Game Recap: San Diego vs. Oakland May 7th, 2022
Wild and Windy Launch Marks Oakland Spiders 2022 Season Opener
By: Delilah Masket
Almost 700 fans packed the stands at Oakland Technical High School, for the Oakland Spiders season opener on May 7th. The excitement level was high, as a howling wind rose up with the first pull of the game. While the freezing cold wind never let up for long, neither did Oakland’s community spirit, with fans huddled together, sharing jackets, and enthusiastically cheering to generate heat, as Oakland battled mother-nature and the San Diego Growlers through the final buzzer of a close contest.
With fans of all ages coming out in huge numbers, pregame exhibitions, food, music, and more, there was never a dull moment throughout the game. While the crowd would get louder throughout the evening, they had a head start cheering during the Bay Area Disc Association (BADA) Rising Stars Showcase Game, an annual event celebrating the rising girlx and womxn players in the Bay Area Ultimate community. The girlx youth dominated the field, representing multiple programs including Oakland Tech, Bentley, Alameda, and Berkeley High School. The showcase game was a testament to the talent of the Bay Area Womxn divisions, with many players expected to soon play at the highest levels of college, club, and professional Ultimate.
Following the Rising Stars, Oakland would win the flip and start on offense, coming out of the gate with a tight offensive point to take the lead 1-0, on a quick score to captain Keenan Laurence. The Growlers held on the ensuing point, but Oakland came back quickly to go up 2-1 on another short score to Laurence. Despite the blustery conditions, players on both teams demonstrated remarkable skill throwing the disc, while focusing on each catch in traffic, against zone defenses. Following a few windy miscues by the Oakland O-line, Spiders rookie Morgan Sommers showed strong dump defense throughout the quarter. AUDL all-time assist leader Johnathan “Goose” Helton helped San Diego punctuate the quarter with a powerful flick huck to Hunter Corbett, putting the visitors up 6-4 through the 1s quarter of play.
The windy slugfest continued into the second quarter, with Oakland starting on defense. While the Oakland zone defense was often successful at slowing the San Diego offense, patient handling from Helton and Growler veteran Michael Tran helped San Diego maintain their lead.
Despite giving up a break following a missed throw by Justin Norden, the Oakland offense remained in striking distance thanks to patience in the red zone, and strong continuation cutting up the breakside. Chris Lung found Norden with a backhand through a tight window, cutting the Oakland deficit to 7-9.
After a Growler hold, Norden again connected with Laurence, launching a perfect hammer to make it 8-10 with 4.5 minutes remaining in the half. A quick downwind hold, and an Oakland turnover, would give San Diego one more opportunity for a break entering half. Following a timeout with 30 seconds left in the quarter, the Growlers midfield jump ball sailed out-of-bounds, and both teams headed for the locker rooms at 8-11.
With newfound energy after halftime, Oakland started the third with a quick goal bringing the score to 9-11. After trading holds, Robin Vickers-Batzdorf, Oakland’s youngest player at just 19, made a huge play with a crossfield scoober assist to make it a one-point game, 11-12. While San Diego would recover and go on to end the third ahead 16-13, both offenses started to show signs of fatigue due to the incessant wind and aggressive downfield defense.
As the wind finally began to settle, Oakland would close the gap again, applying excellent pressure downfield against San Diego’s veteran cutters, and methodically working the disc through veterans Brandon Fein and Ryan Shephard, bringing the score to 16-17 midway through the quarter. Under pressure, San Diego again turned to their veterans, punching in a critical hold to make it 18-16, with 4.5 minutes remaining in the game. Oakland would have one more chance to close the gap, but a lay out block by Growler Paul Lally on the San Diego goal line would give San Diego all the breathing room they’d need, with the visitors running out the clock on a series of well executed swings passes to end the game at 18-16.
Despite the final result, it was an incredible opening game for the Spiders inaugural season in Oakland. The energy and level of play built-up throughout the game, with both teams playing tight defense and smart offense by the fourth quarter. The Spiders had standout performances from Justin Norden who led the team in assists (5) and completions (47), while tying Lung for most points played (22). Keenan Laurence led the Spiders in scoring with 3 goals. The Growlers were led by Helton with 4 assists, and Corbett with 5 goals.
Next game for the Spiders is May 21, when Oakland takes on the Portland Nitro. Game time 6:00 p.m. at Oakland Technical High School.
Photo credits Ron Sellers