Sockeye's offense was too good.
August 3, 2015 by Charlie Eisenhood in News, Recap with 4 comments
DENVER — Seattle Sockeye used a strong offensive performance to earn a high energy 13-9 victory over top-ranked San Francisco Revolver at the Pro-Elite Challenge.
Zane Rankin, playing in his first tournament for Sockeye, led the way with two goals, four assists, and a critical block.
Seattle opened up a two point lead with back-to-back breaks midway through the first half and led by at least two throughout the entire second half. A boisterous sideline was loud from start to finish as Sockeye defeated Revolver in the finals of a tournament for the first time since Northwest Regionals in 2008.
“We have a big emphasis on energy and positivity and we were just better about that here than we were in Columbus [at the Elite-Select Challenge],” said captain Reid Koss.
Revolver had the first big chance for a break when Mario O’Brien turned over a short hammer. But a shot to Andrew Hagen in the endzone was ripped out of the air by the taller Rankin, who went coast-to-coast for the deep bookends score to tie the game at one.
Rankin was all over the field in the first half. He assisted on Sockeye’s first break after Sam Harkness got an endzone layout block and sent the fish into halftime with a 7-5 lead with a gorgeous backhand to Phil Murray.
“[Rankin] has a chance to be a rising star for them,” said Revolver coach Mike Payne.
Revolver’s defense had its chances. They played excellent pressure defense, especially in the second half, and forced Sockeye to throw 30 or more passes in the red zone on multiple possessions. But the D-line only forced four Sockeye turnovers in the game, and converted on none of them. Payne pointed to “uncharacteristic errors” from key D-line offensive cogs like Eli Kerns and Taylor Lahey as a major factor in the team’s struggle to score breaks.
Sockeye was understandably pleased with the O-line’s performance on both sides of the disc. “I think our offensive defense is stepping up big time for us,” said Koss.
Their D-line’s defense was also superb. They ran an effective set on multiple possessions in the first half, with handler covers playing tight, three downfield defenders fronting cutters with their backs to the disc, and a single defender covering the deep space. Revolver couldn’t get the disc moving through their strong cutters and the handlers failed to generate motion upfield.
“We didn’t remember what we were practicing for the last several months,” said Payne, referencing their work on upfield reset action.
Revolver was down a few key players. Beau Kittredge, Joel Schlachet, and Devon Anderson all missed the final with various injuries. The offensive line was running without subs for most of the game because of those injuries plus Nathan White’s move to defense to try to contain Seattle’s big deep cutter Matt Rehder (3G, 1A).
Still, this was a convincing win from a Sockeye team that has long struggled to defeat Revolver in meaningful spots. “They’ve won big games against us for a lot of years and I think that we were just like, ‘Look, we have nothing to lose,'” said Karlinsky.
There was an obvious energy gap from start to finish, with the Sockeye sidelines singing and chanting in contrast to Revolver’s more business-like style.
There were plenty of bright spots for Revolver. Simon Higgins was excellent, finishing with four goals; Robbie Cahill had three strong second half assists; and the defensive intensity was there all game. Sockeye was just locked in and getting big contributions from players they clearly missed earlier this season in Columbus.
“Our ceiling is relatively high,” said Koss. “This is now what’s expected. We’ve shown we can play to this ability.”
Revolver continues a not-so-welcome tradition of losing their first tournament coming out of their summer hiatus. Even in their title years, they have generally struggled in early August tournaments. They head back to California and prepare for their Tuesday “losers’ ladder” — running hills and stairs at Stanford “until [they] give it all up.”
Revolver is back in action at the Pro Flight Finale on August 22-23 in Minneapolis. Sockeye is done until Regionals.