Pro-Elite Challenge 2021: Excitement, Excitement Everywhere on Day 1 in Denver


Club Ultimate is back!

a shame. Aubree Dietrich. Photo: Sam Hotaling –

Enthusiastic, overjoyed, enthusiastic – with these and many other synonyms for “excited”, Pro-Elite Challenge players exuberantly described what it felt like to return to the ultimate competition on the opening day of the first competition event of the 2021 club season.

Seeing 18 fields full of sailing discs, multi-colored jerseys and elite players from across the country vying for sporting games was all at once familiar, exciting and surreal after the break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to the game presented opportunities and challenges for teams across the pools in both divisions. The players celebrated reunions with teammates and opponents on all teams with the unique combination of camaraderie and rivalry that makes our sport unique. Many stepped onto the grid at the club’s ultimate break, and teams tried to improve their chemistry as new squads and long-time teammates got used to playing together again.

In the Men’s Division, # 4 New York PoNY was strong with intense defense and an energetic sideline, finishing day one in the tournament’s power pool 3-0 against # 1 Seattle Sockeye, # 11 Denver Johnny Bravo and # 12 SoCal Condors, all of which had their share of athletic games but struggled with uncharacteristic flaws as they calibrated their lines and got back into the groove of the game throughout the day. Colorado teams dominated Pools B, C and D as # 21 Boulder Lotus, Golden mushrooms, and Boulder ISO Atmo swept their pelvis. Minneapolis Mallard and Orem The Killjoys were also unscathed in the pool game before The Killjoys secured last place in the championship round with a decisive 15-4 win over the boys from Minnesota in their crossover match.

Sunday’s championship round provides the opportunity for elite rematches between the top teams which, thanks to the reps and lessons from the mistakes on Day 1, could be cleaner and more balanced than Saturday’s bouts of minor pool winners.

In mixed, strong newcomers and different approaches to squads and lines in the teams caused some changes in the results of the first day of the pool game. Two new teams making their competitive debut – # 23 Kansas City United and # 25 Arizona Mixed 1 – lived up to their preseason hype to win both their pools and their bracketed spots alongside the more established # 6 Fort teams To win Collins. and # 9 Durham Toro, who each swept their pools. Notably, # 15 finished Denver Love Tractor 2-1 and thwarted their chances of competing in the championship class on Sunday – an atypical result for a program that has traditionally done very well at this home tournament. Love Tractor is still in the middle of trial training and will complete its roster after the Pro-Elite Challenge. So your performance on Day 1 predicts little how this long-time elite team will develop over the course of the season.

Sunday’s quarterfinal matches are likely to be exciting as the top four seeds of the tournament have landed on the same side of the bracket while several exciting upstarters populate the other side. Expect close matches when each of the eight teams still in the running to win the tournament bring the intensity and athleticism they showed on Day 1.

Here are four more lessons learned from Saturday across both divisions that may provide more context for the start of the Pro-Elite Challenge:

  • Gusts of wind presented the players with a challenge. Periodically strong winds added to the challenge of dusting cobwebs when returning to the game, which disrupted the offensive flow for the teams in both divisions. Day 1 of the Pro-Elite Challenge had more misses and drops from elite teams than the average tournament, but there were also tons of exciting skies and layout blocks as hungry defenders took advantage of floating passes and misses.
  • Not all teams came with their full or final roster. Some teams – especially in the mixed division – like Love Tractor, Arizona Mixed 1, Scham. and others continue to try players this weekend and may end up looking very different when the series runs. Others, like Columbus Cocktails and Seattle Sockeye, are closer to their final roster but seem to be playing more open lines, so their style of play this weekend may not have much of an impact on the rest of the season. Notable pickups Jonathan Nethercutt on Boulder Lotus and Kami Groom on Kansas City United will return to the Ring of Fire and Brute Squad, respectively, later this year for the series. As the competition heats up on Sunday, some teams may continue to play open lines for development purposes and others could close their ranks, which could change the dynamics of the game.
  • For some teams it is easier to get back to competitive level than others. While some players got touch through the local league and other gaming opportunities throughout the club break, teams that had earned places in the championship round appeared to return to top speed and intensity more easily than other opponents. The gap in game intensity and speed should narrow in the run-up to the series as the teams increase their training and training plans.
  • Team culture – including racial and gender equality – in the foreground. Cheers from lively sidelines echoed across the fields and the excitement of returning to the game was palpable. When describing goals for the weekend, many teams said they wanted to strengthen the team culture and play this beloved sport with people they consider their best friends and ultimate family. But after a year of exposing many of the racial and gender inequalities in our country, many teams also described steps they have taken to build community among teammates through shared learning and growth around equality. From book clubs to conscious choices to play 3/4 mixed, to fundraising for social justice and more, many elite teams have expressed intent to guide the community with their values ​​through their playstyle, finances, and connections.

The first day of the Colorado Cup was a joyous occasion for players and spectators alike as we soaked up the warm Colorado sun and celebrated the return of the sport we all love. Sunday will offer more exciting matchups, intense play and a love of the ultimate – stay tuned!

  1. Isabel Cruz

    Isabel Cruz

    Isabel “Fizzy” Cruz was originally from Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Denver. She started playing on an open team Ultimate in high school and really fell in love with women’s sports during her time at Yale University with Ramona Quimby from 2013 to 2017, where she was leading her senior year. Fizzy has seized every opportunity to build a community worldwide by playing their favorite sport through leagues, fun tournaments and competitive club-level games in New York, Denver and Argentina.

TAGGED: USAU Club, USAU Club Men, USAU Club Mixed, Arizona Mixed 1, Boulder ISO Atmo, Durham Toro, Golden Fungi, Minneapolis Mallard, Orem The Killjoys, Pro-Elite Challenge 2021,

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