One of the things the USAU has been trying to do in college ultimate is make the regular season matter. We all can benefit from the storylines of regular season match ups, where teams are incentivized to put forth their best efforts each time in the spring that they step on the field. Every one would still have a chance come the Series, but your play in the preceding months would have a major impact on how big a chance that would be. This year’s Women’s College Centex certainly lives up to that sort of billing. The strength of the field (only missing the top end of the Northwest) and bid implications throughout make it probably the most important tournament of the season.
Here are the games I’ll be frantically checking my Twitter for updates on (I’ll be coaching at Southerns):
Round 1 (11:00 AM)
Virginia vs. North Carolina (DI – Pool A)
The top two teams in the Atlantic Coast will see each other on the field for the first time this season. They didn’t clash in the Fall nor see each other at QCTU. They have some common opponents, but the big difference is North Carolina’s coming off a one-win weekend at Stanford while Virginia comes off an undefeated weekend at Easterns. The winner takes pole position in the AC, which is currently a one bid region.
Wisconsin vs. UC-Santa Barbara (DI – Pool B)
Two perennial powers are going head to head, but what makes this match up really exciting is the chance for revenge. Wisconsin’s season was sinking until they broke out at Stanford, including a 12-8 win over UCSB. That game will probably be on the Skirts’ minds as they travel to Texas. A win to start the day for Bella Donna could be exactly what they need to set up for another huge weekend. Pool B could fall a lot of different ways, and this game may very will be a tone setter.
Minnesota vs. Stanford (D1 – Pool C)
The most storied program in the division comes in as the lower seed vs. an upstart team coming off their break out weekend. Minnesota vaulted into the conversation with their monstrous Midwest Throwdown, where they notched wins over three of the four Centex one-seeds. MWTD weather has been known to generate crazy results (go look at my recap for that tournament to see what I mean), so many are wondering if Minnesota benefited from some good fortune. Stanford has only posted one big win this season and is 0-2 vs. the North Central. Meister and co. will be hungry for their first win against the region. The North Central and Southwest have been battling for bids and the recently released USAU rankings moved Stanford and Sonoma above Iowa St., taking a bid from the NC and sending it to the SW. There’s a lot at stake here. #bidwatch!
Texas vs. Whitman (DII – Pool F)
Texas Melee was a team people had high expectations for coming into the spring season, but who must have a sour taste in their mouth after a lousy showing at Music City. Meanwhile, Whitman has seen little sanctioned tournament experience, still clinging to a Northwest strength bid based on a decent Colluvium. Grumbling about the system rewarding the west coast permeates the rest of the country and Texas can strike a blow by dealing Whitman an early loss and aiding in the effort to free up that strength bid. Whitman has something to prove and will be excited to be back on the scene.
Round 2 (1:00 PM)
Tufts vs. UC-Santa Barbara (DI – Pool B)
Just two of the nation’s best clashing with one another. Each of these teams is lead by a powerful duo: Ewo’s Hailey Alm and Claudia Tajima and the Skirts’ Alicia Thompson and Lisa Pitcaithley. Neither of these duos operates alone, with plenty of talent around them, but these are teams expected to be in the mix for deep runs at the College Championships.
Iowa vs. North Carolina (DI – Pool A)
In this rematch of the third place game from QCTU (which Iowa won 11-9), North Carolina is a high energy team that I expect to come in fired up regardless of how their first round ends. Plus, the idea of seeing Cohen and Couper go up against Minor and Twohig is enticing (though I expect Nowak will probably be tasked with guarding one of those two). After Stanford, UNC is looking to prove they belong in the nation’s elite while Iowa is still building momentum for what promises to be a tough North Central region.
Minnesota vs. Central Florida (DI – Pool C)
To be honest, I want to watch all of Minnesota’s game. I want to see who this team really is, plus their skill and fire makes them fun to watch. If you’re looking for fire to fight that fire with, the Sirens of UCF come fully loaded. The Southeast is looking to come away from this weekend with both of their strength bids in tact, which means UCF has to win or keep close in these high profile match ups.
Ohio State vs. California (DI – Pool D)
Ohio State is coming off a victory at Music City (actually, they are coming off Spring Break) while California is within shouting range of another strength bid for the Southwest. In both the Skyd and Ultiworld rankings, these teams are just a few spots apart. Each is looking to show they can consistently perform against elite competition. Someone is coming out of this round with a lot more confidence and momentum.
Round 3 (3:00 PM)
Carleton vs. Minnesota (DI – Pool C)
The North Central is sitting on
five four bids right now. Their top five teams are all ranked within the top 6 of the seeding at Centex. Minnesota’s emergence came with Ninja wins over Wisconsin, Iowa, and Iowa St. Can they add to their scalp collection with a win over Carleton? What would that mean for one of the nation’s deepest regions? I expect a tight game for NC bragging rights.
Central Florida vs. Stanford (DI – Pool C)
Both Skyd and Ultiworld have Stanford solidly ranked ahead of Central Florida, while the USAU’s math and the seeding have Central Florida ahead. Both of these teams are fighting for bids that will drastically affect their Regional picture, in regions where no team has really made themselves the favorite. If either team wants to get to the show (hint: they both do), games like this come dangerously close to the sports cliche “must win”.
Michigan vs. Western Washington (DII – Pool E)
Michigan is not having the season we are used to from Flywheel and time is running out to show us someone different. Both of these teams are in the top 30 in USAU’s rankings, meaning both can make plays for bids this weekend. Michigan has wins over UNC, UNC-W, and Texas to their name while Western Washington holds wins over Victoria, UC-SD, and Whitman. They have no common opponents. Michigan has FFH supercrush Marissa Mead patrolling the sidelines and Western Washington is from the #evilempire, so I’ll say we are rooting for Flywheel.
Florida State vs. UCLA (DII – Pool G)
As a Southeast bias, the Seminole Ladies will have my attention all weekend. UCLA is a dangerous team, having notched wins over California, UC-San Diego, and UNC this year, but with some poor losses as well. Should they avoid upsets in the earlier rounds, this game will be for a shot the championship bracket with a play-in game against the back end of Pool C. Both teams will also be rooting for their regional comrade, hoping to not play them in this game (UCF and Stanford are the 3-4 in Pool C).
Wisconsin vs. Tufts (DI – Pool B)
As it is, Pool B stands to be the biggest toss up. We can’t really be sure what to make of any of the top three teams in this pool, and even Pittsburgh has been threatening to beat an elite team all season. I can’t say with confidence these teams will be undefeated when they match up, but this game should be worth watching all the same. Wisconsin has the kind of top defenders needed to match up with Tufts. I’m a big believer in Tufts, their talent, and their leadership, and see them as the kind of team that could make a real run at the title. The Wisconsin of Stanford Invite could also. If they show up, we’re looking at fireworks.
Pre-Quarters Play-Ins (5:30 PM)
The last place team from each DI pool will play the first place team from the DII pools, with the winner heading the PreQs and the loser falling into the DII bracket. For teams near the bubble in the bid picture, getting to the top bracket could be huge. That means Northwestern, Michigan, UC-San Diego, Western Washington, Texas, Florida State and MIT are all teams looking to move up. California, UNC-Wilmington, Pittsburgh, Stanford, North Carolina, and Central Florida are all going to look to avoid disappointing tumbles.
Women’s College Centex is a big tournament: in scope, in number of teams, in competition level, and in impact. While I’ve highlighted some of my favorite games from the weekend, we never know how it will shake out and which games will end up being the big ones. There are a lot of #bidwatch games, a bevy of storylines to follow, and teams looking to prove to themselves and their opponents that they will be a threat come Regionals and come Nationals. I can’t wait to see what remains when the dust settles.