Apr. 30, 2012
Here it is, the end to the season and, for a handful of us, the end to our college career as Gnomes
With our season goal of “Regionals or bust” achieved, the Gnomes entered the weekend with only one knew goal: Have fun playing with our friends, and maybe upset some teams while we’re at it.
The weekend began with the twelfth-seeded Gnomes taking on the fifth-seeded Indiana Hoosiermama. After a few points, one thing became apparent as we found Indiana liked to throw the deep throws… regardless of whether they were completed or not. The Gnomes responded with smart play, taking the deep shots when they were there, and as a result the first half remained close throughout. However, Indiana came out of halftime with defensive intensity and wrapped up the game 10-7. A loss, but an encouraging one as the Gnomes played above their typical level of play.
Now in the back-door bracket, the Gnomes again saw a familiar face—Loyola Darkwing. A win here promised the Gnomes games on Sunday, but a loss would lead to an early exit from Regionals. Despite our close games with Darkwing in the past, the Gnomes kept a much higher level of intensity and announced their dominance early. An in-joke between the two teams is how our first point of the game always lasts for about ten minutes… However, this time the Gnomes forced a fast turnover and then punched in the score immediately. In destroying our closest rivals 14-7, the Gnomes made it clear that we are now on a different level
Following a serious upset in which Eastern Illinois Reaper defeated Illinois Ultimate, the Gnomes now got a chance to end Illinois’ season long before they hoped. As the odds on favorite to reach Nationals out of the Great Lakes Region, Illinois had a lot to play for, while the Gnomes were playing with house money. The teams exchanged offensive points until 4-4, and the Gnomes could not figure out how to stop Illinois’ well-oiled machine while on defense. Soon, the tight pressure of Illinois’ defense broke through and scored against the Gnomes’ offense, and the game started to get out of our hands. Late in the game, our seniors gave as much playing time to returning players as possible, giving them experience against a Nationals-level team. The highlight of the game came as our Gibby (Ben, the younger but bigger Gibby) faced off against their Gibby (Nate, the older but smaller Gibby); outstanding plays were made by both brothers but older Gibby eventually won the upper hand.
With a successful Saturday in the books, the Gnomes returned the Gross house and relaxed for the night, enjoying their final tournament with this team. Sunday came soon enough, with only two games left to play as a team. First came a rematch against Northwestern NUT, who had defeated us two weeks earlier at Conference. This time, however, the Gnomes played with great intensity, of a level I have rarely seen before. Jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead, the Gnomes again showed their in-state rivals that we were now at a different level, finally taking the game home 15-4 in one of the most decisive victories in Gnomes history.
Our final game, now playing for ninth place after coming in seeded twelfth, was against Notre Dame Papal Rage. The four-seed to start the weekend, we had a chance to take down a very good team coming from a very good school. The game stayed close throughout, but Notre Dame appeared to be a couple steps faster and slightly more disciplined. Coming out of halftime, we played exclusively senior lines, with subs only coming on when a senior needed rest. Now capping four years of enjoyable practices, tournaments, parties, road trips, and more, the seniors were just having fun with their friends. A 15-10 loss according to the score sheet, but no one was keeping track anymore. Officially, the Gnomes still broke seed, finishing tenth out of sixteen teams.
Our final huddle allowed the seniors to express how much the team has meant to them during their time in college, and just how much they will miss being an active Gnome. The future is wide-open, because although nearly half the team is graduating, the promise from the young players was great. No doubt the Gnomes will be perennial participants at Regionals in the future.
Saying goodbye to the college Ultimate life is hard, but it was an unforgettable experience.
Once a Gnome, always a Gnome.
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