Fury reloads with new coaches and new talent as they work toward an unprecedented 10th national title.
August 5, 2015 by Jeff Voss in Preview with 0 comments
It sounds ridiculous to say the past two years San Francisco Fury has “only” made finals at USAU Club Nationals. But when you win seven straight titles (and two World Championships) while becoming the incontestable bar-setters for Club success, those are the kind of expectations that come with the territory. Such dynastic dominance is what prompted near-celebratory revels from certain pockets of the ultimate community when Fury was toppled by Riot in a dogfight at Worlds in Lecco last year. Though Fury would go on to win an equally brutal and beautiful match in the semis of Nationals, their season ended once again to Scandal in the finals.
Loss of a Legend
While much of their roster remains the same—and adding one of their best rookie classes in years—there is one major difference to Fury this year: no coach Matty Tsang. How Fury is able to acclimate to their new environment without their beloved and now legendary coach is going to be the most important factor of their season. Tsang leaving creates a new beginning for the storied team, a new chapter for this iteration of Fury to make their own.
Simply because Tsang is no longer there, doesn’t mean what he taught Fury went with him. Captain Alex Snyder and Gen Laroche have watched Matty come and go in their decade-long tenure with the team, and veteran Manisha Daryani was quick to point out that veterans keep coming back to Fury because they’re so invested in the program that invested in them; they’re sticking through the transition to help assure the continued strength of the team.
Besides the plethora of institutional knowledge that the veterans are eager to pass along and expand on, Fury is now led by the tandem of Kevin Cissna and Sam Salvia. Cissna was a stud on Jam and currently coaches the UC Davis open team, while Salvia is a Fury alum who brings to the team a depth of knowledge on mental focus and preparation.
Committing to the Process
So far the loss of Tsang (lost but not gone, Tsang has been to a few Fury practices this year) doesn’t seem to have stopped Fury. Wins at Summer Solstice and the elite club regular season appetizer, U.S. Open—both over Riot in hotly contested games—displayed a typically gritty and focused Fury. Daryani acknowledged that while these wins are satisfying, for Fury the regular season, to steal a mantra from Riot, is a “process.”
While wins over top teams provide important metrics about what’s working, what needs work, and what needs to be let go, Daryani emphasized, “you should expect other teams to get better.” Come Nationals, the work Fury puts in between the wins matters more than the wins themselves.
Hearing it from them, Fury never goes into a game thinking they ‘should’ win; they have a history of not falling into the expectations trap. With Fury, the emphasis is always on the work, and when the time comes to play, since the work has been done, all that’s left is to execute and see what happens.
So what happened in their pool play game against Riot at U.S. Open, where Fury went down 8-1 at half to their rivals to the north? Fury came out fighting in an attempt to close the gap. They would still lose the game, 10-15, but Fury stalwart Anna Nazarov spoke on how willfully the team responded coming out of that abysmal first half.
“When we go down, we go down as a team,” offered Nazarov. “That was the best loss we’ve had as a team [throughout my career].”
While that loss clearly shows Fury has work to do, the resolve to not give up on that game—and then come back and win the tournament over Riot—is scary. Fury is going to respond if you challenge them; it’s what they want. Teams are going to have to jump out to early leads if they want a chance to beat this experienced squad, and even then are going to have to fight off a comeback.
Similar to most elite teams whose players come in with an arsenal of skills and the internal onus to keep improving them, the biggest muscle Fury is going to be working out this year is their chemistry. With some big names coming in—particularly Sarah Carnahan from American BBQ, Steph Lim tearing it up on the All Star Ultimate Tour, and two additional players who competed at the U23 World Championships this summer in Lisa Couper and Meeri Chang1, each of whom could be a star on any team in the country—you’d think sharing the field might be a problem. As Daryani puts, “It’s hard being a rookie on this team. You’re asked to sacrifice, to trust the system.” However, if the seamless integration of studs like Lisa Pitcaithley in recent years is any indication, Fury’s new additions should be okay come the Series.
“This is a team where the rookies inspire the vets,” continued Daryani. With an annual infusion of competitive newcomers, Fury veterans get energized from the spirit and hard work of the rookies going all out at practice. Although having star players who can take over a game is important—even necessary—at the elite level, the ‘how’ matters more to Fury than the ‘who.’ With no hard D or O lines (something the team has explicitly said they don’t want–there’s lots of communication flowing between the leadership and the rest of the team this year), having everyone excited to play a game of mini or run a break mark drill together, excited to figure out who wants to cut where and how each other mark, play D, or throw, matters a lot. As obvious as that might sound, it’s this kind of internal focus and motivation that has kept Fury hungry, a hunger that is more apparent than ever after two title-less seasons.2
Fury only has one more tournament to round out their regular season, the Pro Flight Finale at the end of August, which gives them a nearly two-month span to focus on themselves at practice in this Worlds-less year. “We have lives now…everyone’s more energized [for the USAU Series]” said Nazarov.
But with the competition increasing across the board, Fury’s going to have to make the most of their in-game reps at the PFF, both for chemistry and feeling out the field. There’s no word yet as to whether or not Fury will participate at Sectionals (they can opt out due to their Pro Flight status, but played last year), but either way expect them to be in peak form come Nationals.
No matter how internally focused Fury is and say they are, everyone knows where they want to be on October 4th. Asked who on the team’s going to get them there, who other teams need to watch out for, who’s going to have the breakout year, vault herself even higher into the national spotlight, Daryani smiled and said, “We don’t know, and neither do you. And that’s what makes us dangerous.”
This is an admittedly simplistic reduction, and one which understandably gets under Fury’s skin, as appraising the past two seasons solely on the finals losses takes away from the countless hours of work, sweat, and bonding the team did to get to that point. It’s something Daryani was quick to point out and which can most definitely be applied to people’s narrow reaction to the USA U23 Women losing in the finals to Japan in a hard-fought game. ↩