(written, shot and edited for Somerville Patch)
Rory Palmer (Somerville High ‘2013) to Brandon Hamilton (‘12). Palmer to Hamilton. Palmer to Hamilton. Over and over again. The unstoppable duo of Villen, Somerville High’s club Ultimate (Frisbee) team.
Palmer passed for 27 goals, and Hamilton scored 13 – nine off passes from Palmer – to lead Villen at the Andover Invitational Ultimate tournament Saturday, played at Greater Lawrence Technical School.
Villen went 2-1 in their first three games, so their chance to contend for the tournament title centered on fourth-round team Abington High School. Unfortunately, Abington High School had the taller, faster team, and they used it to their advantage.
On offense Abington used a horizontal stack offense (two horizontal lines across the field), which gave them the option to sprint for the end zone on any play. Villen’s inexperience with defending the horizontal stack allowed Abington to run this play repeatedly.
Abington also used a strong zone defense, in which three players constantly surround the player with the disc, then the remaining four play up-field to cut off passing lanes. Villen got strong movement from its middle-of-the-field passing options, called “poppers,” but less from their wings, who were usually positioned too deep to be effective.
When the Abington defense forced a turnover, they would usually go on the fast break, again sending a player streaking towards the end zone for the long pass.
Villen patiently worked its zone offense to score first against Abington, but Abington responded with their quick offense and frustrating defense to score five straight. They went into halftime up 6-3, and held on to win, 11-7.
Unable to contend for first place, Villen opted to give reserve players extra playing time for their fifth-round game against Kraken from Newburyport, which simply did not have the throwing and catching abilities to match up against Villen.
Villen took half 6-1, and went on to easily win, 11-5. Sonam Ngwang (’14), who was introduced to Ultimate by Villen during his eighth-grade year at the Healey School in Somerville, got his first experience as a handler, the primary disc-passer on the field. He hit Hamilton in the first half for a goal. He finished the tournament with two assists and five goals.
Since Villen will lose handler Peter Gutierrez (’11) at the end of the year, getting Ngwang used to playing that role may be essential to the team’s future.
Villen’s final game was against Force Lightning from Boston University Academy. Ultimate is a both physically and mentally exhausting sport, one where every player must have the conditioning of a cross-country runner, the vision of a point guard, and the explosive power of a wide receiver, all at the same time. Playing that way for six hours drains you of every ounce of energy, and by the sixth game, Villen was drained. Small mental errors, such as weak throws and dropped passes, started cropping up on every point, as Villen lost the focus and patience necessary to run its zone offense (Force Lightning relied exclusively on zone defense).
Villen lost, 10-7, and finished the tournament 3-3, in sixth place out of 12.
Villen coach Ted Blake saw this game less as a chance to improve the team’s record and more as a developmental opportunity for all of his young players.
“In one day they’ve played twice as much Ultimate as they’ve played in their lives,” Blake said.
Villen won its second- and third-round games by a collective score of 22-9. Getting in on the scoring was Sam Badot-Fisher (’13), a tall, quick player that provided a constant deep threat for Villen. Several times he simply out-jumped his opponent, snaring a high throw or knocking one down on defense. He scored four times and threw for a goal against third-round Timberlane High School (NH), and finished the tournament with 10 goals and an assist.
Against second-round Newton North Ultimate, Obed Diaz (’13) scored the first Callahan – a one-point version of football’s safety – of the season for Villen. Newton North was pinned deep in their own end zone;. Diaz knocked a pass into the air, then came down with it for the score.
In their first-round game against Uruk-Hai from Cambridge School of Weston, Villen was up 6-4 at halftime, but then allowed four consecutive goals and lost, 8-6.
Coaches Blake and Alicia Kersten said they were very pleased and proud of how much Villen improved across the day. They said they especially liked the way Villen played zone offense and defense.
“Watch our record get better over the rest of the season, because now they get it,” she said.
Kersten said she would still like the team to improve its basic offense, relying less on deep cuts away from the disc and more on straight cuts towards the disc.
Said Kersten, “If we get where we need to be on that, we’re going to be playing at the top of Div. 2.”