Expectations were high. Anything less than an appearance back in semis would have left some disappointment hanging over the season. It's easy to get rolling during the season and stay rolling through nationals, it’s hard to try and start the roll at nationals, but not impossible. This is the nature of the sport and we believed the roll was going to start, it just needed a push.
We headed into day 1 knowing what the conditions were going to be like. We had all been to the fields the afternoon before for a throw and movement session and to scout out the turf that we would be playing on. It was windy, but it was manageable. In true Sarasota fashion the same conditions turned up the next morning, and each morning that followed, there was no escaping that nationals was going to be played with the extra tribulation of wind.
In round one (SoCal Condors ) and round two (Boston Dig ) we came out strong, broke a few times and were looking hot to cruise through to half. Everything was coming up Bravo, we were looking good on both sides of the disc, the roll was starting. Both games were decided by less than two points, the roll didn’t continue, but we were winning; that was the main thing. Our close margin of victory over Dig made our game with D.C. Truck Stop  a must win, considering that Dig overcame Truck Stop in round one. A spluttering performance against Truck Stop saw us fall by two, they broke up wind, we broke up wind and that trend continued. Neither team could control the game going down wind, and the early Truck Stop breaks pushed them over the line.
Coach Jim said that if we scored one more point in either the Dig or Truck game, we would have topped our pool. Not to be, we came through third, and had to win out through pre quarters to make the final. Doublewide crunched us in pre quarters, simple as that. They played to and handled the conditions a lot better then we did. The dream was over, for this year. We rounded out the tournament with two more wins and a loss that saw us end up in the 9th place game.
‘Through victory you learn a little, it is only through loss you learn your biggest lessons’.
It is hard to reflect positively on campaigns where you didn’t achieve what you set out to. But I will try and draw out some lessons learnt from nationals 2017. Do with them what you will:
To win at the highest level, you must play with no fear. This is easily done if you are at the top and have the confidence that comes with being at the top. This is hard when you aren’t. All the semifinalists (Revolver, Ring of Fire, Doublewide and Truck Stop) played with no fear. Revolver are at the top, Doublewide and Truck Stop live and die by the long ball, and Ring of Fire have built a long standing program of going out with no reservations.
Players that are unaffected by the wind are indispensable to teams. Players like Matzuka and Schofner who can distribute and move the disc equally well regardless of conditions become as valuable as the big power throwers of the game. Learn to throw, break and add shape to throws in the wind. As Tina Booth said leading into the tournament, ‘Use the wind, do not fight it’. Apply that perspective to your next windy throwing session.
Teams with clearly defined wind strategies performed well. Ive mentioned the semifinalists already, but take Florida United for example. They knew it was going to be windy, they were committed to huck and zone. It’s not pretty, but the played the conditions as well as anyone and this earnt them a quarterfinals berth after beating Sockeye, Machine and PoNY on day one. It doesn't have to be huck and zone, but having specific upwind and downwind lines and strategies can go a long way on a windy day.