Photo by Rowdy Webb – Ultiphotos.com
For the third consecutive season, the Portland Stags (9-1) will host Major League Ultimate’s Western Conference Championship game, facing the team that upset them in the 2015 playoffs, the Seattle Rainmakers (7-3).
After finishing with a 1-9 record in 2013, the Stags have been the best team in the Western Conference for the past 3 seasons, going 26-4 over the 2014-2016 regular seasons. However, despite dominance in the regular season, the Stags have been upset at home in the playoffs in both of the past two seasons, losing to the Nighthawks in 2014 and the Rainmakers last year in 2015.
In last year’s Western Conference Championship, the Rainmakers, who had lost all three regular season matchup with the Stags, came into Portland and handed the Stags a 17-16 defeat. The Rainmakers later went on to lose to the Boston Whitecaps in the 2015 MLU Championship game.
This season, Portland has had a record breaking year, continuing their reign as kings of the regular season out west. While their only loss of the season came during their cross-divisional matchup with the Boston Whitecaps, the Stags were undefeated against their conference rivals in 2016 under Head Coach Danny Quarrell. Veteran Stags Cody Bjorklund and Timmy Perston became the first players in league history to record 100 goals and 100 assists, respectively. Bjorklund broke the previous single season assists record, finding his teammates in the endzone 41 times. While Bjorklund led the league in assists and total points (goals + assists), his teammate Perston tied for the league lead in goals with 29. Joining Bjorklund and Perston, the Stags were carried by strong performances by Raphy Hayes, Riley Meinershagen, Aaron Adamson and 2015 MLU Breakout Player of the Year, Peter Woodside.
Heading into the 2015 Western Conference Championship, not many people gave the Rainmakers a chance. They finished 5-5 in the regular season, showing flashes of greatness, but after 3 regular season losses to the Stags, most recently during the final week of the season, few people gave them much of a shot. And then they shocked everybody – except themselves. They knew all season what the rest of the league would come to learn, that while they might not be the powerhouse that Portland had become, you can never count them out. This year, the Rainmakers shook off two early losses, going on a 7-1 run to earn their date with the Stags. With limited, but impressive contributions from budding superstar Khalif El-Salaam, the Rainmakers relied on the likes of Brad Houser, Evan Klein, Henry Phan and Cam Bailey. Seattle has also benefitted from former Head Coach Steve Gussin, who laced up and took the field for the squad this season, tallying 13 goals, 14 assists and 5 blocks. Gussin handed the reigns off to his former assistants, Co-Head Coaches Fiona McKibben and Kate Kingery, who lead the team to their best record since 2013.
Western Conference Championship Details:
- Seattle Rainmakers (7-3) at Portland Stags (9-1)
- Where: Milwaukie High School Turf Field, 11300 SE 23rd Ave, Milwaukie, OR 97222
- When: Saturday, June 25 2016 – 6:00 PM PT – 8:30 PM PT