While half the league had their byes last weekend and the standings remained largely intact, an intense and critical game was played in New York.
As one team fought to stay alive and the other was poised to clinch, the Rumble and Current battled through regulation, suffered an array of injuries, and then clawed through overtime. Both teams carried their playoff aspirations onto the field, and fans caught a true glimpse of how playoff Ultimate will look.
1. Boston Whitecaps (8-0): The Whitecaps had a much-needed bye in week eight. A couple of their stars, including superstar Jeff Graham, have been nursing injuries over the last few weeks. The Whitecaps can continue to rest their stars moving forward, as it will only risk a tiny blemish on their otherwise perfect 2013 campaign. Previous Rank: 1
2. San Francisco Dogfish (6-1): San Francisco reclaimed the top spot in the Western standings after a victory up north against the Nighthawks. Similar to their last match in Vancouver, the game was neck and neck until the end. Also, for the fourth time this year, star Beau Kittredge was absent, but the Dogfish have the depth and talent to overcome any missing link. With the playoffs in sight, the ‘fish can now focus on their rival and upcoming semi-finals opponent, the Rainmakers. The two remaining regular season games between the teams will basically serve as practice and bragging rights as they prepare for the championship later this month. Previous Rank: 2
3. Seattle Rainmakers (6-1): Seattle is heading down to San Francisco on Saturday, fully rested and ready to prove that they are every bit as good as the Dogfish. The bye week came at the perfect time for them, and while they won’t have home-field advantage, they will have the upper hand when it comes to their energy level. San Francisco had to travel to Canada and play an exhausting back-and-forth game against the Nighthawks, and they may still be recovering. Let’s see if Seattle can even up the season series, and steal one from the Dogfish on their grass. Previous Rank: 3
4. DC Current (3-5): The Current are in prime position to dethrone the Rumble after beating them in New York. They are still behind the Rumble in the standings, but no matter how you look at it, DC clearly has the advantage in terms of schedule. Both teams are heading into byes before the last weekend of the season. On June 22, the Rumble play the Whitecaps, and unless Boston elects to sit their star players, it is unlikely New York will take down their undefeated rival. On the same day, the Current play the free-falling Spinners, and with a win in Philly, they would assume second place in the East. Neither team can clinch with a win in these games, so the question is who will better conserve their energy and stay healthy for the following day. A makeup game on Sunday, June 23 between the two teams in Arlington, Virginia, will decide the season and send one team to face Boston for the championship. Previous Rank: 5
5. New York Rumble (3-5): In the first of their two remaining critical battles, the Rumble fell in overtime to the Current. They will now have to recover quickly if they are to hold onto their second place spot. While the coaching staff may be able to prepare them mentally for their back-to-back games in the final week, their physical recovery could be the issue. They lost three players to injury against the Current, including MVP candidate Chris Mazur. However, Mazur said after the game, “It would be extremely difficult to keep me out of cleats for the last weekend of the season.” The question is, will he and the other banged-up players be at 100% strength? Previous Rank: 4
6. Vancouver Nighthawks (2-6): It is hard to believe this team might finish the season with only two wins. They have battled through injury, including defensive star Morgan Hibbert, who has been out for almost a month with a broken thumb, and have played in tight games week after week. Unfortunately, they have been unable to close out games and finish strong (maybe Hibbert would have had an effect on that). Against the Dogfish, they were leading at halftime 12-10, and the record-setting crowd (inflated by the local Flower Bowl tournament) was starting to sense an upset. However, San Francisco was able to connect in the second half, and Vancouver was unable to contain them for the full 40 minutes. Previous Rank: 6
7. Philadelphia Spinners (2-6): On the brink of elimination, the Spinners have to upset the Whitecaps to stay alive. Obviously, this is no easy task. Good news for the Spinners, the first-place giants are beat up and will most likely elect to sit some of their stars. However, even if they beat Boston, in Boston, they will be paying close attention to the other Eastern conference match-ups. If the Rumble beat DC, the Spinners’ season is finished. So, expect the Spinners to come out in full force, play for their lives, and pray to the Ultimate gods for a miracle. Previous Rank: 7
8. Portland Stags (1-7): The Stags will look to end the season on a high note over the next couple of weekends. Their final two games are home games, so they have the chance to show their loyal fans what to look forward to next season. If they are able to build around their stars like Timmy Perston (who remains a front-runner in the MVP debate despite a poor showing against the Dogfish in week seven), they could be a surprise come this time next year. Previous Rank: 8