The first encounter we had with Virginia Tech Burn was at UPA College AC Regionals in 2009. We were watching Burn take on the UCF Dogs of War. Both were teams that no one was giving much of a chance to and the game was, to say it gingerly, pretty boring. That is until about mid way through the game.
UCF received the pull and VT threw a zone for the first time in the game. It appeared that Burn was forcing to the middle of the field, a type of zone we had rarely seen in college Ultimate. With three players, all easily above 6’4″, in the cup the Dogs were being slowly pushed backwards. A risky hammer moved the disc to about midfield but Burn’s zone caught up. Over the next 15-30 throws, UCF slowly worked the disc between its handlers, going nowhere but backwards until the Dogs turned the disc, the thrower stood 5 yards deep in his own endzone.
It was an impressive display of team defense and a slow deconstruction of an offense. Virginia Tech’s rise as an Ultimate team has been quite the opposite of that slow, lumbering, zone defense. Instead it has been a meteoric rise that has Burn putting Nationals on its list of tournaments on its website.
“When I came onto the team as a freshman (fall ’06) we had about 25 people total in the program,” senior captain Scott Forrester wrote us in an e-mail. “As the years have progressed we have seen much more people coming out to the first practices as well as higher retention rates. Probably one of the biggest reasons we have shifted to a more serious team is because we have attracted kids from high schools with established Ultimate teams.”
Sometimes, with that switch to a “serious” Ultimate team comes a change in attitude and spirit on the field as well. As one can see by VT’s 5Ultimate application video, that is anything but true in Burn’s case.
“While we are a more serious team in terms of playing to win every game, we do pride ourselves on being one of the more relaxed, fun teams around,” Forrester wrote. “I often see captains from other teams screaming their heads off in huddles and trying to motivate their teams. We go for a more relaxed, positive approach which keeps the game fun for our whole team (that’s what we all got into Ultimate for anyways, it’s so damn fun).”
That attitude has come in handy throughout the course of the season as Virginia Tech has had to battle through losses to other competitive teams.
“When we lost to Notre Dame in the 8s final not a single guy on our team had their head down,” Forrester wrote. “We knew we had played a great game, they just got one more break than we did. I’m a firm believer in that if you keep the game fun it is much easier to rebound from losses and be good spirited in both victory and defeat.”
Forrester cetainly believes that Burn had no reason to have its collective head down at 8s. He called it one of the team’s best tournaments ever and he feels like the team has certainly found its groove on the field.
“Our bread and butter is our zone,” Forrester wrote. ” It works well because of its adaptability and because its unlike most zones out there. That being said, over the past few weeks we’ve really focused on improving our man D to be a more versatile team (beat UVa at 8s with entirely man D). On offense we like to take advantage of our height and speed with a good mix of hucks and cuts under.”
Perhaps another reason that Virginia Tech is performing so well is its attitude in the big games. Just as Burn doesn’t let the losses get it down it doesn’t let a team’s reputation get into its head. For a team that only had 25 people as of 2005, the ability to head calmly into a game against a Nationals team is a coveted one indeed.
“Over the past couple years we have played against a good number of Nationals qualifiers and have either beaten them or gave them a run for their money,” Forrester wrote. “We definitely know we have the depth and talent to compete with any team in the country so we don’t really psych ourselves out.”
That ability will come in handy this weekend as Burn will see plenty of top notch competition this weekend. Forrester is confident his team will be able to compete on every level.
“At this point in our team’s season we are going to every tournament expecting to win it,” Forrester wrote. “If you don’t go in with that expectation you’ve already set yourself up to lose. We know this will be the most competitive tournament we’ve been in so far but are excited about showing what we’ve got to these teams.”