Qxhna Titcomb told me about her plans for the All-Star ultimate tour this winter. The only thing that wasn’t super exciting to hear was the August stop in Boston – we’d be on vacation 😦 Below are some things that I’ve learned from the start of the tour from my chair on vacation:
(1) I flew out to Seattle for the first game just to see the team. Qxhna and Rohre asked me to come out to their first practice and then I somehow ended up on the sideline for the first game. That weekend was my first peek at what an absolutely, indescribably amazing group of players were on this team. The Riot vs. All-Stars game was the perfect kickoff game for the tour.
(2) That weekend I was able to catch up with many good friends from Riot. Brute Squad telling me that they didn’t want me to be part of the team this year made the first part of this year extremely difficult for me mentally. This trip helped me climb out of that hole.
(3) The opportunity to see Gwen and Rohre collaborating behind the scenes with the All-Stars was incredible. The time and effort that they quietly put in to ultimate leaves me in awe, and when they work together the results are astonishing. I happened to run across this song on youtube after getting back from Seattle – the collaboration her between Shawn Colvin and Alison Krauss is, for me, a perfect representation of the Gwen and Rohre collaboration:
(4) Though I would not thought it possible ahead of time, watching Opi Payne play in the Molly Brown All-Star game + the filmed games from Colorado Cup made me respect her even more. Beyond the incredible player, incredible champion, incredible leader – beyond all of that – she gets ultimate. So, what amount of respect comes after infinity?
(5) Driving back from the game last night I was thinking about what I’d remember most about the Tour – that’s when my thoughts drifted to Opi. One of the most memorable moments for me in ultimate was watching Opi and Sarah Griffith working together on the 2013 World Games team shutting down the opposing handlers. The game against Canada stands out to me, in particular. I saw that level of hander defense from the All Stars from start to finish on the tour. All of the teams seemed to comment on it at the end.
Maybe not the type of stuff that gets noticed as much as the big layout D’s or the awesome throws, but that handler D from players like Stevie Miller, Carolyn Normile, Hannah Leathers, and Dori Franklin was just stunning to me.
(6) The All-Stars were great students of the game, hunger for feedback and did a super job acting on that feedback. I was extraordinarily impressed with Alika Jonston’s way of thinking about the game. The All-Stars had a small problem with their 3-3-1 zone the first time they played it against Riot (which was their 2nd day together, so it is hardly surprising that not everything was 100%).
Alika diagnosed the problem on the field and we looked it on the film later, too. That this problem never happened again is a credit to Alika’s incredible mind for the game. Though she’s just out of college, she’s already got that great player, great leader, great mind thing going. Reminds me a whole lot of people like Opi, Gwen, Rohre, Claire Chastain, Anna Nazarov. It was nice to be on her side of the games for once.
(7) Speaking of Anna, I am genuinely sad that she was not able to see a game in person. I know that this tour meant a lot to her and I’m sure that the play of Margot Stert made her extremely proud. At least the games were filmed.
(8) Away from the tour, seeing three other younger players in the last month made me super happy. Finally meeting Paige Soper in Seattle was a thrill – this grab from the 2014 college finals is one of the most clutch grabs I’ve ever seen (and is that Stevie Miller throwing it??)
Seeing Kirstin Gruver back on the field with Scandal was also a thrill – she’s an incredible player. I’m so happy she’s playing again this year.
Finally, a new player to me – Kirsten Johnson on Molly Brown – looks like she’s going to have a super season. She caught my eye in their finals game in Ohio and looked like she jumped up to the next level in the games at Colorado Cup. Can’t wait to see how her season plays out.
(9) I’m happy that Jaclyn Verzuh ended the Tour on such a high note – those blocks in the 2nd half of the Brute Squad game are pretty special. Will be exciting to see what happens with Dartmouth’s team over the next four years.
(10) I’m sad it is over . . . and also a little terrified to see my house when we get back from vacation 🙂