What the Florida Conference lacks in quantity, they make up for in quality. The conference features two of the Southeast’s brightest national contenders, but it isn’t all top heavy. Behind Central Florida and Florida State are two more of the region’s best teams in Florida and South Florida. With five bids to regionals, the pressure isn’t really on, yet these teams want to not only build momentum for the next level in the Series, but also want to be in the best position for success in Tupelo.
- Central Florida
- Florida State
- South Florida
- Florida State-B
A round robin for bracket placement will result in all six teams having a shot on Sunday. The top two seeds will get byes into the Semis.
The Favorite – Florida State Seminole Ladies Ultimate Team
The question of who the top team in the Conference is probably won’t be answered until Regionals, but for the favorite in Gainesville, Florida State’s 2-0 record vs. Central Florida wins the day. After putting together one of the strongest years their program has ever seen, they fell just short of earning a third bid to the College Championships for the SE, but as Coach Matt Childs explains, “Ultimately, if you’d told me in January that the Southeast would have 2 bids to Nationals, I’d be ecstatic.” With the bid situation almost guaranteeing them a Regionals berth, the focus is all on that tournament. Champies, for the Seminole Ladies, is about preparing themselves to top out UCF, Florida, and company, developing and honing strategies to counteract their top opponents. Childs also wants to make the easiest road to a Nationals bid as possible, adding, “I would like to finish at least 2nd at conferences so we can avoid playing Georgia in the Semis.”
While FSU’s game has grown more versatile and their roster deeper, it still feels like their offense is operating at its best when Megan Reeves (#17) is shooting up the line and putting up a huge huck. Sarah Clark (#7) has emerged as a big time target for Reeves and her fellow handlers. However, it may be Lauren Collins (#22) that ends up impacting their game the most. No longer is she just a tall and rangy receiver. In part due to her time with mixed club team Sabre Corp, LC has developed fantastic disc skills, in addition to a shutdown defender able to match up with the region’s downfield elite. Add in giant throws from SJ Campbell (#3) and the young, versatile talent of Kristin Lloyd (#10) and you’ve got a product that is capable of winning more than just the Conference.
No contender in the region is closer to being a favorite than University of Central Florida Sirens. Almost all of us know the story of the 2012 Sirens, who dominated the region, an unquestioned favorite to take the lone bid to the College Championships, who fell short when it counted. Their road to redemption begins here, where they will look to defend their Conference crown. UCF’s regular season has been stronger than Florida State’s, but the two have seen each other twice, and both times, FSU won. Florida State is 5-5 against common opponents while UCF is 4-5 and both of the head to head FSU wins were at the early season Florida Winter Classic. I wouldn’t blame anyone who’d put their money on the Sirens. I imagine they’ll be taking a similar approach to FSU’s, meaning, should they see each other, they won’t be full throttle; the coaches from both squads are looking to gain the strategic advantage without showing their opponents their hands. However, both of these are passionate teams, with Captain Mariel Hammond adding, “Our approach will be to take these games like every game is the final game to go to Nationals. We need to bring that fire and intensity every game.” Once the pull goes up, both squads may have trouble holding back.
Central Florida maintains some aspects of last year’s dominant squad – namely, the effectiveness of their zone play. They are an aggressive defensive group that will battle in the air and hustle to spots to close windows before the offense can hit them. That attitude carries over to their fast break and handler-cutting heavy offensive looks. Sunny Harris (#23) is the lively centerpiece behind the disc and in the back of their zone, while Mariel Hammond’s (#12) forceful cutting, with the help of Amy Price (#3) propels their downfield offense. Katie Young (#9) and Samantha Fox (#26) have become huge parts of the Siren disc movement and their contributions are critical to the team’s offensive success. However, their leadership is quick to praise their depth. “Our team has been bit by the injury bug at several key positions,” explained Coach Joe Tilley. He was seconded by Young, adding “[Injuries] forced us to trust those 2nd year players and rookies with field time, and I think it has paid off tremendously.”
It may be a down year for Florida FUEL in many people’s eyes, but smart teams know not to look past them. They’ve seen Georgia three times, Central Florida twice, and Florida State once, and most of those games were close. They’ve been going up against tough competition all season at QCTU, Music City, and Centex. The Regional title, if it were a belt, would still be wrapped around their waist. Jenna Dahl and Jackie Fane are still two of the region’s most dangerous handlers and Morgan Hartmann is plenty capable of getting downfield to catch their hucks and breaks. Their primary zone looks put their best players in position to move around, confusing offenses and forcing turns.
South Florida Scalleywenches is the last team really in the running. Tall Teal Dabney might be the first thing you notice, with her big pulls and over the top throws attracting attention, but Tessa Walter is the player to watch. As their primary handler, the team needs her breaks and reset cutting to help their offense when the deep game isn’t working. She has a number of viable targets, and with Dabney, MK Stephan, and Morgan Brazel, they tend to win a high percentage of battles in the air. Coach Jordan Knoten has them running a zone that puts the 6’0″ Dabney and her lengthy wing span right in front of throwers and their athletes downfield to eat up whatever floats past. This squad has been nipping at Florida’s heels this season and this tournament might be the perfect time for USF to strike.
Florida-B Diesel and Florida State-B finish out the grouping here. Diesel’s put together a solid year, with no B team they played keeping it close, and nearly beating Alabama. Meanwhile, FSU-B’s squad has two wins on the year and both were blowouts. Both of these teams have seen plenty of games and one of them will get to extend their season.
Florida State over Central Florida in the Final. South Florida upsets Florida for third place. Florida-B takes the last bid over FSU-B.
- Florida State