Editor’s Note: This piece features selections from GOP member Michael Massad’s journal leading up to and during Division III Ultimate Nationals. The full article appears in The DL, Carleton’s sports publication.
The following is modeled after Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four, in which he writes about daily life as a pitcher in Major League Baseball. I’ve decided to write about my own experiences, though instead of playing baseball, I’m getting prepared to play in Division III Nationals with the Gods of Plastic (GOP). We begin on Monday May 12th, the start of the week leading up to nationals.
I can hardly put into words how pumped I am. We’re less than a week away and I am just counting down the minutes and the hours until the day is over. I filled out my bracket March Madness style. Of course I had the GOP winning it all. I don’t think that this is an unrealistic scenario, honestly. I felt a little sick when I woke up this morning, I didn’t get much sleep the previous night. That didn’t stop me from practicing though, nor did my ankle. It felt pretty good the whole practice and I made it all the way through without having to stop. I hope this means that I am all the way good to go, once again. I was able to go 100% too, which is something I hadn’t been able to do in the past.
This was probably the best practice we’ve/I’ve had all year. We practiced running the vert stack and I felt great running it as the ace. There had been glimpses of a well-run vert stack in the past, but we ran it well every single time today. Both O-line and D-line were absolutely on point and there was a competitive atmosphere that brought the team up instead of it becoming way too chippy. If we play like this at Natties, we’re gonna go a long, long way. I’m excited.
Bus rides are fun. Waking up at 5am is not. Regardless, we made it to Ohio! Plenty of napping occurred as did the watching of many, many movies. Ultimately, none of that matters at this point, though because now WE’RE AT NATTIES!!! We had a team meeting and in the room I could sense a bit of nervousness, more than anything, though, I could sense an air of anticipation. GOP is ready to pounce. We play Bentley, the number 1 overall seed, very first tomorrow and we’re stoked to come out swinging.
In the meeting we talked about lines and the captains made it clear that while everybody will get plenty of chances to play, lines will be awfully tight. I know what this means for me, and honestly I’ve known it all along. In fact, that’s helped me own my position as a role player. I know that I won’t be playing every single O-line point, but that just means that when I do, I run my absolute hardest and work my man until he falls over exhausted.
During the meeting, we also did a visualization. We listened to “Intro” by the xx and sat with our eyes closed, contemplating what we had to do tomorrow to be successful. I couldn’t help but sit there with a smile on my face. I could see myself executing the role of the ace beautifully, getting a break throw from Barter or from Chuck and hitting a cutter upfield on the break side. Or I could visualize myself playing the hardest defense I’ve ever played on a handler, shutting him down in the set and smothering him with my mark. I even saw myself getting a Callahan. That last one sent chills all over my body.
I’m ready. GOP is ready. I can’t wait for tomorrow.5/17
What a good day of GOP Frisbee. The first game of the day didn’t go too well, though. We dropped the game to Bentley, the tournament’s overall number 1 seed, by dropping the disc over and over. They were a great team but we simply committed too many unforced errors to beat the top teams in this tournament. Thankfully, we came back out with some fire and beat Lewis & Clark pretty well. We had beaten them before at D-III Warm Up and we knew that they wouldn’t be pushovers. Our zone D worked like a charm though, and offense rolled the whole game. After that, we took care of John Brown. We strung a couple of breaks together, but then Ironfist bounced right back. However, we managed to stay strong, rattled off a couple more breaks and took the game home.
That meant that we got second place in our pool and had to play a crossover game to determine if we make it into the championship bracket. Here, we faced Cedarville, an upstart program that was ranked 4th coming into the tournament. This was also a back and forth affair, with us getting a couple of breaks and them bouncing right back with a few of their own. The game felt a lot like last year’s game in the crossover round against Harding, where we wound up dropping the game after allowing three breaks in a row. We were in a similar position in this game, being up 12-11 in a game to 14. However, we maintained our composure and punched the disc in twice in a row and came out the game with a great victory. Looking forward to tomorrow, we get to play Brandeis, who shocked everybody by winning their pool as the four seed. They’re apparently young and energetic and ready to ball, so we’re gonna have to match their passion and come out tomorrow with some fire.
I didn’t play much, though I wasn’t really expecting to play a whole bunch. I did score a point, though, which was awesome. Some dude jumped for a floaty disc way too early, totally whiffed and the disc fell straight into my hands (because I read it well!), so technically I skied the dude. You can check the Twitter.
It’s amazing how important sideline presence is in the sport of Ultimate, and as one of the guys who doesn’t play as much as our studs, I do my best to help them as much as I can from off the field. Thankfully, our sidelines were pretty great the whole time. However, we also waned for a bit, something that I take a large deal of responsibility for. It’s no coincidence that the times when we weren’t as vocal on the sidelines, we also didn’t play as well on the field. That’s something that has to change tomorrow.
GOP went on to win their quarterfinal. matchup against Brandeis, but fell to Elon in the semifinals.