Johnny Bravo started their 2013 season different than last year. They lost.
In 2012, Bravo rattled off fifteen wins in a row—which gave them first place finishes at the US Open and the Colorado Cup—before suffering a loss to Seattle Sockeye. This year it only took one game. The 13-11 defeat came from Boost Mobile at the Pro-Elite Challenge at Terminus in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I think it will take us longer to gel,” captain Jack McShane said. “I think it will be beneficial. Last year we were firing on all cylinders so soon and it was difficult to maintain that all the way through. Just mentally, not necessarily physically, to maintain that all the way through.”
Bravo went 2-6 at 2012 Club Nationals, placing twelve overall after being seeded 5th.
“It was rough,” captain Ryan Farrell said. “It was really hard to put in the work all year and get results (leading) up to Nationals. Then not get them in Sarasota, which is what everyone cares about… We were super disappointed.”
The team is certainly not in “rebuilding mode.” Still, Bravo retooled this offseason bringing Bart Watson, Matty Zemel and NexGen stars Nick Lance and Eric Johnson.
“Those are guys that all know what Championship ultimate looks like,” Farrell said. “They all know they can play in any game at any level and be successful.”
They have also retained most of their talent including the three captains McShane, Farrell and Josh Ackley. The other vets include Jimmy Mickle, Hylke Sneider, and under the radar defensive talent Henry Konker. They have 21 returners. With so much talent on the roster, the captain’s positive outlook on the team is warranted, especially considering many of their players have missed practice with injuries and other commitments.
Mickle, Farrell and Tim Morrissy have all missed practice due to Worlds Championships. McShane, Zemel, and offensive cutter Jesse Roehm have all missed practice time with injuries. Even new additions Johnson and Watson have be absent due to busy schedules. The skeleton roster and slow start doesn’t worry Farrell.
“There’s a part of me that looks forward to peaking a little bit later,” he said. “With our new players and the injuries, we’re taking a long view. We want to win in Dallas (at Nationals). I’m comfortable with it but it’s a different road for sure.”
The captains have already set a high goal for the season. They want Bravo to make quarters at nationals, at least, with an eye on a spot in the finals. McShane also mentioned an attitude change.
“(The) less concrete (goal) is trying to have a more cohesive, positive team experience,” he said. “Our intensity is always very high and I think Bravo is kind of known that, for being a really intense team. Sometimes in the past it’s gotten into a little negativity, so we’re really trying to stay positive within our team and at practices.”
They will expect consistency from their centerpiece on offense, Ackley, whom McShane said “has really good throws, maybe some of the best in ultimate.” They plan to implement more versatility with both a vertical and horizontal stack on offense, while working to exploit fast break opportunities on defense with their athletic defensive cutters and their excellent huckers.
Bravo still do not have their full roster in the Colorado Cup this weekend. Today, they play opponents Plex, Chicago Club and Madison Club. Bravo is seeded third behind Doublewide and PoNY.
“It’s probably twofold,” Farrell said when asked about team goals for the Cup. “We’re absolutely playing to win. We don’t feel like we’re outclassed by any team there… On the other side, we’re still gelling with those new pieces. Obviously it’s a blessing getting these talented players… We still need to see how those new pieces will fit into our system.”