The San Francisco Dogfish beat the Seattle Rainmakers 18-17 to win Major League Ultimate’s Western Conference Championship game. The Dogfish were up by four points in the fourth quarter, then got an upwind goal when they absolutely needed it to hold off a late Rainmakers rally. The Dogfish will travel to Philadelphia for this year’s League Championship on July 13 against the Boston Whitecaps, winners of the Eastern Conference Championship.
The Dogfish chose to start the game on defense, pulling downwind. The Rainmakers offense marched all the way to the goal line and turned the disc over on the final throw. Mac Taylor hit Andrew Hagen with a full-field backhand, and after a timeout the Dogfish got the first break of the game. The teams then traded downwinders to make the score 2-1 Dogfish.
The following point featured great defensive plays by both sides, including D’s by Dogfish stalwarts Russ Wynne and Patrick Baylis, and a goal-saving block by Rainmaker Erik “The Kraken” Doesburg. The Dogfish would earn the break to go up 3-1. San Francisco’s defense generated chances against the Rainmakers on two other points in the first quarter but couldn’t convert. The quarter ended at 4-3 Dogfish, with the clock running out before the home team could score to earn a two-point cushion.
In the second quarter the Rainmakers chose to pull downwind but could gain no advantage. Both teams scored efficiently for the next several points, with Beau Kittredge (Dogfish) and Ben Wiggins (Seattle) flexing their offensive prowess. At 6-5 the Rainmakers D had a fantastic chance at a break on what should have been a short and easy bender to Reid Koss for a score, but the wind got under the disk and Dogfish Cassidy Rasmussen was able to make a play. Rasmussen then had a beautiful 3/4 field upwind jack to setup the score to make it 7-5 Dogfish. With under a minute left, the Rainmakers went offsides on the pull, and the Dogfish were able to use the mid-field start to get a goal before halftime. The score at half was 8-6 Dogfish.
The third quarter started with the Dogfish pulling downwind to the Rainmakers and getting a quick break to go up 9-6. Seattle and San Francisco would trade quick points all the way through third quarter. The Rainmakers had a chance at an upwind break at 12-10, but the huck to Sam Harkness out of a timeout was thwarted by Russ Wynne. A lot of contact on the play led to a foul call, but Harkness invoked the Spirit of the Game rule to reverse the decision and give possession to the Dogfish. At the end of the quarter the Dogfish defense denied the Rainmakers’ final downwind goal, allowing San Francisco to escape the quarter with a valuable 15-12 cushion.
In the fourth, the Rainmakers pulled downwind and the Dogfish offense converted off a big huck to Evan Boucher to go up 16-12. Seattle’s Danny Trytiak then had a monster point, going to the ground for a catch and throwing the goal while practically on his stomach. The effort shifted the momentum in the Rainmakers’ favor. They got one break after a bad Boucher-to-Kittredge exchange, and immediately got a second break off a high-stall Hail Mary by Tyler Kinley that Dogfish defenders jumped for too early. Koss made the easy catch and threw the score, and with 3:13 left in the game the Rainmakers were only down 16-15.
The Dogfish had to have the next upwind point and Coach Justin Safdie called a timeout. With ice in their veins, San Francisco’s offense received the pull and played textbook Ultimate, setting up an Eric Greenwood to Lucas Dallmann score to make it 17-15.
With time running out, the Rainmakers didn’t mess around. Wiggins found Moses Rifkin quickly to make it 17-16 Dogfish. The Dogfish scored right back to make it 18-16. Unfortunately for the Rainmakers, there was an offensive foul call which ran time off the clock.
With his team absolutely needing a quick score, Wiggins threw an amazing thirty-yard upwind hammer to Trytiak for a goal, making the score 18-17. The throw was no higher than a high-release backhand, but moved like it was in a vacuum and curled to hit Trytiak in stride.
With thirteen seconds left, the Rainmakers pulled a roller out of bounds and double-teamed the Dogfish thrower. This resulted in a turn and Seattle called timeout with four seconds on the clock. Rainmaker Adam Simon got the difficult huck off in time, but it was short. Mac Taylor sealed the victory for the Dogfish with the interception.
Every Seattle versus San Francisco match this season has been a thriller and the Western Conference Championship was no different. These cities have years of Ultimate history at club level, and the excitement and competition of the rivalry has translated well to the MLU.
San Francisco has two weeks to prepare for the league championship game against Boston. Boston is undefeated this season and has a roster that matches the Dogfish in talent and star power. Check the MLU homepage for details.