After nearly a month of invite-only practices following the combine, on Monday the Rainmakers established their roster for the 2014 season.
Your 2014 Rainmakers are:
Max Barowski* (Oklahoma State University/Tulsa, Okla.)
Ben Beehner (John Carroll University/Omaha, Neb.)
Chris Bubernak* (University of Colorado/Superior, Colo.)
Jimmy Chu* (Carleton College/Seattle, Wash.)
Sam Cooper* (Clemson University/Bristol, Va.)
Alex Duffel* (North Little Rock High School/Little Rock, Ark.)
Khalif El-Salaam (University of Washington/Seattle, Wash.)
Isaac Entz* (Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Newton, Kan.)
Eddie Feeley* (Seattle University & University of Washington/Fort Collins, Colo.)
Kahyee Fong* (New York University/Warren, N.J.)
Rory Gallagher* (Western Illinois University/Springfield, Ill.)
Sam Harkness (North Seattle Community College/Seattle, Wash.)
Jimmy Hooper* (University of Washington/Seattle, Wash.)
Cole Johnson* (Seattle Central Community College/ Seattle, Wash.)
Peter Kalmakis* (Brown University/Reading, Mass.)
Gavin McKibben* (University of Oregon/Seattle, Wash.)
Mario O’Brien (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire/Eau Claire, Wis.)
Henry Phan* (Franklin High School/Seattle, Wash.)
Sam Pickel* (Western Washington University/Seattle, Wash.)
Thomas Rosatto* (Western Washington University/Maple Valley, Wash.)
Chris Rupp* (Carleton College/Eau Claire, Wis.)
Henry Schneider* (Oberlin College/Edmonds, Wash.)
Matthew Sewell (University of Texas at Austin/Houston, Texas)
Adam Simon (University of Colorado/Atlanta, Ga.)
Todd Sliva* (Western Washington University/Bellingham, Wash.)
Elliot Trotter (University of Puget Sound/Highland Park, Ill.)
Danny Trytiak (Ballard High School/Seattle, Wash.)
Bryson Uhrig-Fox (Reed College & University of Washington/Minneapolis, Minn.)
Will Whitwell* (Seattle University/Houston, Texas)
Matthew Zemel (University of Colorado Boulder/Denver, Colo.)
*denotes MLU rookie
The 2013 Rainmakers were a powerhouse, a force to be reckoned with on either side of the disc, and General Manager Rusty Brown is quick to acknowledge that the road ahead this year will not be an easy one by any means.
“This year’s team is definitely different from last year’s,” said Brown. “We’ve culled the talent from the area’s top mixed and open teams, as well as reached out to some retired big names like Jimmy Chu. The hardest challenge for the team this year has nothing to do with talent level, but more to do with cohesion. The return of Bryson Uhrig-Fox, Ben Beehner and Danny Trytiak have helped steer us to maintain a course of excellence our fans come to expect.”
Fans of last year’s Rainmakers will notice a handful of returning players beyond this backbone – names like Sam Harkness, Mario O’Brien, Matthew “Skip” Sewell, last year’s Western Conference MVP Adam Simon, Elliot Trotter and Matthew “Matty” Zemel – but this year’s rookies also bring a wealth of Ultimate experience into the professional arena.
The rookie class is equal parts wily veterans and young upstart rebels, and they represent a diversity of playing styles that will need to coalesce quickly for the Rainmakers to enjoy the success they had last year. Though the first few practices made it clear that there were some disparate strategies at play, the player committee and coaches noted that it didn’t take long for the on-field chemistry to begin to flow.
“Though I’m traveling for the first part of the season for Ultimate Globe Trotter, I’m excited to be a part of the Rainmakers again and join a fresh group of enthusiastic and talented teammates,” said Trotter. “This year’s Rainmakers will have a different dynamic but it will be one full of the creativity, athleticism and strategic excellence that Seattle has come to expect from its Ultimate. It’s going to be a tremendous season.”
One player who is already being hailed as a game changer is the pickup from the Portland Stags, Khalif El-Salaam. The addition of El-Salaam back in February was a significant not only in taking a weapon away from the Portland Stags, but also insofar as he is a lightning rod for the Seattle youth Ultimate scene. Sure enough, El-Salaam’s presence attracted another young Seattle player, Henry Phan, of whom much is expected already.
“Henry Phan is like gasoline,” said returning Rainmaker and player committee member Ben Beehner. “When he catches fire, he is out of control. Phan can get hot and run circles around handler defenders, finding holes and striking fast. Henry can get big separation from his defender and rip a full field backhand, or what his teammates call ‘Phan Mail.’ Defenses aren’t going to know what hit them. Henry’s been tearing it up in the Seattle youth scene for years. This is a name you’re going to be hearing for years to come.”
There have been all sorts of different styles of Ultimate on display these past weeks at practices. There is a sizeable contingent of players from Voodoo, a Seattle club which leans heavily on the vertical stack offense. There are some current and former players from Seattle Sockeye, known for their lighting fast offense and extensive repertoire of complex defensive schemes. Seattle’s mixed club teams are well represented as well, with players from D’oh!, Ghetto Birds and Shazam.
In terms of college experience, there are alums of Carleton College and University of Colorado as well as a couple players from MIT and Brown, but there are also players who hail from lesser known college programs like Oberlin and Clemson.
There will be no shortage of strategic input going into the season either, as almost every player on the roster has coaching experience, from middle school and high school up through college and club, and even at international clinics. There are even some Rainmakers who in the past were coached by their new teammates. All of this will certainly make for some very interesting Ultimate.
The team also added some inches with a total of ten players standing at 6-foot or above. Towering over the rest is Isaac Entz at a formidable 6-foot-6.
“Isaac Entz began his reign of terror in the Pacific Northwest when he first moved here in 2012,” said Beehner. “When the ‘Frost Giant’ starts running, he’s like a locomotive. Defenders just bounce off him when he goes up for the disc. And when Isaac winds up for a huck, it’s like he’s chopping down trees. You can be sure the Nighthawks know who the Frost Giant is, and they’ll be worried every time he steps on the field. For the last two years, he’s dominated those Vancouver players whenever we match up in the club scene.”
The influx of tall players will certainly help the Rainmakers this year, but this doesn’t mean that the boys in blue will be relying solely on height to pick up their points. The team’s foundation, beyond their staggering physical and mental toughness, is their absolute joy for the sport.
“It has already been established that we have a lot of grinders on this team and I love that,” said El-Salaam. “That is the atmosphere I want to be in. Going into the season, not only do I expect to win games with my teammates, watch them make plays, and catch some hucks thrown by them, but I am excited to have fun. I think everyone is, and that ability to always have fun will take us a long way!”