Every year in every sport where there is any semblance of a playoff system there is that team. You know the team, the Cinderella story, the team that, by anyone’s account, doesn’t belong in its surroundings. Last year in the UPA Open Club Series, that team was El Diablo. A team that, prior to the last two seasons had made very little noise in the Ultimate world, somehow, the team that is a blend of players from Georgia and South Carolina made Nationals and no one saw it coming.
This year, captain Mike Nash and the rest of the Diablo boys were ready to be more than just that team. They had their time in the sun as the Cinderella story and they were ready to become true contenders.
“I think we’ve cemented ourselves as a legitimate team – we consistently compete with the top teams in the country and have knocked off a couple this year,” Nash wrote in an e-mail.
El Diablo’s brightest showing of the season so far was at The Chesapeake Open while Diablo only went 2-4 wins over Madison Club and the Sons of Liberty, two teams that may show up in Sarasota this year, showed that Diablo wasn’t just that team from last season.
Unfortunately for El Diablo, the injury bug bit at the wrong time. East Coast Sectionals saw seven Diablo players sidelined with injuries including two of the team’s captains. A situation that leaves the team reeling in the weeks before Regionals.
“I think we are where we wanted to be: battle-tested, with a good knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses,” Nash wrote. “We have had a rash of health issues lately, so hopefully everyone can heal up and be ready to go this weekend.”
With bids to Nationals having already been announced the path to Sarasota lies through one team that Diablo has seen and struggled against and three team that it hasn’t seen at all this year. Those teams being, respectively, Tanasi and Chain Lightning, Doublewide and Orlando, FL’s For the Story. Diablo has yet to secure a victory over Tanasi, including two attempts at East Coast Sectionals and hasn’t faced off against any of the other three teams yet.
“All are great teams and will be tough to knock off,” Nash wrote. “We are going to try and make sure that all of their offenses stay out of rhythm, and take some chances when we have the disc to get some momentum.”
Nash and company will be relying on a strong team dynamic along with a couple outstanding players on both sides of the disc in an effort to come out on top against some stiff competition. Ryan Archibald from Georgia Tech and Ben Slade, from Clemson University, anchor El Diablo’s d-line and Nash is depending on Archibald to be healthy for Regionals and for Slade’s throws to be on target in order to Diablo to be in contention come Sunday morning.
Some of the fresher faces on El Diablo include Justin Gaeta from the College of Charleston, who Nash calls, “a great defender,” that “never lets up,” and Dan Jones from Georgia Southern, a player that, according to Nash, “is a gifted athlete who rarely makes mistakes and is capable of big plays on both sides of the disc.”
All told, El Diablo is poised to make another run to Nationals this weekend. However, Nash, unlike many elite level captains, is quick to point out that Nationals may not be El Diablo’s measuring stick.
“We set many process goals along the way to try and obtain certain outcomes,” Nash wrote. “Obviously, we’d be thrilled with a bid to Nationals. But I don’t think that is how we’ll measure our season.”