Our amazing ROK-U team, Cheonwon, managed to win our first game of the season. Our weekend started rusty. There was a brief break for varying levels of drunken revelry and a stay at an amazing hostel. Then the sweet taste of victory washed over us. Our final game may have the been tainted by administrative hijinks, but nothing could take away the feeling of success that we all felt at pulling together as a team.
The games this weeks were held in Busan, the coastal city that we initially wanted to be placed in, and fell in love with over Kristen’s birthday weekend. For the second time this year, we played on sand, and for the second time this year, it was hard on our bodies. Our team had never played on sand together, and it showed in our games on the first day of play. We were rusty. We were slow. We were uncoordinated, and miscommunication abounded. Our first game epitomised these flaws, and was a demoralising loss to one of the better teams in the league.
Nevertheless, we avoided falling into a negative mental state as a result of the loss. We acknowledged that the game had happened, noted some mistakes to be worked on, and proceeded to the next game, against a team native to Busan. While we lost once more, it was a much tighter affair, with our noble Cheonwons only going down 4-8. It was in this game that we first showed signs that we could win a game on the sandy beaches of Busan.
Once our second game was completed, our games for Saturday were finished, and we had the rest of the afternoon and evening to our own, before we would head to the arranged ROK-U party at the local Irish pub, The Wolfhound. Our team took the time to visit our accommodation for the evening, a local hostel named COOOOL Guesthouse. They most certainly lived up to their name – the space was very well-designed, open, clean, and, frankly, cool. We put our kit down, had quick (or, in the case of some ladies, not so quick) showers, and headed out for a team dinner. We ate our fill, took some photos, and left for The Wolfhound.
This was my first taste of an Ultimate party in Korea, and I must say that it was a great night. Even though I was not drunk, I had more fun than most of the drunk people there. It was wonderful to see large portions of the teams in a social setting, as opposed to on the field. I played darts, I danced, I walked around in a onesie once more. The theme was pyjama party, and my actual sleeping clothes (or lack thereof) would not really be safe or pleasant for the general public to see. After Kris and I had had our fill of merriment, we left, lay down in our bunk bed, and slept soundly.
We arose in the mid-morning, with our first game of the day only at 1 p.m. Our wonderful host at COOOOL had prepared a scrumptious breakfast of egg and cheese on toast, complete with condiments and French pressed coffee. Where nothing more than a loaf of ordinary bread, some jam, and instant coffee in a tub would have sufficed, COOOOL went the extra mile. When we return to Busan, we will most certainly be returning to COOOOL. We then packed our things and said goodbye to our lovely host, heading to the beach to support the other teams/spy on them for their weaknesses.
One of the teams that we had our eyes on were the team that we would be playing next, Feel. Unlike most of the other teams in the league, they seemed to be less than perfectly organised, similar to our own level. We were cautiously optimistic that we could give them a tough game. We could maybe even win. In our pre-game pep talk, everyone was ready, and had a fire in their eyes that had not been there in the first game on Saturday. We knew that we started to really come together as a team in the second game of Saturday’s play, and if we played at that level, we could show the other teams what we could truly do.
The first half began well. We managed to score a couple of quick points, leading the game for the first time of any game in the season up until that point. After our initial burst of scoring, the game slowed down, and we began trading points back and forth. However, once we scored our sixth point, the half ended. The score was 6-2 to us. There were many smiles in our half-time huddle, but behind those smiles lay weary eyes and beads of sweat – we had run hard in the first half, and we were all tired. This tiredness showed in the first part of the second half. We became complacent, and Feel capitalised on this, scoring three quick points of their own to bring the score 6-5. At this point, hard cap was called. This meant that the game would end after the next point was scored, unless the game ended in a tie. My body was quite broken, and I spent this crucial time on the sideline, cheering for my team. Both teams played scrappily, a combination of exhaustion and in-game stress leading to a host of throws going awry. After this one point lasted ten minutes, the fastest cutter on Feel managed to break away from his mark and catch a lofty pass in the end zone, bringing the scoreline even again, and forcing the game into the Universal Point. Whoever scored the next point in the game would win it.
If the hard cap point was a marathon, the Universal Point was a supermarathon. Even with fresh legs on the field after the hard cap, the game had been long, and we all were wrecked. Instead of trying to work the disc up the field with short passes, both teams fired long-range passes, hoping to catch one of their respective cutters in the end zone and end the game quickly. They did not succeed. The point went on for twenty minutes. Fast cuts and interplay changed to ambling and desperation. And then we managed to get the disc deep in the Feel half. I made eye contact with our handler, Jotham. We both knew what had to happen. I faked a cut, beat my mark, and bolted for the left-hand side of the end zone. Jotham floated a beautiful pass, slightly beyond my reach. I leapt into the air. I caught it. We had won. It is the proudest moment in my Ultimate career up until this point.
Our next game, which had been rescheduled to a later time, was less positive. Many players on our team had booked train tickets to and from Busan weeks in advance, using the earlier timetable, where our final game took place one hour earlier than it ended up doing. Consequently, almost half of our players left in order to not miss their trains. Our last game was a rout.
Not even the frustration of losing awfully due largely do to administration could wipe the smile off of my face though. I had scored the winning point for my team in the most dramatic fashion. I felt like a king. Even now, sleep creeping in on my senses like black mist, I think back to that moment and smile. Sure, I may have fulfilled my role rather well at that moment. But without my team, I would not have been in that position. And in the moment that I scored, there was nothing in our team’s mind of but the glory of winning our first game, the joy of overcoming everything put in front of us. I helped do that.