Photo by Scobel Wiggins – Ultiphotos.com
The Rainmakers will travel south this weekend to take on their rival the Stags. The teams will be playing each other in the Western Conference Championship for the second year in a row. Last year the Rainmakers and Stags played a close game in the playoff, and Seattle won 17-16. This year the Stags have been a dominant team in the west, their only loss coming from the cross-divisional game they had with the Boston Whitecaps. After losing the first two games of the season to the Stags, the Rainmakers have gone on a winning streak, besting their opponents seven games in a row. The Rainmakers have improved over the season, incorporating their rookie players into the squad. Julian Peterson and veteran disc slinger Ben Wiggins were slated to be offensive handlers this year, but injuries sidelined them, so the Rainmakers added Daniel Walton midseason to help their handler line. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Evan Klein, has been a great scorer for the Rainmakers this year. Also on the rise this year is Brad Houser, who went from average player last season to number two in scoring for the league this year. Khalif El-Salaam, named USAU Player of the Year for D-1 Northwest Men’s Division this year for his play on the UW Sundodgers, has been racking up the points for the Rainmakers when he’s not off playing on another ultimate team. Unfortunately for the Rainmakers, he is unavailable for the next two games because he will be playing for the USA Men’s team at WUGC 2016 in London.
The Rainmakers statistics have improved over the season. In their first two games against the Stags, the Rainmakers had a 51.9% Offensive Scoring Efficiency (OSE), or percentage of time that they scored when starting on offense, which they have now improved to 62.7%. They had a Defensive Scoring Efficiency (DSE), or percentage they scored when starting on defense, of 28.2%, which is now 43.9%. Though just one tenth of one percent higher than Portland’s DSE, Seattle’s is the best in the MLU. The Ranmakers Defensive Turnover Scoring Efficiency (DTSE), or percentage they scored after the disc is turned over, started out 35.3%, and is the highest ranked in the league at 55.6%. The Rainmakers defensive line is responsible for those league-leading statistics. Their ability to force a turnover and then use that opportunity to score wins the Rainmakers games. Handlers Henry Phan, Chris Rupp, and Eddie Feeley dish it up to Cam Bailey, El-Salaam, Ben Beehner, and the other members of Seattle’s quick cutting crew.
The Rainmakers will have a lot of their power players back this game. Notable absences include El-Salaam and hybrid Peter Bender. The Stags will have a pretty full roster as well. Handlers Jeremy Norden and Tyler Cable will be out this game. Cutter Matt Melius is questionable because of illness. Raphy Hayes, second in scoring for the Stags, didn’t play the last game and listed as injured but probable for this game.
The question for this game is how the Rainmakers and Stags will play after not seeing each other since the first two games of the season. Will the Rainmakers defensive line be able to turn the disc against the Stags strong offensive line? Will the Stags play like the mean it, or will they be lackluster, like when they let the San Francisco Dogfish tie them in the second quarter of last game? Coach Kate Kingery said that the Rainmakers were testing out some new strategies in their last game. Surely they will debut their tactics this game before meeting the Stags in the Western Conference Championship next weekend. It will surely be a battle of frisbee skill, but also of the mental game. The Rainmakers struggled with getting in their own heads at the beginning of the season. The coaches have said they want the Rainmakers to bring it in all quarters of the game, but they really want Seattle to be a fourth quarter team. We will see how they do this week against the mighty-but-not-invincible Stags.