Photo by Scobel Wiggins – UltiPhotos.com
The Seattle Rainmakers handed the Portland Stags the first loss of the season, winning 25-23 on a warm and windless night at Mt. Hood Community College Stadium.
With just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Rainmakers held a tenuous two-point lead. After two turnovers, Seattle found themselves on offense with Sam Harkness holding the disc and an open Henry Phan streaking deep. Harkness threw a flick huck and Phan made an incredible diving grab, before dishing an easy assist to Bryson Uhrig-Fox. Visiting Seattle fans breathed a sigh of relief at the preserved lead and the Rainmakers controlled the game the rest of the way.
Seattle was able to build a lead in the first half with smart, possession-oriented Ultimate.
“We executed our game plan well,” said Seattle Coach Steve Gussin. “We made good choices with the disc and took away the things we needed to on defense.”
Opening the game on offense, Adam Simon picked up the disc and immediately threw a quick pass to cutter Danny Trytiak. Trytiak turned upfield and unleashed a backhand huck to the streaking Donnie Clark for the score. In Seattle’s last game, Clark turned out an incredible 14-point performance against the Vancouver Nighthawks, and in this contest he led the team with seven points on five goals, two assists and two defensive plays.
On the subsequent possession Seattle’s handler defense was able to generate some pressure, but the Stags utilized a series of quick resets and short passes to break through the defense. Seattle transplant Mark Burton connected with Eli Friedman to even the game.
The two teams would trade the next three points, which included Seattle cutter Tom Rosatto making a huge layout to seal off his defender. Seattle would then go on a 3-0 run with breaks before Portland burned a timeout to regroup. Stags cutter Cody Bjorklund (five goals and four assists) was able to stop the bleeding with a breakmark hammer score to Camden Allison-Hall. The Rainmakers would seize one more break before the end of the quarter, leading 8-3.
Coach Gussin named defensive pressure as the key to Seattle’s first quarter success. “It was all on our D-line. It was them flying down putting pressure on their handlers and putting them in positions they did not want to be in. That’s where a lot of our blocks came from and we were able to convert.”
The teams would trade scores throughout the second quarter. Seattle could not pull away, but stringent defense ensured Portland would not get much closer. Smart positioning by Khalif El-Salaam forced a turnover, but Cody Bjorklund ensured that Portland started converting offensive possessions, righting the ship with pinpoint throws and hammer scores. Seattle led at half, 13-8.
Portland began to make up ground in the third quarter, earning their first break with a Peter Woodside score from Dan Suppnick, but Seattle held tight to the lead. Shortly thereafter, a miscommunication between El-Salaam and Danny Trytiak left El-Salaam completely out of position on a huck, making an easy catch for Portland defender Adam Ferrea. But Ferrea made the mistake of only tapping the disc. El-Salaam saw his opportunity and laid out past his defender to turn what should have been a turnover into a score. Portland scored another break to pull within two, but could not close the gap before Seattle secured the win.
El-Salaam finished the game with one goal, two assists and two passes defended. He was also a frequent target out of the handler set, consistently getting open for midrange passes.
The 4-2 Rainmakers will stay home next weekend for a BYE before hosting the Vancouver Nighthawks on May 31.