November 9, 2012 by Wes Cronk in Analysis, Featured with 6 comments
Photo courtesy of Jeff Bell of Ultiphotos. Check out more great pictures from the Club Championships.
Texas, Texas, yeehaw.
After a rocky regular season mired by tough losses and key injuries, Austin’s Doublewide shocked the ultimate world last month by winning the 2012 USAU Club Championships and bringing the Lone Star State its first national title. Entering the weekend, it was clear the Texas squad had assembled enough firepower to make some noise but few believed its hodgepodge collection of talent could overcome the likes of perennial favorites Boston Ironside and San Francisco Revolver. As it turns out, though, that’s exactly what happened.
Despite an up-and-down start to the tournament — the team went undefeated in the opening round of pool play but suffered through a 15-3 thrashing from Revolver on day two — Doublewide finished in impressive fashion, to say the least. Not only did the underdogs take down both Ironside (14-12) and Revolver (15-11) en route to the crown, they trailed for just a single point between the two games — a stat that’s even more remarkable when you realize Doublewide actually started each of the games on defense. Almost literally overnight, the often-shaky Austin club had transformed into a dominant force, leaving fans and spectators wondering, “How did they do it?”
If you were caught off-guard by Doublewide’s championship run, you’re not alone. Of the nearly 850 people who submitted picks in Ultiworld’s Bracket Challenge, just 3% chose the eventual champions to win. In contrast, 72% expected Ironside to finally capture the club’s first title and 13% anticipated the Revolver three-peat. Even the so-called “experts” didn’t see this one coming. With eleven sets of predictions made between the Ultiworld staff — which were scored as part of our Bracket Challenge — and the guys over at Skyd — whose picks were made in a similar format — only one had Doublewide taking home the trophy (yea, it was me).
So, how did they manage to surprise Revolver to take the title? Simply put, Doublewide started playing like a different team down the stretch. Coming off of the big Revolver defeat, they faced an 8-5 deficit at halftime against Toronto’s GOAT in the quarterfinals. Something clicked: the team decided in the huddle to refocus on tough defense and playing together as a team.
Known for relying heavily on workhorses like Brodie Smith and Kurt Gibson in the past, the depth of the Doublewide roster suddenly became one of its greatest strengths in Sarasota. In the finals, crucial plays and major contributions from some of the team’s lesser known players had an undeniable impact on the game’s outcome.
Doublewide rookie and Texas A&M sophomore Dalton Smith immediately made his presence felt with a huge layout D on the first point. This was quickly turned into a break and set the tone for the rest of the game. Not to be outdone, Andrew Walch, an under the radar cutter for Doublewide, accounted for arguably the two most pivotal plays of the final round. First, a highlight reel grab over two defenders denied Revolver’s comeback attempt and instead took his team to half with an 8-5 lead. Then, with the game tied 11-11, his diving catch on floating hospital pass saved a crucial possession and resulted in a goal that would put Doublewide up for good.
With a deep rotation involved and firing on all cylinders, Doublewide’s top players never really had to take over. Captain Kurt Gibson led the team to victory while playing 19 of the game’s 26 points — amazing for someone wearing a sizable brace to support the torn ligament in his knee that will require offseason surgery — but he didn’t need to force big plays for his team to win. That is not to say that he didn’t dominate the game — Ultiworld did recognize him as the finals MVP, after all — he simply did so with his consistency and efficiency.
In recent years, one criticism of the Doublewide game plan has been its focus on the deep game, which utilizes the team’s stellar height and athleticism but is relatively low-percentage. Against Revolver, though, Gibson completed 19 of his 22 pass attempts by remaining patient and avoiding throws into coverage; not his flashiest performance but likely among his best.
Building on that idea, another surprising aspect of the Doublewide win was the team’s apparent comfort in the wind. Revolver is known for their strength in gusty conditions — they intentionally practice near the Bay to prepare for the inevitably harsh conditions in Sarasota — but they were clearly having the tougher time battling the elements. One major reason Doublewide fared so well in the wind was that handling alongside Gibson on the defensive unit was fellow Florida alum Tim Gehret — his 17 points played were second most on the team. The two elite throwers appeared unfazed by the gusty crosswind and advanced the disc in either direction without hesitance. No matter where Revolver turned the disc over, the duo was ready and able to strike, culminating in Gibson throwing a total of 6 assists for breaks.
In sports, it’s often said that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. The path Austin’s Doublewide took to its first national title at the 2012 USAU Club Championships tasked them with doing just that. It seems only right that Doublewide was forced to take down both Boston’s Ironside — USAU’s #1 ranked team this year — and San Francisco’s Revolver — the two-time defending national title holders and current world champions — on their way to the crown. At this point, it’s safe to say that Doublewide won’t be sneaking up on anyone next year.