George Brown College (GBC) kicked off 2018-19's extramural season with aplomb, reaching the finals at the University of Toronto Mississauga's (UTM) Ultimate Tournament.
The Huskies were tasked with the opposite of a nice and easy start, kicking off the tourney with 10 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. tilts against their age-old rivals, Humber North and Humber Lakeshore, respectively.
To their credit, GBC didn't blink but instead embraced the challenge. Their reward was a hard-fought 4-4 result against Humber North, tied on the game's final play by returning extramural veteran Sarah DeCoste, followed by a decisive 4-2 victory over Humber Lakeshore.
It wasn't long into the day's action that everyone had that windswept look, and for good reason, given how wind conditions were more gusty than gentle breeze.
As one can imagine in a sport involving frisbees being thrown, the intense wind could easily wreak havoc on a team's performance. Instead, what an impressed Huskies head coach Derek Vigar saw was his squad adjusting to the conditions they faced.
"On a windy day like today, you've really got to be conscious of which way the wind's blowing, and the team has really adjusted the strategy to say, 'You know what, we're going to go for these highlight reel plays,' where we're going to use the wind to our advantage, when it's at our back we're going to throw it deep and use our athleticism to go up and make those catches," explained Vigar at the tournament's halfway mark.
"And when we're going the other way into the wind and facing those conditions, I really like how the team adjusted their strategy and instead said, 'We're going to make some shorter passes and move the disc more in a give and go kind of way.' The team's really reacting to the conditions well and as a result, we're seeing some nice results."
One drawback of the day's heavy-hitting start was a prolonged lull in the action between games two and three. Amongst other potential hurdles, lengthy breaks can lead to overthinking the matches to come. On that note however, returning student-athletes on the team were able to draw upon lessons learned from the previous season.
"Last year at this time we had the same kind of break, and we just got too hyped up, we tried to really strategize and that just didn't work," said DeCoste, whose experience with last year's squad led her to join an ultimate league over the summer. "This year, we're just having fun, throwing the frisbee and not looking too far ahead or focusing too hard on the finals."
That mindset of having fun and letting the day unfold paid dividends for George Brown, who came out of their break with a convincing 6-3 win against Seneca King, a W which sealed the Huskies' place in the finals. GBC's final game before the championship would come against hosts UTM, a 4-3 victory which saw the Huskies go undefeated during round robin play.
The day would end the way it began: Facing off against Humber North. This time however, there would be no tie. Though the match was competitive from first throw to final play, the Hawks made a few more crucial catches to pull away in the second half, resulting in a 4-2 final score.
While not the end result the Huskies were hoping for, George Brown showed well on its convincing march to the finals, and the only thing in greater abundance than the gusts may have been the team's gusto. "For sure the intensity and the confidence was night and day," Huskies student-athlete Kevin Rabichow said of his team's progression over the course of the day.
"We were trusting each other, throwing what we thought we could throw, and playing really, really good defence, which we maybe didn't think that we could do at the beginning of the tournament. I think we surprised ourselves."
When reflecting upon the growth made that afternoon, Vigar saw plenty of development from his squad, especially in terms of chemistry and leadership. Unlike last year, GBC's ultimate team has one more tournament to follow on October 19, hosted by Humber North. Moving from one tournament to the next, with a month's worth of practice in-between, gives the Huskies head coach reason for excitement.
"The next stage is definitely, now we have this experience and we have the athleticism, it's just to refine it," Vigar said. "Make sure we've got the plays, make sure we know the structures, the formations, people knowing where they should be.
"I'm excited, because if we did this well just with this amount of sheer talent, the fact that we have another month to practice and refine some of our plays and the way we're going to organize ourselves, I'm really excited to see what that product looks like at the next tournament."