July 2, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 2 comments
Drag’N Thrust, the Minneapolis-based Mixed club team, begins their season this weekend at the US Open. Finishing as a semifinalist last year at the Club Championships, they have refocused with an eye on a National title.
Team member Pat Niles answered some questions about the team via email.
Ultiworld: What is Drag’N Thrust’s goal this year?
Pat Niles: Drag’n strives to play the most competitive ultimate possible while respecting the on-field values of work-ethic, respect and friendship. We believe that the mixed division is a great place to showcase not only Spirit of the Game but also extremely entertaining and high-intensity ultimate. We approach each season with relatively the same goals each year: to grow as ultimate players, build lifelong friendships, and individually and as a team be the best we can be at the end of the season. By preparing this way we believe that Drag’n will have the talent, chemistry, heart and fire to make a run at Nationals and hopefully come out on top.
UW: How does the team look compared to last year? Big drops, gains?
PN: The roster as a whole looks similar to last year as we only took on 6 new Drag’ns. We lost some veteran handlers, Tara Olds, Jake Henderson and Alex Baker to retirement. Ryan Pekarna and Christie Dosch will be missed on the O-line and someone will have to step up to fill the defensive playmaker roles of Dan Kaler and Alex Delegard. Luckily our tryouts proved to be fruitful and we found some great players to fill those roles, returing two former Drag’n Thrusters Mike Petersen (SubZero) and Tommy Bomberg. We also picked up Andrea Crumrine (Minnesota), Jane Lucas, and Eric “Hopkins” Olson from sectional rival Stud Muffin and David Shirley who played on One Trick Pony when they made their nationals run in 2009.
Regardless of roster drops or additions, we think the team as a whole is stronger than last year with renewed energy and focus after a semi-finals loss at the 2012 Club Championships. The team has never worked harder individually in the off season and the improvement seen already from returners is impressive to say the least.
UW: How does the US Open fit into your season plans? Are you looking to win it (i.e. does triple crown matter?)?
PN: Our main goal for the US Open is to grow as a team and build chemistry to achieve our goals later in the season so winning at all costs is not our primary concern. We feel confident that our team can compete at a high level so if we can use this tournament to get experience against great teams and pull off some big wins at the same time it would just be an added bonus. As a team, we haven’t discussed winning the Triple Crown. We’re going to be focused and competitive at every tournament we attend, but trying to peak this early and carry that intensity throughout the season is difficult. Right now we’re focusing on season goals instead of putting pressure on the US Open or individual games to try to bolster rankings.
UW: How many players are you sending to Raleigh?
PN: We will have a full roster of 27 hungry Drag’ns. We have a couple nursing injuries, but we’re hopeful that they’ll be able to play at the tournament.
UW: Is Club Worlds a major consideration this year?
PN: The fact that this is a WUCC qualifying year is a consideration, but not necessarily a “major” one. As a semi-finalist team in 2010 and 2012, we understand what it takes to play at the top level and we’ve also learned that you can’t take anything for granted. We haven’t actively recruited or added any marquee names to the roster instead believing we can add players that work well on and off the field with the current roster. Bottom line: besides holding tryouts a little earlier to meet roster deadlines for the Triple Crown and US Open we haven’t approached this Worlds year any different compared to other seasons. We’re preparing ourselves on and off the field to have a great, intense, and fun season.
UW: Are you excited by the prospect of playing international teams? Playing on ESPN?
PN: Of course we’re excited by the prospect of playing international teams and getting the chance to showcase the mixed division on ESPN. We had the opportunity to play some international teams last year at the US Open and also saw Odyssee at the 2012 Club Championships. It’s always a lot of fun to see that the sport we love is also capturing hearts around the world. We look forward to seeing those teams again this year and also hope that the US Open will secure 4 international teams for each division in future years.
The idea of playing on ESPN is something that has been in the back of everyone’s mind since the deal with USA Ultimate has been announced. The coverage ESPN provided for the College Championships was very impressive. The camera angles, video quality, commentators and production brought live stream Ultimate to a whole different level and it’s exciting to see this change while we, as players, can reap the benefits of it. It’s a great time to be playing Ultimate.