Revolver's defense slowly choked the life out of Sockeye.
October 5, 2015 by Patrick Stegemoeller in News, Recap with 0 comments
While the 2014 Men’s final was contested by two teams that had yet to win a title, 2015 gave us a matchup between two teams with enough championship medals between them to fill even an immodest trophy case.
Seattle Sockeye and San Francisco Revolver are familiar opponents. The old Northwest rivals have played each other many times over the past decade, including a title bout in 2013 that resulted in Revolver’s third championship. This time around in Frisco, Revolver made it four with a dominant 15-9 win.
Despite the heroic play of Matt Rehder, Reid Koss, and a host of other Seattle players, Revolver removed any doubt that they were the best team in the country this year. Their shocking loss in the quarterfinals last season may have tarnished some of Revolver’s mystique, but they came back stronger than ever this season and in a masterful performance on Sunday showcased their unparalleled talent and depth.
While it may seem like a distant memory at this point, Sockeye actually started the game off on the front foot.
Seattle opened the game with an easy hold as Danny Karlinsky launched a sweeping backhand huck to Zane Rankin — who finished with four goals in the loss — for an easy score. On the next point, Matt Rehder won an aerial dual with Beau Kittredge to force a turnover that resulted in Seattle captain Reid Koss securing the first break of the game and putting Seattle up 2-0.
At this point Sockeye’s offense had scored without trouble, their defense had forced Revolver into taking a 50/50 deep shot, and Rehder showed that he could hold his own in the air with Beau, a key question heading into the game.
All of those factors seemed to point towards a good day for Sockeye, and if they were playing a team that wasn’t Revolver, that might have been true.
“There are always a few jitters in a game like this,” said Revolver captain Cassidy Rasmussen. “But when we saw those early turnovers, saw that they were really hungry to get blocks, we just focused on not having tunnel vision and got ourselves into a better motion.”
From this point on, with Sockeye leading 2-0, Revolver emphatically and irrevocably took control of the game.
Beau Kittredge was responsible for a significant portion of that, as after Revolver’s offense gave up a break on their first possession he absolutely took over the following point. A big Koss pull pinned Revolver back by their own endzone, and Sockeye’s defenders were denying anything easy on the force side of the field. Rasmussen was able to squirm free of his defender and create enough separation to launch a backhand huck into the general vicinity of Beau.
Sprinting towards the disc, Kittredge ripped his hat off his head to get a better look at the flight path and plucked the plastic out of the sky at the absolute peak of his jump several feet above two helpless Sockeye defenders.
This was big moment for Beau, who had been plagued by injuries all year and used sparingly by Revolver. “I was a little scared headed into the game,” he said. “I was scared that maybe if I laid out my rib would pop out, or I would be hesitant to go up in the air. But after I made a couple big plays I knew I was good. I was going to be able to play.”
After dishing the disc off, Beau would get it back in the endzone on a high stall bailout backhand from Robbie Cahill, who put the disc perfectly into space for Kittredge to charge down. That was one of Cahill’s three assists on the afternoon; Kittredge had three goals and an assist.
San Francisco would break on the next play, after an unfortunate miscue from Seattle gave Revolver’s defense a chance to even up the score.
Matt Rehder got a great read on a big upwind shot from Rankin and pulled it down just outside the end zone. With numbers in their favor it seemed like an easy Sockeye score, but a careless throw from Ray Illian gave Revolver possession. This was a big moment early in the game, as Revolver is simply too good of a team to be handed opportunities like that one. They promptly drove down the field and Lucas Dallmann busted a defensive switch from Sockeye, finding Taylor Lahey for a score.
Revolver broke again on the next point after another turnover from Illian near midfield. Eil Kerns picked up the disc and put a perfect shot into space for Kevin Cocks to run onto, giving San Francisco their first lead of the day, 3-2.
The two teams traded turnover-free offensive holds for much of the rest of the first half, but it became clear that the balance of power was starting to shift in Revolver’s favor. Shaking off their struggles from the first couple points, Revolver’s offense started to find a rhythm, and were gobbling up 15 to 20 yard chunks on in cuts manufactured by their perfectly spaced stack. Rasmussen, particularly, played well and finished the day with a team-high four goals.
Sockeye, on the other hand, was starting to look less stable. Revolver was sporadically throwing out a soft handler shell zone against Sockeye’s horizontal stack in which the weak side handler defender rotated across into the throwing lane with the hopes of forcing the offense to move the disc horizontally. While the strategy resulted in a couple of easy points for Seattle when the zone couldn’t quite rotate in time to contain the disc, it did a good job of forcing Sockeye out of the small ball offense they love and made them play an offensive style with which they were less comfortable.
“After losing to them at Colorado Cup we spent a lot of time preparing for this game,” said Revolver coach Mike Payne. “It’s not about getting a block,” he said of the defense they employed this time, “it’s about forcing the other team to second guess what they are going to do when they are on the line.”
That second guessing may have finally worn Seattle down, as at 7-6 Revolver’s defensive pressure would prove to be too much and Sockeye’s normally unflappable offense made two errors that marked a big turning point the game. A rushed huck from Karlinsky gave Revolver the disc, and after Phil Murray made a nice play to get it back for Seattle, Matt Rehder threw straight into a poach. Revolver’s ruthless D-line offense wouldn’t be denied twice, and Sam Kanner came down with a tipped disc in the endzone to take half for Revolver.
The D-line efficiency for Revolver was extraordinary all season, but this final may have been their masterpiece. They converted six of eight break opportunities and did so in dominant fashion, with their cutters running Sockeye’s offense ragged. In the second half, the life slowly drained out of Sockeye’s O-line, and having to expend vast amounts of energy chasing around Revolver’s machinelike defenders definitely contributed.
The second half began with an easy hold for Revolver, leaving Sockeye a 9-6 deficit to overcome. Against most teams that is a tall task, but against Revolver it proved impossible.
At their best, Revolver plays like a boa constrictor that has you in its coils as soon as the first pull goes off. The offense keeps the relentless pressure on, unimpassioned and unbreakable, while the defense squeezes you in tighter and tighter whenever you exhale, even just an inch. By the end of the game, you can barely breath.
This is the situation Sockeye found themselves in on Sunday, and like every other team this weekend, they eventually succumbed. At 10-7 the relentless pressure from San Francisco forced a bailout punt to no one, which a few seconds later had been turned into a Revolver break curtesy of a nice Dallmann strike cut to make the score 11-7. Seattle needed four breaks to win. As it turned out, they got zero.
Revolver’s offense had no turnovers the entire second half, as Sockeye couldn’t cook up anything to stop Kittredge and company from winding down the clock on Seattle’s title hopes. “They didn’t do anything surprising, which was a surprise,” said Payne. Sockeye has been known to deploy all manner of tricky zone looks to overcome an athletic disadvantage, but nothing they did seemed to slow down Revolver for more than a moment or two.
The game ended on a short flip from Sam Kanner to Nathan White after Kanner had burned his man deep and reeled in a huck from Marcelo Sanchez to put Revolver on the doorstep of a title. White had been trailing the play and was wide open for the score, an appropriately undramatic ending to the game; Revolver had squeezed too tight for any drama to exist.
“It was just one of those games,” said Seattle’s Reid Koss as the sun began to set on what may well be the last Nationals in Frisco. “As a defense we thought we played pretty well. We got them to shoot the shots we wanted, they just kept making plays. They didn’t do anything that surprised us.”
That’s the thing about Revolver, they don’t need to surprise you. When this team plays its A game, there just isn’t much to be done. They have lost in the past, and will lose again in the future, but on days like this, they truly seem unbeatable.