Last year I had the privilege of shooting Raleigh Ring of Fire at the 2017 USA Ultimate Club Championships. Ring of Fire entered the tournament as the thirteenth seed of sixteen teams and made it all the way to the semi finals against San Francisco Revolver. I shot the tournament with an Olympus Stylus 100. The camera does not capture action very well in photos, so I focussed instead on capturing the interactions between players in and outside the huddle. The camera’s Art Mode combined with overcast skies allowed me to capture some pretty dramatic images throughout the tournament.
Pool Play: Thursday September 29th
Ring of Fire prepares to take on Pride of New York.
Pride of New York celebrates a universe point victory against Ring of Fire in the first round of the tournament.
Ring of Fire captain Noah Saul consults with coaches Mike Denardis and David Allison between rounds. The 2016 season was Allison’s first year as coach for Ring of Fire’s offensive line. Allison is renowned for his success coaching the University of Virginia women’s ultimate team, Hydra.
Pre-Quarters and Quarterfinals: Friday September 30th
Noah Saul #24 fires up Ring of Fire before their pre-quarters game against Chicago Machine. Ring of Fire lost only once during their long history against Machine at nationals; on double game point in 2015 quarterfinals.
Victory. Ring overcame Machine decisively avenging their 2015 loss and advancing to quarterfinals. Former high school teammates Matt Gouchoe-Hanas and Sol Yanuck #22 embrace while players celebrate. Gouchoe-Hanas was sidelined with an ankle injury in the opening round of the tournament on Friday. Yanuck was called upon to cross over into Gouchoe-Hanas’ position on the offensive line.
Fresh after their victory against Machine, Ring rode their confidence in quarterfinals against Washington DC Truck Stop. Josh Mullen #3 is still one of the oldest members of Ring of Fire. His quiet demeanor off the field contrasts with his fiery emotions in game. He’s described by many of his teammates as a “wild dog,” on the field.
Ring relaxes in the huddle after a 13-8 rout on Truck Stop. While Ring prides itself on its in game intensity and grit, it’s also feeds off of a silly, borderline absurd identity. Starting in 2014, players on Ring of Fire began booing themselves. They use the cheer to fire up the crowd and stay loose in big games.
Pure happiness. The doubts players on Ring may have had before nationals were gone by the end of Friday.
Semi Finals: Saturday October 1st
Tim McAllister #51 grooms his mustache Saturday morning before the semi finals. Ring of Fire’s traditions during the club series includes growing out absurd mustache’s until the end of the season. J.D. Hastings, a former teammate with McAllister at the University of North Carolina, looks on with consternation.
San Francisco Revolver is the gold standard of elite men’s ultimate. They were the reigning national champions in 2016, bringing a long history of excellence that no other men’s club team can currently quite match. Ring of Fire was itching for the opportunity to match up against Revolver. As the 13th overall seed matching up against the 2nd overall seed, Ring brought an underdog mentality that challenged Revolver throughout the game.
Belief. Noah Saul took on a much larger role as an emotional leader for the team in 2016 and used his position as one of the most tenured players on Ring to marshal the team to victory.
Halftime. Ring of Fire’s defensive line confers on the field as Mullen #3 instructs players on adjustments.
Double game point. Ring’s defensive line prepare to take on Revolver in a game to 13. This image was coincidentally evocative of a similar photo taken by Daniel Thai in Ring’s previous (and legendary) semi final appearance in 2014 against Boston Ironside.
Defeat. Head Coach Mike Denardis talks to the team in the postgame huddle following Ring’s 13-12 loss to Revolver.
A fiery ring. Despite twenty two straight nationals qualifications, Ring of Fire has yet to win a title.
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Photos are all property of Hugo Sowder, Founder & Owner, Seven on the Line Productions, LLC.