Southern Appalachian Women’s Conference Championship Preview

The region’s largest Conference features the Southeast’s top Dawg as well as some of the other strongest squads. Many of the region’s top highlight reel players will be taking to the beautiful fields of Statesboro to fight for one of the tickets to Regionals, and the best places in the pecking order. The heavy favorite will be UGA’s Dawgma, and some of the drama will be missing with GCSU, one of the most dangerous teams in the Southeast, going to D-III. However, it is hard to tell how Georgia Tech, Tennessee, and Emory will shake out, and history says they’ll be playing each other very tight.

The Setup

Seeding

  1. Georgia
  2. Georgia College
  3. Georgia Tech
  4. Emory
  5. Georgia State
  6. Tennessee
  7. SCAD

Format

Things will be a bit unusual, as two one of the eight seven teams are going to D-III (GCSU), so there are really six teams vying for four bids. A late drop by another team that was headed D-III altered the format from two pools to a round robin. The D-III situation won’t be a factor till everything wraps up. The seven teams will play in a single pool, with four games and a bye Saturday and two more pool games Sunday. If you place top two in the round robin, you get a bid, and will play in the Final, with the loser of that dropping into a backdoor. The third and fourth place finishers from pool play will compete Sunday, with the winner locking up a spot and playing the backdoor 2nd place game. The loser of the 3/4 game will fall into another backdoor game for the final bid spot.

The Teams

The Favorite – Georgia Dawgma

Georgia Dawgma is the easy favorite in the Conference. Their only game against SAPP competition is a 13-5 FWC win over Emory, but their performance on the national stage certainly puts them a head above the rest. Amble Johnson’s comfort level with his team has reached a maximum in his 5th year with Dawgma. They have veteran leadership, talented young players, and the best top end and depth in the Conference. It’ll be a tall task for anyone to challenge them, even with them protecting themselves for Tupelo. However, we’ve seen them let games slip away from them before, so they’ll have to execute to come away unscathed.

The names are familiar at this point. Lane Siedor, Hannah Leathers, Emily Lloyd, Julia Fuster, Margie Quinn, Courtney Farrell, Katie Franchot, Anraya Palmer, and Kate Hines form a nasty rotation of talent that can put opponents through the ringer without exhausting their legs. It seems unreal, but I feel like Emily Lloyd has flown under the radar this season as more people find out who Lane is. Make no mistake about it, she might be the best cutter in the Southeast. Margie Quinn and Courtney Farrell both have become not only reliable resets, but playmakers in their own right, who can find their athletic cutters with impressive throws. I’m not sure what their health situation looks like – they always seem to have some variety of maladies – but I expect they’ll be nursing a few wounds that will open their rotation some.

The Challengers

Even if they are going D-III, Georgia College Lynx Rufus might be the second best team in the Conference and in the top half of the Southeast as a whole. They run a small 9-10 person rotation, but the talent level within that small group is high and they have great chemistry from their time with one another. They’ll find and expose a matchup whenever they get the chance and will utilize quick disc movement to put opponents on their heels. Marissa Hicks leads this group, a dependable cutter and strong defender who is able to grind out matchups. They don’t always get it done in the prettiest fashion, but they do get it done better than almost everybody they face.

Georgia Tech Wreck would love to score a signature win on their way to Tupelo. They fell a point short of beating Florida at Music City, possibly recalling memories of their Classic City Classic performance, where they fell to Florida by a pair and South Florida by a point. They’ve won more close games than they’ve lost and seem poised to make a move. Leah Tsinajinnie still supplies them with a large percentage of their offensive firepower, with her hucks and breaks, but they’ve put the pieces around her to defend well and rest her. Captains Xenia Wirth and Lily Ponitz are both downfield threats, while Donnya Adjari and Sandhya Srivatsan frustrate opposing cutters. Ashley Brown and Cate Woodhurst give them the additional throwers necessary to punch in short field and fast break scores.

Still looking to push over the hump, University of Tennessee Screw will bring their hard nosed play to Statesboro looking to notch the necessary wins to culminate in a Regionals berth. They took a short roster to Florida Winter Classic and played good games versus South Florida and Williams. However, they struggled at Music City and have displayed inconsistency this season. Rachel Smith is the anchor for this group, a combination of height, speed, explosiveness, and big throws that make her a uniquely difficult matchup. She’ll be aided primarily by Elodie Kruk, who leads their speedy cutting group to get downfield on fast breaks or after Rachel’s initiating cuts.

It has been a long season for Emory Luna, sporting a lot of hard knocks from their 2-13 record. Taking on a very competitive regular season, Luna hopes their challenging competition has best prepared them for not just Conferences, but Regionals as well. They tend to spread out their downfield playmaking with cutters Abbey Hewitt, Meg Harris, Ariella Faitelson, and Caroline Pearson, but a lot of Emory’s offense flows through the hucks of Zina Stavitsky and break throws of Nellie Ochs. They’ve had some impressive performances, but have been hamstrung by consistency issues. If the Luna ladies bring the pieces together in Statesboro, they could do a lot of damage.

The Longshots

The growth of recently formed Georgia State Vixen could finally payoff for them this Series. They were able to push teams all season long at Queen City Tune Up Open, T-Town Throwdown, and Freaknik. With Coach Michelle VanHandel – and some help from her friends – they’ve been polishing their game. Victoria Thompson’s soft break forehand shines in their vertical stack, her veteran handling skills driving their offense upfield. Molly Snipes provides one of the Regions fastest downfield targets, making her a threat to force the turn and immediately strike. Irene Tsinajinnie and Hae Sin continue their upward trends, helping navigate zones used to slow down Thompson and Snipes, while utilizing nice upline cutting in man situations to keep things moving. Their struggles against Regional and Conference opponents are the only things holding me back from putting them as a Contender; they can compete with the teams above them, but doing it all weekend long is a tough ask.

One of two newer squads, the ladies from Savannah College of Art and Design come to (what I believe to be) their first Conference Championships, and have not only gotten in some games already, but seen success. They’ve notched a win over FSU-B and one over Florida-B. They have struggled against the tougher competition in the Region, so expect them to be focusing on trying to play tight games, win hard points, and scoring an upset somewhere.

The other newer squad is Armstrong Atlantic, who I admittedly know almost nothing about. Haven’t seen them, haven’t heard much about them, and only know that they are going D-III and won’t get to, because sadly, they dropped out. Maybe next year, kids!

Predictions

Let’s test my ability to be objective:

Georgia and GCSU finish top two, Georgia wins Conference. Georgia Tech, Emory, and Georgia State take the other bids, in that order.

  1. Georgia
  2. GCSU (D-III)
  3. Georgia Tech
  4. Emory
  5. Georgia State
  6. Tennessee
  7. SCAD
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