2013 Masters Championships - Day 1

Posted: July 26, 2013 11:07 PM

For the players, the Masters Championships provide an opportunity for many people to "relive their glory days." Without the tough wear and tear a full club season inflicts on your body, athletes can come together with their peers and old teammates to compete once again for a championship title.

For the fans, the Championships offer a glimpse into the days of ultimate gone by. The long (often white these days) hair, crazy beards and witty heckling that today’s unfamiliar spectators often expect but don’t see are all making appearances in Denver this weekend. The gritty play typically only seen in archived video footage from the late 80s and early 90s populate the fields at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.

Grand Masters

While their bodies may be a little worse for wear, the competitive spirit certainly hasn’t flamed out in any of these athletes. The speed of play may have slowed, and strategies may have shifted, but the fight is still the same.

These days, conservation is key. Zone ruled the day and should be expected to continue through the weekend. The young guns on each team are set on the opponents’ handlers and allowed to run wild while the wily veterans hang back and focus on keeping the threat in front of them.

Particularly in the grand masters division, defense wins games. Basically any defense. While most of the men running in this division have an arsenal of throws that help keep the entire field plausible, the timing has to change. The teams that can adjust to the new pace of their receivers are the ones who rack up wins. 

After the first day of play, the grand masters division had played out almost entirely to seed. Not unexpectedly, Surly GM won their first three games with relative ease. T-Rex, the second seed in their pool only managed to put eight points on the board by the time their game was over. Each of the other top seeds also finished the day 3-0. The only one seed who looked at all vulnerable was Georgetown Brewing who only won a single game with a margin larger than one point.

Tomorrow’s match ups should present some more intrigue, as the teams are whittled down. Pre-quarterfinals start at 9 a.m.

Masters Women's

While the masters men’s and grand masters sidelines are full of men bellowing a mixture of encouragement and good-natured heckling at one another, the masters women’s sidelines are populated with tents, and not just shade tents. Kids of all ages roam around the fields and escape the sun in their own tents. In particular, the local Colorado teams seem to have taken advantage of the tournament’s proximity and foregone expensive babysitters. It creates a unique atmosphere for a nationals-level tournament, certainly a distinctive feature of the masters division.

On the fields, the teams are an interesting mix of former and current club players of all levels, from select level on up to elite and pro. A few players who have made names for themselves in local circles through regular pickup games have also made the trip to Denver for the weekend.

After spectating the grand masters division and migrating toward masters women’s, the athleticism and playmaking ability are striking. Women are booking it up and down the field, laying out on seemingly every point and vying for floaty discs that get caught in the Colorado afternoon wind that has picked up for the moment.

Even with the impressive athletes on each team, the Baylands Kite Flying Team still sets themselves apart from their competition. In their third-round match up against Well Done, what most people expected to be their closest game of the day, they came away with an easy 13-5 win. Without knowing the score, it would have been reasonable to think the game was close. Well Done played well and certainly has some impressive athletes. But Baylands was able to stretch the field in a way no other team did on day one. From top to bottom, their roster is full of speed, experience and throws that make the entire field a viable option, and is nearly impossible to defend.

For their part, Darkhorse is living up to their name. Entering the weekend as their pool’s three seed, they mounted an impressive comeback against first-seeded Well Done in their first game of the day to steal the win before closing out the day with a decisive victory over the First Ladies. In the middle was a close 11-9 loss to Baylands, easily the tightest game Baylands had on the day. Watch out for Darkhorse as they start their run in the championship bracket tomorrow. They’ll kick off the day against Brood Squad in the pre-quarters round at 9 a.m.

Only Pool D played out to seed when all was said and done. Godiva earned two convincing victories over Stormborn and Dirty XXX and one close one over the ultimate veterans of the Atlantiques. Their match up with the Atlantiques was the pool’s only close game; every other victory came with a margin of at least seven points. In Pool A, Stickdog retained their overall one seed by going 3-0 on day one. Their biggest challenge came from Denver’s Jezebel who managed to upset their initial seed by finishing the day with a seven-point run to claim a win over Lady O. Pool C ended up with the most parity. BH&G, Retro and Brood Squad all ended pool play with 2-1 records. BH&G came out on top after point differential was taken into account. In their head-to-head match up with Retro, BH&G seemed to be a little more poised and a little less tired. That was enough to come away with the 15-10 win, but they will certainly be tested tomorrow. They await the winner of Stormborn v. C.O.U.G.A.R.S.

If today is any indication, Baylands and Stickdog seem to be on a collision course for the finals, but don’t be surprised if Darkhorse tries to upset that tomorrow morning. They have an opportunity to meet Stickdog in the quarterfinals if they can survive their first game against a Brood Squad team that heated up as day one progressed.

Masters Men's

What a difference seven years makes. There are certainly some grand masters eligible players competing in the masters division, but the difference in game speed between the two divisions is dramatic. Generally speaking, men in the masters division run faster and more often, can jump higher and simply look more comfortable on the field. Whether that is only age or also a microcosm of how ultimate developed in the between these generations, the divide is clear.

There is a pretty clear delineation between the division’s top teams and the lower teams. The one seeds in pools A through C all cruised through day one, maintaining their rankings with authority. Surly, Boneyard and Johnny Encore all ended the day 3-0, without ever meeting much of a threat.

The lone exception in the domination of the pools’ top seeds was Tejas. They met their match in Kelt.

Although a cursory perusal of their roster would be enough to imply their strength, Kelt began to prove themselves in the round of 2 v. 3 match ups. In the round, the higher seed batted only .250. The one win came courtesy of Kelt while Black Cans and Highlands, New York Masters and Ra all pulled off upsets. Not only did they hold seed, Kelt looked pretty comfortable in their 15-9 victory over Crawl. Crawl proved capable of moving the disc, but their points were often considerably longer than those of Kelt. With the smaller roster, that did not bode well for the Arizonans. Kelt’s deeper roster simply looked stronger and faster. Their offense was clean and smooth, utilizing all areas of the field and effectively using their deep game to create space underneath when it wasn’t scoring them points. Kelt continued to assert their dominance in the last round of the day, beating the pool’s one seed, Tejas, in a competitive match up. The second half was essentially a wash as the teams traded points, but the early breaks generated by Kelt were enough to secure them the game and a bye to tomorrow’s quarterfinals.

Keep an eye out for Black Cans and Highlands. After earning two quality wins over Reckon and OrCa, they could be tomorrow’s dark horse in the masters men’s division. They move the disc well and have several athletic receivers as their workhorses downfield. They fell today to Johnny Encore in a somewhat lopsided 15-7 decision, but they weren’t alone in that fate. Johnny Encore managed greater than a 9.5 margin of victory in their three games today. That comes in second only to Surly who managed over a 10-point differential in their wins.

The pre-quarters should provide some interesting match ups, but the exciting stuff begins in the quarterfinals. They start at 1 p.m. local time.

Photos by UltiPhotos.com (Extended Highlights)



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