Later today the San Francisco Dogfish meet the Vancouver Nighthawks for their first game of the 2015 season.
The Dogfish went 1-3 against the Nighthawks last season, and Vancouver went on to the MLU Championship game. This first game will be an indicator of how skill, will and chemistry can set the course for a season.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
An ever-expanding number of opportunities for talented ultimate players means more risk of turnover. The Dogfish lost more than half of their roster after the first season, and struggled to find their rhythm as other teams, like the Nighthawks, moved into season two with more stability. This season the Dogfish retain more than half of their 2014 roster, with four players—Sam Adamson, Evan Boucher, Drew Kim and James Pollard—who have been with the team all three seasons.
What saved the Dogfish from larger-margin losses last year was a vicious defense and a gut-it-out offense. Look for the same domination on D as the team takes advantage of strategic matchups and height, and a more refined look on O as the team capitalizes on lessons learned during the rebuild last season.
Although the Nighthawks can boast six players who are three-year veterans (Matthew Berezan, Charles Eyrich, Morgan Hibbert, Aaron Loach, Kirk Savage and Jordan Tessarolo), they only have seven total players returning to the team this year. Their recruits are young and presumably fast, but Vancouver will face the same struggle the Dogfish had last year—building consistent connections beyond their pool of veteran players.
Last season Vancouver used breaks to go up early and deployed Hibbert, who was the MLU leader in blocks (21), to keep them there. Brendan Wong, league leader by far in points last season (64), seems to just appear in the end zone with the disc in his hands. Look for more of that from Vancouver, although with the loss of lead throwers Kevin Underhill and John Norris, Savage will have to shoulder much slack.
The eighth man on the field for many Dogfish home games has been the weather. Some of last season’s matches were pure shows of stamina in the face of the wind’s unrelenting fury. The move to Berkeley promises warmer days and, though the wind will not disappear, it’s nothing like what was happening across the Bay.
With fewer Hail Mary passes and the resulting scrambles, fans will be treated to a good look at what both the Dogfish and the Nighthawks actually bring to the table for this season. In the end, the renewed Dogfish squad, led by 2015 captain Jackson Stearns, an incredible fan base, and stronger team chemistry and camaraderie will give water the edge over air in today’s battle of the elements.