These are the tournaments I love. The ones where you don't play an easy game, but somehow find a way through. The times when you push yourself, but never lose sight of who you are.
In short: COW! won div 2 nationals. And we did it in a spirited, friendly, and competitive way. Our way.
We did the beautiful thing of learning from mistakes. We went in bottom seed, came out as top. And it felt like we earned every last place. The weekend opened with a narrow 6-4 loss to 2nd seed St Andrew's, who used height and consistency to their advantage. They were a good side, but we still managed to find weaknesses. We just weren't ready to exploit them.
By our next games against Lancaster and Bristol, we were ready. The games were close all the way, with Lancaster nearly staging a great comeback (after temporarily injuring Jess). It takes a lot of nerve to hold a team fighting on a streak, and we managed it. We started learning to move the disc properly, and our defence was good throughout.
Our final game was a power pool against Durham. Having come out conclusive victors of their pool, it was clear we weren't in for an easy ride. It was our closest game scorewise all weekend (i.e. it was a draw), and made us battle hard, against tall guys and experienced girls. Personally, I think we'd had a slight edge, but that might just be me.
We'd exceeded all expectations for the first day, but we still had a couple doubters to disprove.
As a side note, I think going to Wing Wahs (the Chinese all you can eat) on Chinese New Year for our team meal was definitely a good option. We may also finally have found someone it's more fun to wish happy birthday to on a meal out the John Turing. The photograph they took and framed of Jess should be going viral shortly.
Next day, and Sussex 2. We'd expected a second team to not have very good girls, and were surprised to see them at this level at all. A few points down we found out why. I would say the fastest girls and most balanced team we played all weekend. And though they took us at first, our girls stepped up to match them, with Kate consistently stopping more endzone plays than she had a right to. We turned a 2 point deficit into a 2 point victory (the final point courtesy of a full pitch buzzer assist, bizarrely, actually thrown by Poulson).
Crossover time. A testament to the team is that from here we took a strong lead in every game we played. Before now, our defence had been the one we (particularly Andrei) had been proudest to route for. Now our O was also showing who was on top. Brighton Panthers battled hard, but were never really in it, though they did a good job of battling all the way through.
Quaters vs Dundee 2. Not willing to make the same mistake we did against Sussex 2, we made sure no one on the team had anything from the outset. We'd also learnt to take a time out to steady ourselves, and that was used well. A victory of around 4 points at this stage was an indicator of how far we'd come.
Semi, and arbitrary very important game against UEA. We'd destroyed them at regionals, but they'd done an amazing job of pulling together to get back this far. A great spirited game, but another 3/4 margin of victory came from us powering an early lead, then holding our nerve.
Final. The big one. OW!, in any form, haven't won a nationals final (even a div 2 one) for many years now. And now we were playing Jesters, a very formidable opponent. They have very good breaks, are very fast, have great height and are very spirited, normally while caning you.
Even they have flaws. A drop or two in the endzone went our way, as well as Lawson assisting with a huck to Jess because they forgot to mark her. We managed to come out strong, and secure a 3 point lead. Jesters then took time to gather themselves, and came out strong, pulling back to the tightest of margins.
We needed a time out, but due to a very long point at 6-3 (which included Poulson managing to, guess what?, injure himself), we'd actually run out the clock too far. We were faced with battling it out, working the disc amoung ourselves as we'd learnt to do the hard way all weekend, and being one point up to finish 7-6 at the close, with both teams pushing themselves to the edge.
The team was really fast all weekend. Our defence was the strongest of any team there. We never let anyone loose (at least twice), we stayed tight, and we made every movement a challenge for any opposition. Though I wasn't captain, I still couldn't have been prouder of all of you.
What follows is a summary of how people played. It is, however, made up of things the entire team sent me about each player, so I can no rightly call anything from this point out my own. Like everything from the weekend, this report was made better by teamwork and input from others.
Ok, that's a little cheesy, but the point stands. We glued far better as a team than so many other teams I've played with. We didn't play '3 guys with obstacles' on the pitch. Every single player was both an outstanding player, and a part of the team.
Thank you all.
Team member of COW!
Jess Rosenqvist (Captain) - Despite an injury, her spirit and enthusiasm was the strongest of anyone there. Willing to D anyone and everyone, including a lot of very surprised guys. A match for any opposing player on defence, and very good solid offence meant she thoroughly earned her position as a captain.
Dan Aronov (Captain)- It's not stated enough how great a player Dan is. He isn't spectacular, he isn't tall, but he's one of the most solid and consistent handlers you could want for a team. A great decision maker, and great handler. Let down slightly by his ability to lose every toss at the start of a game, but we can work on that.
Hugo 'Huggie' Grimmett (Captain) - The all-round player every team wants. Totally solid handler, who can really calm, even when everyone else is getting panicked. Also great on D, with some bold layout attempts, a height advantage which is quite frankly unfair, and willing to keep his head up, even on the (very rare) throwaways, to come back and get the disc. That's super hard to do, and he was excellent at it. Also apparently gives good hugs.
Nicki 'Carolyn' Ashcroft - Slightly rarer, in that she's an all-round female player, with handling skills that meant she frequently forced guys to take other positions. Very calm, and very cool-headed. But that's not all. Also an amazing D, somehow always being in the right place to get the D, on anyone on the pitch. Amazing generally, as confirmed when she was named MVP of the final by the TD, A pleasure to play with.
Kate Griffiths - Kate was a last minute addition to our team. Given that, you may have expected her to sometimes be in the wrong place on not be as aware as the rest of us. You'd be wrong in every way. She was always in the right place at the right time, a very, very difficult skill to obtain, and able to turn that positioning into points. Her defence was also great, adapting to match some very strong players and basically managed to dominate both endzones on the pitch to an astounding degree.
Alex 'Lawson' Lawson - Really strong cuts, great catches, and some key Ds. But that wasn't where he was at his best. A very solid handler, and so much better for his great patience all weekend, really showing how good a player he is. Able to calmly work it around without trying to force the score, and of course had the occasional amazing hammer to the endzone.
(Sam?) Poulson - Consistently named by other teams as our MVP, and it's no surprise why. He made amazing Ds just when we needed them most and was able to make the pivotal play that kept our momentum going in the right direction. Also a very strong player upfield, able to catch things he wasn't even looking at, and not willing to let anyone get in his way. Had great spirit in coming along and fighting all the way.
Hazard '(nickname removed)' Mason- A decent defence player, able to match up to people, and then turn around and play (mostly) solid offence. Despite mainly being a cutter, he was still able to come back and handle, when absolutely necessary. Also, as many people have kindly pointed out, he had a dressing gown.
Hannah Spens-Black - Another great offence player, who stepped up just when we needed her to. Really steady hands on the disc, cuts constantly to the right place, and a defense got better and better as the weekend went on. Also worth mentioning, is that when she didn't understand something, she asked. It does take humility to do that, and it meant she reaped the rewards, her force and marking improving drastically over the weekend.
Andrei Stephens - Andrei is the player a lot of players would aspire to be. It shouldn't be possible to be able to throw some of the throws he does, and certainly not have them succeed with an annoyingly high percentage rate. He's somehow able to keep a very high energy, while keeping calm and getting good connections with the team. It would be very easy for a player like Andrei to just dominate a team. Instead, he worked very well with us, and boosted us higher than we ever could have got without him.