Revolver had more than talent. They had an iron-clad will.
October 9, 2015 by Simon Pollock in Analysis with 3 comments
With the turf hot and the shady southern stands of Dr. Pink stadium filled, San Francisco Revolver’s O-line took the field for the third point of the Men’s Division final facing a deficit: 0-2 to Seattle Sockeye.
The team had only given up six breaks in the entirety of their other six games so far at the tournament. Giving up two goals immediately can often be curtains for a team, regardless of how good they are. It can be mentally devastating.
Unfortunately for Sockeye, Revolver doesn’t just have winning talent. They have a winning mentality.
The rest of the story from last Sunday’s final game at Nationals has already been told. Two breaks seemed to mean practically nothing to the best Men’s club team in the world. By halftime, Revolver had turned their 0-2 start into an 8-6 lead. The defense locked down by stifling the Sockeye pace with a zone look and the offense went back to being its untouchable self.
To say that the Bay Area champs overcame adversity in order to win the title is inaccurate. It suggests that the team faced moments of doubt, or was lacking confidence, before they got their act together and ran the score up against Seattle. Rasmussen admitted that in the post-game that the O-line had a little bit of Championship jitters, but not much else. From the top seven all the way down, Revolver was built to shrug off punches, and then deal double the damage right back. The team just doesn’t feel breaks the way others do.
“Going down 2-0 to Sockeye, I had zero nerves about losing the game, I was only somewhat upset about getting D’ed on my first point,” Revolver rookie Christian Johnson said.
Johnson is one of the newest additions to the storied San Francisco program, 23 years old and a talented product of Triangle Area Ultimate. His elite cutting made a dangerous compliment to Jon Nethercutt’s throwing, and the two were part of the exceptional group that brought North Carolina Darkside to their first finals appearance against Colorado Mamabird in 2014.
As much as Revolver is built on the unearthly talents of Rasmussen, Beau Kittredge, Ashlin Joye, and others, it’s the successful addition of young guys like Johnson that reveals even more about the focus on culture and mindset woven into the team. The veterans don’t ignore the rookies or second years — quite the opposite. Johnson was a key piece to the initial regular season success at the US Open, earning yards in big chunks for the O-line. If anything, once they’ve bought in, the new talent is pure fuel for the more senior members of Revolver to train even harder.
“Don’t tell them this, but they’re my energy,” said Kittredge before joining his team to celebrate. “They want to climb and they want to build and they want to get better. And seeing that makes me want to not let them.
“I want them to try and train as hard as they can to be able to beat me in a race, but I also never want to be beaten by them,” he said.
Kittredge was his old self at Nationals, no pajamas. He was there on the end of bail-out hucks, available on defense to shut down cutters and heap pressure on to opposing handlers — you know, doing Beau stuff. But did he lead the team in goals?
Nope, that was Simon Higgins, 22 years old and already a known talent in the club game. He had 13 goals on the weekend, one more than Rasmussen. Greg Cohen, 23 years old, also had a major impact throughout the weekend, making big plays for the D-line, including throwing a break into the teeth of the wind for Lucas Dallmann to give Revolver their first lead of their quarterfinal match up with Truck Stop at 12-11. “He’s had a great year, in general. He listens when I talk and he listens to the leadership and he takes in what we tell him and his ability to step up in big games is huge,” Kittredge said of Cohen.
San Francisco continues to draw this caliber of young talent to their program, and then the leadership weaves them into a team that does its hardest work at practice, doesn’t share much outwardly about wanting to win, and spends most of their time in search of a flawless game. They’re the kind of team that spends the week leading up to Nationals calling each other to wake up an hour earlier so their bodies are ready — simulating the first half of their first game of pool play at a 7:30 AM Sunday practice instead of 8:30 AM.
Revolver played the long game, with leadership and talent like Rasmussen pushing himself — and as a result his teammates — back to the final against Sockeye.
“These last two years are the hardest I’ve worked by far,” said Rasmussen, smiling, before the trophy was presented to the team. “The quarters loss to GOAT last year was devastating for me personally [with] the amount of effort I put in that year. So, I started training again two weeks after that…and it’s been just constant through there. It’s been a two-year grind essentially for me at this point and finally getting the reward at the end of that is awesome.”
Kittredge felt the shift into a higher gear as well, spurred through his recovery by the depth of his team and their will to achieve and their ability to wipe the previous point from memory as the next pull came in.
“I think the mental prep was definitely a little bit more emphasized. It came from a lot of places,” he explained. “It came from the leadership on our team’ we have a lot of people that have been here before. But we also had a lot of young players who just expressed their desire to take it to the next level. The game winning against Truck Stop was the most…that was the best mental game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Where Kittredge felt the drive to prepare while he healed from nagging injuries, Johnson sensed it as he became a part of the team. “I didn’t really feel nervous about any team we faced, because I knew that we had put in a lot of preparation to help us win those games,” he said. The nervousness he had felt initially as part of the team — the pressure of playing with someone of the best players in the world, as he put it — was gone, a total afterthought.
The talent regardless of age, the mental dedication and long-term mindset, the strong offensive system and suffocating man-defense — it all rolled into one to define the best Men’s club in the world. Though the team was particularly humble about it during the championship run and even after, there’s no doubt that Revolver believed that they were the best team on the field in both talent and preparation.
So it might be a little clearer why two breaks to start the game didn’t really phase the O-line. If anything, it probably just made the D-line all the more eager to get on the field and earn them back twofold. Though Seattle was a dangerous and intelligent opponent, it was all they could do after their hopeful start to hang on as Rasmussen, Kittredge, Johnson, and the rest of the gang took over and never looked back.