University of Pittsburgh men's ultimate team, En Sabah Nur.
Anyone who knows me well knows about En Sabah Nur. They have been a family, a community, a team, a program, the namesake for my dog, and so much more to me over the years. They have probably dominated my adult life more than anything. The only annual college series I have missed of theirs since 1998 was when I was stuck in Antarctica for the winter. My first two years away from Pittsburgh, I still went to over half their tournaments. These days, I have to settle with just two, regionals and nationals. Each year, I book a ticket. Sometimes I fly from the USA, other times I return home from traveling abroad to see the latest men represent En Sabah Nur. It is always worth it to watch the battle as they have taken En Sabah Nur from a team, to a program, and hopefully one day soon, to the tgtitg.
Tyler D. dominates the air.
This post is mostly an excuse to put up some of my favorite pictures from watching these guys play in May. They are amazing. They have more skill than I could ever have imagined. They have talent. I was lucky enough to coach them for one short practice and just three weeks later, I saw them using those same tactics to win their pool at nationals. They pick things up quickly. They aren't done learning yet and I can't wait to see where they go.
Ari wasn't the fastest or tallest on En Sabah Nur, but he worked hard to make up for it. He got the job done on heart. He transferred to Pittsburgh his fifth year and we were very lucky to get him, his flare for writing, and his dad's photos.
The story of the regional final as Cornell yanks down another stall 9 huck.
This year, Sabah was up and down. After winning the Wilmington 8's, they built a lot of expectations and hype. At their first tournament in the spring, they under performed and dashed those away. However, the next tournament they built those right back up with another great performance, only to dash them away again. A lot of people weren't quite sure what En Sabah Nur would show up at Metro East regionals. The team that showed up only allowed five points a game until they played Cornell in the final. Cornell scored fifteen and won the game. Pittsburgh was playing great defense, but Cornell kept putting up these stall nine bombs and converting on them. No single bomb was a game changing play, but collectively they won it. Once again, Pittsburgh was regulated to the backdoor/2nd Place game to qualify for nationals. After doing it for so many years straight, it has unofficially been renamed the Pittsburgh Cup. They won it easily.
Danger qualifies for their first college nationals
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the Pittsburgh women's team did win their region and earned their first ever bid to nationals. They were very, very excited.
After a month of wandering, it was time to head to the USA ultimate college nationals. Last year, En Sabah Nur made it to quarterfinals for the first time before falling to Carleton, the eventual champion. This year, Pittsburgh came out firing. They were able to win their pool for the first time ever with huge wins over Colorado and Michigan. During the Colorado game, I saw them use their smarts and composure to best a team that might have been able to over match them athletically.
M. Plunkett gets up for the goal.
E. Peters get one of his many layout D's. I have so many blurry shots of him zooming through getting the block. Eddie's desire and work ethic will be missed next year.
Captain G. Zettel is interviewed by CBS College sports. I don't know much about Geoff, but through talking to the team and seeing his captaining style, I came to respect him. He has led this team to new heights.
Chowder manages to spend an entire game out hustling one of the best defenders in college ultimate, Matty on Colorado. Before the game, I would have said that Chowder might be over matched. He wasn't which shows just how far this team has evolved since the previous year.
Bob Liu brings down the game winning and pool winning score to chants of B-O-B from the crowd. I can't think of a better person to haul that goal in. Bob spent four years working his way off the B team to play on A for moments like this.
Bob, Isaac, Jay, and Colin celebrate. Right beside Bob on the B team was Jay Huerbin. Jay works. I remember playing an alumni game against Jay and the rest of the B team. Jay took it seriously. Jay took it personally no matter how badly his team was outmatched. His desire was bound to take him to the A team and I was glad to finally see it happen.
Winning the pool gave En Sabah Nur a bye to quarterfinals where they faced California. They handled California well. After Pitt pulled ahead, I'm not sure if the game was ever in doubt. Pitt seemed to control it from the beginning even if California was fighting for every inch. It felt like some of the big games that I have been in where even if you are leading, you are always worried about the other team making a late run and California was certainly capable of it. In the past, En Sabah Nur was certainly capable of letting teams do it too. This year, they seem to have learned how to really close out games. It was impressive.
Brad Bellinger gets up for the goal in his last College Nationals. His dad is in the background in yellow and, with his mother, will be sorely missed next year. The Bellingers have been stalwarts of the program for eight years, starting with Brad's older brother Brent.
A. Thorne gets up big against one of California's quickest defenders.
Captain Colin Conner celebrates their win over California and the program's first trip to semifinals.
Team celebration after the California game.
The afternoon after beating California, Pittsburgh found themselves matched up against Carleton in the semifinal. Carleton, the reigning national champion, was able to knock Pittsburgh back on their heels and score a series of quick goals. While Pittsburgh was able to recover and start trading points, even getting a few back, it was too little too late. Carleton advanced to finals where they lost to Florida. I'm really curious to see what the big game experience will give En Sabah Nur next year. I think that it, and a few adjustments, will allow them to stay composed and on the attack for the entire game. We'll know in May 2011. I can't wait.
En Sabah Nur at 2010 USA Ultimate College Nationals.
En Sabah Nur's graduating seniors. Somehow, I didn't get a picture of Chris above here. Chris does things with the disc I can only dream of. He is so good, that he was in the top 10 vote winners for this year's Callahan Award (the MVP in college ultimate).