Expert Villagers beat Saints, win 59th IFT

CALUMET – For five of the last six years, the Boomtown Saints of Lansing have dominated the competition at the annual International Frisbee Tournament, which celebrated its 59th year this past weekend. The only year the Saints didn’t claim the IFT title came in 2012, when they were unable to compete due to their entry in the World?Championships in Japan. The Appleton Assassins won that season.

Back again in 2016, the Assassins played under a different moniker, the Expert Villagers, but despite the new name, the results were similar, as the Villagers earned a spot in the finals against the Saints.

Featuring a roster with four members of Team USA Blue who recently won the World Ultimate & Guts Championships three weeks ago, the Villagers got a perfect toss from Alex Tews while holding a one-point lead in the second game to seal a victory over the Saints, 21-14, 22-20, winning the IFT at Agassiz Field in Calumet in the process.

How were they able to recover so quickly from the World Championships to play strongly this weekend? According to John Luedke, the answer was simple.

“Just practicing,” said Luedke. “Especially with half of the people that we played going to World’s in London and playing phenomenal there.”

The two teams, who had met already earlier in the tournament, were truly the two top teams in the competition as the Saints’ only loss prior to the championship match came against the Villagers in the third round, relegating the Saints to the loser’s bracket, where they defeated Shottle Bop, 21-15, and O’Malley’s, 25-23, to earn the right to face The 2b’s in semifinals, winning again 21-10.

The Villagers opened with a win over the Red Carpet Baggers, 21-16, 21-11. They then topped Shottle Bop, before defeating Boomtown. The Villagers then went on to defeat The 2b’s in three sets, 22-20, 8-21, 21-19 before facing the Saints again.

The Saints, who featured two members of Team USA Blue in Ryan Scott and Michael Banghart, jumped out to an early 4-2 lead in the opening game. That lead quickly evaporated as the Villagers scored the next five points to jump ahead 7-4. Things went downhill from there for the Saints as a hard toss from Scott was caught by John Luedke, keeping the Saints from scoring.

The Villagers held a 9-6 advantage before Scott tossed one through the middle of the Villagers defense to make it 9-7. He did the same again a short time later to make it 10-8 in favor of the Villagers.

With the game at 14-11 in favor of the Villagers, Alex Tews got to work with a toss through the left side of the Saints defense as part of a 4-1 run for the Villagers, giving them an 18-12 advantage.

“They have been our rivals for a really long time,” said Tews, who was a member of that Assassins team that won in 2012. “We won it in 2012. Every year since then, they have been battling it out with us taking second the last three years. It was nice to finally square off with them and get the W.”

The Villagers continued to hold the lead at 19-14 when IFT Most Valuable Player Tanner Beckman came up with a huge catch of a toss from Scott before completing a somersault, keeping the frisbee off the ground the entire time. Riding the momentum of that catch, the Villagers scored the last two points necessary to take the opening game.

“My job was to fly out the end to go catch it,” said Beckman of the strategy. “He tipped that up and I saw it skying in the air. I dove and I caught it. That was an unbelievable feeling.”

Tews felt that win set the Villagers up well heading into the second game.

“It takes a little pressure off from you,” said Tews. “You have to get that second win under your belt. It takes some of the pressure off from you and you can try some things because you have that first game. When you go against a great squad like Boomtown, it’s tough, no relaxing.”

In the second game, Scott opened with a great first toss, putting the Saints on the board first. From there, the Saints kept the Villagers off-balance and taking a 12-7 lead.

After two straight points for the Villagers before an end change, that advantage was back to four, 13-9. The Villagers kept things close, shaving off another point from the lead at 15-12. From there, the Villagers scored the next four points to take their first lead in the game, 16-15.

A key toss from the Saints’ Ian Colwell tied things back up at 16-16. Trailing again, 18-17, the Saints had a strong toss from Scott, but Beckman was there to make the grab. Beckman followed that catch with a scoring toss.

The Saints fought back to tie things again at 20-20 after another well-placed toss from Scott. A drop on the ensuing throw put the Villagers back up, 21-20.