WUCC 2014: USA Men’s Division Preview

Four USA Men's club teams -- SF Revolver, Seattle Sockeye, Boston Ironside, and Denver Johnny Bravo -- have begun their quest towards the 2014 World Club Championships. See how they are preparing for their trip to Lecco, Italy.

Every four years, the WFDF World Ultimate Club Championships are held, featuring the top club talent from around the globe.

In those years, teams from North America must attempt a difficult feat: to peak twice in one season, competing and winning at both Club Worlds in August and USAU National Championships in October.

Although challenging, it has been done before. In 2010, both San Francisco Revolver and Fury captured titles in the Men’s and Women’s Divisions, respectively.

In our second of three articles, we examine the teams from the Men’s Division headed to Lecco this summer.

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San Francisco Revolver in the huddle after winning the 2013 USA Ultimate National Championship.
Photo by CBMT Creative.

San Francisco Revolver

San Francisco Revolver, the defending World Club and USAU National Champions, have a chance this year to forge a dynasty to rival the greatest teams in ultimate’s history.

Last year the team looked very different than it had in its early championship run with the core beginning to shift as new players stepped in to fill new roles. This year, the process will continue as two Carleton stars — Alex Evangelides (formerly of Sub Zero) and Chris Kosednar (formerly of Sockeye) — move to the Bay Area to join the team. Additionally, several of the top Polar Bears players will make the shift to Open. Revolver will also see the key return of Robbie Cahill as a stalwart defender.

“We talk more about principles than goals in the Revolver program,” said coach Mike Payne. “One of the team’s founding principles was to get better, to rise, each game. We would love to win Worlds and Nationals, but we don’t talk about that as a goal. Each year we hit the reset button; we focus on how we are playing, our roles, and how we can be getting better each practice and game.”

Similar to 2010, Revolver has started the season quite early, pushing into winter as many players are currently playing on semi-pro teams.

“The team sat down last year and talked about semi-pro leagues and whether our players would play in those leagues,” said Payne. “Revolver was the priority- we all basically agreed. People can do what they want as long as they are very careful about injuries and not pushing themselves with the other teams. It’s a great opportunity to get in shape and get more reps…our younger offensive players get lots of reps as the go-to guys on other squads. And most of our defensive team is playing together on the [AUDL’s San Francisco] Flamethrowers, which really helps them get time as a unit together.”

The team is very aware of the difficulties of the double peak. “We managed to accomplish a successful double peak in 2010, but fell short in 2012 by one game. We approach the double peak as two different seasons. We’re starting the first season now by training hard and redefining roles so that young players can grow. We’ll push that through to Worlds, then we’ll probably take about a month off, and we’ll restart the season with a push towards Nationals.”

Revolver embraces development above all else as a team and it is one of the reasons they have been so effective at taking young players and forging them into an elite force. Last year was a prime example of the success of their mindset. Payne is most gratified, however, that these young players have grown and hopes the trend will continue.

“Even with Robbie returning,” Payne explained, “Revolver is starting to look very different than the first year we won, which is four years ago now. We founded Revolver in 2006 as a place for young players to grow alongside a few veterans and now we are getting to a point in the next three years that we have the chance to do something that no program has ever done before…which is to continue to win Nationals and World Championships with a new core, different than the one that started.

“This is different than teams like New York New York and Boston; those guys had the same core that won five and six championships, respectively. Only a few guys here played a significant role on 2010 team, and we continue to have success; if that continues and the core turns over completely, it will be really satisfying for the Revolver alumni community, since we’ve always prioritized the program and its principle of helping young players grow.”

Sockeye's Phil Murray tracks a disc at the 2013 Club Championships.
Photo by CBMT Creative.

Seattle Sockeye

“Win Worlds. Win Nationals. We believe we have the ability to do both, given we prepare well and have a few things go our way. Last year’s injury riddled-season is proof to us that we can play with the best — it’s simply about us.” – Seattle Sockeye’s Tyler Kinley

Seattle Sockeye returned in force last year, making the national finals for the first time in several seasons, and looks to continue to show it is one of the most dominant teams in the world. However, they are very aware that a season like this offers new challenges.

“Adding a second peak to the middle of a season simply increases the mental effort a season will require for everyone, although it does often create more early opportunities to get better,” Kinley said. “The difficulty is finding the appropriate balance of effort with recovery over a longer and more intense season to prevent burnout and injury.”

Internally, excitement is building among the Fish. Many Sockeye players are foregoing playing pro to focus solely on this important season; the captains have encouraged this. Tryouts and training have proceeded according to form, although Kinley says there has been a spike in players (some from out of town) trying for the roster, as it is a Worlds year.

Sockeye is one of the most experienced and well-known at the International level. This year’s squad hopes to add another feather to the cap of the vaunted Seattle program. Expect these players to be very confident and strategically poised to take down any opponent that comes their way.

Kinley also emphasized growth from the past season. “Our mindset is to prepare in practice such that come game time,” he said, “we have challenged ourselves enough to simply implement what we’ve worked on, and given we can execute our game plans, we will give ourselves a shot to win any game we are in. Our semifinal game last year came down to a few moments that decided that game — we haven’t forgotten that, nor have we forgotten how much work went into that season.”

Ironside celebrates at the 2013 Club Championships.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

Boston Ironside

Perhaps because of their long history of being the bridesmaid, Boston Ironside brings a different perspective to the 2014 World Championships. “We believe that we are capable of winning Worlds,” said captain Russell Wallack, but explained that their primary focus is elsewhere. “Every tournament we play in is an opportunity to achieve our goals as a team, but U.S. Nationals in Frisco will undeniably hold the most weight for us.”

Ironside looks to continue their presence as one of the world’s elite teams. Strategically, they will make adjustments, but they won’t be for Worlds. “There are no major differences in our preparation this spring and summer due to Worlds. We of course have the logistics to account for, and we are changing our practice schedule a bit, but any strategic changes from us this season are about our plans for the USA Triple Crown Tour and not WUCC.”

Likewise, the tryout and preseason process has been largely the same; tournament modifications are as much due to the new Triple Crown schedule as to Worlds. “We started tryouts around the same time this year, and just like last season, we have to set our roster earlier than in prior years to plan for the US Open. Given the trip to Italy, we also will play in one fewer U.S.-based tournament during the regular season (specifically, we will not attend the Chesapeake Invite this season).”

“We have had a lot of high level talent out for during our tryouts,” Wallack said, “but nothing more than the variation that we see year over year.”

There is no real AUDL presence in the Boston area, but Ironside does have many of its athletes playing on the MLU’s Boston Whitecaps, which reached the playoffs this past weekend with a win over New York and a Philadelphia loss to Washington DC.

“Over half of our roster plays on the Whitecaps,” Wallack said. “We are proud of what those guys are achieving in that league and we support them as teammates and friends. The Ironside leadership did not dictate whether or not individuals could play for the Whitecaps. While our leadership cautioned guys over the winter against over-extending themselves this spring (especially in a Worlds year), we also believe that, generally, playing more ultimate during the early season will contribute positively towards our team’s overall success in the fall. This holds especially true given the paucity of early season opportunities in light of the AUDL/MLU expansion on the East Coast in particular.”

Ironside looks to employ its athleticism (guided by exercise guru Tim Morrill) and clean, powerful offense off of the vertical stack. Experience at the World Club Championships and at the highest levels of National tournaments will also be invaluable for this squad. Four years ago, many Boston players took 5th in the world at Prague, and since 2008, the worst Ironside has finished at Nationals has been 3rd (2009 and 2012), with three silver medals (2008, 2010, 2011).

Worlds, for Ironside, will be more a step in the direction of the National Championships than a focus all its own.

Johnny Bravo's Nick Lance pulls at the Club Championships.
Photo by CBMT Creative.

Denver Johnny Bravo

The team from Colorado has already made big news this season with their huge roster additions in this Worlds year. Add that to an already talented and experienced roster and you’ve created a formidable force heading into this club season.

Ryan Farrell, a Bravo captain, says Worlds is priority number one for the team. “Right now, we have chosen to narrow our focus to Italy,” he told Ultiworld. “The goal is to win there. We feel we are right there with the best teams in the world, and consider it a realistic goal to get to the finals and win.”

Johnny Bravo is gearing up almost exclusively for the first championship (Worlds), considering the pursuit of each to be a different season. “Internally we are very aware of challenges of peaking twice,” Farrell said, “For us, right now, we are putting everything we have into Italy. We want to win there.”

Bravo — with such talented additions to the roster over the last two years and with Lecco only a few months away — has been doing small group workouts and practices since March. Generally, this squad begins their training earlier than most teams; they also don’t have to deal with any of the complications of a spring pro season, with no teams based in Colorado. Ferrell calls this a “two-sided coin” as it spares the team any commitment conflicts, but limits high-level playing opportunities.

Tryouts have also been affected by this season. “There were very few open spots on the team,” Ferrell said, adding, “This year, 95% of the decisions about the roster were made after the last week of April, and there was no large scale tryout. We typically integrate 5-7 college players in practice player roles, and we’ll do the same this year. We are in the tough, but enviable position of having a lot of strong players interested in joining the team and only a few open spots. We had a very small group for our tryouts, something like 8 players for 5 spots.”

The team looks to work hard with coach Bob Krier, who generally designs strong practices around a single theme. Bravo puts in a lot of time on a short and narrow field early on, emphasizing disc movement (especially hucks off of movement) and hitting open players. They like to play 4 v 4 games and mix and match players to get all top 20 guys used to playing on the field with one another.

Intense training is also key. “A physiology professional designs our workouts,” Ferrell says. “We get scripted workouts from him — they focus on injury prevention and explosiveness, as well as cardio-fitness goals.”

The U.S. Open will be the only tournament on the docket pre-worlds. Bravo expects the additions of experienced players, combined with the experience of last season’s semi-finals appearance, as well as Mamabird’s recent College National Championship, to help the team greatly.

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An exciting club season awaits, especially watching these four teams attempt the double peak.

  1. Alex Rummelhart
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    Alex "UBER" Rummelhart is an Ultiworld reporter. He majored in English at the University of Iowa, where he played and captained IHUC. He lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois, and has played for Haymaker, Chicago Club, and Machine. He currently plays for Chicago Wildfire. Alex loves writing of all types, especially telling interesting and engaging stories. He is the author of the novel The Ultimate Outsider, one of the first fictional works ever written about ultimate.

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