Sunday, January 03, 2010

Top 10 Games of the Decade

What makes a game one of the best? Some combination of the history of the teams or players involved, exceptional play, and the meaningfulness of the game within a season or the sports history. Of course all of this is subjective. And on top of that the lack of media, especially at the beginning of the decade and at non-championship events makes comparing games difficult. I've had the good fortune to be at almost all of the HS, youth, college and club championships over the past decade as well as some of the World Championships. But despite that, there are going to be some oversights. Certainly some of the Northwest Open Regional games-to-go should be on the list, like JAM's 17-16 win over Furious in 2008 that kept Vancouver at home while JAM went on to win the UPA Championship. Or upstart Revolver's 11-8 win over Justice League in the 2nd place bracket in 2006. There possibly should be some College Regional games where the region only has one bid but has two or more potential contenders, like Wisconsin's 15-12 win over Carleton in 2006. Often regional games-to-go are more exciting than championships, but it rare that a regional game-to-go keeps a potential title contender at home. So, the large majority of these games are semis and final round games from UPA championship events.

Once again, I have links to media where I could find it. I'll add more if you post them in the comments.

10. 2001 UPA College Championships, Open 2nd Rd. Pool Play: UNC-Wilmington (17) – Carleton (16)

Beyond the Vagabonds win, this was easily the biggest upset of the decade. Loaded with talent including many of the players that would form the core of Sockeye for their championship run such as Phil Burkhardt, Sam O’Brien, Alex Nord, Jimmy Chu, and Chase Sparling-Beckley, Carleton, despite being the fourth seed, was many people’s favorites to win it all. UNCW, on the other hand was a small squad, twelve total players, with only three bona fide big names: Daniel “DQ” Qaurenta, Trey Snow, and Rhett Russ. Early in the game Snow broke his collarbone, but UNCW’s Tim Weigand and the rest of the UNCW “bench” stepped up to keep the game tight. Later in the weekend Nord would be named the 2001 Callahan winner, but Mike Gerics had been spending most of the college season touting Russ as the best player in the college division. Gerics claims were easy to laugh at but no one was laughing at double game point as Russ caught the game winner off of Nord’s tipped D. UNC-Wilmington then went on to lose to Wisconsin and UPenn thereby nullifying the actual impact of this game on elimination play. Despite that, this game sneaks into the top 10 of the decade.

Honorable Mention Upsets:
- 2002 UPA College Championship, Open Pre-Quarterfinals: UNC-Wilmington over Colorado (Score?)
- 2004 UPA Club Championships, 1st Rd. Pool Play: Pike (15) – Sockeye (12)

9. 2005 World Games, Finals: USA (13) vs. Australia (11)

The only game on this list played outside of the US is the one that made worldwide fans of the sport familiar with Australians Tom “Gaks” Rogacki and brothers Matthew and Anthony Dowle. After years of building Australia finally established themselves in the top tier of national programs with USA, Canada, and Japan. This game also included a high level of offensive efficiency as the USA only had five turnovers and Australia had seven. While the Aussies were able to complete a greatest for a goal, the US team (picked by application alone) was too much for them to handle. The US won their first World Games gold 13-11.

8. 2006 WFDF World Junior Ultimate Championships, Girls Finals: USA (14) - Canada (13)

If you find it hard to talk about a junior girls game in the same article as several of the best open and women’s club and college games of the decade, you must not have been in Boston for this spectacular display. The US had dominated Canada twice in pool play earlier in the week. They came in to the game with a cocky edge while Canada came in to the game having made some clear adjustments, taking the level of physicality up and tightening down the subbing. Future college and club stars Anne Mercier (Canada) and Georgia Bosscher (USA) battled point for point in a heated, physical match-up. The teams traded throughout with aggressive play, huge blocks, and occasionally heated discussion. The final point, at 18 minutes, was intense to the point of unbearable as the teams’ and crowd’s emotion swung drastically with every call and turnover. Claire Suver (USA) finally put the game away finding Patty King (USA) for a big forehand huck.

7. 2004 UPA Club Championships, Open Finals: Sockeye (16) – JAM (15)

Until their 2008 championship, San Francisco’s JAM had twice come within spitting distance of the cup. The first was in the brutal upwind/downwind final of 2001 against the Santa Barbara Condors which the Condors won 17-15 on the only upwind break of the game. The 2004 final featured the upstart Seattle Sockeye. Sockeye had recently added a lot of young talent that had returned to Seattle after college including Alex Nord, Sammy Chatterton-Kirchmeier, Jeremy Cram, Phil Burkhardt, and Chase Sparling-Beckley. This talent along with veterans Keith Monahan, Mike Caldwell and Roger Crafts carried Sockeye to their first championship. Sockeye led for most of the game behind great play by MC, including a greatest. JAM, down 11-9, pulled back in the lead to go up 14-13. JAM then had two opportunities to win the game on that point before Chase ripped one down over JAM’s Jim Schoettler before completing a pass to tie it up. Again, on double game (15-15) point, JAM turned it twice, both turns potential game winners from JAM’s Idris Nolan, before Chase pulled down a high-stall hammer from Roger Crafts for the game winner.

6. 2006 UPA College Championships, Women’s Semifinals: UCLA (17) – CU (16)

The biggest shame of this outstanding game was that there were not more people watching. Late on Saturday in Columbus the top two seeds out of the Southwest Region faced off in an epic game with the electricity and the emotion that makes sport magical. The two teams were closely matched. Over the 2006 season they had played each other three times, all in semifinals or finals of major tournaments, with CU holding a 2-1 edge and no team winning a game by more than 2 points. The two teams traded points and leads throughout the game as the intensity level ramped up. CU, led by fifth year seniors Alex Snyder and Carolyn Matthews battled against UCLA’s Pooja Shah and Anna “Mad Dog” Nazarov. UCLA edged out CU to qualify for the finals in their first trip to Nationals and in only their third year as a team.

5. 2005 Potlatch, Semifinals: Vagabonds (16) - Team USA (15)

I don’t care how you pick your National teams, they should not be beat by any squad of pick-ups, no matter how good. The one loss that the 2005 US team had was to a pick-up squad of mostly Oregon players with a few other northwesterners. What was striking about the Vagabonds was that each played at their highest possible level. Motivated by a mixture of a chip on their shoulder for not being on the team and the joy of playing the top players in front of a large crowd, Leslie Calder, Brian Snyder, Keith Monahan, Chelsea Putnam, Aaron Richards and the rest of the Vagabonds put on a display of talent that is rarely seen outside of UPA Club and WFDF World Championships.

4. 2005 UPA College Championships, Open Finals: Brown (15) – CU (14)

Amazingly, these two well matched teams had not played each other since 2002. But it didn’t take long for an old rivalry to be reestablished. This game featured incredible match-ups across the board including Beau Kittridge (CU) and Colin Mahoney (Brown), Colin “JV” Gottlieb (CU) and Dan MacArthur (Brown), Jolian Dahl (CU) and Neale Mahoney (Brown), Adam “Chicken” Simon (CU) and Ben “Raff” Wiseman (Brown), Jason “Muffin” Buckingham (CU) and Will Arnold (Brown), and of course 2004 Callahan winner, CU’s Josh “Richter” Ackley and 2005 Callahan winner, Brown’s Josh Ziperstein. Colorado opened up the game to an 8-5 half and looked to run away with the game at 9-5 but Brown clawed back to tie the game late behind hard, physical D and some CU miscues. This game also slowed during the middle due to a huge number of calls as neither team wanted to give any ground. The game’s outcome hinged on two incredible plays – a goal saving, twisting layout, help block by Brown’s Neale Mahoney on CU’s Josh Ackley and then Josh Ziperstein coming down with the high stall count bailout throw that had been mac’ed by multiple players to take the 14-13 lead for Brown.

3. 2008 UPA Club Championships, Women’s Finals: Fury (15) – Riot (12)

This game has become the inspirational speech for all teams down at half. It is a symbol of the tough mental game of San Francisco’s Fury. And it is a reminder that no game is ever won until the final point is scored. There are not many who would have thought that any team, no matter how good, would be able to surmount a 10-1 deficit. That is the lead that Riot built behind the exceptional play of Miranda Roth, Val Dion, and Liz Duffy in the 2008 UPA Club Women’s Finals. But it only took one score from Fury to ignite a firestorm of scoring from Fury who, led by a huge stable of championship minded playmakers like Alicia “A1” White, Gwen Ambler, Alex Snyder, and Enessa Janes, went on to outscore Riot 14-2 over the remainder of the game to clinch Fury’s third consecutive UPA Club Championship and fourth (out of five) in the first decade of the century.

2. 2007 UPA Club Championships, Open Finals: Sockeye (15) - Johnny Bravo (13)

This game reigns as the most exciting Club Open final of the decade. Both teams were stacked with big, athletic, receivers including Sockeye’s Mike Caldwell, Alex Nord, and Chase Sparling-Beckley and Bravo’s Jolian Dahl, Dave Popiel and Beau Kittridge and neither team was afraid of taking chances. The two teams traded leads against a strong crosswind. Between an early Callahan goal by Adam “Chicken” Simon, a disc that Alex Nord picked off of JD Lobue’s back, and an incredible read and grab on the sideline on a wind-taken disc by Michael “Whit” Whitaker, this game had a little of everything. Sockeye, down 8-6 and halftime, tightened up the handler D in the second half and pulled ahead 12-11. Late in the game Nord broke his finger as Whit came sliding in to clean up another misthrow for a goal. At 14-13, Sam O’Brien (Sockeye) dropped a pull, but Mike Caldwell was able to get the disc back on a huge lay-out block and Sockeye put it in for a 15-13 win and their third championship of the decade.

1. 2002 UPA Club Championships, Open Semifinals: Furious George (17) – DoG (16)

There is not much to be said about this game that has not already been said. All you need to know is that in thirty-three points in a top-level, elimination play game there were only five turnovers. That is an unbelievable 86% offensive conversion rate between the two teams. Vancouver’s Furious, on their way to their first championship, bested the six-time champions, DoG, at their own game of possession offense. Dominant players, Jeff Cruickshank, Andrew Lugsdin, and Mike Grant, supplemented by 19 year olds Oscar Pottinger and Derek Alexander (fresh off of a World Championship with the Canadian Juniors team that summer) played the best game of the decade by giving up one fewer turnover than the boys from Boston.


Corey said...

More Condor no love!

If ending DoG's 40+ game natties wining streak doesn't qualify, what about our 16-15 win over Furious in the 2000 finals? Down 7-3, came back to take half 9-8? Then up 14-10, Furious gets it back to 15-15 next point wins? For the first new champion since '93?!?!?

Blech to your list I say!

Gambler said...

Minor correction: Sarah "Surge" Griffith plays on Riot, not Fury.

Nice lists, Kyle.

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Gambler, Please let me just make facts up :). Thanks for the correction.

Corey, apologies, wish I'd been at 2000 Nationals.

I promise everyone that my 2020 list will be more comprehensive.

Bravo #17 said...

Thanks for posting. I thought I'd add the "Top 10 Teams of the Decade" based on UPA results. 1pt for qualifying, 2 for quarters, 3 for semis, 4 for finals and 5pts for championship. I couldn't find UPA data on quarterfinalists for 2000 or 2001, but it doesn't matter all that much when I put the points together.

Top Ten Teams (10 yrs)
1. Sockeye (at least 31)
2. Furious (30)
3. Jam (27)
4. Bravo (at least 23)
5. Condors (22)
6. Ring (at least 19)
7/8. Chain (18)
7/8. DoG (18)
9. SubZero (at least 12)
10. Doublewide (10)

I also broke down the data into 8 yrs, 5 and 2.

Top Ten Teams (8 yrs)
1. Sockeye (29)
2. Furious (23)
3/4. Jam (20)
3/4. Bravo (20)
5. Chain (18)
6. Ring (17)
7/8. Condors (12)
7/8. DoG (12)
9. SubZero (10)
10. Doublewide (9)
10. Ironside (9)
10. Pike (9)

Top Ten Teams (5 yrs)
1. Sockeye (19)
2. Bravo (16)
3. Chain (15)
4/5. Furious (13)
4/5. Jam (13)
6. Ring (10)
7. Ironside (9)
8. Revolver (8)
9t. Doublewide (7)
9t. GOAT (7)
9t. Pike (7)
9t. SubZero (7)

Top Ten Teams (2 yrs)

1. Chain (8)
2/3. Jam (7)
2/3. Ironside (7)
4. Revolver (6)
5/6. Bravo (5)
5/6. Sockeye (5)
7. Ring (4)
8/9. GOAT (3)
8/9. Doublewide (3)
10t. Bodhi (2)
10t. Machine (2)
10t. Truck Stop (2)

Anonymous said...

Everyone fastens where there is gain.........................................

Juan Sebastian said...

WJUC 2006 - Bronze Medal Open Game - Colombia on universe over Australia.

Vassar said...

2002 College Nationals score was UNCW over Colorado - 15-12.


danforth1 said...

How about the 2008 Central Region game between Wisconsin and Iowa, where Wisconsin went up something like 10-3 then Iowa came back to tie it up for a universe point that was so long it went on until after sundown. Wisconsin went on to finally end it and ended up winning their second consecutive national championship that year. Footage of this game is definitely on the Blueprint, a great movie even if the Hodags did incorrectly report at least one final score to make themselves look better