Madison Club lost three of its best players to Chicago Machine this offseason. They got the last laugh on Sunday.
August 25, 2014 by Charlie Eisenhood in Analysis, News with 11 comments
This past offseason, Chicago Machine leadership was thinking hard about how to make the necessary improvements to advance from another quarterfinals finish at the National Championships. One of their strategies was tried-and-true: poach some great players from another team.
Some of the captains traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, over the winter with a plan in mind: convince six players from Madison Club, a team that struggled in 2013 and missed Nationals, to defect and join Machine with visions of semifinals in their mind.
Ultimately, thanks to some last minute maneuverings from the Madison leadership, just three of the six players — Dave Wiseman, Pat Shriwise, and Tom Annen — decided to leave for Chicago.
One of the players that Machine failed to convince was Brian Hart, a fiercely loyal player and 2013 Callahan shortlister for the Wisconsin Hodags. And yesterday, in the finals of Chicago Heavyweights, Brian Hart made them pay.
Leading Madison with a brilliant offensive performance, Hart carried the Midwestern team long in the shadow of Chicago to an incredible 11-9 victory over Machine. It was their first win against Chicago at Heavyweights since 2009.
“It’s tremendously satisfying,” said Madison Club captain Andrew Brown. “Machine has had the better of the matchup between the two teams for a number of years now. And to beat them at more or less their home tournament and, obviously, with the three Madison players who left to play for them, it made it so much more satisfying.”
The Madison defense may have done the dirty work, collecting three breaks in a short game due to the Saturday rain cancellation, but Hart stole the show with three huge posterizing scores, sometimes against multiple defenders. Brown said that many of the hucks to him were just poor decisions, but he managed to make play after play to get the Madison offense off the field. Machine just didn’t have an answer.
“They were flabbergasted by the way that Brian Hart just destroyed them,” said Brown. “He made some ridiculous plays that he had no business making.”
Madison took advantage of some equalizing forces — a smaller-than-regulation field and a short game — to land one of the biggest upsets of the 2014 club season. They also managed to disrupt Machine’s offense just enough to fend off any late comeback.
“Their strategy offensively is just to huck it a lot,” said Brown. “They don’t necessarily like to grind all the way down the field with unders; they like to take shots to their athletes. And we knew that coming in, so we did our best to force them under as much as possible.”
With nearly all of Saturday’s games cancelled and some less than ideal conditions on Sunday, it may be a stretch to read too much into the larger implications of this game. Madison is sticking to their same season goal — make it back to Nationals — and Machine will refocus for next weekend’s Pro Flight Finale, remaining one of the handful of teams with legitimate semis hopes.
Madison surely helped their postseason hopes — they may now have a claim for the number one seed at North Central Regionals, likely avoiding a matchup with Prairie Fire in semifinals. And they have to be feeling more confident than ever.
But this was simply a statement game, and a big one at that — don’t think you can roll into our city and try to dismantle our team without us having something to say about it. Madison had this game circled on the calendar since day 1 of the 2014 season.
“Since January, when the Machine leadership came up here to take our guys out for drinks and court them, we knew we were probably going to lose some of our players,” said Brown. “And ever since then we’ve been looking forward to this game.”
At least for a day, Madison rules the Midwest.