Beau Kittredge of the San Jose Spiders is a unique character. He’s confident in himself, unafraid to speak his mind, and almost always expects his team to win. He’s wisely surrounded himself with superb talent, allowing him to pick his spots carefully. When he chooses to, he dominates. Other times, he serves as a pivotal decoy while worthy teammates thrive.
Through the years, Kittredge has occasionally made winning look so easy that it does not seem fair to opponents or real to spectators. Having seen him in ‘destroy’ mode, it is jarring when, out of the blue, his team experiences adversity. It’s like an expensive car on cruise control running into some unexpected traffic. But sooner or later, even if you’re frustrated along the way, you figure out how to regain top speed and blaze ahead.
On Sunday afternoon in Seattle, the Spiders’ journey experienced more than a little standstill. After the Spiders had won the first quarter 7-6, the Cascades stunningly outscored them 9-2 in the second. In the past, Kittredge might have expressed anger to his teammates in this type of situation. But this was no ordinary pothole or lane shift.
“I actually didn’t get angry,” Kittredge said, chuckling when asked if his frustration boiled over at any point during his team’s struggles. “It was such a complete failure on everybody’s part, including my own, that I couldn’t really be upset. The wheels came off, and it was like the whole car just exploded in the middle of the highway.”
This is a franchise that, heading into its May 24th game, was 7-0 on the year and 23-1 all-time. But two losses in its next three games had removed any feeling of awe or invincibility. Some sweet revenge on Saturday in Vancouver paused San Jose’s stumbles, but the disastrous second quarter on Sunday resulted in a complete derailment of their game plan.
“You can’t really be mad at that,” Kittredge said. “You just have to collect the pieces and try putting it back together, which we kind of managed to do.”
The Spiders trailed the Cascades 15-9 at the half, and Seattle’s 5-2 run to start the second made it 20-11 in the third quarter. Even Frank Reich’s Buffalo Bills might have called it a day.
But the Spiders, largely riding many lesser-known pieces from their second string, gradually fought their way back into the game. San Jose’s leadership specifically mentioned Tyler Grant, a 35-year-old ultimate vet, for making a critical difference despite playing through a knee injury.
“Playing hurt, he still managed three Ds and three assists,” San Jose Captain Kevin Smith said. ”[He] was a staple of the D lines that mounted the comeback against the Cascades. He was unfazed by the score and was running on sheer willpower throughout the weekend. His poise and experience really stood out.”
Down 21-14, San Jose scored four times in a row to inch within three, but Seattle remained calm and answered with a hold and another break to make it 23-18. Zane Rankin, the former San Francisco FlameThrower who was playing just his second game for the Cascades, hauled in his team-leading fourth goal to give Seattle a five-goal lead with 6:30 to play.
From there, the Spiders found their zone, taking advantage of some careless Seattle mistakes. With 3:11 left, Cassidy Rasmussen snagged a hammer in the end zone to make it 23-20.
Kevin Smith scored with 2:45 remaining, and it was 23-21.
Kittredge then intercepted a toss from Seattle’s Will Chen—his only D of the game—and found Ashlin Joye for the goal that brought San Jose within one with 1:38 left.
With 45 seconds on the clock, San Jose’s tight defense dramatically forced a stall, calling a timeout in search of the equalizer. Shortly after the restart, Sean Ham hit Simon Higgins and the Spiders had come all the way back from their nine-goal deficit, tying it up at 23 with 31 seconds left.
It looked like Seattle might score the game-winner in the last seconds of regulation, but a good defensive stand forced an errant hammer that landed on the ground shy of Ray Illian, sending the wild western division bout into overtime.
“Everyone was pumped up, yelling, going crazy,” Higgins recalled, who contributed three goals and three assists in the game. “When we got to overtime, we had everything. They looked depleted. We had the fire. But maybe it was the back-to-back catching up to us, or something else, but we couldn’t get that first score.”
Before the extra session, San Jose’s sensational cutter Greg Cohen, a guy who never lacks energy, aimed to fire up his team in the huddle by comparing their rally to one of the Golden State Warriors great comebacks from their first round series with the New Orleans Pelicans. There are a lot of Warrior fans on the Spiders, so the analogy was apt, comparing Golden State’s tremendous turnaround and ensuing overtime victory to San Jose’s seemingly eventual triumph.
Only one problem.
“That did not happen for us,” Kittredge said. “We just kind of ran out of gas. They scored one upwind, and it was our turn to score upwind and we didn’t. They kinda ran out the clock. We had some throwaways that were caused by tiredness and lack of concentration.”
After their 5-0 run in the final six minutes and a 12-3 overall rally that evened it up, the Spiders fell flat in the overtime. The comeback went to waste in terms of earning the victory, but it definitely gave San Jose confidence heading into the upcoming rematch with Seattle, scheduled for this Saturday night on ESPN3.
“Of course, we still lost,” Joye said. “But I think it was important for us to make that run at the end of the game and give us some momentum heading into this Saturday. I feel confident and feel we have a good chance at securing the number one spot in the West after this weekend.”
Interestingly, while the Spiders were riding on adrenaline from their captivating comeback, the Cascades rediscovered their poise and identity.
“We knew that the mistakes we made were in our control, and just a little more focus would push us through,” Seattle Captain Reid Koss said. “We won the flip and chose offense knowing we would have to score upwind, but I felt pretty confident in our offense that they could get the job done. The point wasn’t fast, but we were able to score upwind without a turnover. When the Spiders had the disc, we made them work for it, eventually got a turn, but then immediately hucked it away. We kept up the pressure, though, and forced a first-pass turnover from Ashlin to Beau. After our defense possessed for a few passes, we called timeout with a little over a minute to go and ran out the clock just about all the way before scoring to effectively end the game.”
The final score was 25-23, with Seattle improving to 6-3, even in the loss-column with 9-3 San Jose. The Cascades travel to both Bay Area destinations this weekend, with first-place in the West very much on the line. Having held serve at home in their first meeting with the Spiders, Seattle is in a position, despite almost coughing away a nine-score lead, to build on their dramatic overtime win.
“I think some people definitely would have been extremely down if we lost,” said Koss. “We played so well for so long, and to not get a result would have been painful. Looking forward, I think we are aware that this weekend will likely have a pretty big effect on the end of the season standings, but I don’t think it’s make or break. Every game in this division is a toss up, so neither of us can just assume any wins in any of the rest of our games.”
If San Jose can win this Saturday, the 10-win Spiders would be impossible to surpass. Having already clinched a playoff berth by virtue of their 26-23 triumph over Vancouver, they can wrap up homefield advantage if they beat the Cascades by more than two.
If Seattle prevails, the Cascades would hand the Spiders a fourth loss, and more importantly, gain a potentially gigantic tiebreaker thanks to a sweep of their season series against San Jose. Even if the Cascades slipped in their tough Sunday tilt at San Francisco, they could still win the regular season title in the West by winning their last three games after this weekend (home vs. San Francisco, home vs. Vancouver, and at Vancouver). No cakewalk, but definitely doable.
Understandably, San Jose’s attention is devoted to this week, as the Spiders will aim to bounce back from their first home loss ever, not to mention three losses in their last five games.
“Our main takeaway [from this past weekend] was lick our wounds, come back out, and get ready for this next game that should decide who the Western leader is, which is something we want to be,” Kittredge said.
With San Jose and Seattle set to square off again this Saturday, fans hopefully will get another taste of one of the great head-to-head matchups in all of ultimate. Beau Kittredge and Matt Rehder have gone against one another with national club championships on the line, with world club championships at stake, and now will battle for first place in the greatest pool of teams pro ultimate has to offer. Neither shies away from the challenge, and the showdown is simply a treat for fans watching in person or on ESPN3. “I would like to play against Rehder more, but he plays offense, so I only see him a few times if I go play defense,” Kittredge said. “He seems pretty explosive, which is fun. I’ve hung out with him a few times outside the field. He’s a super nice guy. Really laid back.” The age gap between the two dynamos is substantial as Kittredge turns 33 next week and Rehder will be 24 on July 18. Kittredge’s club has often gotten the better of Rehder’s, and it will be interesting to see if that rivalry shifts with Rehder just beginning to enter his prime.
Originally posted on http://theaudl.com/articles/ata/tuesdaytoss10