In 2016 the Stags became the first Western Conference team to go undefeated in conference play and finished with a 9-1 record for the second year in a row. It was their third straight season they claimed homefield advantage, but the first time Portland actually won the West Championship. Despite the momentum of breaking through in the playoffs, and already facing an east coast trip earlier in the season, the Stags could not top the Philadelphia Spinners in the MLU Championship Game.
Using the most experienced roster in the league, Portland dominated conference opponents. Including the playoffs, only one match was decided by fewer than five points and even that was the second game of a Week 2 doubleheader. By season's end they were the most decorated roster in the league (in terms of league awards) and became the highest scoring team in league history (228 goals).
There is a "Big Three" in Major League Ultimate and there is no doubt who they are: Cody Bjorklund, Timmy Perston, and Peter Woodside. While there many other great trios in the league, none would be able to cover the three main aspects of ultimate (throwing, cutting, and defensive ability) better than these three. Take them off of this Portland roster and each player would still have success, but together and in this system, they bring out the best in each other.
In the past few years, the franchise has been looking to fill in players around this trio. This season they seemed to find the group that could still work if Bjorklund, Perston, and Woodside were taken out of the game.
By doing so, new stars emerged on Portland's roster. Raphael Hayes (18 goals, 23 assists, 14 blocks) broke out onto the scene as someone who could potentially turn the Big Three into a Big Four. Hayes has a mix of both Bjorklund's and Perston's skills; he has an uncanny ability to get open on an initial cut and can also make athletic plays in the air. With his attributes he became a favorite downfield and upfield target for Bjorklund and the handlers. The 2016 Breakout Player of the Year could both score and keep the offense moving.
Portland is a team that runs the same offense every game, there is no altering their system. They know that their offense works and they challenge teams to try and stop it. In 2015 only one team was able to do so, the Seattle Rainmakers; in 2016 it was the Spinners.
Much of this success is to do with the 2016 West Coach of the Year, Danny Quarrell. This is the second year in a row Quarrell has claimed this award and now has him as the leader in wins as a head coach with 27.
vs. Rainmakers: 3-0 (1-0) PD: +19 (+9)
vs. Dogfish: 3-0 PD: +20
vs. Nighthawks: 3-0 PD: +41
vs. Whitecaps: 0-1 PD: -1
vs. Spinners: (0-1) PD: -3
Both Bjorklund and Perston hit career milestones this season. Bjorklund not only became the league leader in assists, he was the first player to surpass 100 career assists and now stands at 114. With 41 assists in 2016 it was by far the most Bjorklund threw in his career. Adding on 16 goals he became the highest scoring player in league history with 189 points, 47 ahead of second place Mark Burton.
Perston became the league leader in goals scored (108) by adding 29 goals this season, and was also the first player to hit the century mark in that category.
The most anticipated game on their schedule came mid-season, as the Stags were to travel cross-country to play the Boston Whitecaps. It would be the second ever, cross-divisional game and pit the two best franchises in league history against each other.
The game lived up to the hype with Portland fairing better than any other West Coast team had playing against the East. Although the Stags lost 22-21, there were impressive performances by Bjorklund (one goal, five assists) and Perston (five goals, two blocks) but none quite as impressive as Tad Jensen. In extremely windy conditions, Jensen manged to go a perfect 30 for 30 on his throws in only 14 points played. He would put up five assists, four of which came in the second half as they were attempting to comeback.
Team MVP: Cody Bjorklund
(16G, 41A, 7B, 133/159 throws, 0.778 TPOP)
Team Star: Cody Bjorklund (4 weeks)
Team Rookie of the Year: Trevor Smith
(8G, 8A, 2B, 187/197 throws, 1.258 TPOP)