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Surat Ultimate Open

About 20 of us, gathered at Andheri Station, to leave for Surat. I was the only one playing in his/her first tournament, and it was exciting to be a part of a squad, going to a tournament. A first in my life. We had two teams, A and B, or better known as Storm and Chasers. I was playing for the Chasers team. The train journey was pretty uneventful for me, unfortunately so, because of a mixed up ticket booking and only 4 of us, sitting in the AC coach. I ended up reading or sleeping for most part of the journey. I didn't realize, we could just walk into the other coach where most of the others were having a lot of fun!

Fountainhead School was the venue for the tournament, and they had arranged for transport, accommodation and food and drinks, all through the tournament. The organization for the tournament was pretty good, I must say! We had a bus pick us up at the railway station, and getting into the bus felt like we were some big team with our own team bus, and stuff (though, there was also the Silent Voice team on the bus ;). Ganesh and I had a little chat in the bus, and he was recollecting his experiences in his first tournament, and was asking me what I expected from the tournament, and I didn't really have a good answer, because I was too excited. But, I really enjoyed the chat with him.

We all crashed at the school library for the night, for a hard day in the field on the next day. We rushed to the field, early next morning, about half a km of walk from the school, the playing field was in the middle of some fields and we warmed up to a lovely sun rise. Storm had their first game at 7, against Dream Catchers, and they started a little rusty in the first half, but came back strongly in the second one to beat them 11-7. This was going to be closest their opposition was going to come to winning! Chasers had their first game against Silent Voice, a team from Ahmedabad. We got together as a team for the first time, really, and having just one substitute player didn't really help much. We got thrashed by Silent voice, 11-4 or 11-5. Chasers got the next game as a bye, since Lay Lapak failed to turn up for the tournament and this meant we slid up the table and got to play the Dream Catchers from Ahmedabad. Craig reached in time, from Mumbai, for this game, and we gave them a decent fight in this game, though the score line didn't really suggest it. We were doing way too many mistakes (and repeating them!) near the end-zones and they were costing us a lot. The highlight of these games, though, was the spectacular layouts by Cheerag on D. Storm, meanwhile, thrashed the HAT team 11-0, and beat Surat Trailblazers convincingly.

A lot of the teams had school kids on them, who were playing astonishingly well. The pick out of those was Jumbish, which had 10 to 15 year olds, jumping all over the place and giving their opposition a run for their money. The moment of the tournament for me was a catch by a Jumbish player, who jumped ahead of him, to take a catch, flipped over in the air without placing his hands on to the ground, and landed on his feet and made a perfectly nice pass to his team-mate! Exciting stuff to watch! Pune also has a nice Ultimate program for kids, and their team Royal Spirits was playing some good Ultimate.

The last game of the day was Storm vs. Flying Spirits from Pune, who were second on the points table, after Storm. But Storm was clinical in their execution, and "Bagel-ed" [read as, thrashed 11-0] Flying Spirits.

At the end of the day, we had a good dinner and lots of ice-cream and discussed our favorite moments of the day. I felt proud to have featured in atleast one person's favorite moments, in my first tournament! W00t! Some of us fooled around on the dance floor for a while, to some Gujarati and Bollywood music.

The next day started with us playing Royal Spirits (Pune). We started off strongly, but ended up giving away some easy scores towards the end of the game, and ended up drawing the game at 6 all. Our next game against Storm was another Bagel for Storm. They played zone on us, and though we were as patient as we could be, we simply didn't have enough skill and team work to score against them. Our next game against Flying Spirits was a very good game, and I'd rate it the best amongst our games. We played a good stack and played hard on D, and were able to keep the scores at 5-5 until the last 5 minutes, when they scored and finished winners. The Flying Spirits admitted to us giving them a good competition and making them work hard for their goals. Our last game was against Zero Gravity, a team from the school itself, and our first victory! We started off pretty strongly, and were able to finish the game 10-5.

The final between Storm and Cats-Dogs (Delhi) was so much fun to watch. Storm stuck to their clinical performance and everyone seemed to be playing at their best! They came out winners 13-4 in a game that lasted close to an hour and a half. All the other games, btw, were games-to-11 and time capped to 55 minutes. Storm also managed to win the Spirit award for the tournament, and it is the first time in Indian Ultimate's history that a team won both the tournament and the spirit award!

The tournament was a lot of fun and a lot of learning for me. I learnt a lot of things from everyone playing there, specially from the players in Storm. I know I'll carry forward some wonderful memories from my first tournament, thanks to everyone from Storm Chasers and everybody else, who I played against. I really liked the idea of spirit circles after the games, where each team discussed the game and appreciated the other team about particular aspects of their team and play and suggested areas that they could work on, to improve themselves. I also hung out around some of the spirit circles of Storm and their opposition and I really loved listening to Apu speak to the opposition. On almost every occasion, it gave me goosebumps! Thanks Apu, for showing us, what the spirit of the game should mean to each of us. Ganesh mentioned, in the chat we had on the bus to the school, that I'd learn a lot more than just Ultimate, and it turned out to be true. I got to learn a lot about my team, and everybody on Storm chasers. I experienced what it feels like, to be a part of a squad or a team, for the first time and it feels great, in short! Thanks Ganesh for the chat, and all the inspiration on-and-off the field. In the middle of one of the games, Willis walked up to me and told me to be more confident on the field and move more crisply on the field. I'm not sure, that will change in one game, but that is something I'll remember for a long time to come. Kayleigh reminded me of one of the good catches I took on day-1, by having it in her favorite moments of the day. As someone playing in his first tournament, that's a pretty big deal! Thanks to Willis and Kayleigh for all the encouragement, guidance and training! Thanks to Parag for drilling it into our team, that we are going to keep the game's tempo high, but our tempers low. The tournament was much more fun, that way. Thanks to Robo for giving me the cleats, and the encouragement during many a practice session. Thanks to Rose for being the wonderful captain that she was, thanks to Cheerag for showing us how much one can give on D, thanks to Craig, Diti, Rakesh, Sheryll and Vishal for being supportive and being patient with me and all my blunders. Thanks to Pixie for all the morning practice sessions, while we were waiting for everyone else to turn up. Thanks to Mak for help from the shouting helping me out from the side lines. Thanks to Jimmy, Megna, and Sarah, for making me feel a part of the squad, and for being a part of the wonderful Storm! Here are some pictures, thanks to Shantanu and Saurabh, who traveled all the way to Surat to watch, cheer and capture!

Even if, our team won just one out of the 6 games we played, it was an Ultimate tourney. Literally! Looking forward to future tournaments.