WHERE IS MY FFH!?

Loyal readers,

[Mic tap] Is this thing on?

Well, you may be wondering “Man, where is FFH at? We are a week from the College Championships!” Wonder no more. I’ll be heading up Women’s Division coverage for Ultiworld! I’ll be on the ground, in Madison, giving you the low down on who is doing what, talking to players and coaches, and hopefully making the tournament experience awesome. It’s my first time, so who knows.

That means you gotta hop over to Ultiworld to find my College Championshps covage, like this reaction piece to the seeding and pools! My twitter handle is still in play, so if you’re looking for live updates from Madison, make sure you give that a follow. I’ll have plenty of coverage leading up to the games next week and it’ll all be through Ultiworld.

Thanks to everyone! Special shout out to the Minnesota ladies, the Florida State ladies, and to Gwen Ambler, they’ve been awesome supporters of the blog!

Ask Not Who’s Callahan, But Whose Callahan

The Callahan Award is the biggest named award in Ultimate. While it doesn’t exactly make you an Ultimate legend, it certainly carries a lot of cachet and having it attached to the end of your name is akin to “Academy Award Winner” in Hollywood. People notice it and they weight it, an indicator that your playing ability is or was cream of the crop. As people are virtually unable to do, however, each person views that title from their own perspective. Therein lies the rub: what exactly does it mean to be a Callahan winner? Let’s see what the Callahan people (shouts to Charles Kerr for putting in so much work over the years) themselves have to say:

The Callahan Award has been established to recognize the most valuable players in men’s and women’s college ultimate. Each year the Callahan trophy is presented to the man and woman who combine superior athleticism with outstanding sportsmanship, leadership and dedication to the sport of ultimate.
In the eyes of his or her peers, the Callahan winner is the personification of the ideal ultimate player. (source)

There are four written and stated components to the award: superior athleticism, outstanding sportmanship, leadership, and dedication to the sport of Ultimate. Each of the past few years, the debate arises as to how much each of these components should be valued by voters. It hit a fever pitch in 2008 & 2010, when the polarizing Florida team sent two nominees, Kurt Gibson & Brodie Smith, who reigned as college Ultimate’s most dominant players on the field and personas off the field. For better or worse, neither won the award, with Joe Kershner from Arizona and Eli Friedman of Oregon taking home the prize. The argument, oversimplified and paraphrased, was that Kurt & Brodie’s intense overqualification for “superior athleticism” and their dedication (at least, we can see now they’ve been pretty dedicated) did not outweigh perceived deficiencies of leadership (the Regionals choke for Brodie) and sportsmanship (Kurt’s yelling and Brodie’s Brodie-ing). Translation: People thought Kurt was unspirited and Kershner was very much spirited, while also meeting the other qualifications; rinse and repeat.

The Callahan trophy, with 2009 winner Will Neff

A common, and true, refrain is that the Callahan is not an MVP award; it is simply not awarded to the player judged most valuable to their team. Most of the major American sports leagues recognized they could A) be more specific in their awards if there were more of them and B) monetize the awards via sponsorships, and have multiple awards. The NFL is so confused, that they have a bunch of different MVP awards as voted on by different people. The NHL has an award for the MVP (they actually have two, with one voted on by the players), an award for the statistically best performing player, an award for the most prolific scorer, an award for “the player who exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability” (The Lady Byng) and one for “the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” The NHL has all their bases covered!

What we have is one award, four components, and lots of definitions. Not unlike an argument over “best perspective”, nobody is really right, even though everyone thinks they are. So what’s a voter to do*!? *Go vote though, once you figure this stuff out.

Beyond the issue of us finding a definition, I have other problems with the current format. Ultiworld posted an editorial piece endorsing Pittsburgh’s Tyler Degirolamo for this year’s Callahan Award for the Open Division. A number of opponents questioned the lack of comment on anything outside of performance. Charlie Eisenhood, who wrote the post and is the site’s editor, was able to create a solid basis to support his statements about TD’s on field ability. When questioned about his sportsmanship, dedication, and leadership? Not so easy.

Even now, we aren’t at a point where most voters can justifiable say they’ve seen a candidate play; I’d say roughly 40% of voters can even spell DeGirolamo. I haven’t seen all the candidates play in person. Of the short list from each side, I’ve at least watched game footage or in person for every candidate. More footage is available each season, allowing us to make a more informed decision…on a single component. This brings me to my real question: how am I expected to make a judgment on the other three? I sort of consider myself part of the Ultimate media. I’ve invested time and effort into research and finding more information about teams and players all year. If I can’t reliably make a call on those other three components, how can a sophomore at SUNY-New Paltz be asked to do so?

We have a player voted award, which means the people with the most limited but most intense perspective in the game have the voting power in their hand. Working within the constructs of a team and a season may hinder the scope of their view of the season, but it also gives players an intimate knowledge of those things they do know: the leadership of their own Captain, the sportsmanship of their regional nemesis, the dedication of their club teammate. There was hope to have the Skyd Five Callahan Nominee process highlight and follow the top players, but I don’t really feel like I know any more about them this year than any other.

As hard as these questions are to actually answer, it is no wonder people would rather switch off their brains and vote for best highlight video (outlier: George Stubbs’s pretty crappy video).

If you’re looking for solutions, mine would perhaps be to split the two. Let’s vote for the most valuable player for the Gibson-Simpson Award (that’s a combo of Kurt Gibson and Jason Simpson, two of the most noted Callahan snubs) and for the Callahan Award for the person who best exemplifies the Spirit of the Game combined with a high level of play. To me, that’s a good solution. However, I can see others who would scoff at the notion (I’m picturing disagreement from the noble Gwen Ambler, and the resulting blushing I would do at such a scolding) of even awarding a player’s ability while ignoring their other impacts on the sport. Why would we award such a thing, and risk making the face of Ultimate someone disconnected from SOTG altogether? Alas, I’m just a blogger, and don’t have all the answers.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. We’ve managed for nearly 18 years without screwing it up too bad, right? In the end, it mostly works out, doesn’t it? Is finishing second really so bad? I dunno. Ultimate is attracting more attention and it might mean the award becomes more and more meaningful.

These days, it even gets you interviewed by the pretty female sideline reporter

This post got very meandering and rambling. I originally just wanted to complain that I was annoyed I was being asked, as a voter, to do so freaking much. Mostly stuff I couldn’t do, like figure out if so and so was spirited. “Oh man, he spiked it in that one game! EXHIBIT A! *Marks it in the spreadsheet*” or “One of my friends told me she pointed out to someone she skied that she had dirt in her hair, very spirited!” Am I crazy here? I just want to know, not only who is the Callahan winner, but just whose Callahan winner they are.

Southeast Women’s Regionals: Recap and Reacts

The culmination of an exciting season in Southeast Women’s, Regionals finally took place this past weekend. There were a lot of uncontrollables that took the teams away from the ideal: a postponement that left a lot of teams scrambling to find ways to keep their rosters flush, rains for the days leading up leaving the fields soggy & muddy, a shockingly beautiful Saturday morning, followed by a chilly and drizzling Sunday that kept the fields waterlogged, and a seven team format that made pool play a two day round robin. Making the best of a weekend that is built up, prepared for, and fantasized about all year is its own sort of mental game. Seven teams had to win that one, and beat the best teams in the region (that could attend), and claim whatever glory awaited them.

For those who haven’t checked them, UltiPhotos has some fantastic shots from the weekend, done by the talented Christina Schmidt.

Recap

A great weekend was not without flaws for Georgia Dawgma. This team showed up with their full roster and a cadre of fans in tow, a nice advantage to combat the battle vs. uncontrollables. They beat Florida and Florida State by six a piece, and rolled out early enough against Central Florida in the Final that they folded. Essentially, when they played the top ranked teams, they played very well. For a team with aspirations for the big show, that is an important trait to demonstrate to yourself. Central Florida kept it close in Pool Play, and while Georgia came out 9-7, the game was a 5-5 battle where Georgia could never really separate themselves. It is tempting to say this is more a reflection of the Sirens than Dawgma, but two other games give pause to that: Emory and Georgia Tech. Saturday’s battle with Emory was one of the tournament’s most exciting games. Emory went into high gear and Dawgma had to recollect to keep from letting it get out of hand. They took control, and didn’t relinquish it, but they came close, winning 13-11. A similar pattern played out in Sunday’s sluggish conditions, going down early, taking the lead, and then not putting away a weaker Georgia Tech team; this game, however, was irrelevant to standings, so not sure how Georgia approached it. The focus should definitely be on this team being the best in the Southeast.

A Georgia parent (the father of 7SL’s Emily Lloyd) bailing water out of the #1 field endzone. It was that sort of Sunday.

In contrast, the Central Florida Sirens put on a consistent performance, beating the lower seeds solidly, but really having to fight the other top teams. Against Florida State, they actually played catch up most of the game, trading after going down early. However, with the game at 9s, they made a three point run to end it. They would then go down early to Florida, 0-3, on Sunday. Now, this game, like UGA’s against GT, didn’t matter really, and the Sirens would take half 7-5 and win 9-6. They were overpowered by Georgia in the Final, an intense game quickly getting out of their reach. Against Florida in the game to go, UCF would win 13-5, but the game was closer than that score reflects – a common theme on Sunday – with a few breaks falling the Sirens’ way. Still, you can’t take away that this team proved themselves the second best team in the region and their only losses were only to the one team probably stronger than them.

This weekend’s results were a surprise to most, but not to Florida Fuel. They were confident they could beat the top teams in the region, and opening with a double game point loss to Florida State, while disappointing, was also proof of that. They set a great tone for their weekend. The Georgia game didn’t go as they would have hoped, but they didn’t look totally overwhelmed either. They took care of business against Tech and didn’t falter when they ran into Emory coming off their Georgia game. The only real surprise was Sunday morning, where a terrible case of the dropsies rendered their top end players unable to get any traction against a capable VUDU squad. The Vanderbilt game came as a definite shock and put FUEL in danger of missing the bracket. However, things worked out in their favor, and they took advantage. Whatever issue they had in the Vandy game infected Florida State for their backdoor Semi. FSU went up 3-1, with some of the fresh legs of their studs having just arrived that morning, but from there, the Seminole Ladies just couldn’t keep it together. I’m not sure what happened at such a crucial game, but they fell apart and FUEL walked from there, winning 9-5. The game to go saw the Florida ladies bidding for everything and giving what they had, but some bad luck and tired legs might have been too much to get past with Central Florida on the opposite sideline. They are likely pleased with the weekend, however, and proved they have the young talent to be in the picture again next year.

The other side of that is Florida State Seminole Ladies Ultimate team, who have to be pretty beat up physically and emotionally. Hard hit by the postponement, they were missing two of their top five players on Saturday and some other rotation players. They barely got by FUEL in round one, couldn’t hold on against Central Florida at the end of Saturday, and were put down by Georgia despite a full FSU effort. They did get back Lauren Collins, SJ Campbell, and some other notables on Sunday, which I thought would lead them to more success. Their fumbled game against Florida must have left them feeling helpless – oddly enough, Emory had some of those exact issues against Florida State in the round prior – and frustrated. No doubt, they didn’t expect their season to end where it did. However, there are some good signs for this group’s future.

I think most people didn’t know what to expect from Emory Luna, and they made a strong impression without making any real impact. They didn’t have any trouble with shorthanded Georgia Tech or Vandy squads, making them perhaps look like they belonged in the top five rather than the bottom three. They gave Georgia easily the toughest test of the weekend, battling every step of the way, but ultimately fell short, 11-13. The letdown carried over to the FUEL game, where they never really got their footing under them. They were pretty helpless against Central Florida’s zone and transition offense combo on Sunday, but then fortune smiled on them. Florida’s loss to Vandy meant if Emory beat Florida State, they would break seed and be in contention. That obviously didn’t work out, but they played better against FSU than that score indicates. An oddly successful weekend for them considering they went 2-5 (forfeiting their 5th/6th game against Tech to go study for finals).

I’m afraid we won’t really know what Georgia Tech or Vanderbilt were capable of. Tech had eight players Saturday, with some very notable absences, including Leah Tsinajinnie (graduation). Vanderbilt had only nine. Both made their mark on Sunday, but ultimately, weren’t able to show their full arsenal.

Reactions

Georgia and Central Florida both have the makeup and resume of teams that should be middle of the pack at the College Championships. I’d be very surprised if they finished near the bottom but equally surprised if they made a run deep into the tournament. I still have concerns about Georgia’s health, as they seemed to be nursing injuries throughout the weekend. Amble Johnson will have them very prepared for the competition, but he’s not a magic healer. Central Florida has shown the capability to beat top teams but some consistency issues have plagued them. I do have questions about how they match up defensively when forced out of their very strong zone defense; their transition offense coming out of that zone is incredibly effective. I’ll probably do a more detailed analysis in the coming weeks.

Looking even further into the future, it is really hard to say what the Southeast will look like next year. I’m no Southeast historian, but there is a massive amount of talent leaving – possibly the strongest class ever. Georgia’s group of seniors could probably win the region by themselves, as much a comment on their ability as their numbers. Central Florida will still have Katie Fox and Amy Price, but that’s a far cry from the trove of talent they have now. The Fane/Dahl era of Fuel will end, and that’s a tough adjustment to make for a young team. Florida will still have a strong stable of downfield playes, but can Alana Hardeman shoulder the throwing load?

A lot (or all?) of these Dawgs have played their last Southeast Regionals…but their last games for Georgia will be in Madison.

For those outside of Regionals, I’m sketchy on details, but I believe all of the Gulf Coast’s major players are losing their stud handlers that power their offenses (Tulane’s Stephanie Hurwitz, Vanderbilt’s Emily Dayton, Alabama’s Abby Sedlacek, Auburn’s Katie Cuson) and South Florida also has a large senior class, featuring Teal Dabney and Tessa Walter. Georgia College’s and Tennessee’s small rosters are seeing their top players move on as well.

Super early, mostly baseless, prediction is that Florida State is the team to beat next year. Kristin Lloyd will probably be the best player in the region come spring, and they’ll have Kari Tomarelli, Skylar Taggart, Kearstin Rew, and Alleigh Grover in big roles. Tomarelli, in particular, is one of the region’s rising stars. Georgia Tech has added so much young talent and, after Tsinajinnie, their handlers are all returning. They’ll come into the year with a trio of handlers ready to go and Donnya Ajdari downfield, and could threaten to win SAPP. Emory’s status is also up in the air, and with so much uncertainty for them and Georgia, it should be noted that the SAPP should be really interesting.

Southeast Women’s Regionals: 7 Stars Line

7SL

We survived another year of Southeast shenanigans, and one of the most challenging Regionals setups yet, including the painful round robin pool play format. It is a shame some of the Region’s other talent was not able to be on display, whether it was because their team had to drop or because they had other commitments that forced them to one or no days of play, or because the Sunday conditions were such a mess.

All caveats aside, here are the seven best performers I saw this past week, making up Southeast Women’s Regionals 7 Stars Line, presented by Full Field Hammer:

Emily Lloyd (Georgia): With all due respect to Mariel Hammond, Lloyd is the best cutter in the Southeast region. This was on display throughout the weekend, as she was able to use her initial bursts and smart timing to open up the deep lanes for the Dawgs. On the other side of the disc, she and Julia Fuster typically take the opponent’s top cutter, or top two if they are both on, meaning Emily has a lot demanded of her by her team. She was the premier playmaker I saw this weekend, whether it was in the air, coming under, and laying out for jaw dropping plays, like her performance against UCF.

Sunny Harris (Central Florida): I’ve exhausted enough keystrokes on Sunny’s passion and fire, but her play was speaking very loudly this weekend. Her huck game was on point, forcing teams to find a way to get someone in front of her and her receiver after a turn. She made some big grabs and got up for some big Ds, particularly in the Sirens vaunted zone. Harris has been a huge part of their run this year (this is her second 7SL selection) and was one of the weekend’s top performers.

Kari Tomarelli (Florida State): The Seminole Ladies have a pretty lengthy list of top contributors, which can make it hard to identify them, but Kari can be hard to miss. She’s the highlight reel factor on this Seminole Ladies team, always good for a massive layout each game. Her cutting continues to grow and this was a breakout tournament to cap off a breakout year. Next season, expect her to be one of the region’s top players.

Kari Tomarelli gets up for a score against Fuel at Conference Champies

Kari Tomarelli gets up for a score against Fuel at Conference Champies

Emily Dayton (Vanderbilt): Dayton was a force this weekend for VUDU. Even with teams knowing full well she was the top threat, she was able to get off a lot of great hucks this weekend, able to get necessary resets, and get some big play Ds. With a nine woman roster, there were few breaks for Dayton, who also often tasked with matching up with one of the best players on the line. Gotta recognize a big final weekend for this senior.

Abbey Hewitt (Emory): After the weekend she had, I’d insert her in the conversation with Hammond and Lloyd. Hewitt missed most of the season due to school and foot surgery early this Spring, but once she found stride with her teammates, she became dominant. An aggressive cutter with elite agility and sticky hands, she came up with big play after big play for Luna. Defensively, she racked up Ds in the lanes, but is most at home sending dumps scurrying downfield for fear of getting the disc stalled out.

Abbey Hewitt snags a tightly contested disc at SAPP Conference Championships

Abbey Hewitt snags a tightly contested disc at SAPP Conference Championships

Morgan Hartmann (Florida): The diminutive Hartmann, a.k.a. MoMo, had a pretty big weekend for Fuel. Particularly Saturday, before the mud neutralized some of her quicks, MoMo was making her mark, scooting around unders and outs, getting dirty with some nice layouts, and consistently getting open when the offense got a little tied up. Fane and Dahl are the stars, but without Hartmann, Florida doesn’t put up the showing they did.

Hannah Leathers (Georgia): I struggled picking this last one, as I kept thinking it should be Georgia’s Margie Quinn here, but Leathers’s defensive play made the difference for me. While she had a lot of pretty hucks this weekend, Hannah had a number of great defensive plays, coming up big for Dawgma in some of those tight games. The other thing she did extremely well was being deadly efficient in the red zone. Few college players have the ability to see the right shot down near the goal line, but Leathers has a knack for knowing when it is time to strike.

Leathers lets go of a flick against Tufts at QCTU (Credit Liz Crosby)

Leathers lets go of a flick against Tufts at QCTU (Credit Liz Crosby)

Honorable Mentions

Margie Quinn (Georgia) is where I obviously have to start, Dawgma’s primary handler. Slowing down her hucks and break throws is a real challenge, because she has a difficult release point and delivers it quickly and with precision. She’s also an important vocal leader for the Southeast Champs.

Kristin Lloyd (Florida State) lives up to the hype. With the dearth of talent exiting this year, Lloyd may very well be the best player in the region next season.

Zina Stavitsky (Emory) is the future of that team. Developing into a very pure handler, she was a dangerous threat on Luna’s 12 lady roster.

Julia Fuster (Georgia) is always a great defender and continues to emerge as an offensive playmaker as well. Some big layout grabs from her this weekend.

Jessica Chau (Georgia Tech) was playing very well for Wreck when I saw them. Putting her downfield, she was able to use her quickness to get a lot of yardage gaining unders and make some very very impressive grabs.

Mariel Hammond (Central Florida) may feel like an obvious pick, but if you watch her play, she’s hard to miss. It could be because she’s constantly open, especially when the Sirens are in the red zone.

Jenna Dahl (Florida) is another usual suspect, but her ability on both sides of the disc is what makes her hard to omit. Big puts, consistent resets, but their zone D basically functions on forcing the defense to throw the disc in her general vicinity so she can layout D it.

Up Calls: Regionals Finale, Your 2013 USAU College Championships Field, Pro Scoreboard, #MickleMania

Headlines

  • Colorado’s Jimmy Mickle has his Callahan video out, so check out #MickleMania.
  • Claudia Tajima of Tufts also has her Callahan video out. Zilla sighting!
  • Check out this big time Callahan by Piers McNaughton at NE Regionals (via Ultiworld).
  • Speaking of Callahan, the award voting is now open (and women’s, hey-o)! Keep an eye out for my Endorsement pieces this week.
  • ~2300 people hit up the Toronto Rush game. Let that speak for itself.
  • Can someone tell me where the dramatic All-Region conversations are? Callahan voting is also around the corner, let’s get some overhype and scattered sightings of mean-spirited responses!
  • Our 2013 USAU College Championships field is set; they are listed at the end of this post.

MLU

  • DC Current @ PHI Spinners: The host Spinners took early control of the game, behind the usual suspect of Sean Murray, Nick Hirranet, and help from Leon Chou. However, DC was able to recover in the third and fourth quarter, anchored by the steady play of Alan Kolick & Calvin Oung, and some huge plays from Brian Marshall. A run in the 4th quarter put the game away, Current win 18-15.
  • BOS Whitecaps @ NY Rumble:
  • SEA Rainmakers @ SF Dogfish: Both teams shorthanded. Seattle jumped out to a 4-1 lead, with San Fran miscues giving the visitors repeated offensive looks. Mario O’Brien’s good work and patience from the Rainmakers helped make that lead 10-5 at half. Some SF zone and Seattle mechanical mistakes helped the Dogfish roar back to 11-12. Each team would have trouble with drops, but the Dogfish would punch it in for 15-14, their first lead, with 2:01 left. Dogfish come back to win, 16-14.
  • POR Stags @ VAN Nighthawks: These two lit up the scoreboard on a warm night in Vancouver. Vancouver had the disc moving quickly through the hands of Mauro Ortiz and Oscar Pottinger and into the hands of Jason Tessarolo. Portland continued to deliver impressive hucks, their deep game hitting stride, but not able to get the stops necessary to pull out the win they desperate seek. Vancouver wins, 24-21.

AUDL

  • MAD Radicals @ MIN Wind Chill (Friday): A fairly close game through the first half, Madison was able to to a 7-5 lead despite Austin Lien’s 3 assists for the Wind Chill.
  • DET Mechanix @ MIN Wind Chill: I believe both teams were missing some of their playmakers, and with the MWC coming off a very recent loss to Madison, it would be a tough day. Detroit would go up 19-13 going into to the 4th quarter, and Minnesota could never get back into it. Detroit wins, 22-16.
  • NY Empire @ DC Breeze: The visiting Empire jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, running that to 9-2 behind Alon Brown and Izzy Bryant. The Breeze could never get into this one, looking a bit like the week one squad. Empire win, 25-11.
  • TOR Rush @ NJ Hammerheads: A game of runs, the Rush opened the game with an 8-1 lead. New Jersey would close back to 12-7, but the Rush responded, charging back to a 20-8 half time lead. From there, they cruised, and Toronto wins, 31-18.
  • WC Wildfire @ IND Alleycats: Despite strong play from former Alleycat, Brodie Smith, this one was tightly contested to 10-9, WCW. The Wildfire, with more strong work from Geoff Serednesky, would push out to 15-10 and not look back. Great game for Keenan Plew, dropping 6 goals and 4 assists, but not enough for Indy. Windy City wins, 25-17.
  • PHI Phoenix @ DC Breeze (Sunday): An early, but small lead for Philly would carry to half, TJ Ryan and Glenn Poole keeping the Breeze in it, 12-10. The third quarter would be tight as well, ending 16-16, but the Phoenix would control the 4th with a 7-2 run. Philly wins, 23-18.
  • DET Mechanix @ CIN Revolution (Sunday): An exciting and tight one throughout, the teams traded, Cinci relying on Ryan Sitler, Ryan Gorman, and Isaac Jeffries and Detroit funneling through Dave Hochhalter and Ben Ayers. Mark Fedorenko would score the last two for the home team, helping Cinci get a 23-22 win.
  • ROC Dragons @ NJ Hammerheads (Sunday): In the first half, New Jersey, coming off a back to back, would go down a couple of points. Rochester would maintain a 2-3 point lead all game, pushing that out to a five point differential late. Dragons win, 20-15.

USAU College Series

Women’s

  • In the New England Region, two bids were up, and the first played out as expected. Tufts was dominant (matching the bar set by Ohio State), never giving up more than five points. The surprise was in the second bid, where Middlebury upset Dartmouth 15-14 in the Backdoor Semi. Northeastern, coming down from a 15-4 loss in the Final to Tufts, took advantage of the rest, cruising to a 15-5 win to take the bid they won in the regular season.
  • North Central Regionals had five great teams fighting to place in their five bids. The top end of the pools went to seed, save Carleton’s 10-9 upset over Iowa. The surprise came when Carleton beat Iowa State 12-10 in the Championship game to win the Region. Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota would round things out in that order.
  • After weather postponement, weekly rain, muddy conditions, and hours of travel, Southeast Regionals did deliver some impressive performances. Early Saturday, Florida nearly upset Florida State, going down on double game. #1 seed Georgia Dawgma looked unstoppable, but later struggled against Central Florida and Emory. In the end, Georgia overpowered everyone to win the Region. After Florida shocked Florida State Sunday to end their season, Central Florida took advantage of a tired Fuel squad to win the second bid. I’ll likely have a more detailed look Wednesday.
  • At Northwest Regionals, the top three all took care of business, with Oregon beating Washington in a tight 11-10 Final. Washington, after falling in a surprise upset to Western Washington, blew out British Columbia Saturday, 15-5. A great performance like that, coupled with the Oregon Final, makes them a title contender. Meanwhile, #4 seed Victoria fell to Whitman Saturday in Pool Play, but fought back in the Backdoor Bracket, where they’d rematch in the game to go. Whitman would assert themselves, taking control and win 15-10 to take the last bid for the Northwest. UBC was missing two of their top 3 players for the Canadian World Games team, so expect them to be stronger in Madison than they were in Eugene.
  • Few things went as expected at Southwest Regionals, although the top seed in each pool won all their games. #3 seed Sonoma State faltered, going 2-3. Stanford would upset UC-Santa Barabra 12-11 in the Final to win the region. In the backdoor bracket, UCLA would beat Cal for the second time on the weekend, earning a run at UCSB for the game to go. The favorited Burning Skirts took no prisoners, winning 15-4.

College Championship Field

  • Virginia Hydra
  • Texas Melee
  • Ohio State Fever
  • Ottawa Lady GeeGees
  • Northwestern Gung Ho
  • Oregon Fugue
  • British Columbia Thunderbirds
  • Washington Element
  • Whitman Lady Sweets
  • Tufts Ewo
  • Northeastern Valkyrie
  • Georgia Dawgma
  • Central Florida Sirens
  • Carleton Syzygy
  • Iowa State Woman Scorned
  • Iowa Saucy Nancy
  • Wisconsin Bella Donna
  • Minnesota Ninja
  • Stanford Superfly
  • UC-Santa Barbara Burning Skirts

Open

  • Everyone’s talking about the epic game to go posted by Ultiworld from New England Regionals. I’ll brag and say I called Harvard emerging, as I’m a big fan of their playmakers and discipline. They’d top Tufts in the Semi and roll through Dartmouth in the Final. Dartmouth and Tufts would engage in the aforementioned game to go, Tufts taking the early lead, but Dartmouth’s zone finally clamping down in the late game. Pain Train wins, 15-14.
  • No region had a bigger shocker than the North Central. There was some foreshadowing, as while the top three went undefeated (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Carleton), Iowa went from 4th in Pool B to 2nd. The rival Hodags and CUT each bested their Semi opponent, Carleton knocking out Minnesota, to meet in the Final. Wisconsin would take the 14-11 win. Meanwhile, Minnesota found themselves in trouble in the Backdoor Bracket, a hot Iowa team giving them their money’s worth. in the end, Iowa, who lost to Grey Duck 15-6 on Saturday, would pull the upset, 14-12. They’d play Luther – who must have felt a renewed energy – in the game to go, but could not continue on. Luther swooped in, winning 15-11, and will head to Madison. Minnesota, who lost just three games this year, loses two at the wrong time and misses out.
  • After a much maligned weather postponement last weekend, Southeast Regionals was a muddy, wet, scrappy affair with lots of close games. In the Front Door Bracket, the first victim was Florida State, falling to rival Florida, 12-11. UCF would roll Florida in the Semi and Georgia and Georgia Tech would have a crazy wild game filled with big plays. Georgia Tech’s 5-0 lead would evaporate and Georgia would win, 12-10. UCF would top Georgia in a placement game, with both earning bids, 15-10. Meanwhile, Florida State and Florida would rematch in the final game to go. Another epic game would ensue, two very evenly matched teams going toe to toe. This time, FSU emerged, on a big layout score from star Chris Laroque, 15-14.
  • The drama of seeding may still remain a topic after Southwest Regionals did not go as expected. Arizona beat Stanford in the Front Door Semis while UC-Davis beat UC-Santa Cruz. The surprise would come from Davis topping Sunburn, 12-9, to win the region. The Backdoor Bracket would often see the fresher team emerging, Stanford and UCSC winning their games, Stanford topping the battle between the two, but then falling to Arizona in a dramatic 12-11 game to go.

College Championships Field

  • Texas TUFF
  • Colorado Mamabird
  • North Carolina Darkside
  • UNC-Wilmington Seamen
  • Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur
  • Ohio Ultimate
  • Cornell Buds
  • Oregon Ego
  • Washington Sundodgers
  • Illinois Ultimate
  • Harvard Redline
  • Dartmouth Pain Train
  • Central Florida Dogs of War
  • Georgia Jojah
  • Florida State DUF
  • Wisconsin Hodags
  • Carleton CUT
  • Luther LUFDA
  • UC-Davis Dogs
  • Arizona Sunburn

Weekend Slate: Regionals Finale, MLU Week 3, AUDL Week 5

What a weekend queue’d up. After this weekend, we should know our College Championships field and a lot more about who is likely to be in the mix at the end of the Pro seasons.

MLU

  • DC Current (0-2) @ PHI Spinners (2-0)
  • BOS Whitecaps (2-0) @ NY Rumble (0-2)
  • SEA Rainmakers (2-0) @ SF Dogfish (2-0)
  • POR Stags (0-3) @ VAN Nighthawks (1-2)

The Current and Rumble will both look to keep the East from being a two man race. Neither has looked out of their depth this year and a few adjustments or breaks their way could be all they need. In the West, Seattle and SF, both missing key roster players, square off in a game that will decide the West’s lead all the same. The Stags are in dire straits and need to get one in the win column.

AUDL

  • MAD Radicals (2-1) @ MIN Wind Chill (1-2) (Friday)
  • DET Mechanix (2-1) @ MIN Wind Chill (1-2)
  • NY Empire (1-1) @ DC Breeze (1-1)
  • TOR Rush (4-0) @ NJ Hammerheads (1-1)
  • WC Wildfire (3-1) @ IND Alleycats (1-2)
  • PHI Phoenix (1-1) @ DC Breeze (1-1) (Sunday)
  • DET Mechanix (2-1) @ CIN Revolution (1-3) (Sunday)
  • ROC Dragons (0-4) @ NJ Hammerheads (1-1) (Sunday)

The East division of the AUDL could see some separation after this weekend. Currently, only the Rush and Dragons have differentiated themselves (by record). The Phoenix and Empire can compare themselves against the Breeze. In the West, Detroit has a big weekend on tap, and coming away with a win in their two games would be pretty big. The Wind Chill are in a similar situation.

USAU College Series

Women’s

Check out FFH’s full Regional previews for all the good stuff!

  • New England Regionals is Tufts’s to lose, but they have a second bid… and therein lies the rub. Northeastern and Dartmouth look like the top candidates to make their way to Madison. Rebecca Ginsburg and Shelby Parton will need to be playmakers for Northeastern and Dartmouth will be hoping a travel-heavy schedule to see strong competition will pay off when it counts. I’m curious if Tufts can match Ohio State’s dominance. Apologies for not getting a full preview up in time!
  • A crazy five bids will be won in Cedar Falls, IA at North Central Regionals, but they have five very strong teams at the top. What order they fall in will be curious. Should Iowa, Carleton, or Iowa State win, they could be in line for a #1 seed at the College Championships. Expect a slugfest.
  • Northwest Regionals will field a strong group of teams aiming at four bids. Oregon and British Columbia are the top two, but returning National Champ Washington and upstart Victoria don’t want to be left out. Another “how will they finish?” case for the weekend.
  • A brutal 7 team round robin format is in play at Southeast Regionals after their postponement cost them three teams. With two bids up in the air and a hungry trio of teams, plus some darkhorse candidates, added to roster and possible weather variability, there is bound to be some drama in Tupelo, MS.
  • The mighty Southwest Region is a bit bid-strapped this year, with Southwest Regionals only sending two teams to the big show. Santa Barbara is a favorite, but after that, it could get messy. A wide range of teams will be scratching and clawing to make their impact in a Region that typically has high expectations across the board.

Open

  • New England Regionals features three top contenders battling for a pair of spots, and interesting storylines throughout. Dartmouth is undefeated against regional opponents, which could prove their trump card, but Tufts and Harvard have been stronger against out of region competition. A few dark horse teams have what it takes to upset someone. I may be biased, but I’m calling Harvard to take one of the bids.
  • After being relocated for snow, North Central Regionals plans to settle who will take the three bids to the Championships. It looks pretty clear cut that Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Carleton will be at the top, but we don’t know in what order. Can Luther or Northern Iowa play spoiler? It’ll be an uphill battle and word is that conditions are pretty…well, North Central-y.
  • Southeast Regionals is suffering from their postponement, ending up with an odd 13-team tournament and three bids up for grabs. Who knows what impact it’ll have on teams’ rosters. Mainly, it looks like six teams are in the mix, with UCF, FSU, and UF being the teams to beat.
  • There was a lot of drama about the two-bid Southwest Regionals‘ seeding, but once they are on the field, it doesn’t matter anymore. Arizona is the trendy pick, despite being the 5th seed, but can SDSU validate their twitter whining? Can LPC validate their #2 seed? Is Stanford back? Questions abound, answers incoming.

Southwest Women’s Regionals Preview

2013 College Series

The Southwest region, as far as I can tell, seems to be one of the more controversial regions in the women’s college game. The question comes down to: how strong are they really? With the two premier West Coast tournaments happening in their backyard – Stanford Invite and Santa Barbara Invite – they play each other a lot. It becomes tough to ascertain their national strength. They have two of most successful programs in women’s history, with Stanford Superly and UC-Santa Barbara Burning Skirts, but this year’s tournament will yield only two College Championships bids. Last year, the reigning National champ, Santa Barbara, failed to qualify, while Stanford nearly missed the cut themselves. With two bids, and lots of questions we won’t get answered until we see them in Madison, there should be plenty of drama on tap in Goleta, CA this coming weekend.

What I believe to be seedings, and the pools:

  1. UC-Santa Barbara (SoCal #1)
  2. Stanford (NorCal #1)
  3. Sonoma State (NorCal #2)
  4. California (NorCal #3)
  5. UC-San Diego (SoCal #2)
  6. UCLA (SoCal #3)
  7. San Diego State (SoCal #4)
  8. Southern California (SoCal #6)
  9. UC-Davis (NorCal #5)
  10. Arizona State (DES #1)
  11. Cal Poly-SLO (SoCal #7)
  12. Arizona (DES #2)

Pool A: UC-Santa Barbara, California, UCLA, San Diego State, Arizona State, Cal Poly-SLO

Pool B: Stanford, Sonoma State, UC-San Diego, Southern California, UC-Davis, Arizona

Pool winners going into the a Championship game, while the 2nd/3rd finishers in each pool going into a backdoor bracket. Everyone else is eliminated from contention for a bid. Harsh format.

Pool Play

Pool A

The UC-Santa Barbara Burning Skirts are back. “The whole team is really excited. We’ve been working hard since Sectionals to try to improve on different aspects of the game to come out strong during Regionals,” said Captain Katie Hawn, “We’re going to go in and play our game with the goal to be in Madison in a few weeks.” Expectations are high once more, and with good reason. The Skirts already have shown they have the potential, beating Washington, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. In the region, they’re 14-2, with their losses coming at the SB Invite (Rain edition) by a point to Southern California and a one point loss to Cal at Stanford Invite. However, UCSB played a lot of close games at their Conference Championships. The specter of last year’s humbling performance also may prove a tougher opponent to beat. Hawn paints a prettier picture, however, “It’s definitely been a motivating factor. We’ve used the past year to strengthen our bond as a team and maintain focused practices.” This year’s version of the Skirts may lack Marie Madaras and Stephanie Karba, but they added Lisa Pitcaithley and return Hawn and Alicia Thompson. Pitcaithley and Thompson are highly capable behind the disc or downfield, making them difficult to gameplan for. Hawn, Kaila Pollart, and Noelle Neason have all stepped into bigger roles for Santa Barbara and could help lead them back to the top of the region.

Santa Barbara’s Lisa Pitcaithley is one of the region’s most dominant forces from behind the disc

The California Pie Queens are coming off an uneven year that still shows they’re not to be taken lightly. Their victims this season include UNC-Wilmington and Texas, and while they haven’t played Stanford, they have beaten both UCSB and Sonoma. However, they have several close games against strong teams, like Colorado, Washington, and Virginia. Between those and their close losses, this team is only a few adjustments away from making a big splash. They lost as much as anybody in the region when Claire Desmond and Abby VanMuijen graduated, but do retain a very strong handler group, anchored by Lily Lin. These don’t quite look like the Berkley ladies that won the region last year, but with Lin, fellow handler Maya Gilliss-Chapman, and new coach Manisha Daryani of Fury, they have shown they can beat top teams.

Lily "Thud" Lin is the biggest component of the Pie Queen offense

Lily “Thud” Lin is the biggest component of the Pie Queen offense

UCLA Bruin Ladies Ultimate (BLU) has, not unlike Cal, shown they can beat top teams, but have also struggled in some winnable games. Victories over North Carolina and Florida State highlight their regular season, while two losses to Dartmouth and four at the hands of UC-San Diego reflect poorly. In fact, BLU is 2-4 against UCSD, 0-3 against Sonoma State, and have dropped games against SDSU, UCSB, and Arizona State. The losses of Sabrina “Kodiak” Fong and Kelly “Sapphire” Wiese have obviously sent this team into a transition. That is eased by their regional Coach of the Year, Caitlin Rugg, and returning FOTY, Megan Beck. They’ll need to put together a more consistent performance at Regionals if they want to be a factor.

The San Diego State Gnomes have done solidly against in region competition. They scored wins versus UC-Davis (x2), Cal, UCLA, UC-San Diego, Arizona, and USC. The Gnomes lost some very close games in region as well, two of those against UC-San Diego, once to UCLA, and once to UC-Santa Barbara. One of those UCSD losses and the UCSB loss came at Conferences, which is a good sign. They could definitely turn in some surprises at this tournament.

Arizona State Caliente may demonstrate the drop off in this pool. Their early season results weren’t bad, where they beat UCLA and played Sonoma, Davis, and Dartmouth tight. Perhaps most importantly, they beat Arizona twice at Conferences. Other than that, there isn’t much notable about their results this season. If they can harken back to their early season play, and add on their development since then, they may be able to push the teams above them.

Cal Poly-SLO may have a tough time at this tournament, with the quality of team they will see game in and game out. They’ve struggled against teams from tiers above them. The challenge of deep tournament fields like this one is that you get no games off, but the flip side is that your opponents may spend all day fighting in close games and you can catch someone off guard.

Pool B

Superfly Captain Hillary Vance will need to be a part of Stanford’s success this weekend

Stanford Superfly is also looking to rebound, but their regular season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. At Stanford Invite and Centex, they went 4-10. Sure, they got good wins over Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Minnesota, but more importantly, they did enough to get the Southwest a strength bid (can you imagine going from five bids to one in a year!?) Yes, they have beaten UC-San Diego and Cal this season. However, they have also lost to Sonoma once and the Burning Skirts twice. Fortunately, they put it together at their Conference tournament, blowing out Sonoma 14-6 in the Final. Superfly has struggled with injuries and issues getting their full roster together, including at that Conference Championships tournament. Jamie Nuwer and Robin Davis will have to balance chemistry issues that come with roster inconsistency, but they could also show teams some things they haven’t seen before. One thing opponents know to expect is junior Michela Meister to go ham. The U23 selection and 2012 All-Region player is a total package stud. Hillary Vance and a variety of tall receivers aid Meister in the effort for a Southwest takeover.

Sonoma State D’Vine has been a consistent team most of the season. They’ve beaten most of the teams below them and haven’t caught up to the teams above them. Their win against Stanford came early in the year at the SB Rain Invite, and while they’ve beaten Cal, UCLA, and UC-San Diego, they’ve fallen short of beating Oregon, UC-Santa Barbara, and Washington. Most recently, they turned in a weak showing against Stanford in their Conference Final. Sonoma is a team that has an interesting juxtaposition of returning a large chunk of last year’s cinderella squad, but having lost superstar Maggie Ruden. They do still have 2012 2nd Team All-Region hucker Hannah Stueckle, and a stable of athletes like Candice Pacheco, so their talent level will allow them to capitalize on mistakes from even the top seeds.

UC-San Diego Psycho has been plagued by inconsistency, in contrast to D’Vine. The bright side includes wins over Northwestern, Florida, beating Colorado St. 13-0, and beating North Carolina 13-6. However, they are also 0-2 vs. Sonoma, dropped games to SDSU and Cal, struggled against most of the the elite competition they saw at Stanford and Centex. The Psychos rebounded at Conferences, losing only to UC-SB, but their win over San Diego State was 12-11. If Captains “Chip” Chang and “Fiddy” Wong can build from their success there, it certainly could be a platform to make a run like Sonoma or Cal did last year.

The Southern California Hellions hold an early season win over the Burning Skirts (and one OR win against Western Washington), but otherwise have not had much success against the region’s stronger teams. Those are the types of teams they’ll need to beat if they want to break seed this weekend. Conferences wasn’t their best showing, so they’ll need to put that in the rear view and regroup. Kate Schlag, Kristine Brown, and Amy Lee (aliases: Stamp, Pando, and Hoover, respectively) lead the way for the Hellions.

UC-Davis Pleiades will have to really kick their game up a notch to repeat last year’s success. They do seem to be playing better during this part of the season, with all of their losses at Conferences being fairly close games. Prior to that, they struggled, though they notched wins over Arizona and Arizona State, who they may need to beat in order to hold seed.

Arizona Scorch has an uphill battle at Southwest Regionals. They have really struggled against the Regionals field, though they gave USC a tight game earlier this season. Still, improving on last year’s 0-5 showing at this tournament would be a sign of progress.

Predictions

Pool Play

Pool A: UC-Santa Barbara, California, San Diego State, UCLA, Arizona State, Cal Poly-SLO

Pool B: Stanford, Sonoma State, UC-San Diego, Southern California, UC-Davis, Arizona

I’m thinking Cal, SDSU, and UCLA each end up 4-2, but UCLA is left out on point differential. Tough break.

Championship Bracket

UC-Santa Barbara over Stanford

Backdoor Bracket Quarters

Cal over UC-San Diego

Sonoma State over San Diego State

Backdoor Bracket Semis

Sonoma State over Cal

Backdoor Bracket Final

Stanford over Sonoma State

Final Thoughts

I think this region gets challenging in the backdoor, but I think Santa Barbara cemented themselves as the favorite in my mind. They just have too many weapons and Pitcaithley and Thompson are so hard to match up against. I do like both Sonoma and Cal, but my gut tells me Cal slips on Saturday. Having to go through that bracket is brutal and will keep either Cal or Sonoma (so hard to pick in that Semi) from making a hard move in the backdoor game. Stanford is too experienced to let the backdoor blues cost them that one. Should be interesting, to say the least.