Queen City Tune-Up isn’t just a chance for the top team’s to begin marking their mark on the season. It presents an opportunity for the top players to assert themselves. New stars emerge in new roles, players return from injury, and others return more well developed after gaining additional experience. There were a number of talked about players in Charlotte this weekend, but there are only seven on a line, so I was forced to pick the seven that stood out the most. But I’ll show some love to those who didn’t make the list, too.
Without further ado, your first 7 Stars Line presented by Full Field Hammer (obviously, since it is here (man, this is turning into more ado than expected))
Anna Reed (Carleton) is probably the first name you’ll hear about from folks talking about this weekend, and that’s with good reason. She was one of two players that approached the term “unstoppable”. On Saturday – along with partner in crime, Julia Snyder – she showed a vicious arsenal of break throws, particularly an IO flick that works well with Carleton’s vertical stack. On Sunday, her giant hucks consistently got over the top of defenses, even if they knew they were coming. On defense, she put pressure on her girl and generated Ds that she could immediately pick up to get her offense moving. Watch out for this one.
Shellie Cohen (UNC) is the second player referred to in that “approached the term ‘unstoppable’” sentence you read earlier. The book is pretty similar to Reed’s, despite the fact that Shellie is tall and long while Reed is small in stature. Cohen has big throws and the Pleaides deep game was a weapon all weekend. She has the size to catch bad dump throws, forced by being matched up by the opponent’s best defender and it also helps her get off hucks against good marks. The Pleaides captain also showed off some touch with over the top throws against zones employed to slow down her huck game. I also should note that she is a leader. Rarely did 10 minutes go by when I didn’t hear her leading UNC in their signature “Raise Up” sideline cheer. I specifically remember her going through the high five line with her team, jumping up and down and smiling as she excitedly gave respect to her teammates. The video below shows her using her break throws to create scoring opportunities.
Chelsea Twohig (Iowa) is a fairly well-known name already, making her name in both the college and club scenes. Her performance this weekend was the most complete of any player I saw. Despite showing her athleticism when on defense with nice layout Ds against some of the top players at the tournament, she could flip the switch to offense with a nice variety of hucks and breaks. Chelsea was just as happy to take the swing or the short gainer, though. She appears capable of filling any role on the field. Her playmaking ability – especially on defense – is the kind of thing you want to be there to see. In the video below, she shows off a break throw for a score against Ohio State.
Rebecca Miller (Iowa State) surprised me a bit. I knew of her coming in, but didn’t expect her to stand out the way she did with studs like Magon Liu and Cami Nelson next to her. I was a fool! Miller asserted herself as a defensive dynamo. She isn’t super fast and isn’t big, but can match up with bigger offenders because she can be physical and reacts very quickly. That translates to her cutting after the turn, exposing defenders as soon as she spots a weakness. It fits perfectly into Iowa State’s transition offense. As a trio, she, Liu, and Nelson will be a serious handful for any defense that lines up across them.
Liza Minor (Iowa) is someone I’m thankful to have seen, because I didn’t know about her before. With as much playmaking as Twohig was doing, Minor managed to stand out anyway. Often she was on the receiving end of Twohig’s initiating throws (see video above, where she also gets the D), creating the separation necessary to continue to move the disc right away. That sort of player is invaluable to an offense. When there was a set mark, she wasn’t afraid to leave it in the dust with some nice break throws. She was a big part of Iowa’s run and has a very impressive skillset.
Alika Johnston (Virginia) is a young playmaker coming off a year of elite Club experience with Scandal and who fits in perfectly with her squad. Virginia’s 3-1 Saturday can be heavily attributed to the play of Johnston, who has the speed to get all over the field and get Ds in the under and deep lanes, including help and poach Ds. Virginia, in my mind, thrives on playing hard D and beating you after the turn before you can set, and Johnston is the engine that powers that gameplan. Without Johnston, I’m not sure Virginia wins a game. With her, they finish second in the pool.
Sunny Harris (Central Florida) can be fun to watch or a huge annoyance. She probably wants it that way. That’s because she plays aggressive, in-your-face Ultimate that is just as loud as she is. [Incoming pun warning] Sunny is the right name, because she is the source of fire at the center of this UCF team that breathes life into them. Harris was dropping in transition hucks, making hard upline cuts, and coming back to the disc. On defense, she was happy to grind against top players or patrol the deep position in the UCF zone, where she can command her troops.
Lisa Couper (UNC) very nearly makes this list. She was a dangerous downfield weapon, but just as comfortable behind the disc.
Nina Finley (Ohio St.) had to step into a big role for Fever this weekend, with no Cassie Swafford and limited Paige Soper. Dynamic player, still so young.
Meeri Chang (Michigan) was one of my favorite players to watch this weekend. All quicks and lefty breaks.
Magi Neliu (Iowa State) How am I supposed to pick one of these two? Nelson was everywhere, especially on D, and Liu’s “get open under and then gain 30 yards to the break side” strategy is – shockingly – effective.
Julia Snyder (Carleton) only played one day, but it was a hell of a day.
Claire Chastain (UNC-W) is a player I wish I watched more. You never knew what throw she might make with the disc as she scanned the field, but she also had some huge layouts. You could just tell she’s a boss.
Plenty of players I didn’t get to see enough of to say, so feel free to shout them out in the comments or on twitter. Just to note on Wisconsin and Tufts, who didn’t get any players here, they had a pretty solid top 4 or 5 girls, so one player didn’t distinguish themselves. This gives a picture of some of the East Coast and Midwest stars to watch out for this year. Never to early to start campaigning for Callahan and All-Region…