Photo by Scott Houghtaling – Ultiphotos.com
The game got off to a slow start for the Rainmakers. Mirroring the damp weather, the Rainmakers traded hold points with the Dogfish, reaching 4-4 in the first seven minutes of the first quarter. San Francisco then got three break points in a row and Seattle scored one more to bring the first quarter to a close with a score of 5-7.
Down by two, Seattle fans were looking to the Rainmakers to chalk up some break points in the second quarter. The Dogfish scored four break points in a row, then the Rainmakers and Dogfish each scored three more hold points and one break point to bring the score to 9-15 at halftime. Assistant Coach Bert Abbott said that the Rainmakers were a little off the first half. “I think that we kind of got into our own heads and a little bit quiet on the sideline,” said Abbott. Henry Phan thought that the players were all frustrated with their own play. “A lot of time, when players get down upon themselves they think about all their mistakes, and we definitely did,” said Phan.
The Rainmakers had a good talk at halftime, when the sun came out and things started looking up. “We went back into the locker room and it was pretty quiet at first,” said Drew Lockhart. “I think a lotta guys were really kind of introspective. The coaches asked us to really sit down and breathe, close our eyes and kind of run through our personal highlight reel in our heads. And we did that for a full minute, we came back, and there was kind of a noticeable, tangible energy uplifting throughout the room. I don’t think anyone really felt like we weren’t going to win that game, and that we weren’t capable of ripping off a number of breaks and holding them to zero points.”
In the third quarter, the Rainmakers shut out the Dogfish, scoring eight break points and not letting the Fish over the line once. Phan said that the Rainmakers used the halftime break for a mental shift. “We used [the first half] as a turning point to realize that we can play better than this, we have to step up, especially when our fans are here. … We just realized it was time to turn it on. We came out hot.” Bert Abbott praised the defense that turned over the disc. “We set out to play some tight handler defense. I think that Chris Rupp did that, as always. Luke Jesperson shut people down and frustrated some of their handlers with how tight but clean he was playing. Obviously, my boy Leaf [Khalif El-Salaam] went off, with all the assists from Henry Phan.” Jesperson got two blocks, and Clay Dewey-Valentine also had two blocks, impressive for a shorter handler. Dylan Harrington also had a great game with three goals and one block.
There are not many shut out quarters on the books for the MLU, and the third quarter of this game breaks the record for points scored in a shut out quarter. With eight points, it breaks the Boston Whitecaps previous record of seven points against the New York Rumble in 2014.
In the fourth quarter the Rainmakers scored another five points and the Dogfish scored three, bringing the final score to 22-18. The Rainmakers came back from a seven point defecit, from 6-13 in the second quarter. That is the biggest comeback for the win in MLU history, a spectacular feat of the Rainmakers mental game and defensive scoring power.
El-Salaam was a force of nature in the second half. He had five goals, four assists, and three blocks this game. He was responsible for five points in the third quarter and got a beautiful callahan in the fourth quarter. El-Salaam and Phan shared a great connection this game, Phan throwing it to El-Salaam for four goals. Phan and El-Salaam have played together for nine years through the strong Seattle youth ultimate scene. Phan credits lots of playing time together with their strong connection. “Any time that he has half a step or not even a step and he looks at me, I’m usually going to throw it, and it works 99.9% of the time,” said Phan. “If it doesn’t come down he’s blaming himself, I’m blaming myself. All in all it’s just trust.” El-Salaam says they know each other well. “I know my superpower, and I know Henry’s superpower. … He’s a good thrower, if I put myself in a position for him to succeed, we succeed. It’s that simple,” said El-Salaam.
The Rainmakers play the Portland Stags next weekend in their last regular season game before meeting the Stags again for the Western Conference Finals. “It’s going to be a real pleasure to get to play [the Stags] again,” said Bert Abbott. “I think it’s a challenge that we’re excited to take on. It’s going to be a great time for us to get excited about the Western Conference Finals.”