Midwest Throwdown ’13 Womens: MWTD Eve Thoughts

It is hard not to look at this tournament and separate the trio of teams at the top: Iowa State, Iowa, and Wisconsin. All three performed well at Queen City Tune-Up and are likely to not only qualify for the College Championships, but factor in to who wins it. The top end of their rosters basically forms the North Central All-Region team and some of these players could make their way into the Callahan discussion. Nobody expects these teams to lose to anyone but each other this weekend, Minnesota’s one point loss to Iowa at a recent indoor tournament being the only reason to have even a slim doubt in that prediction.

 

Typically, the teams from the top end of the continental US spend the first couple of months of the season complaining about how they don’t get to play outside and how disadvantageous it is (as their dudes win Warm Up and their women win QCTU, grumble grumble), but the tables turn with them in their home conditions. Teams armed with strong zone capabilities, like Eau Claire, Valparaiso, and Kansas’s zone offense have a chance to not only perform well in Division II, but crack the top bracket in their crossover games. This would be a big stride for these teams. They have to be salivating at the chance to see Texas A&M or Emory, teams in the bottom half of Division I who may be mentally unprepared for the conditions. The infamous St. Louis weather is projected to bring highs of mid 30s with 10-15 mph winds on Saturday, which will be enough to impact both strategy and execution. If conditions do lead to lots of zone, watch for top end handlers to be big difference makers – the Depalmas of Minnesota, Kat Songer of Kansas, Danielle Blatt of Wash U, the trio of Al Ellis, Anna Shandeling, and Rebecca Enders for Wisconsin, as well as Lien Hoffman and the Li duo from Northwestern. It’ll be interesting if these sets will serve to slow down the fast paced Iowa State offense or the dynamic cutters that populate Iowa’s lanes.

Taking a more complete look at Division I, Pool A sets up with Iowa State, Northwestern, Wash U, and Emory. Woman Scorned could manage to go the day without any close games if they are clicking, though Lien Hoffman’s return to 100% could be the boost Northwestern needs to challenge them. The top end talent from Ames shreds through defenses easily when clicking, as Sarah Pesch, Magon Liu, Cami Nelson, and Becca Miller seem telepathically connected in transition. They have been bolstering their depth this season as well, so taking them down Saturday will be a tall task. Wash U and Northwestern are both teams that are driven by strong handler play. The conditions could play into their hands if the skill of Angel and Carol Li from Northwestern and Danielle Blatt and Katie Walker from WuWu can find opportunities to use their throwing arsenals. Northwestern had a fairly successful QCTU, but went mostly unnoticed, so a strong showing here could get them on the radar, and they certainly seem capable of running with top teams. WuWu is a team that has made Nationals three of the past four years, and you can bet they’re looking to turn last year into a fluke rather than the beginning of a pattern. Emory Luna is trying to put their early season struggles in the rear view mirror. The travel and time of year (mid term weeks) are taking away some of their top cutting talent, like defensive stalwart Ariella Fatielson and offensive standout Caroline Pearson, but they do return standout cutter Abbey Hewitt, fresh off a season with Bucket. If they can capitalize on turns generated by effective zone play, there is potential for them to score critical upsets.

Pool B features both Iowa and Wisconsin, which probably is exciting for both, and Texas A&M and Minnesota. Iowa’s roster is deep and athletic – they seemed to win almost every battle in the air at QCTU – and having versatile weapons like Liza Minor, Jen Nowak, Chelsea Twohig, and Becca Hickernell means they have cutters who can get open and then damage you with the disc in their hands that are complimented by handlers that can push up the field. “Our depth and athleticism will prove to be a hurdle for teams,” added Minor, a team captain, commenting on their roster’s total talent, “They think they have shut down the top players and realize that everyone on our team is equally ready to step up.” Wisconsin’s another team with plenty of depth, as their group of Ellis, Shandeling, and Enders are complimented by strong cutters in Biz Cook, Sarah Scott, and Amelia Cuarenta. They are very comfortable in both zone and man looks on either side of the disc. From what I saw of them at QCTU, they could have the best zone at the tournament, which could be just what they need to push past the pair of Iowa schools seeded above them. TAMU Stacked is looking to follow up a successful start to the spring season with a second place finish at Houston Antifreeze. They challenged Texas in their one matchup and are hungry to get a shot at more top end competition. I don’t know much about them, but have been told they play a physical style of downfield defense and love to bring in 50-50 floaters. Minnesota rounds out the pool and must be excited to get Iowa Saturday; they matched up twice last weekend at an indoor tournament and Minnesota was in both games. Minnesota, whose squad has garnered attention with their development, will be looking to make a bigger name in the North Central, riding the talent of the Depalmas (Emily and Natalie) and the Regans (Emily and Greta). Their height will also make their zone looks even tougher to traverse. Their results this weekend could set the tone for the rest of their season.

In D-II, it is tough to call with such small pools, but Notre Dame, Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Truman State, Grinnell, Kansas, Purdue, Northern Iowa, Colorado St., Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Valparaiso all have potential. This means Pools F, I, and J hold the most interesting match ups as Kansas-UNI, Truman State-Grinnell, and Colorado State-Wisconsin-Milwaukee will see each other Saturday. There’s a lot of potential matchups with typically two crossover games for these teams (one against D-II and for two-thirds of the teams, one against D-I), so it is hard to predict just how things will shake out. From what I’ve been told, I’d watch out for Eau Claire, Kansas, Notre Dame, and Valparaiso in particular as teams that could not only win their D-II games, but take down a D-I opponent if they get a good draw.

St. Louis is, as I’ve heard tell, a great place. Why we would go there right by the calendar page-flip of February to run around outdoors escapes me, but perhaps that is a testament to Michelle Ng, Wash U WuWu, and all that they have accomplished with Midwest Throwdown. This is my first season coaching Emory, a team from the warm comforts of Atlanta, and who has also attended this tournament two years in a row. I’ve heard many things – from both my team and from others – but most are horror stories. Snow on the ground, fields of mud multiple inches deep, and the infamous tipped over port-a-potty are the tales attached to Midwest’s legacy. Despite all of this, and my protests about going to St. Louis this time of year to stand on the sidelines, even colder than the players, the team said repeatedly how much fun they had. In a way, I’m looking forward to finding out what could be so awesome as to outweigh the intimidating negatives.

The level of competition runs the gamut from the top of the Power Rankings to B-teams.Three of these teams were at the College Championships last year (Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin), four in 2011 (Iowa, Iowa State, Wash U, and Northwestern), three in 2010, and so on. Suffice to say, it would be both a statistical aberration and outright shock if at least two of these teams weren’t taking the field in Madison. “[Iowa’s] goal for the season is to utilize our depth and experience to our highest potential, improve at every tournament, and get to Madison,” explained Minor, “Our goal is to peak in May and to keep getting better until then.” The weekend should give them and the other top teams a chance to test themselves and explore their bench depth. Behind them are Nationals-contenders like Northwestern and Wash U, as well as some up and coming programs, highlighted by TAMU and Minnesota, who has a lot of buzz going into this weekend. Division II features teams that stand to have strong showings this year, namely Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Valparaiso, a top team in the D-III scene, plus names like Notre Dame, Purdue, Colorado State, and Kansas.

Midwest Throwdown has the potential to go lots of different ways, what with the myriad factors and potential match ups. In addition, teams have so few games under their belt that it is hard to know who any team really is at this point. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a team that looks ready to push into that top three, meaning a lot of the exciting results may not have a bearing on the champion. At the top, however, it is a toss up. Will Iowa St. defend their MWTD crown and rack up their second tournament victory of the young season? It would certainly make them the favorite to win the North Central and get a one seed at the College Championships. Or will Iowa take down their cross-state sisters? Or perhaps Wisconsin can push through both? That’s why we play the games, folks.

Pool A
(0-0)
A1
Iowa State
(0-0)
A2
Northwestern
(0-0)
A3
Minnesota
(0-0)
A4
Emory
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
Fld
Game
Score
9:00
1
A1A3
  –
2
A2A4
  –
11:00
1
A1A4
  –
2
A2A3
  –
1:00
1
A1A2
  –
2
A3A4
  –
Pool B
(0-0)
B1
Iowa
(0-0)
B2
Wisconsin
(0-0)
B3
Texas A & M
(0-0)
B4
Washington University
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
Fld
Game
Score
9:00
3
B1B3
  –
4
B2B4
  –
11:00
3
B1B4
  –
4
B2B3
  –
1:00
3
B1B2
  –
4
B3B4
  –
Pool C
(0-0)
C1
Notre Dame
(0-0)
C2
Nebraska
(0-0)
C3
Missouri
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
5
C1C3
  –
9:45
5
C2C3
  –
11:30
5
C1C2
  –
Pool D
(0-0)
D1
St Louis
(0-0)
D2
North Park
(0-0)
D3
Kansas State
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
6
D1D3
  –
9:45
6
D2D3
  –
11:30
6
D1D2
  –
Pool E
(0-0)
E1
Kansas
(0-0)
E2
Wisconsin-Stevens Point
(0-0)
E3
Northwestern-B
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
7
E1E3
  –
9:45
7
E2E3
  –
11:30
7
E1E2
  –
Pool F
(0-0)
F1
Valparaiso
(0-0)
F2
Northern Iowa
(0-0)
F3
Iowa-B
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
8
F1F3
  –
9:45
8
F2F3
  –
11:30
8
F1F2
  –
Pool G
(0-0)
G1
Purdue
(0-0)
G2
Texas Christian
(0-0)
G3
Washington University-B
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
9
G1G3
  –
9:45
9
G2G3
  –
11:30
9
G1G2
  –
Pool H
(0-0)
H1
Wisconsin-Eau Claire
(0-0)
H2
Marquette
(0-0)
H3
Notre Dame-B
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
10
H1H3
  –
9:45
10
H2H3
  –
11:30
10
H1H2
  –
Pool I
(0-0)
I1
Truman State
(0-0)
I2
Grinnell
(0-0)
I3
Colorado-B
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
11
I1I3
  –
9:45
11
I2I3
  –
11:30
11
I1I2
  –
Pool J
(0-0)
J1
Colorado State
(0-0)
J2
Wisconsin-Milwaukee
(0-0)
J3
Drury
Sat
Fld
Game
Score
8:00
12
J1J3
  –
9:45
12
J2J3
  –
11:30
12
J1J2
  –
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