August 8, 2013 by Keith Raynor in Preview with 3 comments
In 2012, a brand new Women’s club team captured the attention of the country and made waves on their way to success at the Club Championships. Madison Heist’s undefeated season made them an intriguing and exciting story. Their seminal season culminated in finishing 11th in Sarasota.
Quietly, though, San Francisco Nightlock, another first year squad, finished just above them, at 10th. There wasn’t enough focus on Nightlock’s debut, but they’ve earned the respect of the community at large, and more importantly, their opponents.
“If we learned anything from last year, it is that our potential is enormous,” said the team’s leadership. “We can achieve so much with hard work and a positive environment that allows players to grow individually and as a team.”
That positive environment combined with the team’s success to serve as a tempting target for potential recruits. The crop of rookies — the team refers to their players as “tributes” in reference to The Hunger Games series that inspires their name and theme — is strong and battle tested.
The team loses former Burning Skirts Kate Helvestine and Stephanie Karba, former Zeitgeist player Julia James, as well as Kyle “Rex” McBard, Kate Pearson, Claire Jenks, and Hannah Stueckle. But it’s the loss of Stanford Superfly star Michaela Meister that stands out; Meister took an invitation to join Fury.
Incoming for the 2013 Nightlock roster are both young talents and seasoned vets. Michaela Lee, a youngster at UC-Davis, and Stephanie Lim join alongside former Polar Bears speedster Lauren Carden. Kate “Stamp” Schlag of USC, former Zeitgeist player Alina Kagan, west coast vet Jenny Founds, former Safari downfielder Sharon Tseng, and Grace Laidlaw have also been recruited. The prize of this class, however, looks to be Andrea “Dre” Romano, who was a star at UC-Santa Barbara and with Fury.
Many second teams battle the feeder effect, where some of their top developing talent is siphoned onto the area’s older and more successful team. It is one of the challenges in front of the likes of Nightlock and Seattle’s Underground, but for the young team to snag a former Fury player is a strong sign. The reigning champions provide a resource and inspiration.
“We love being in the same place as Fury because it allows us to not only play against excellent ultimate players, but also to see what an incredible team with a well established program looks like,” said Nightlock’s captains. “They have been a great resource for us to learn from as we continue to build as a team and a program with long term goals in mind.”
Nightlock values the opportunities they get to compete against such an accomplished group, and is proud of having put up a stronger showing each time they battled Fury. An unfortunate con of the Triple Crown Tour for these San Francisco teams is that they won’t see each other until Regionals.
Instead, the tributes have already traveled to Atlanta for the Pro-Elite Challenge at Terminus and will be at the Elite-Select Challenge at Colorado Cup this coming weekend. With a handicapped roster, Nightlock went just 2-4, and will be looking to show more of their potential in Colorado. They’ll rematch two teams from Terminus — Underground and Molly Brown — in pool play. Nightlock’s leadership is focused on a different set of goals.
“Our overarching goal is to get better with every half of ultimate that we play — individually, as a team and as a family. If we continuously improve, we are confident that we can be performing at our highest level by October,” they said, before adding that in Colorado, “We’re just hoping that we don’t lose our bow and arrow again.” (Nightlock’s bow and arrow, part of their Hunger Games theme, was lost in the torrential rains at Terminus, but eventually returned.)
In Atlanta, we saw some strengths. Bree Cahn impressed downfield on both offense and defense, while young Marisa Rafter showed off her talent. Lily Lin, Stephanie Lim, and Kate Barry all look like they are in line for strong seasons, and Marie Laurenza was able to consistently get open. Adding in Abby VanMuijen, Jenny Founds, and Andrea Romano should make this one of the top teams at the Colorado Cup.
Another key addition for Nightlock at the Elite-Select Challenge is coach Peri Kurshan. Jit Bhattacharya will also be helping as an assistant coach this season. Kurshan, who remotely coached the team while they were in Atlanta by watching their game on the Ultiworld livestream, will be joining them for the first time in Aurora, CO.
“The fear for many first and second year teams is that they won’t last, or they won’t ever reach their potential,” said the team leaders. Potential is a buzzword for the team, but perhaps it is because they are flush with it.
If 10th place is the starting point, how high is the ceiling? Nightlock aims to find out.