Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dynamo join forces at the Lake Erie Classic

This past weekend, a group of ordinary people assembled in Cleveland, OH. Six of them came to the Sixth City to compete in the Lake Erie Classic.

Post championship game

Dynamo's first game was against Case Western University.  The team started off strong with several quick goals from AK Mashhoon and Andy Neff who both converted on their "first time" shots.  A strong press defense and consistent play lead to a convincing win over Case Western 14-2.  The next game had Dynamo facing off against Ohio University.  Much of the same carried over from the first game and allowed for a nearly flawless game over Ohio University 14-1. From a spectator's point of view, the team was playing together as a cohesive unit like they had been training with each other for months. The team was talking to each other on defense, calling for switches and drops into hole, and setting up on offense, taking time to pass around the perimeter before setting the ball.

The third game of the day was against the home team Cleveland Gold. Dynamo exchanged cheerful words with their coach and player, Kasi, but little did he know that they were all plotting to get him rolled. Things became a little tense in the first quarter when Cleveland scored the first goal of the game and Dynamo trailed for the first time in the tournament. With Cleveland sporting several XL players and a bigger bench, the competition had kicked up a notch in terms of skill and difficulty.  Dynamo came prepared, however, and switched to a 4-2 drop which totally shut down Gold's offense. From then on, Dynamo was able to rally on offense with a myriad of fast breaks, outside shots, and sweep shots. Regrettably, no backhands were performed. The team ended up winning 15-4 vs Cleveland and finished the day 3-0.

Before calling it a day, the team gathered in the stands to watch an exciting game happening between the Columbus Youth and Cleveland Red. After a neck and neck fourth quarter, the Youth emerged victorious.  Dynamo watched helplessly as the massive bench moved in unison to shake hands. The team could only hope for a good night's rest before facing them in the championship game.

The team woke up early to mentally prep and loosen up after a hard night of partying, "Kasi style". Dynamo's strategy was to not let the young players swim them to exhaustion and use as much of the shot clock as possible on each possession.  The game got off to a quick start as both teams netted goals but things looked grim for Dynamo as both Steve Larson and Mike Wong received two exclusion fouls in the first quarter.  The team needed to regroup during the break and find a way to stop the Youth's relentless offense.  They decided to fallback to the 4-2 drop in order to stop their drivers.  With their driving lanes cut off, the Youth on the perimeter could only watch in horror as Richard Lau acted as a Cerberus and attacked, not defended, the center forward with ferocity.  The only option left for Columbus was to shoot the ball into the hands of Taylor, the goalkeeper from Houston.  Dynamo held strong for the remainder of the game and emerged victorious with a score of 15-7.  Check out the postgame picture below!

The final game for Dynamo was an exhibition match versus a combined team of Cleveland Red and Gold.  Dynamo stuck to their game plan of alternating between 4-2 drop and press defense.  The match was much closer than previous games and the score went back and forth.  The second half became quite physical with the Cleveland team aggressively pressing on the perimeter as well as denying any sort of set offense.  The team relied on several key fast breaks and man up opportunities to put numbers on the board and focused whatever energy they had left on defense.  The score was tied at 7-7 with less than 30 seconds remaining and Cleveland, with possession, called a timeout.  They were keen on making their last play count.  Dynamo went with the 4-2 drop to force a shot or bad pass from the perimeter.  The strong defense paid off and Cleveland made a forced pass into hole where two Dynamo players quickly snatched the ball.  Now, what follows is a personal account along with the opinion of several key witnesses of what transpired in the last seconds of that grueling game.  With the clock winding down to zero, Richard picked up the ball and threw a Hail Mary shot across the pool which skipped top right, ricocheted off the post, behind the goalkeeper's head, off the other post and in.  Epic.  Alas, the referee, bounded by his relative space, did not see that the ball indeed did leave the hand before the buzzer.  The game went on to sudden death overtime with no golden goal being attained by either team.  A great game to finish a fantastic tournament nonetheless.

Cleveland proved to be an awesome city after all and people welcomed us as if we were bunny rabbits.  They kept saying how good Dynamo was and how we really looked like a well formed team.  We put into practice what we've worked on the past few months and despite not having a full team, we were able to listen to each other and just play good water polo.

Look for us to be back next year Cleveland!

Special thanks to Spitz, Bob, Kacy, Nico, Robin, Louie, and anyone else that stepped in for us. Y'all are awesome!

One more shout out to the duo from Houston, Richard and Taylor, and Steve Larson from GT.  Thanks guys!