Boy, what a difference a day makes!
While Nashville split the weekend, going 1-1 out of its two games, the buzz around the team suggests much more. We already know the 2016 iteration of this team improved its talent from a year ago, but the results weren’t showing on the field through 2 games.
On Saturday in Jacksonville, the NightWatch battled hard with the Cannons, leading to a game that was close up to the 4th quarter. But, as they did in Atlanta two weeks previously, Nashville folded in the 4th quarter and lost by a larger margin than the score showed. Nashville was also bitten by the injury bug as Nick Peppers, Phil Doughtery and Paul Lally all went down during the game. The team remained upbeat despite the adversity and early results, with multiple players telling the Lantern that they saw palpable improvement in both of the early losses.
Said captain Tyler Conger, “The [result] is nice but it doesn’t mean as much as the improvements we’ve made from quarter 1 of 2016 to quarter 12.”
That improvement showed in game 3, when Nashville battled Atlanta to the tune of an overtime win. It heralded many a first for the NightWatch: Nashville’s first win on the road, first win against Atlanta, first win of the season, and first overtime win.
Here’s how it went down…
Nashville took it to Atlanta early and often, breaking the Hustle twice in the first 4 points, then trading scores with Atlanta throughout the first 2 periods. Michael Venezia took a pass from Ray Davenport to score with 16 seconds left in the 1st half and Nashville entered the intermission holding an 11-8 lead.
Atlanta came out strong, scoring 2 breaks against Nashville to begin the second half. But, at the end of the 3rd quarter, the NightWatch scored on a fantastic last second Blake Waldron goal off a Dan Chazin hammer to take a 16-15 lead. In what turned out to be a wild 4th quarter, Nashville tacked on 2 more points to build a 3-point lead with 8 and-and-a-half minutes left in the game, but Atlanta was far from finished. The Hustle scored in a little over a minute, then put together 3 consecutive breaks to take a 19-18 lead with 3:34 left on the clock. A long, grind-y point ended when Jake Wright scored with just 12 seconds left in the game. Player Pierce then got a huge sky on the goal line and we got to experience 5 minutes of free ultimate.
In overtime, Nashville got on the board first, with Ray Davenport finding Jake Wright 34 seconds into the period. Atlanta answered a minute later and the nail biting continued. But Jake Wright was not to be denied, scoring yet again at the halfway mark of the overtime period and Frank Strasser came up huge with a layout block on the goal line with 90 seconds left. But, the Hustle got another chance and scored with 16 seconds remaining and it looked like a 2nd overtime was likely. A time violation by Atlanta on the final pull meant that they had to pull from their own end zone and Davenport made his 2nd trip to the end zone, pulling in a pass from Tom Radcliffe as time expired and giving Nashville the win in the end. Watch the final point below.
Several players stood out for Nashville in this one, including our 3 stars of the game, but no one’s story could be more inspiring than that of Nick Peppers. Peppers was taken Saturday night to the hospital following a strong backhand to the chest. He returned to the lineup Sunday and was, per Conger, “running people into the ground after a turn.” Dan Chazin, in particular, shows up regularly alongside Blake Waldron as one of the foundational pieces on the offense. And let’s not forget Ray Davenport, who threw up 5 assists and 2 goals Sunday, the second of which was Damion Lillard-esque, nailing down the 1st NightWatch win of 2016.
While the season record now stands at 1-2 for our NightWatch, the brouhaha is growing steadily heading into Saturday’s home opener against 2015 division winner Raleigh. The Flyers sport a 3-0 record and have looked impressive early on. They better have their A-game against a Nashville team coming off its most complete performance of the year.
NightWatch fans, let’s welcome them to Music City in style and send them home singing praises of NightWatch Nation.
...and with a loss.