This year's Manila Spirits will have a High School theme, thus it's called Manila Spirits High, Ultimate Class of 2011. If you haven't seen the website yet, it's here. Check out the different teams participating this year's event on the 'Frenemies' Post It link. Be sure to click the list to see each team's roster.
Unbelievable. Wow. We thought our chances for qualifying for Manila Spirits was almost next to impossible. Only 2 teams out of 12 (very good teams) can qualify this year. At the end of a long, grueling day, we made it. Here's how it happened.
We only had 4 girls for most of the day, but thanks to Connie Erispe, Michelle Alcantara, Marla Montamayor and Marica Lao, they played like possessed and carried us on their backs. Manna Leano who was sick, and Len San Andres who was out of town, made the huge effort to make it in the afternoon. This is the definition of Ultimate. It was incredibly inspiring.
We started the day against Monster, a veteran team that has been an institution in Philippine Ultimate. They were led by Team Spirit Apparel's Frederick 'F' Francisco (our awesome jersey supplier), and they had a great mix of young athletic guys and grizzled veterans. We went toe-to-toe against them most of the first half. It was 6-6 before they pulled away late in the game as they turned the pressure on defense which led to our costly turnovers. Game ended 10-6 to Monster's favor.
Up next was a must-win game against Weekend Karma. It was win or go home for us. We started really strong, leading 6-0, using our suffocating zone defense. But we relaxed and our intensity waned a bit as the game progressed. They caught up a little and the game was now only 7-5 to our favor. We hit the panic button and fielded our strongest players, who successfully used a devastating 1-2 combo to seal the deal. Game ended 9-6, and we're through to the knock-out stages.
Surprise, surprise, we were up against Monster once more for a rematch. This time around, we found our offense. Benny Lim unloaded a barrage of high backhand hucks to Keanu Dy, and Anton Campos did his damage finishing easy scores. Our defense was as solid as ever, forcing Monster into unlikely turnovers. And still the game was pretty close, our lead never going beyond 2-3 points. It was beautiful to watch though, as we arguably played our best game ever, and it was against one of the most respected teams in the country. Final score was 9-6. Bueno was through to the Final Four!
During our break, the weather turned pretty sour. The wind and the rain picked up, but some of us knew this was a good break for us. We always play well in ugly conditions, which says a lot about our grit and determination. We have a saying on the team, 'Bueno Don't Tap Out'. So when we found out our next opponent was Circus Weng Weng, another formidable Pool A team, we felt good with our chances. Momentum was on our side.
Circus was ravaged by injuries during the day. They only had 2 girls left. As a sign of good Spirit, we granted their request to play 5:2 all the way, even though we had a huge advantage with our girls if we played 4:3. The game was quite ugly, and the weather even uglier. It was cold and wet, but the fire in us was strong. This was one of the most intense games we've ever played. It went back and forth all the way, with no team leading more than a single point. There were lots of turnovers because of the wind. It got a little testy with a few calls, but it was all within the competitive Spirit of the Game. The game could have gone either way, as both teams showed no signs of letting up. We were down 8-7 when soft cap was announced, and we scored on a very long point. So it was 8 all, and it was Universal Point!
The last point of the game was one of the longest points ever. Everybody watching on the sidelines was cheering with every throw, groaning with every drop. It was insane. At this point, it was a coin flip. But fortunately, we survived, thanks to Agu Veloso throwing a short break pass to Anton Campos who barely stepped in the end zone for the hard-fought win. Damn.
And so Super Bueno is off to Manila Spirits. Against all odds, we made it through. It's been a crazy year for us, with some ups and downs, but it's awesome to end the year on a big up. Our team has finally found a winning formula, and hopefully we can sustain it for years to come. It's great to be a Super Bueno.