Flying Horsecows fall just short of big dance

by Nachie Castro

The Flying Horsecows' entire year was mirrored flawlessly during the course of their final tournament last weekend. Injuries and upsets, both stellar and flat games, freezing rain, tardy sunshine and more all made their presence known. Oberlin ended their season as close as anyone could get without making nationals. College Regionals were held in Ann Arbor, Mich. last weekend, and the University of Michigan's ultimate team hosted teams from all across the Central region, which spans school as far east as Oberlin, as far west as University of Colorado, as far north as Carleton College and as far south as Ohio University. All in all, 18 teams were competing in the men's bracket for the three spots allocated to the Central for College Nationals, held this year in Blaine, Minn.

The Horsecows knew what had to be done to perform well. After winning the east plains Sectional tournament the previous weekend, what would be needed to be one of the top 12 teams in the country and therefore go to Nationals again (Oberlin went in 1995 and 1997), Oberlin basically had to beat enough of the teams gunning for the top three spots: Carleton, the perennial favorite from the great white north; Madison, who took first place in the Central last year; Colorado, a strong team from the mostly-great-white-west, lost to Oberlin last year in the game for the game for the bid for Nationals (and hadn't forgotten); Ohio University, who lost to Oberlin in the actual game to go to Nationals last year, and other schools such as Iowa, Kansas and Colorado State.

Oberlin opened up pool play with a first round game again Kansas University's Horizontals. Oberlin slowly pulled ahead and stayed ahead to take the first game 17-9. The win was bittersweet though, as junior Sandy Bilus was sent to the hospital with a concussion after a collision near the end of the game, taking one of their starting players out of the tournament.

Next game Michigan State, a young team who were looking for experience in their first Regional tournament. They got it, and the Horsecows were able to get up and win 17-6 while rotating deeply into their roster and getting playing time for many of the younger players on the team. With that victory, the 'Cows secured a second-seed in their pool of four, which meant they would go to the second day of the tournament, in which the top eight teams would play double-elimination to whittle the field further down to three.

Their third and final game for the day came against the University of Colorado's Mama Bird, who had been heckling Oberlin in the spare time of their first two games. The Horsecows fell to Mama Bird 17-6 and went back to their stylin' Motel to prepare for the second day.

Last year the second day of Regionals was highlighted by a thunderstorm, complete with lightning and hail. Waking up to find a steady rain, a steadier wind, and steadiest yet, a temperature of about 40 degrees, no one was too shocked. Cold, but not shocked. The only concession made to the weather was to play the games of the second day in games to 13, 15 and 17 for the quarter-finals, the semi's and the final instead of the usual 15-17-19 used in the final day.

Oberlin's first game came against sectional rivals Ohio University, who they had beaten for the top sectional spot the weekend before. Both teams turned the disc over a lot, and the game became more of a war of attrition to see which team would last longer and be able to pull ahead before the game was time-capped (each game is slotted an hour and a half at which point the "to win" score is dropped to two plus the highest score at the time). Due to two phenomenal upwind points Oberlin took the lead and the game ended 11-8 in the 'Cows' favor.

Next game Carleton College's CUT, who apparently took the driving rain and dropping temperatures as beach weather and were able to cut through it easily (due to either the fact that they had a bus waiting to warm them up in the parking lot, or simply due to the fact that it's always that nasty in Northfield, MN). They also cut through Oberlin, as players retreated to the warmth of cars to try and get feeling back into their hands and bodies. Oberlin was blanked 15-0 by CUT's resiliency and solid play.

Assistance and salvation from the elements came in the form of heat warmers bought from local stores in time for the next game, against the University of Madison's Ho-Dag. With Carleton and Colorado heading into the finals, the last spot to go to Nationals was being fought over by four teams, each already with a Sunday loss in their column. Feeling no strong desire to go through hell and back with little to show for it, and a very strong desire to beat the team who placed first the year before. Oberlin began another slow game, knowing that one way or another working the disc upfield on upwind points would be the key. Another starting player for Oberlin succumbed to injury when sophomore Todd Daloz went down after diving with two Madison players for a huck in the end zone. The game was neck and neck until the final points, when lay out defense from junior Ben Grubb shut down Madison's offense. Grubb continued on, to catching the final score and sending Oberlin to the finals by a winning score of 9-7.

The University of Iowa was the competition in the last game and brought a newly styled offense designed to open up space in the middle of the field. It worked over and over again, and Oberlin's squad lost in the final, 15-6. Highlights included the return (again) of senior captain Jim Woodroffe, whose torn ACL kept him out of nearly all of the spring. Taking the field in pants and sneakers he somehow still beat his man to the disc and had little problem working the disc twice through Iowa's defense.

The Flying Horsecows will be losing captains Nachie Castro and Woodroffe, as well as fifth-year players Andrew McCormick and Matt Meisenhelder and rookie senior Peter Washington as they look ahead to the fall's season, but a powerful group of soon-to-be-seniors and a large group of soon-to-be sophomores look to be the base of the '98-'99 Horsecows.

-Discourse is written by members of the Ultimate team. Nachie Castro is men's co-captain.

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Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 23, May 1, 1998

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