When I started playing ultimate, I relied heavily on my basketball skills, specifically my vision of the field and passing, but once I moved up from high school ultimate I realized I wasn’t the playmaker I used to be. I started playing with no juniors on my team, just tough older players like Davide Morri, Michele Gnudi, and Lorenzo Arienti. They forged me into steel. They didn’t employ the classic methods, but it worked! I wasn’t afraid of anyone on the field. As the years passed, the competition got better, and the matchups became more intense. I’m not particularly big or tall, so as a defensive player I had many tough moments when I had to strengthen my mind and keep pushing myself. All of the people I’ve listed below are tough matchups and great players.
Riccardo Venturoli and Luca Tognetti:
I chose to put them together because we play together. When we are at practice, I think, “Thank God we play together at Nationals.” These guys are the next generation; they’re tall, fast, coordinated, and they never give up. Plus, they’re five years younger than me. I like to think that I trained them well by guarding them.
Olger is the ambassador of team BadSkid from Germany. I had the chance to play against him many times, and because of my skill set, I’m one of the players who matches up with him. He is tough to guard. The size, speed, and precision of his cuts always put a couple of feet between us. He touches the disc 60 percent of the time for his team, and he’s always involved in the play, even when he is clearing. He also possesses a steely mentality. I’ve never seen him put his head down or give up on a play. He’s so tough that I call him the Shark: always moving, never resting on the pitch.
I have played against Justin often, and most of those matchups have come in championship games. I have been lucky enough to play against Clapham for the last seven or eight years, and I’m glad for it. Foord puts so much dedication and effort into the game. Both during the season and off-season, he’s always putting the work in. I tend to get frustrated when I guard him, but every time we face off I know he won’t hold back and will show me something new.
P.S. Foord won many of the finals we competed in—many, but not all ;)
Nasser M’Bae Vogel:
I have played with and against Nasser, who is also known as the Black Panther. We both play defense most of the time, but his athleticism (especially when he was younger) is incredible. Going against him in the air is the second worst choice you can make. The first one? Going deep while being guarded by him. Nas is a remarkable player with a super cool style. He always paid attention to the mental side of the game, staying focused during and outside of the game. He helped me improve my game and develop my skills on the field.
These five guys are some of the best opponents I have ever competed against. There are many other great players I’ve guarded over the years, but these matchups were different, challenging, and totally worth it.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to compete against these players, and I can’t wait until we destroy this virus so I can destroy them on the field!