The San Francisco Dogfish came from behind to beat the Vancouver Nighthawks in overtime 13-12 in today’s Major League Ultimate match-up in San Francisco, but the real winner was the wind.

At times this game looked like a lower pool city league game, as the strong gusty winds at times rendered these highly trained and experienced athletes helpless. The tone was set on the very first throw of the game, when what would normally have been a short easy pass towered far above the receiver’s head, forcing him to scramble and dive to catch it. Very few upwind pulls made it past midfield, and by my count there were only four points without at least one turnover. Perhaps due to the frustration caused by the difficult playing conditions, it was also a very aggressively played game, with many fouls, an orange band, and an ejection.

Two points had six turnovers, one had seven, two had nine, one had ten, one had eleven, and one point, which started with the fourth quarter pull and took more than seven minutes to complete, had no fewer than 16. At times both teams even resorted to hucking the disc as far as they could either upwind or downwind, deliberately giving up a turnover to gain some yardage and hoping to force another turnover to get back possession, which was usually what happened.

“It was like throwing dice out there on that far sideline,” said the Nighthawks’ Alex Davis. “Tired throwers on both teams were getting more and more tunnel vision. As the game went on the D-Line of both teams figured out how to use the wind very effectively on that sideline.”

“That was one of those games almost preordained to be a tight one, by virtue of the low scoring percentages managed by both teams. If we had won that marathon point that took up most of the fourth quarter, we would have won the game. But we didn’t. Little things become big things in those circumstances.”

The turning point came when Morgan Hibbert, who had played at least 75% of the game and had been by far the best player on either team while leading the Nighthawks to a 12-10 lead at the end of the third quarter, first received the orange band and then was kicked out of the game during that marathon point. Without their captain and inspirational leader, the Nighthawks did not manage to score a point in the fourth quarter or overtime, while the Dogfish managed three points to pull out the win.

Full credit goes to San Francisco’s best player Evan Boucher, who several times managed to force good throws through the wind when the Dogfish needed a lift, and scored the winning goal on a short pass from Corey Lee. Also notable was Jackson Stearns who scored three goals, one of them upwind.

With neither team able to manage much scoring, the game was even most of the way. The first quarter ended in a 4-4 tie, with each team managing an upwind point. San Francisco opened the second quarter with a bang when Boucher completed an upwind huck which led to a goal by Lee. After receiving the pull the Nighthawks worked the disc all the way upwind to the Dogfish end zone but then turned it over, leading to another San Francisco goal. A few points later Kohji Sugioka made a remarkable catch near the Vancouver end zone and then passed for a goal to Dan Bellinger to give the Dogfish an 8-6 lead, but Vancouver scored the next point and then Kevin Underhill passed to John Norris for an upwind goal to make it 8-8 at halftime.

It was 10-9 for San Francisco halfway through the third quarter, but then the Nighthawks turned up the heat, scoring the next three points, including a nice upwind pass from Marc Seraglia to Hibbert and then Rumi Tejpar finding Andy Collins with nine seconds left to take a 12-10 lead heading into the third quarter. But with the start of the fourth quarter came the seven minute 16-turnover point, during which Hibbert was banished. It finally ended when Boucher found Jordan Jeffery for an upwind point, and then Bellinger passed a goal to Stearns to tie it up.

The Nighthawks looked to be sitting pretty when during the first point of overtime the Nighthawks’ Aaron Loach got a D in his end zone and he and his teammates marched the disc very smartly upwind. But while standing on the San Francisco goal line Gagan Chatha threw what should have been an easy pass into the end zone for an upwind goal that might have won the game directly to a San Francisco player instead of to his open teammate. After several more turnovers and a timeout Boucher scored the winning goal.

With this loss against the 2-5 Dogfish, the 2-3 Nighthawks’ playoff aspirations have taken a blow. They need to start winning some road games if they want to play in the MLU Western Conference finals.

The Nighthawks next home game will be against the Portland Stags at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Stadium on Saturday, May 24 at 7 p.m.

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