It may be poetic justice that the hottest region in the country was going to have snow on the ground for their Championship tournament. The North Central Region hijacked five bids to the College Championships, producing some of the top talent in the country. I’m surprised there hasn’t been an Ultiworld discussion over whether or not they are collectively stronger than the Northwest this season. The rise of Minnesota adds a lot of firepower and the mercurial highs and lows of Wisconsin’s season leaves you wondering what they will bring to the table should they be on the fields in Madison. The number of bids and the collection of top talent saps some of the excitement out of it, but seeing how these teams stack up against one another in
Northfield, MN Cedar Falls, IA will be fun.
Here are the seedings (by my estimation) and pools:
- Iowa State (WNC #1)
- Iowa (WNC #2)
- Carleton (WNC #3)
- Minnesota (WNC #4)
- Wisconsin (LS #1)
- Wisconsin-Eau Claire (LS #2)
- Northern Iowa (WNC #5)
- Nebraska (WNC #6)
- Luther (NC-III #1)
- Wisconsin-Milwaukee (LS #3)
- Winona State (WNC #7)
- Minnesota-Duluth (WNC #8)
Pool A: Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Northern Iowa, Luther, Minnesota-Duluth
Pool B: Iowa, Carleton, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Winona State
Pool winners play in Championship game and have locked up a bid. 2nd/3rd in each pool make the 2nd place bracket (winning their first game in this bracket locks up a bid). 4th/5th start in the 5th place bracket, losers from first round of 2nd place bracket drop down, and this is the final bracket with a bid. Last in each pool is eliminated.
Iowa State Woman Scorned comes into the Regional tournament the #1 seed, after trailing the region most of the season. To me, this never seemed a talent issue. Their coaches, the Seilers (Kevin and Lana), have had them building depth all season, not really concerned with margins of victory; just four of their wins came by 6 or more in the regular season. This allowed them to develop their young players, like freshmen Britnee Grimshaw, into solid contributors. The Four Horsemen of Scorn (I’m testing this out) – Sarah Pesch, Magon Liu, Cami Nelson, and Callahan nominee Becca Miller, all U23 selections – give them top end talent to match up with anybody, so don’t let their scores fool you. Even with an open rotation, they’ve beaten Tufts, Ohio State, and Carleton, championship-level opponents. Their vicious transition offense chews up yardage very quickly, with Pesch anchoring behind the disc. Nelson and Miller give them arguably the country’s best defensive pairing, and Liu is an elite playmaker. They went undefeated at Conferences, beating Iowa, Minnesota, and Carleton, and will look to do the same here.
Minnesota Ninja Ultimate has burst onto the scene this year, to the surprise of nobody in the know. The region has been sensing the rise of the program, who played well versus Iowa and Iowa State at last year’s Regional tournament. The buzz proved justified, with Midwest Throwdown serving as the breakout tournament. Their season has wins over three out of four of the other top teams in their region (they’re 0-1 vs. Carleton), as well as wins over UCF and Santa Barbara, and a strong Centex showing against Tufts. This deep team gets contributions from two sets of sisters: the DePalmas, Natalie and Emily, and the Regans, Emily and Greta. Downfield monster and U23 selection Sarah Meckstroth, Captain Andrea Crumrine, and 2012 FOTY Mindi DiPaola add more firepower to their arsenal. Both Crumrine and Natalie DePalma are 2012 2nd Team All-Region picks. With Coach Pat Niles running their show, the Ninjas are fully capable of breaking seed and being a 2nd seed in a College Championships pool.
Wisconsin-Eau Claire Sol has proven themselves a growing and regionally competitive program. In another region, without such impressive top end strength, they would be a team in the mix. However, in the North Central, they are a darkhorse. They’ve had strong performances in losses to Minnesota, Iowa, and Florida State, while taking Ws over Wash U and Emory. They’re an athletic group with good chemistry that allows them to excel in the inclement weather of the region. Brit Gartner anchors their offense, which may be at it’s best when she’s getting a generous amount of touches. She’s supported but veteran receivers Mariah Dorner, Estelle Taquet, and Emy Marier. If they catch a tired Minnesota or wildly inconsistent Wisconsin at a low point, maybe they can pull a shocker.
Northern Iowa Pandamonium will be looking to get a boost from being the hometown team, since the field site change, and to break seed. They’ve consistently gotten comfortable wins over the teams below them at Regionals, but have struggled to compete with teams above them. Their best win is over Missouri. They’ll need to push their game to a new level this weekend on home turf. Watch out for returning 2012 2nd Team FOTY Danielle Sweet to make an impact.
Luther Freya will be fighting to put up some good results and continue success from their Conference Championship weekend. They went 6-2 at NC-III Conferences, getting some big wins. They lost a weather-challenged 4-6 game at Southerns against Minnesota-Duluth. The end of Saturday this weekend will offer a chance for some revenge.
Minnesota Duluth will have a challenging weekend ahead of them, if their regular season results are any indication. They have some close losses and have a win over a FSU-B team that made Regionals. The caliber of team they will see this weekend, however, could make it hard for them to put up a ton of points. They have a win over Luther and a close loss to Winona State, so they will get some chances to come away with wins.
Iowa Saucy Nancy is the top seed in the pool and their results are those of one of the nation’s top teams. They have lost just one game out of region – a close game against Colorado – while besting the likes of Ohio State, Tufts, Georgia, and Virginia. “We are the strongest region,” claimed Captain Liza Minor, backed up by Iowa’s 8-5 record against the other top four teams in the region, “it will be a tough battle for each and every bid spot.” Nancy may be the region’s deepest squad, with top end talent like Chelsea Twohig and Minor, who are both versatile studs. Behind them, Bekah Hickernell, Jen Nowak, Audrey Erickson, and Anna Pritchard provide additional high quality depth. Of the teams I’ve watched this year, they also seemed the most comfortable with a variety of different looks on both offense and defense, giving them to ability to adjust to their opponents’ weaknesses. Iowa is the reigning champ of the North Central, and to them, that means something, Minor explained, “We still want to prove ourselves the best of the pack.”
Carleton Syzyzgy has put together a strong regular season for themselves that shows they have to be considered in the Regional title discussion. They have a pair of big wins over Virginia and wins over Ohio State, Central Florida, and Stanford. They’re kryptonite has been Iowa State, who beat them in the game to go last season and whom they are 0-3 against this season. Fortunately, Iowa State is all the way over in Pool A. They’re 2-0 against Minnesota and 2-2 against Iowa. Certainly, with senior handler Anna Reed, the team’s lone returning All-Region selection, they are capable of winning the pool. Reed has arguably the most explosive set of throws in the country. The talent around her, like veteran handlers Julia Snyder, Taylor Want, and Kirstie Barton, plus high impact cutters Grace Quintana, Flannery McArdle, and Marley Hartman-Filson, keeps teams from focusing on shutting down Reed while allowing Carleton to apply defensive pressure.
Wisconsin Bella Donna has shown us a little bit of everything this year. Their opener at Queen City had highs (a win over Virginia) and lows (and 6-9 loss to UCF). Midwest Throwdown saw them get whipped by Minnesota, lose to Kansas, and fall to Iowa, but they still took home a win against Northwestern. Then came Stanford Invite, where they rolled through some of the nation’s elite, slamming British Columbia & North Carolina, beating Washington, Stanford, and Santa Barbara, and coming within two points of beating Oregon in the Final for an undefeated win of the tournament. Hype and buzz shot up, but came right back down when Centex handed them losses to Santa Barbara, Stanford, and North Carolina. The ceiling here is very high, but they also have the potential to disappear against top talent. When things are working for Bella, it is often because majestic All-Region handler Rebecca Enders is calmly taking complete control of the pace of the game. She has a stable of athletic cutter/defender combos in Al Ellis, 2012 All-Region selection Biz Cook, and high flying Sara Scott. Anna Shanedling and Sydney Dobkin help Enders out around the disc. Coach Alex Snyder, one of the top vets in the Women’s club circuit, has had them running in rotation-specific lines this season, and it’ll be interesting to see if their roles are more defined and chemistry clicking because of that.
The Nebraska Cuddle Raptors are a team that is on the rise. In their three years competing in the Series, they’ve made it to Regionals twice. After not making it last year, they come in this year as the 8th seed. They’ve done well against their non-elite in region competition, but have some questionable losses, too. They’re a loud, spirited, high energy bunch led by Captains Emily Lander and Kathleen Lovgren. The Raptors are tall and athletic, able to snag discs and win hustle plays, and are happy to go horizontal when called for.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee Black Cat Women’s Ultimate is coming into Regionals after a very strong Conference Championships showing. Their regular season results left something to be desired, but this is after the team set out to take on tougher competition this season. However, at Lake Superior Conferences, they were able to win almost every game on the way to a third place finish. They will need to play confident and aggressive to break seed this weekend, relying on the play of Taylor Koehling and Heather Anhen.
Winona State Bad Monaz already have some wins over the regional opponents they will see this weekend and it could be important for their chances. Their 12-9 Champies win over Minnesota-Duluth shows them they can compete this weekend, but it will be hard to expect them to make an impact in such a strong field.
Pool A: Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Northern Iowa, Luther, Minnesota-Duluth
Pool B: Carleton, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, UW-Milwaukee, Winona St.
Iowa State over Carleton
2nd Place Bracket Quarters
Wisconsin over Minnesota
Iowa over Wisconsin-Eau Claire
2nd Place Bracket – Semi & Final
Iowa over Wisconsin
Iowa over Carleton
5th Place Bracket
Northern Iowa over UW-Milwaukee
Nebraska over Luther
Minnesota over Northern Iowa
Wisconsin-Eau Claire over Nebraska
Minnesota over Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Alright, so that was confusing. Iowa State, Carleton, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota wind up your top five in that order. Iowa State, to me, is the best team in the region. Other teams might be deeper, but they’ve worked hard to develop their back end enough to keep up. Meanwhile, the Four Horsemen are unguardable. Even if a team holds them down, the Seilers will find ways to take use that group more effectively.
Iowa and Carleton are such a close pair, as their 2-2 record indicates. Carleton’s height and downfield play could mean trouble for Iowa. I’m curious who the weather favors: Iowa’s disciplined zone play or Carleton’s height and strong handling group? I think they split, like they have this year and like they did at Conferences.
I like Minnesota over Wisconsin in a general sense, but Snyder and Wisconsin’s experience can help them beat Minnesota at this point. It feels like a crapshoot when you’re prognosticating the Bellas.
It is hard to call – these teams have beaten each other all year – so this feels like guesswork, but rest assured these teams will emerge battle tested and ready to take on the country’s best.