Up Calls: Weekend Results, Ultiworld Video Store, Bid Watch

Here’s what has been going down lately, if ya missed it:

This week, look for a preview of Women’s Midwest Throwdown and some more footage.

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Southeast Women’s Snapshot

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The Southeast Region seems to be growing more and more competitive, on both sides of the gender gap. The Women’s side has a number teams vying for what could wind up being one or two bids to Nationals. Traditionally a one bid region, it’ll be a fight all the way, and last year showed you can’t take anything for granted into those fateful days of the Series. Here’s a brief look at how the region stacks up, topped off by the Big 4: UGA, UCF, FSU, and UF.

Georgia Dawgma (9-4)

Key IR Wins: UF x2, FSU x2, UCF

Key IR Losses: FSU

Key OR Wins: None

Dawgma opened the year strong, coming off of a fall where they dominated Southeast competition and won a double game point finals victory at CCC over Texas. They could really use that out of region win on their record now. They were by far the strongest performing team at Florida Winter Classic, which allowed them to assert themselves over the in-region competition and stake out a nice win %. Unfortunately, they disappointed at QCTU, failing any marquee wins (their best win was a 15-5 win over Wash U, a team UCF beat 11-2) and losing their first in-region game to Florida State, 11-10. The talent is there for this team and they were battling health issues at QCTU, but we’ve heard this song before. This is the most talented team Athens has fielded in a while and excuses are not calculated in the ranking algorithm. A rebound performance at Music City Mash-Up would be huge: there’s a rematch of that glorious CCC Final against Texas and a competition for the top spot in the SE against UCF on the docket. They need to get a big out-of-region win – probably two – if they want to reestablish themselves.

Central Florida Sirens (8-6)

Key IR Wins: Florida

Key IR Losses: FSU x2, UGA, UF

Key OR Wins: Michigan (12-7), Wisconsin (9-6), UNC-Wilmington (12-11)

UCF’s start was the exact opposite of Georgia’s: unimpressive Florida Winter Classic, where they took some tough losses to the SE’s top competition, and then a huge showing at QCTU against out of region competition. They carry virtually every big Southeast win against competition from the rest of the country. This break out performance makes them a team to watch. Michigan had a really poor showing at QCTU, but that win over Wisconsin stands out as a big one and is a sign anybody sleeping on the Sirens may not get to wake up at all. A chance to add to their resume with a game against Texas is good, but for UCF, beating Georgia – the team who tore up their ticket to Nationals last year – will be more than sweet revenge, but a statement about who really runs the Southeast.

Florida State SLUT (7-6)

Key IR Wins: UF x2, UCF x2, UGA

Key IR Losses: UGA x2

Key OR Wins: Michigan (13-7)

This has been coming for a while. FSU has been knocking on the door and they have finally broken through as one of the region’s elite. They put up solid showings are both FWC and QCTU, getting wins out of every other team in the Big 4. Beating UGA at QCTU was huge for the Seminole Ladies, as it was a sign that they have the talent and ability to beat anyone in the Southeast and a legitimate shot at the crown. While they will not be at Music City, they will be hosting Tally Classic (side note: great tourney for mid-level SE teams) where they will look to score decisive wins over next tier SE talent (GCSU, Alabama, USF) and some similarly seated talent from other regions (Notre Dame, Purdue). They’ll have to wait for Centex to get their shot at adding some more big wins to their list and proving their mettle.

Florida FUEL (6-8)

Key IR Wins: UCF

Key IR Losses: FSU x2, UGA x2, UCF

Key OR Wins: None

Florida had a tough start to the Spring, coming away from their home tourney FWC with just one notable win to show for it. At QCTU, they did give Pitt a tight game and had a five point loss to eventual winner, Iowa State, with a pair of wins against a short-rostered Maryland team as well. It was definitely a sign of progress for a team that I expect to come on much stronger and surprise some folks at Centex. Right now, you have to put them at the bottom of the pile. Music City offers a chance to stake their claim and prove they are still Southeast elite. Unlike UCF and UGA, they’ll draw three opponents where any win would be the highlight win to jumpstart them (Pittsburgh, Ohio State, and Michigan). Opportunity is staring FUEL in the face.

The Field

To start the spring, it seemed the most likely threat to challenge the Big 4 was Emory, the most recent Southeast team that was in the club. However, they stumbled through an awful FWC, failing to grab a single victory. While they rebounded with wins over Bama (x2) and USF at a very windy and unsanctioned Flick’N Nuts, they will need a strong showing at next weekend’s Midwest Throwdown in order to push back up in the middle tier – for now, they are in the backseat. South Florida notched a pair of wins over the aforementioned Emory squad at FWC and played Florida tight, and also made finals at Flick’N Nuts. I’d say they reside in the shotgun spot at the top of the middle tier. If they can take down the other SE middle tier teams they see at Tally Classic and/or beat FSU, they will be in a great position.

GCSU’s performance at their home tourney, Flick’N Nuts, gets them mention. They won the tournament despite a short roster. In fact, with a solid group of girls that relies on no stud to bail them out, they might even be better with a short rotation where they all know each other well. Their Tally Classic will be our first chance to see what they really look like. Georgia Tech has a solid record and will get some shots at Music City, so keep an eye on that one. Wreck has arguably the region’s best player, and despite losing some of their best cutting talent this Spring, has cultivated the depth to keep winning.

Bama and Tulane have both been pushing to finally give the Gulf Coast strong representation.T-Throwdown was a chance to finally find out more about these teams, even as an unsanctioned event. Tulane went undefeated on the way to winning the tournament and I’ve heard they were by far the strongest performing squad in Tuscaloosa. Auburn also had a strong weekend, making the finals. Alabama struggled through a disappointing weekend, with a winless Saturday, which definitely surprised me to hear. A rebound at Tally Classic will shoot them up the rankings.

As I see it? Just for the time being, and almost entirely based on known Spring results:

  • 5. USF
  • 6. Tulane
  • 7. GCSU
  • 8. Georgia Tech
  • 9. Auburn
  • 10. Emory
  • 11. Alabama
  • 12. Georgia State

What to Watch

3/2-3/3: Midwest Throwdown (Emory)

3/9-3/10: Music City Mash-Up (UGA, UCF, UF, GT), Tally Classic (FSU, USF, Bama, GCSU)

After that, Centex, Southerns, and Terminus will be on deck. I’m not sure where Tulane or Auburn are headed next, but obviously, keep an eye on where they are.

Women’s Weekend Slate: Bonanza, Stanford Open, and some regional action

This upcoming weekend lacks for headlining tournaments, but it turns out these games count just as much in the ranking algorithm.

Women’s Easterns

This field of seven is not your average small tournament. Three of the four seminfinalists from last year return and two of those teams were at Nationals last year. Both the 1 and 2 seed missed out on a berth of their own by a game. The top four were all in attendance at Queen City Tune Up and that mostly informed the seeding (Pittsburgh beat UNC-W, UNC-W beat Virginia) but anything could happen within this top end. Penn State will be looking to prove themselves and have a close 11-14 loss to Virginia from Winta Binta Vinta Fest. I’m expecting UNC-W and Virginia to make the finals and Pittsburgh vs. Michigan in the semis. Important to see how Michigan rebounds from QCTU, though.

Stanford Open

This tournament is really a regional level one, except for two teams that I’m just so curious about: UCSD and Victoria. The Psychos had a solid showing at Pres Day and that makes them a notable in the Southwest. Victoria’s undefeated run through the SB Invite included wins over Santa Barbara, Sonoma State, and a romp over Stanford. This will also be a chance for Humboldt State and San Diego State to make some moves within region. Everyone will be gunning to beat Victoria to score a valuable out of region win. The winner gets a huge opportunity playing at the Stanford Invite two weeks later. Should Victoria win, that’s a lot of travel.

Bonanza

Delaware sits at the 1-seed spot, the kind of respect you earn getting to the show last year. That said, they are 0-2 vs. the field here (losses to Penn and JMU at Winta Binta Vinta Fest), so it will be interesting to see if the time between then and now has allowed them to transition to the post-Nikki Ross era of this season (after she went down to injury). Towson has really become a consistently strong squad as well, and could challenge Penn and JMU for the title. Also curious to see what NYU brings to the table. Plus, there’s those Dirty Ladies from American University, and with a gamechanger like Lauren Sadler of Scandal, anything could happen, and wouldn’t be surprised to see them take Pool A.

T-Town Throwdown

Non-sanctioned as it may be, as a Southeast coach, I’m always keeping an eye on the competition. The teams, as I’ve been told, are Tulane, Hotbox (club team), Florida B, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia State, Western Kentucky, Miss. St, and West GA. Tulane and Alabama have both become emerging programs to watch out for and will be battling to rule the Gulf Coast. Georgia State has great top end talent and could offer some surprises and I’m mostly interested in seeing how those three teams stack up. No idea what Hotbox will do to things, or where Vandy and Auburn will fall. I’m expecting Bama to win their home tournament.

 

Up Calls: Club Nationals, Callahan Nominations, and Weekend Slate

Up Calls will give you some quick hits on the news du jour

  • USAU announced the location of the Club Championships this year, and it ain’t Sarasota! Looks like teams will be chasing Frisco, TX now, October 17-20th. This is a great sign, because it is hosted at the FC Dallas (MLS team) complex, which means the showcase games and finals will be in a big stadium and I expect USAU to drive traffic. And don’t think it escaped folks that there will be “nationally broadcast semifinal rounds and championship games from Memorial Stadium.”
  • If you didn’t see earlier, Skyd announced they are taking over the Callahan Award. Once nomination process is complete, the Skyd Award Committee will pick the Skyd Five: 5 ladies and 5 dudes to be profiled as the frontrunners. Some drama ensued (see the comments section in the above article), but I think it’ll end up better from where we were. Nomination date was pushed back a few days from today, though.
  • On the Women’s side, the weekend is highlighted by the small but competitive Women’s Easterns field and the Stanford Open on the west coast. We’ll also see some regional action at Bonanza and TTown Throwdown. More on this in the Weekend Slate.
  • On the Open side, keep an eye on the Standford Open and Hellfish Bonanza, and regional matchups abound at Cat Fight, Cowbell Classic, Hendrix Ultimate Experience, and Hotlanta ’13.
  • MLU announced a partnership with UltiPhotos are their official image provider.

Pittsburgh: Why I’m Not Worried

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Defeated Pitt players walk off amidst the celebration of Wisconsin’s 13-11 win at Florida: A Warm Up Affair 2013.

 

Pittsburgh’s rise through the ranks of college Ultimate culminated in a Championship last year. Returning their two stars and a bevy of future names, En Sabah Nur was the unquestioned favorite coming into the ’12-’13 season. However, the fall showed some chinks in the armor – a loss to TAMU at MLC and a loss to Carnegie Mellon at Steel City – that lead to some questions about them. People were talking. With every reason to roll through this year to another title, suddenly there were some doubts.

A Warm Up Affair in the books, the Steel City gang didn’t answer those questions. A surprise 13-7 loss to a Florida team that didn’t make nationals last year opened their weekend. They’d add two losses to Wisconsin (13-11 and 15-9), and the 13-11 game didn’t look as close to me as that score indicated. Tack on four wins by three points or less (over Central Florida, Dartmouth, Carleton, and Florida again) and the picture you’re painting starts to get a bit darker.

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Colin Camp gets over Marcus Ranii-Dropcho for a huge grab

 

Watching them against Wisconsin, they looked slower and even unsure of themselves. Degirolamo was unguardable and Max Thorne was effective, but after that it got a bit dicey. When I look at Pitt’s roster, I see playmaker after playmaker. Having to match up the trio of Tyler, Alex, and Max is difficult, but asking your 4-7 to cover Dillon, Earles, Kauffman, Saul, Bender, Bearsley, Brenner, and Ranii-Dropcho is nightmarish… in theory. Those guys struggled to make plays against the Hodag defense. Dropcho had the unenviable task of guarding Colin Camp – who has developed into a player to match what I originally considered overhype – and struggled in the matchup, including some nasty skies. Wisconsin may be the best team in the country, and holds the top spot in the collective pundit rankings right now, so I don’t want to judge Pitt purely based on this, but it didn’t look like the Pitt we expected to see in south Florida. The Hodags looked like a team that wanted it and Pittsburgh looked like a team that was scared of it.

So why am I not worried?

I’m not entirely sure Pitt did want it. A number of points went without Degirolamo or Thorne(s), Saul seemed to have some spells without playing, among others. There wasn’t an aggressiveness or killer instinct. There wasn’t even too much swagger. I saw some unfamiliar faces, numbers, and names darting around the field, even in a game where the scoreboard never said they were totally out of it, where they were under the lights and being watched, with a chance to make a statement. That statement, to me, was “We’re fine with this.” And why shouldn’t they be?

Pitt has always been a confident team and they have cause to be. Their region has one primary challenger in Ohio, a team that probably has the studs to match up with Pitt but lacking in the depth to hang. Penn State & CMU have improved this year, but Ohio State is rebuilding and Dayton is just getting the hang of being good. There’s little reason to doubt their spot at Nationals, regardless of whether or not Ohio and Co. can wrangle up a second and/or third bid. My bet is that Pittsburgh is playing this whole season thinking only of Madison. Develop your depth, perfect your execution, grow your program, and peak when it counts. Let people worry about you, encourage your opponents to underestimate you, and build a nice “us against the world” narrative if you need to.

I’m not worried about Pitt because I don’t think they are worried at all. My money is still on them to be the last team standing once the dust settles.

QCTU Women’s 2013: 7 Stars Line

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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.

Shellie Cohen Highlights

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.

Chelsea Twohig & Liza Minor Highlight

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.

Honorable Mentions

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…