Photo by Scott Roeder – UltiPhotos.com

The San Francisco Dogfish came from five points down at halftime to beat the Seattle Rainmakers on Saturday, 16-14. Strategic adjustments were key to the Dogfish comeback, but the team’s confidence and grit down the stretch played a huge part in keeping the team undefeated.

The story leading up to the game was which team would make better adjustments to deal with depleted rosters. Several players were addressing off-field commitments, including a group of stars from each team participating in Ultimate camps abroad. They were not only short players, but they were short some of their very top players. To  further toughen the coaching challenges, Rainmaker star Seth Wiggins left the game early with a hand injury, and Dogfish first-line handler Nic Schlag was out with food poisoning.

The Rainmakers at the start of the game proved to be a well-prepared offensive machine. Seattle’s experienced handlers, Danny Trytiak, Mario O’Brien, Adam Simon, and Danny Karlinsky moved the disc at will and made quick work of early Dogfish mistakes. They did an excellent job of reversing the field to spring cutters for long gains, going up 4-1 early. The Dogfish would break back though and only trailed Seattle 5-4 at the end of the first quarter.

Seattle was also very effective in setting double teams on the thrower after a turn. This either immediately produced results or put enough pressure on the Dogfish offense that led to other miscues. The combination of Seattle’s efficient offense and their smart, athletic defense had the Rainmakers in control of the game, going up 5-10 at halftime.

When asked about the first half, Dogfish Coach Justin Safdie said, “We weren’t swinging the disc and they were. We kept getting forced to one side of the field, and the defense in the middle left us with bad choices.”

In the second half, Coach Safdie made a couple of straightforward adjustments that allowed the Dogfish to claw their way back into the game. First, the team started looking for fast breaks after a turn rather than walking up to the disc. This denied Seattle the opportunity to set-up the double teams that had earlier been so effective. Second, they went from a horizontal stack to a vertical stack on offense and focused on getting swings. “Everything immediately opened up,” said Safdie.

Finally, the Dogfish implemented a zone defense that kept Simon and Karlinsky from doing whatever they wanted. The team set a three-man wall behind the mark and denied the up-field throw into the middle of the field. The end result: the Rainmakers no longer had the wide-open lanes they saw in the first half, and had to consider their choices more carefully on every possession.

Rainmaker captain Tyler Kinley noted, “When we stopped taking the first throw and started looking for the more advantageous throw, that’s when it got tough.” Seattle gave up four straight points in the third quarter before adjusting, but San Francisco had moved back to within a point at 12-11.

In the fourth quarter the Rainmakers got their chances to put the game away, but the Dogfish made plays to deny Seattle the break they needed. The Rainmakers had possession up 13-12 when a short swing popped up in the wind allowing Dogfish Jordan Jeffery to use his height to make the defensive play. Jeffery would go on to catch a huck for a score to tie the game at 13.

The Rainmakers again had the disc going downwind, up 14-13, but a Dogfish double team caused a Rainmaker bobble and drop. Out of an ensuing Dogfish timeout, Cassidy Rasmussen put a beautiful break-mark backhand to space for Will Chen to tie at 14.

The Dogfish finally took the lead at the end of an ugly back-and-forth point, with Rasmussen hitting Devon Anderson to go up 15-14. Running out of time, the Rainmakers put a hasty hammer over the Dogfish zone that bladed short. Dogfish’s Sam Kanner then found Russ Wynne to make the final score 16-14. With 1:21 left on the clock the Rainmakers came out hucking, but Alexander Brammer caught a disc in a crowd to seal the deal for San Francisco.

This is the third week in a row that the Dogfish have shown poise and resilience in winning tough games. In week one, the team made the best of rare opportunities in windy conditions to defeat Portland. In week two, they went on the road to Vancouver and scored in the final ten seconds to pull out a victory. This week the Dogfish orchestrated a huge comeback against a talented Seattle squad. The trend describes a San Francisco team that responds to pressure and knows what it takes to win.

The victory puts the Dogfish in sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. Many people picked the Rainmakers to battle the Dogfish for the top spot, and this game may have been a preview of the Western Conference Championships.

The team travels to Portland this Saturday to play the Stags, and are back home on Saturday May 18th for a rematch with Vancouver.

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