By Marc Stachowski
PHILADELPHIA—“Stick behind one another! This is the type of game we live for, boys.” That was the message that Coach Snader had for his troops as the clock wound its way through the fourth quarter of an uncomfortably tight contest between the home town Philadelphia Spinners and the visiting Columbus Cranes.
Coming into the contest, the Spinners, though hobbled by injuries to key contributors Greg Owens (broken wrist), Dustin Damiano (broken wrist), Kevin Chiang (hamstring), and Steven Thor (hamstring), probably thought they would have a fitness edge against the Cranes who were finishing a long road trip weekend during which they had already lost to the Connecticut Constitution 28-21. For the middle forty minutes of the forty eight minute game, the Cranes were running just fine.
The Spinners diverted from their usual game plan of falling behind early and came out really fired up and playing crisp, determined offense: lots of under open side cuts with dumps and swings sprinkled liberally on top, jumping out to an early 4-1 lead. On the verge of another break, the Spinners turn the disc over on the goal line and the Cranes take it 80 yards for the score, making it 4-2, firing up the Columbus bench and silencing the raucous Philly crowd of 850+.
Inspired by this two point swing, Columbus defenders seemed to come alive with a vengeance, ramping up the pressure, poaching into passing lanes with regularity and putting on tough double-team marks near the end zone. Philly seemed rattled by this sudden surge of energy by the supposedly road weary Cranes, throwing into poaching defenders and giving up huge long throws as Columbus piled up break after break, charging out to a lead of their own 7-6. “I think we took our foot off the gas and thought we’d have an easy day,” said Snader. “It made us slow to adjust when Columbus took into another gear.” The Cranes’ Timmy Meyers seemed to be everywhere, notching 2 goals and a huge D at the end of the first quarter to preserve his team’s one point advantage.
For the next two and a half periods the game swung back and forth, with both teams holding leads of 2 points only to have the other team come roaring back. Tim Meyers, David Valentine-Elam and Joe Taris seemed to be racking up play after play for the Cranes, with Sean Murray, Ian McClellan and Michael Panna standing out for the Spinners.
With around four minutes left in the game, the Cranes scored to take the lead 19-18. Snader, steadfast in his confidence that the Spinners are the class of the league when it comes to fitness, exhorted his players on for one final big push. “I told them to stick together and that this is a chance to show the type of men they are,” Snader said. The Spinners O line responded with a flawless trip to the end zone, with Matt Glazer hitting Sean Murray for the goal, knotting the score at 19-19.
In the pivotal next point, with the energized and engaged crowd chanting for defense, the Spinners D line delivered. Urged on by their coach and the crowd, the Spinners charged down the field and put on aggressive straight up marks on every throw, challenging the Cranes throwing lanes very tightly. The Cranes worked the disc up a few passes, then Mike Baer made the defensive play of the game, pouncing on a swing pass with a head-high diving bid and deflecting the disc out of bounds, sending the crowd into a frenzy. A few passes later, the Spinners called timeout just before Patrick Lindsey completed a pass to Murray in the end zone, nullifying an apparent goal. Fortunately, the subbed in O line cashed in the score in one throw from McClellan to Shull, pushing the Spinners into the lead 20-19.
That seemed to be the blow that finally took the legs out from under the Columbus squad. On the ensuing pull, the Cranes threw directly to a poaching defender and the Spinners scored
quickly to give themselves a two point cushion. Though the Cranes scored quickly on the following pull, pulling to within a point, the Spinners clearly seemed to be the team with most hustle left. Another flawless O line point, punctuated by a great grab by Glazer on a floaty Brandolph hammer, and another break point by the D line finished off the the late 5-1 surge and secured the 23-20 victory pushing the Spinners to 5-1 and dropping the Cranes to 3-4 and out of first place in the Western Division.
Next up for the Spinners, another home game against the dangerous Buffalo Hunters (0-7) who are arguably playing some of their best Ultimate right now, losing close contests against powerful Eastern Division opponents in recent weeks. “There is no way the Hunters are going to go the season without notching a win,” Snader said. “We have to treat every opponent the same way.”
With the mounting injury problems (Owens, Damiano, etc) and the sometimes inconsistent play of their top players, what can we expect to happen at Franklin Field on June 9th? “We’ve got some injuries, but we’ve continued to deal with them well,” said team captain Nick Hirannet. “Guys have stepped up time and time again, and that only makes me more excited to see what happens when we get some top guys back.”
As far as inconsistent play goes, Hirannet said, “This is the first season this entire team has played together so of course there’s a learning curve there. We’re starting to get more and more comfortable playing with each other and we get better every game. We prepare every week and this week has been no different. We’ll be ready come Saturday.”