, a tournament composed of 8 of the top teams in the United States.  Going into this highly competitive tournament, DNT knew that the primary goal was gaining experience for the fall series, but winning games would be fun too!

Saturday, August 31
As is typical when traveling across the country for a tournament, Drag’n Thrust’s first game was against a regional rival from Iowa, the Chad Larson Experience.  Unlike in previous years, however, DNT and CLX had yet to meet this season.  DNT received to start, and after exchanging some breaks, the teams were “on serve” at halftime: 8-7 in DNT’s favor.  CLX’s O line is always a tough nut to crack, with excellent and patient throwers, tireless reset handlers, and big receivers.  Ladies and gentlemen alike from CLX put up great break-side hucks to an isolated Kurt Brorsen, thwarting DNT’s aggressive defense and denying many opportunities to break them.  Both team did manage to achieve several breaks, but never two in a row, keeping the score close all the way to the end.  At 13-13, with time-cap on, DNT received for the final (“universe”) point.  Unfortunately DNT was unable to convert and CLX came out on top.
After hitting cap, DNT had little time to prepare for the next game against Mischief of San Francisco.  DNT had the good fortune to play them twice earlier this season at the US Open in North Carolina, splitting games 1-1, but losing by a larger margin in semifinals.  Though hungry for revenge, DNT also reeled from the tough loss to CLX, and Mischief is not the type of team you can give an inch to.  Mischief came out hot, applying stifling defensive pressure and demonstrating clean and effective offense, establishing a significant lead on DNT and holding it.  With a final score of 10-14, DNT took its second loss of the weekend.  To make matters worse, James “the lumberjack” Hron had to chill on the sideline for the rest of the weekend due to a hamstring injury from that morning.
DNT then faced American BBQ, yet another team from California!  DNT and ABBQ last met at 2012 Nationals, with DNT winning in pool play.  One of the stars of ABBQ is the exceptionally talented Sarah Carnahan, who actually practiced with DNT when she was splitting time in Minnesota in the summer of 2011.  Drag’ns dug deep for motivation, not wanting to go 0-3, and earned the first win of the day with a close final score of 14-12.

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Though a 4th game was scheduled for Saturday, and DNT was eager to play it, the majority of the teams voted to skip the round due to the excessive Davis heat and the fact that it didn’t impact the format.  The team rolled with the punches and went out to eat at the Burgers and Brew, opting for two large outside tables.  Shirley picked up the tab for half the team (expense it!) and the waitress called Hopkins a rook.

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Sunday, September 1
It is a strong signal that a tournament is competitive when Drag’n Thrust and Slow White of Boston see each other in quarterfinals!  The score initially stayed close, with neither team allowing the other to run away with the game, settling at 8-7 at halftime.  After half, however, DNT came out hot and ran up a 4 point lead, presenting a serious challenge to the relatively small roster that SW managed to bring to Davis.  Nevertheless, SW rose up to the challenge and battled back hard, earning several breaks and bringing the game down to an exciting universe-point conclusion, in part thanks to a big layout D by SW captain (and former Minnesota resident) Dave Truesdale.  Unfortunately, DNT was unable to convert this final point, and SW rode the momentum of their excellent comeback to a 14-13 victory.
Though disappointed by the quarterfinals loss, Drag’n Thrust reminded themselves that placement in this tournament was not the primary goal for the weekend, and games against some of the top teams in the nation are too important to squander. So DNT pulled it together for a game against Cosa Nostra from Texas, who had just come off a tough loss by 4 to CLX.  DNT knew better than to look past Cosa, who made it to quarterfinals at nationals in 2012, and through a hard fought game DNT ended up winning 15-12.
American BBQ also managed to fight their way past a first round loss to a second round win, so DNT’s final game of the tournament would be a rematch from Saturday.  Though the wind had picked up and points took longer to finish, DNT managed to secure a few more breaks to take a significant lead, winning 12-8.
After the tournament, though some Drag’ns had to fly home right away, most stuck around for a few days for rafting, wine country, and/or San Fran tourism.  There are perks to tournaments in California!  Mad props go to Alicia Carr for organizing travel arrangements for 30 people flying into multiple airports on various days at random times with different ideas about how to enjoy their time in the Golden State.
Closing Thoughts
The full results for the Pro Flight Finale are posted here.  Congratulations to CLX for making finals and to the Polar Bears for winning!
Everyone on DNT played well, but shout-outs are especially in order for Sarah Meckstroth and Mike Petersen for outstanding contributions on the field.
One take-away from this tournament was that the Mixed division enjoys substantial parity near the top.  Every team had at least one win and one loss.  Many games were very close or even decided on universe point.  With a final record of 3-3, including two universe point losses, DNT’s results exemplify this reality.  We know that we can compete with anybody, but in order to be successful in the fall series, DNT will need to learn from these tough losses so that we can win those tight games when it counts!
The parity also extends beyond the 8 teams at this tournament.  AMP from Philadelphia is currently #1 in the regular season rankings, posting wins over teams like CLX and Slow White.  2012 quarterfinalist Odyssée from Montreal won the US Open over Mischief.  The Ghosts from Boston are another dangerous 2012 quarterfinals team posting a solid record in 2013.  And there are plenty more teams who could make some noise this fall – can’t wait to see who makes it out of Regionals in September and how everything shakes out at Nationals in Frisco, TX on October 17-20.  Stay tuned to find out!

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