Last year Florida’s season started with a lot of hype.
And then it ended with more hype.
However, the fall of 2010 has been a bit quieter for the Gators. Anyone would be hard pressed to find a team from Nationals that lost a larger percentage of its scoring this offseason than Florida. The departure of Chris Gibson and Brodie Smith will hurt UF tremendously. Just take a look at this video around the 2:25 mark to see what Smith did last season during his team’s Championship run. No one is more aware of this negative impact than the remaining third of Florida’s 3-headed monster, graduate student Cole Sullivan.
“We have seven of our ten players who saw playing time at nationals coming back, so on paper that looks promising,” Sullivan wrote to us. “However, two of those [three departed players were] our best two players.”
That being said, Florida still has faith in its athletes’ ability to work the disc. Though there are plenty of people who expect very little from the Gators this season, Sullivan doesn’t expect things to look very different from last year.
“As of now, we are still trying to do the whole, ‘our 3 best players touch it as much as possible’ thing,” Sullivan wrote.
He does know that the rest of the Ultimate scene doesn’t expect a whole lot from the Gators this year, especially considering the team is still not even six months removed from a National Title. Sullivan is just fine with that.
“I love to fly under the radar. We talked shit and won everything [in the regular season] in ’09, and where did that get us?” Sullivan wrote. “Every team played they hardest against us, even if they were outmatched, just to prove a point, and it took a toll on our ability to play long days. Last year, we got crushed at Centex, and crushed at Stanford, and people thought we were a joke going into the series. PERFECT. That’s what we really want. I hope teams assume that since we lost Brodie and Chris, that we are chumps this year.”
Though things might not be changing when tournaments start, there are some major differences surrounding Florida’s college season this year. The first being the college players prevalence on Gainesville club team Vicious Cycle this season. There are few things that help college players get better than competing in the club series with a good team. The Gators recognized an opportunity to do just that and took advantage, winning Florida Sectionals and finishing one spot away from Nationals at South Regionals.
“We wanted to make a push for the three seed out of our region, knowing it was either us or Tanasi,” Sullivan wrote. “We beat them in the first game, but they won when it counted and took the 3-4 backdoor game. A lot of college guys played on that team and got some great experience for the upcoming year, myself included. We only had about 4 local Gainesville guys play with us, so it was still a great learning experience for about 10 or so of our returning and new guys.”
Another difference this season will be the presence of players in the Gainesville area like Brodie Smith. Although some of Florida’s greats have moved on to different places, Smith and a few others have stuck around and occasionally lend a hand to the team in preparing for the season.
“We still have some old guys from ’08 and ’07 who are around, but they only come out every so often,” Sullivan said. “Brodie stuck around from last year, but he is taking a back seat and letting Alton [Gaines], Alex [Hill] and I run the show. He’ll cleat up and come out and just trash the n00bs every now and then, so then the three of us can point to him and say, “See, that’s what you all have the potential to do, and what you will be competing against.” Of course I doubt they will ever see a match-up like Brodie, but it gets them pumped up and willing to learn.”
Even with all that on his team’s side, Sullivan still thinks that the Gators have a mountain to climb when it comes to preparing new players to contribute.
“We take people who have never played before, stick a jersey on them, and expect them to know the space on the field and how to defend different types of throws and cuts… it’s a lot for them to handle,” Sullivan wrote. “We just recruit raw talent, and just hope that something clicks for them sooner or later (sooner is preferred). There are no youth leagues down here so all we get are people who don’t even know what a flick is, but they are fast as hell or 6’3 with some hops. Our goal is that hopefully one or two of them will be able to contribute by spring, and something will click in our sophomores and juniors heads that will get us up to a solid 10-12 man rotation by May.”
Seeing as Florida has yet to play in a fall tournament it will be measuring its new look against outside competition for the first time this weekend. While the questions will abound and the team itself isn’t exactly sure how things are going to look until they step on the field, one thing is for sure, out of all the teams that are going to be playing at CCC and every other tournament this season, Florida is the only one that finished its season last year by taking a picture like this:
You can take that hype for whatever it’s worth.