Machine Takes Pro Flight Finale Championship Over Ironside, Presented by NGN Ultimate

Coming off a loss at Chicago Heavyweights last week, and facing their toughest competition of the season, Chicago Machine made a resounding statement by winning the Pro Flight Finale. After starting slow on Saturday, it looked like no one could stop the Chicago attack on Sunday.

Sometimes a team can play so well that it doesn’t really much matter what their history is, what’s expected of them, or who they’re playing — they’re coming out on top.

Sunday was that kind of day for Chicago Machine.

Jumping out to a commanding 4-1 lead early in the finals, Machine lost little, if any, steam on their way to a convincing 13-10 victory over Boston Ironside at the Pro Flight Finale in Burlington, WA this weekend. It was their smallest margin of victory on the day.

After their big 15-11 upset over Denver’s Johnny Bravo in quarters and their solid 15-11 defeat of Atlanta’s Chain Lightning in semis, Machine came into the championship game well-oiled and running on a wealth of confidence.

All game long, Chicago put themselves in situations to make plays and consistently executed, leaving little room for Boston to climb back into the contest and make up the initial ground they lost on a few early miscues.

Machine just played too well.

Plenty of times, particularly in the second half, Ironside clamped down on the D, granting minimal to no cushion on both Machine’s cutters and their dumps. It just wasn’t enough.

“They kept holding. Even when we broke and it seemed like it was going to turn in our favor, their offense just kept clicking and holding,” said Ironside captain Rusty Ingold-Smith. “It was frustrating.”

When it took longer for players to get open downfield, Chicago worked their dumps until they could open up the field with some choice breaks. When Boston worked hard to deny almost every under, Chicago cutters jabbed in and went deep, more often than not receiving excellent deep shots that found their way to spaces where only they could come down with the disc.

“[The difference was] their ability to go deep and open it up. They have under and away all the time,” said Ingold-Smith. “Us playing honest makes it a one on one battle for those cutter defenders.”

Yes, a number of those completed deep looks looked questionable or at the very least quite risky decisions. Chicago’s receivers only had a step or two on their man, and windows were so small that only a  precise throw could hit the intended target without being challenged by the defender.

Chicago managed to hit those throws repeatedly, and displayed great patience waiting for such opportunities to arise. AJ Nelson, Pat Shriwise, Cullen Geppert, and Kevin Kelly, all sizable and athletic targets, spread the field well and found themselves the recipients of numerous pinpoint deep looks. Ironside defenders were usually in the area, a step or two short of making a play, but the throws were often just too good.

Unlike Saturday, where Machine struggled to string together long periods of stellar play, especially when teams like San Francisco Revolver locked down their resets, Chicago managed to move the disc well all Sunday and routinely made big plays at crucial junctures.

When they received their opportunities on offense, Chicago exhibited great chemistry and flow, with lots of well-timed continuation cuts emerging out of the stack and solid handler retention when they didn’t. Bob Liu, Dave Wiseman, Tom Annen, and Jonathan “Goose” Helton led the offensive attack with strong handler work and assertive on-field leadership.

Ironside, too, played a mostly solid game overall, especially in the second half. But they just couldn’t figure out how to dig themselves out the hole they fell in early, as Machine remained aggressive and focused throughout the contest.

The match began with both teams looking confident and taking shots.

Unfortunately for Boston, they were initially a bit off the mark. A few hucks, some from George Stubbs, floated too long or sailed out of bounds, and Chicago capitalized.

Though Ironside managed to earn a break back early to make it 4-3, Machine would take that break back shortly after.

With tight dump D forcing a punt and turn, Machine would work it before Stephan Mance put up a beauty of an I-O flick huck to Kevin Kelly clearing deep for 6-3 lead.

After an exchange of offensive holds, Brian Garcia would place an upline too far out for Jake “Frogger” Taylor and give Chicago the chance to break for half. Machine called a timeout to regroup.

Coming out of the timeout, Chicago ran a zipper play with the last two in the stack cutting to opposite sides and Nelson breaking deep from the middle. He barely had a step on Alex Kapinos, but that was all he needed. Helton put it right over his outside shoulder, and Nelson came down with it to take Machine into half up 8-4.

Ironside would start the second half with an offensive hold and a key break to make it 8-6, but Machine refused to let them back in the game, ending their run before it gained much ground.

Only two more points following that would feature turnovers, neither of which resulted in a break.

Boston turned up the defensive pressure, forcing Chicago to throw more than ten passes on a number of points. Machine simply waited and converted.

Even when Ironside stayed tight on the dumps—a strategy that flustered Machine only the day before—they made good reset fills or hit a pivotal break throw to open up the field.

““It helped that we played them yesterday,” said Machine’s Ron Kubalanza, “We’ve been trying to get consistency.”

Throughout the match and the entire day, Machine simply outplayed their opponents with tireless work and execution.

Despite understandable concerns that some might have had going into the game regarding Machine’s minimal history in big games, the Chicago squad silenced just about all of them with Sunday’s performance.

As Toronto GOAT’s outstanding play at the Pro Flight Finale last year—which was followed by an underwhelming Nationals showing—illustrated, it can be tough to know how much to read into a performance like Machine’s this weekend.

One thing, however, can be pretty safely agreed upon. If Machine continues to play this well through October, there’s nobody they can’t beat.

***To purchase video on demand footage of the finals or the entire Pro Flight Finale, visit NGNUltimate.com***

  1. Alec Surmani
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    Alec Surmani and some close friends began playing ultimate in high school and started Hercules Jabberwocky. He played college ultimate with UCLA Smaug and has played with various Open and Mixed club teams in the (former) Northwest and Southwest divisions. He started and now leads the team Bay Area Donuts.

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