2013 Pro Flight Finale - Men's Division Preview
Posted: August 30, 2013 11:41 AM
The Triple Crown Tour Pro Flight Finale is here and it is, by design, the highest-caliber tournament of the regular season. Power pool previews abound. Unlike previous seasons, there is not a single team here, at this late stage of the regular season, without something to prove. Revolver is fresh off a loss to Sockeye in the de-facto finals of the West Coast Cup. Sockeye has been strong all year but hasn’t quite put an entire tournament together. Their loss to PoNY at Terminus kept them out of the finals, and they looked as sluggish as you’ll ever see them in their first-game loss to Johnny Bravo at West Coast Cup. At Chesapeake, Sub Zero made Ironside look more like a catamaran than a battleship. The list goes on. None of these eight teams is happy with their body of work to date.
And none of these teams can be happy with the weekend’s weather forecast either. Temperatures in the high 90s with no cloud cover will introduce an additional variable. Teams will be pining for the dewy overlook of the bay at Santa Cruz, Labor Day’s traditional home. The over/under on cramping injury subs for the weekend is eight. Take the over.
And if we’re making wagers, how about some upsets? Easy money here at the Pro Finale. These seeds are fair, based on this season’s results, but a ranking based on public perception and pedigree would look vastly different. Defending champion Doublewide sits at the bottom of a Pool B that could go any which way, one through four. Doublewide will have some reduced version of Kurt Gibson as he continues to recover from surgery, but "some reduced version of Kurt Gibson" was still the best player in the tiny little universe that is Sarasota, Fla., last October, so don’t underestimate his ability to propel them to the A2 v. B2 crossover. Doublewide also gets their third iteration of Thorne/Tyler DG, and they’re sure to master the club game well before defenses master them.
Ironside probably entered 2013 as the favorite to finally win a title. They brought back nearly all returners and began the club season at fighting weight. But two borderline shocking losses to Sub Zero at Chesapeake quelled the hype. And those losses crossed the border the next weekend when Sub Zero shed their contender’s cloak at Heavyweights in Chicago with losses to the likes of Madison, High Five and San Diego Street Gang. While Boston’s early-season swoon was uncharacteristic, it’s also uncharacteristic for them to be without George Stubbs. He’s back, and smart money says they come back to form and win the pool.
Boston Ironside's Josh Markette throws around Revolver's Taylor Lahey in final of the 2013 U.S. Open Ultimate Championships
PHOTO CREDIT: UltiPhotos
In Pool B, that leaves Sockeye and Machine, two teams that have redefined themselves over the past two to three years. Sockeye has embraced their new personnel and are trying to recapture past glory with a new formula of short, quick breaks and intuitive defense. This Machine squad might be the best club team to come out of the middle of the country in a decade. They are steadily shouldering their way into championship contention after a few years of molding big bodies into dynamic ultimate athletes, in part thanks to firm dedication to Crossfit. Sockeye plays an exciting brand of small ball, but it’s not the same without Karlinsky at the center. Machine is number two in the USA Ultimate rankings and has all the big-bodied athletes Sockeye doesn’t (sorry Frank Barich, one horse does not a stable make). But does anyone truly believe they’re ready for a semis or finals run? Sockeye’s polish prevails against Machine, but they finish third behind Ironside and Doublewide.
Revolver, runner up from 2012, heads up Pool A with the first overall seed, but I promise you I’m not the only one who thinks they’re not the most talented team in the country anymore. This weekend will test how far Revolver’s adherence to a really sound system can carry them. Chain and GOAT will challenge them athletically, as they do everyone.
Chain, in typical Atlanta fashion, has at times looked as fluid on offense as any team in the country. At others, the offense has looked woefully forced as they contrive their deep looks from narrow windows. But they are always a fun watch with emerging athletes like Andrew Hollingworth and Jay Clark hitting their prime. Look for them to avenge their Chesapeake loss to GOAT on Saturday.
GOAT is coming off an impressive Chesapeake performance where a loss to regional nemesis Ironside was the only thing keeping them from the finals and a perfect weekend. Their young stars are probably just about recovered from their Worlds run in late July and primed to join John Hassell, who appears to have been coaxed from retirement. Hassell may age, but his hammer does not. It is a game-changing throw that allows him to access parts of the field that make a downfield defender’s job almost impossible.
Speaking of impossible, it is looking impossible for the Southeast Region to earn fewer than three bids. Florida United will likely sit dormant for the rest of the regular season, and the region is guaranteed two bids on the merit of top-eight finishes from Ring and Chain in 2012.
That said, if Ring wins a game this weekend, not a pool play game, just any game, it’ll instantly become their signature win for 2013. They are 3-8 against series teams, with their only wins coming against Chicago Club, Oakland and Madcow. That’s insane! This is a semifinalist from 2012 with tons of young athleticism and more than a few legacy leaders, not to mention U.S. National Team member Brett Matzuka. It’s just been a wild year. There’s no reason to think it’ll stop this weekend.
Update: John Hassell played with GOAT at the Elite-Select Challenge (Terminus) to help mitigate the team's loss of players to international competition but is still retired and will not compete at this weekend's Pro Flight Finale.
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