The Western Conference Preseason Showcase between the Seattle Rainmakers and Portland Stags promises to be a real barn burner.
Although the rivalry between Seattle and Portland is not as storied as between Seattle and Vancouver, there’s no reason to assume that this match won’t be heated.
For starters, three players on the Rainmakers roster are former Portland Rhinos: Seth Wiggins, Bryson Uhrig-Fox, and perhaps most controversially, Rhino captain Mario O’Brien.
“I’m running with the Rainmakers instead of the Stags because I want to be coached by one of the best in the world, and I want to win, simple as that. My old teammates knew it, I was pretty upfront about it with everyone, and they understood,” said O’Brien.
There is plenty of overlap the other way though. Nevin Root has been playing with Seattle Voodoo for years but signed on with the Stags for this season. Root will be facing off against his Voodoo teammates Bryson Uhrig-Fox and Ben Beehner, and also Voodoo 2012 captain Elliot Trotter.
Stag Jeremy Norden first picked up a disc at The Northwest School in Seattle, played with MoHo, a Seattle youth club team, played Seattle YCC, and also played with Voodoo from 2007-2009. He has coached at a host of middle schools and summer programs in the Seattle area. But Norden threw his hat into the ring with the Stags.
Khalif El-Salaam is a shining example of the Seattle youth Ultimate scene. He has played at Worlds, currently plays with University of Washington Sundodgers, and made a very strong showing at the Seattle Rainmakers combine.
Even beyond the crossover between Seattle and Portland players, there will be plenty of old teammates facing off as well. NexGen’s 2011 roster included Cody Bjorklund (Stags), Phil Murray (Rainmakers), and Matthew Zemel (Rainmakers). Matthew Rehder (Rainmakers) was on the 2012 tour. And NexGen founder Kevin Minderhout, a big name in the Ultimate world, is a Stag.
But is blood thicker than water?
“It’s going to be fun to be on the field with my old and new teammates at the same time,” said O’Brien. “I love those guys, and I’m really proud of what we put together with Rhino over the past few years. People have been asking me if it’s going to be weird to play against them, but it won’t.”
“As for the game, I’ll just be focused on doing what I need to do to help the Rainmakers be ready for our first game of the season against Vancouver. After the game I’m sure I’ll catch up with some of my friends from Portland, but until then it’s all about being the best possible teammate and talking with my legs.”
While tempers may not be likely to flare quickly, no one in their right mind thinks that that this will be an easy game. Still, O’Brien believes that the depth of the Rainmakers roster will ultimately prevail: “If they stick a great defender on me, great, that means Moses, Phil, BJ, Holt, and Chicken are going to be that much more open.”
O’Brien anticipates that the Stags to watch will be Riley Meinershagen and Ben Lohre, “so I’ll just probably have to guard both of them at the same time, boom, problem solved. The plan is to RISE UP and make it rain all over them and their frictiongloves.com-wearin’, beard-havin’, NexGen-playin’, PDX hipster homies.”
It’s a great weekend for Ultimate. The Eastern Conference Preseason Showcase between New York and Philadelphia took place on Saturday, and you can catch the West Conference Preseason Showcase today at Renton Memorial Stadium (406 Logan Avenue North, Renton, WA 98055) at 3:00 pm. And it’s FREE! See you there!