Masters Preview - 2011 Club Championships

Posted: October 26, 2011 02:30 AM


2011 Club Championship Previews:




With all the seeding done, pools set, and condos in Siesta Key rented, it only remains to see how the games actually play out down in Sarasota. The 2011 Masters Division features a lot of familiar faces. Warhorses of the division, such as DoG, Surly, Boneyard, Chesapeaked, and Real Huck, all return to stake their claim to the title. Meanwhile, new squads, such as Wheelchair, Chalant, Reckon, Tejas, and No Country, have formed; ready to take their place in the pantheon. Twelve teams, one goal, three days to get there. Let’s see how it might go down:

Pool A






No Country
On the surface, this pool seems fairly simple to call. Defending champions Surly, while having lost the services of Ron Kubalanza, still look like the team to beat. 2 seed Wheelchair comes in as one of the younger rosters in the division, with athleticism, talent, and the aforementioned Mr. Kubalanza. The third round Thursday game between these two teams looks like the game to decide the pool. Both Beyondors and Chesapeaked have had some success at Championships before, but will they have improved enough to move past the quarters this time out? Rounding out the pool, Tejas (without, as this humble correspondent erroneously reported earlier, the talents of Arnold Sanchez) and No Country face an uphill climb. Both teams have some talent, but whether it is enough to break into the upper tier of the pool is an open question. 


Pool B



Real Huck



Old Style
2010 runners-up Boneyard head up a pool that is far more nebulous. Bringing in a few young(er) faces and having overcome an improved Chesapeaked side at regionals, they will want to make a return to the finals. In their path, however, lies the new and presumably improved DoG. Representing an amalgamation of DoG and GLUM, this northeast powerhouse seems poised to make a serious run this season. Third seed Real Huck will probably not be being overlooked this season, after two straight years of being the team that lurked in the weeds, ready to make pretenders of contenders. Either Reckon or Chalant could well be that team this year. Reckon’s collection of talent from across the South could easily push them past any team looking past them, while Chalant will likely be blessed with the inimitable tendency of Big Sky teams to play up when it counts. Old Style returns to Sarasota after three years away, and, as their bio says, "hopes to double" 2008’s 0 win total. 

So, how does it all play out?

I see pool A going Wheelchair 5-0, Surly 4-1, Chesapeaked 3-2, Beyondors 2-3, Tejas 1-4, with No Country’s short roster dooming them to sixth in the Florida heat at 0-5. The Surly/Wheelchair game will be entertaining, and likely an exhibition of big D and long throws. I see that round going 15-13 Wheelchair.

Pool B could feature three 4-1 teams, but I rather think that it will go Boneyard 4-1, DoG 4-1, Reckon 3-2, Real Huck 3-2, Chalant 1-4, Old Style 0-5, with a complicated dance of Boneyard over DoG, Real Huck over Boneyard, and Reckon over Real Huck shifting the power balance slightly.

The quarters would then go: Wheelchair/Real Huck, DoG/Chesapeaked, Surly/Reckon, and Boneyard/Beyondors. Wheelchair will advance, though less comfortably than they would like, to face DoG in one semi, with Surly and Boneyard in a rematch of last year’s final in the other. The finals look to be a rematch as well, with Wheelchair outlasting DoG, and Surly using it’s host of big game experience to overcome Boneyard. The winner? In the opinion of this humble reporter, this may well be the year Surly breaks its even-year only curse, as the brewery boys come through when it counts. 

Seven To Watch

While naming players to watch is often a mug’s game inciting only ridicule, it is the purpose of previews such as this to open the floor to such discussions. So many good players, with so much good Ultimate under their belts, make this a tough call. Still, I give you seven players to keep an eye on over the course of the weekend:

Damien Scott
Always a tough matchup, Scott’s size and athleticism are a concern for any Masters defender. His many years of working with Idris Nolan will mitigate quite a lot of the pick-up team chemistry issues that might get Wheelchair of to a slower start. 
Tim Murray
The former BAT star, Sub Zero captain, Mental Toss Flycoons standout, and all- around ultimate vagabond reconnects with some of his Minnesota friends this year. Murray’s game has always been good: he tends to give his teams whatever they need from him.
Arnold Sanchez
Acting on the info I had before, I reported Sanchez being on Tejas’ roster. Instead, he seems to have followed the lure of the DoG/GLUM combo to add another title to his 2011 take (having won Grandmasters with Scrapple). His excellent D and all- around playmaking make him impossible to ignore.
Thomas Sebby
There are two things you can’t get better at in Masters: height and youth. Chalant has quite a bit of both, and the former CUT star is likely to feature heavily in their demonstration. Look for the Big Sky contingent to be sending high hucks all weekend long.
JD Lobue
Energy player who never stops going, Lobue gives everything he’s got on every point. High motor guys are always welcome on any team, but in the Masters division, they are priceless.
Calvin Lin
Another well-travelled name in the division, Lin brings his big-game savvy and excellent play to Tejas’ inaugural season. Lin’s disc skills and steely cool lend the side the ability to pull off a surprise. 
Kevin Chu
Real Huck
With Real Huck raiding the older side of Machine’s roster, any number of freshly Masters-eligible players could be mentioned as potential game breakers. Chu has the kind of speed and sharp cutting that can cause huge headaches in the division, and will certainly be a guy that opponents will have to prepare for. 

Dark Horse

For the last two Club Championships, Real Huck consistently overachieved in Sarasota, and finally seem to be getting the respect (and higher seeding) that they deserve. For 2011, however, the top Dark Horse candidate to my mind has to be Big Sky’s Chalant.  Loaded with (relative) youth and significant height, this team definitely has the look of a squad that can punish teams for overlooking them. With the top teams in the division moving more and more to a big play long game, Chalant seems well built to shine down in Sarasota. 

Another team to watch is Chesapeaked, who made a habit of playing all their 2010 games down to the wire. As the division’s attention fixes on last year’s finalists, the DoG/GLUM combo, and Wheelchair’s powerful roster, Chesapeaked seems like a forgotten team. Their relentless, grinding style, amplified by the Florida heat, might very well crush the spirit of any team taking them lightly.

Upset Watch

Both of last year’s finalists have reason to be wary heading into the tournament, with daunting teams poised right below them. While Wheelchair and DoG are undeniably threats to go all the way, Surly and Boneyard will have to be even more wary in the two games leading up to the third round 1 v 2 matches. How these teams start their day may very well decide their fate, and anyone coming out slow from the gate could easily fall. I look at those 1 v 4 games (second round Thursday) as the real gut check games, where a champion’s pedigree can be established or shattered. Having been in the final for the last five years, Surly seems like they have figured out how to do what is needed. Boneyard, however, has been less steady down in Sarasota, and will need to prove that last year’s excellent showing was not a fluke. 

Both Wheelchair and DoG look strong coming in, but both will face the challenge of creating chemistry on the Club Championship stage. Certainly, significant chunks of both rosters have as much history together as any team here, but they will be integrating a lot of pieces on the fly with relatively little playing time together when it counts. Any hiccups in that integration could open a door for a worthy challenger.

Games To Watch

Wheelchair/Surly, round three, Thursday: Both the defending champs and Wheelchair have ridiculous athleticism and ferocious defense, and this game will likely be a fast paced, big play showcase. Expect Ron Kubalanza’s reunion with his Surly pals to be an exciting match.
Reckon/Boneyard, round two, Thursday: As mentioned before, the 1v4 games might very well be the matches that show us how resilient the top seeds are. Facing a dangerous Reckon team, Boneyard will find it a tough slog if they are caught looking ahead to their next round game vs. DoG.
Real Huck/DoG, round two, Thursday: This is where Real Huck gets to prove how far they have come in establishing themselves among the elite in the division. Are two years of dark horse status finally rewarded? Meanwhile, the DoG/GLUM project gets a tough test just before that third round date with Boneyard.
Beyondors/Chesapeaked, round one, Thursday: Beyondors have had an up and down history in Sarasota, and will definitely be looking to move past last year’s sixth place finish. Can they recapture a spot in the semis? To do so, they will have to get past a tenacious Chesapeaked side who will no doubt try get a head start on moving above seed in this early game. 


Inside Look

A fifth trip to the finals for Surly would tie them with Old and In the Way’s consecutive finals streak from 2001-2005

Of the teams that provided such information, the oldest average team at 2011 Club Championships is DoG, at 39.85 years, while the youngest roster is Old Style at 36.55

This reporter is excited to see two members of his 1991 Hampshire College Wild Things on rosters this weekend: Beyondors’ Shep Frankel and No Country’s Woody Clift. 

Both Arnold Sanchez and Ron Kubalanza stand a solid chance to make it into the finals, which would mean that each had been to a Club Championship final with twenty-five teams. Okay, not that many, but it has been a lot for both of them. 

The 2011 Club Masters Championship celebrates 21 years of the Masters division. Cheers, all!