Southeast Women’s Regionals: Recap and Reacts

The culmination of an exciting season in Southeast Women’s, Regionals finally took place this past weekend. There were a lot of uncontrollables that took the teams away from the ideal: a postponement that left a lot of teams scrambling to find ways to keep their rosters flush, rains for the days leading up leaving the fields soggy & muddy, a shockingly beautiful Saturday morning, followed by a chilly and drizzling Sunday that kept the fields waterlogged, and a seven team format that made pool play a two day round robin. Making the best of a weekend that is built up, prepared for, and fantasized about all year is its own sort of mental game. Seven teams had to win that one, and beat the best teams in the region (that could attend), and claim whatever glory awaited them.

For those who haven’t checked them, UltiPhotos has some fantastic shots from the weekend, done by the talented Christina Schmidt.

Recap

A great weekend was not without flaws for Georgia Dawgma. This team showed up with their full roster and a cadre of fans in tow, a nice advantage to combat the battle vs. uncontrollables. They beat Florida and Florida State by six a piece, and rolled out early enough against Central Florida in the Final that they folded. Essentially, when they played the top ranked teams, they played very well. For a team with aspirations for the big show, that is an important trait to demonstrate to yourself. Central Florida kept it close in Pool Play, and while Georgia came out 9-7, the game was a 5-5 battle where Georgia could never really separate themselves. It is tempting to say this is more a reflection of the Sirens than Dawgma, but two other games give pause to that: Emory and Georgia Tech. Saturday’s battle with Emory was one of the tournament’s most exciting games. Emory went into high gear and Dawgma had to recollect to keep from letting it get out of hand. They took control, and didn’t relinquish it, but they came close, winning 13-11. A similar pattern played out in Sunday’s sluggish conditions, going down early, taking the lead, and then not putting away a weaker Georgia Tech team; this game, however, was irrelevant to standings, so not sure how Georgia approached it. The focus should definitely be on this team being the best in the Southeast.

A Georgia parent (the father of 7SL’s Emily Lloyd) bailing water out of the #1 field endzone. It was that sort of Sunday.

In contrast, the Central Florida Sirens put on a consistent performance, beating the lower seeds solidly, but really having to fight the other top teams. Against Florida State, they actually played catch up most of the game, trading after going down early. However, with the game at 9s, they made a three point run to end it. They would then go down early to Florida, 0-3, on Sunday. Now, this game, like UGA’s against GT, didn’t matter really, and the Sirens would take half 7-5 and win 9-6. They were overpowered by Georgia in the Final, an intense game quickly getting out of their reach. Against Florida in the game to go, UCF would win 13-5, but the game was closer than that score reflects – a common theme on Sunday – with a few breaks falling the Sirens’ way. Still, you can’t take away that this team proved themselves the second best team in the region and their only losses were only to the one team probably stronger than them.

This weekend’s results were a surprise to most, but not to Florida Fuel. They were confident they could beat the top teams in the region, and opening with a double game point loss to Florida State, while disappointing, was also proof of that. They set a great tone for their weekend. The Georgia game didn’t go as they would have hoped, but they didn’t look totally overwhelmed either. They took care of business against Tech and didn’t falter when they ran into Emory coming off their Georgia game. The only real surprise was Sunday morning, where a terrible case of the dropsies rendered their top end players unable to get any traction against a capable VUDU squad. The Vanderbilt game came as a definite shock and put FUEL in danger of missing the bracket. However, things worked out in their favor, and they took advantage. Whatever issue they had in the Vandy game infected Florida State for their backdoor Semi. FSU went up 3-1, with some of the fresh legs of their studs having just arrived that morning, but from there, the Seminole Ladies just couldn’t keep it together. I’m not sure what happened at such a crucial game, but they fell apart and FUEL walked from there, winning 9-5. The game to go saw the Florida ladies bidding for everything and giving what they had, but some bad luck and tired legs might have been too much to get past with Central Florida on the opposite sideline. They are likely pleased with the weekend, however, and proved they have the young talent to be in the picture again next year.

The other side of that is Florida State Seminole Ladies Ultimate team, who have to be pretty beat up physically and emotionally. Hard hit by the postponement, they were missing two of their top five players on Saturday and some other rotation players. They barely got by FUEL in round one, couldn’t hold on against Central Florida at the end of Saturday, and were put down by Georgia despite a full FSU effort. They did get back Lauren Collins, SJ Campbell, and some other notables on Sunday, which I thought would lead them to more success. Their fumbled game against Florida must have left them feeling helpless – oddly enough, Emory had some of those exact issues against Florida State in the round prior – and frustrated. No doubt, they didn’t expect their season to end where it did. However, there are some good signs for this group’s future.

I think most people didn’t know what to expect from Emory Luna, and they made a strong impression without making any real impact. They didn’t have any trouble with shorthanded Georgia Tech or Vandy squads, making them perhaps look like they belonged in the top five rather than the bottom three. They gave Georgia easily the toughest test of the weekend, battling every step of the way, but ultimately fell short, 11-13. The letdown carried over to the FUEL game, where they never really got their footing under them. They were pretty helpless against Central Florida’s zone and transition offense combo on Sunday, but then fortune smiled on them. Florida’s loss to Vandy meant if Emory beat Florida State, they would break seed and be in contention. That obviously didn’t work out, but they played better against FSU than that score indicates. An oddly successful weekend for them considering they went 2-5 (forfeiting their 5th/6th game against Tech to go study for finals).

I’m afraid we won’t really know what Georgia Tech or Vanderbilt were capable of. Tech had eight players Saturday, with some very notable absences, including Leah Tsinajinnie (graduation). Vanderbilt had only nine. Both made their mark on Sunday, but ultimately, weren’t able to show their full arsenal.

Reactions

Georgia and Central Florida both have the makeup and resume of teams that should be middle of the pack at the College Championships. I’d be very surprised if they finished near the bottom but equally surprised if they made a run deep into the tournament. I still have concerns about Georgia’s health, as they seemed to be nursing injuries throughout the weekend. Amble Johnson will have them very prepared for the competition, but he’s not a magic healer. Central Florida has shown the capability to beat top teams but some consistency issues have plagued them. I do have questions about how they match up defensively when forced out of their very strong zone defense; their transition offense coming out of that zone is incredibly effective. I’ll probably do a more detailed analysis in the coming weeks.

Looking even further into the future, it is really hard to say what the Southeast will look like next year. I’m no Southeast historian, but there is a massive amount of talent leaving – possibly the strongest class ever. Georgia’s group of seniors could probably win the region by themselves, as much a comment on their ability as their numbers. Central Florida will still have Katie Fox and Amy Price, but that’s a far cry from the trove of talent they have now. The Fane/Dahl era of Fuel will end, and that’s a tough adjustment to make for a young team. Florida will still have a strong stable of downfield playes, but can Alana Hardeman shoulder the throwing load?

A lot (or all?) of these Dawgs have played their last Southeast Regionals…but their last games for Georgia will be in Madison.

For those outside of Regionals, I’m sketchy on details, but I believe all of the Gulf Coast’s major players are losing their stud handlers that power their offenses (Tulane’s Stephanie Hurwitz, Vanderbilt’s Emily Dayton, Alabama’s Abby Sedlacek, Auburn’s Katie Cuson) and South Florida also has a large senior class, featuring Teal Dabney and Tessa Walter. Georgia College’s and Tennessee’s small rosters are seeing their top players move on as well.

Super early, mostly baseless, prediction is that Florida State is the team to beat next year. Kristin Lloyd will probably be the best player in the region come spring, and they’ll have Kari Tomarelli, Skylar Taggart, Kearstin Rew, and Alleigh Grover in big roles. Tomarelli, in particular, is one of the region’s rising stars. Georgia Tech has added so much young talent and, after Tsinajinnie, their handlers are all returning. They’ll come into the year with a trio of handlers ready to go and Donnya Ajdari downfield, and could threaten to win SAPP. Emory’s status is also up in the air, and with so much uncertainty for them and Georgia, it should be noted that the SAPP should be really interesting.

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Southeast Women’s Regionals: 7 Stars Line

7SL

We survived another year of Southeast shenanigans, and one of the most challenging Regionals setups yet, including the painful round robin pool play format. It is a shame some of the Region’s other talent was not able to be on display, whether it was because their team had to drop or because they had other commitments that forced them to one or no days of play, or because the Sunday conditions were such a mess.

All caveats aside, here are the seven best performers I saw this past week, making up Southeast Women’s Regionals 7 Stars Line, presented by Full Field Hammer:

Emily Lloyd (Georgia): With all due respect to Mariel Hammond, Lloyd is the best cutter in the Southeast region. This was on display throughout the weekend, as she was able to use her initial bursts and smart timing to open up the deep lanes for the Dawgs. On the other side of the disc, she and Julia Fuster typically take the opponent’s top cutter, or top two if they are both on, meaning Emily has a lot demanded of her by her team. She was the premier playmaker I saw this weekend, whether it was in the air, coming under, and laying out for jaw dropping plays, like her performance against UCF.

Sunny Harris (Central Florida): I’ve exhausted enough keystrokes on Sunny’s passion and fire, but her play was speaking very loudly this weekend. Her huck game was on point, forcing teams to find a way to get someone in front of her and her receiver after a turn. She made some big grabs and got up for some big Ds, particularly in the Sirens vaunted zone. Harris has been a huge part of their run this year (this is her second 7SL selection) and was one of the weekend’s top performers.

Kari Tomarelli (Florida State): The Seminole Ladies have a pretty lengthy list of top contributors, which can make it hard to identify them, but Kari can be hard to miss. She’s the highlight reel factor on this Seminole Ladies team, always good for a massive layout each game. Her cutting continues to grow and this was a breakout tournament to cap off a breakout year. Next season, expect her to be one of the region’s top players.

Kari Tomarelli gets up for a score against Fuel at Conference Champies

Kari Tomarelli gets up for a score against Fuel at Conference Champies

Emily Dayton (Vanderbilt): Dayton was a force this weekend for VUDU. Even with teams knowing full well she was the top threat, she was able to get off a lot of great hucks this weekend, able to get necessary resets, and get some big play Ds. With a nine woman roster, there were few breaks for Dayton, who also often tasked with matching up with one of the best players on the line. Gotta recognize a big final weekend for this senior.

Abbey Hewitt (Emory): After the weekend she had, I’d insert her in the conversation with Hammond and Lloyd. Hewitt missed most of the season due to school and foot surgery early this Spring, but once she found stride with her teammates, she became dominant. An aggressive cutter with elite agility and sticky hands, she came up with big play after big play for Luna. Defensively, she racked up Ds in the lanes, but is most at home sending dumps scurrying downfield for fear of getting the disc stalled out.

Abbey Hewitt snags a tightly contested disc at SAPP Conference Championships

Abbey Hewitt snags a tightly contested disc at SAPP Conference Championships

Morgan Hartmann (Florida): The diminutive Hartmann, a.k.a. MoMo, had a pretty big weekend for Fuel. Particularly Saturday, before the mud neutralized some of her quicks, MoMo was making her mark, scooting around unders and outs, getting dirty with some nice layouts, and consistently getting open when the offense got a little tied up. Fane and Dahl are the stars, but without Hartmann, Florida doesn’t put up the showing they did.

Hannah Leathers (Georgia): I struggled picking this last one, as I kept thinking it should be Georgia’s Margie Quinn here, but Leathers’s defensive play made the difference for me. While she had a lot of pretty hucks this weekend, Hannah had a number of great defensive plays, coming up big for Dawgma in some of those tight games. The other thing she did extremely well was being deadly efficient in the red zone. Few college players have the ability to see the right shot down near the goal line, but Leathers has a knack for knowing when it is time to strike.

Leathers lets go of a flick against Tufts at QCTU (Credit Liz Crosby)

Leathers lets go of a flick against Tufts at QCTU (Credit Liz Crosby)

Honorable Mentions

Margie Quinn (Georgia) is where I obviously have to start, Dawgma’s primary handler. Slowing down her hucks and break throws is a real challenge, because she has a difficult release point and delivers it quickly and with precision. She’s also an important vocal leader for the Southeast Champs.

Kristin Lloyd (Florida State) lives up to the hype. With the dearth of talent exiting this year, Lloyd may very well be the best player in the region next season.

Zina Stavitsky (Emory) is the future of that team. Developing into a very pure handler, she was a dangerous threat on Luna’s 12 lady roster.

Julia Fuster (Georgia) is always a great defender and continues to emerge as an offensive playmaker as well. Some big layout grabs from her this weekend.

Jessica Chau (Georgia Tech) was playing very well for Wreck when I saw them. Putting her downfield, she was able to use her quickness to get a lot of yardage gaining unders and make some very very impressive grabs.

Mariel Hammond (Central Florida) may feel like an obvious pick, but if you watch her play, she’s hard to miss. It could be because she’s constantly open, especially when the Sirens are in the red zone.

Jenna Dahl (Florida) is another usual suspect, but her ability on both sides of the disc is what makes her hard to omit. Big puts, consistent resets, but their zone D basically functions on forcing the defense to throw the disc in her general vicinity so she can layout D it.

Weekend Slate: Regionals Finale, MLU Week 3, AUDL Week 5

What a weekend queue’d up. After this weekend, we should know our College Championships field and a lot more about who is likely to be in the mix at the end of the Pro seasons.

MLU

  • DC Current (0-2) @ PHI Spinners (2-0)
  • BOS Whitecaps (2-0) @ NY Rumble (0-2)
  • SEA Rainmakers (2-0) @ SF Dogfish (2-0)
  • POR Stags (0-3) @ VAN Nighthawks (1-2)

The Current and Rumble will both look to keep the East from being a two man race. Neither has looked out of their depth this year and a few adjustments or breaks their way could be all they need. In the West, Seattle and SF, both missing key roster players, square off in a game that will decide the West’s lead all the same. The Stags are in dire straits and need to get one in the win column.

AUDL

  • MAD Radicals (2-1) @ MIN Wind Chill (1-2) (Friday)
  • DET Mechanix (2-1) @ MIN Wind Chill (1-2)
  • NY Empire (1-1) @ DC Breeze (1-1)
  • TOR Rush (4-0) @ NJ Hammerheads (1-1)
  • WC Wildfire (3-1) @ IND Alleycats (1-2)
  • PHI Phoenix (1-1) @ DC Breeze (1-1) (Sunday)
  • DET Mechanix (2-1) @ CIN Revolution (1-3) (Sunday)
  • ROC Dragons (0-4) @ NJ Hammerheads (1-1) (Sunday)

The East division of the AUDL could see some separation after this weekend. Currently, only the Rush and Dragons have differentiated themselves (by record). The Phoenix and Empire can compare themselves against the Breeze. In the West, Detroit has a big weekend on tap, and coming away with a win in their two games would be pretty big. The Wind Chill are in a similar situation.

USAU College Series

Women’s

Check out FFH’s full Regional previews for all the good stuff!

  • New England Regionals is Tufts’s to lose, but they have a second bid… and therein lies the rub. Northeastern and Dartmouth look like the top candidates to make their way to Madison. Rebecca Ginsburg and Shelby Parton will need to be playmakers for Northeastern and Dartmouth will be hoping a travel-heavy schedule to see strong competition will pay off when it counts. I’m curious if Tufts can match Ohio State’s dominance. Apologies for not getting a full preview up in time!
  • A crazy five bids will be won in Cedar Falls, IA at North Central Regionals, but they have five very strong teams at the top. What order they fall in will be curious. Should Iowa, Carleton, or Iowa State win, they could be in line for a #1 seed at the College Championships. Expect a slugfest.
  • Northwest Regionals will field a strong group of teams aiming at four bids. Oregon and British Columbia are the top two, but returning National Champ Washington and upstart Victoria don’t want to be left out. Another “how will they finish?” case for the weekend.
  • A brutal 7 team round robin format is in play at Southeast Regionals after their postponement cost them three teams. With two bids up in the air and a hungry trio of teams, plus some darkhorse candidates, added to roster and possible weather variability, there is bound to be some drama in Tupelo, MS.
  • The mighty Southwest Region is a bit bid-strapped this year, with Southwest Regionals only sending two teams to the big show. Santa Barbara is a favorite, but after that, it could get messy. A wide range of teams will be scratching and clawing to make their impact in a Region that typically has high expectations across the board.

Open

  • New England Regionals features three top contenders battling for a pair of spots, and interesting storylines throughout. Dartmouth is undefeated against regional opponents, which could prove their trump card, but Tufts and Harvard have been stronger against out of region competition. A few dark horse teams have what it takes to upset someone. I may be biased, but I’m calling Harvard to take one of the bids.
  • After being relocated for snow, North Central Regionals plans to settle who will take the three bids to the Championships. It looks pretty clear cut that Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Carleton will be at the top, but we don’t know in what order. Can Luther or Northern Iowa play spoiler? It’ll be an uphill battle and word is that conditions are pretty…well, North Central-y.
  • Southeast Regionals is suffering from their postponement, ending up with an odd 13-team tournament and three bids up for grabs. Who knows what impact it’ll have on teams’ rosters. Mainly, it looks like six teams are in the mix, with UCF, FSU, and UF being the teams to beat.
  • There was a lot of drama about the two-bid Southwest Regionals‘ seeding, but once they are on the field, it doesn’t matter anymore. Arizona is the trendy pick, despite being the 5th seed, but can SDSU validate their twitter whining? Can LPC validate their #2 seed? Is Stanford back? Questions abound, answers incoming.

Southeast Women’s: Conference Championship Recap

College2011_Southeast

The three Conferences of the Southeast Region – Gulf Coast, Florida, and Southern Appalachian (SAPP) – all held their Championship tournaments this past weekend. There was plenty we were looking for and some surprises along the way. Here’s a look at each Conference and a preview of expected seeding for Southeast Regionals in Tupelo, MS.

Gulf Coast

With Conference Championships taking place all over the country this past weekend and coming weekend, there’s been lots going on, but rarely is there more at stake than in Gulf Coast Conference. The disparity between talent and bids was notable in Tuscaloosa, as a number of solid Southeast teams had only a single bid between them. Round robin play would take place Saturday and Sunday morning, possibly ending the tournament (if a team went undefeated), or seeding a four team final bracket.

Saturday set the tone for a weekend of surprises. The tournament wasn’t even in the second round before an upset was scored, with #4 seed Vanderbilt VUDU beating #3 seed Alabama Ramma Jamma, 11-8. #2 seed Auburn Tiger Lillies started the weekend with #6 Miss St. and #7 Ole Miss, allowing them to cruise to easy wins. Tulane Muses, the #1 seed and definite favorite, started their weekend against Vandy. After a slow start, Tulane rolled into half with a 7-4 lead and didn’t look back, winning 12-8.

The third round would see Tulane take on the Auburn Tiger Lillies. The Muses would strike hard and fast to go up 3-0. At 4-1, the two teams would gut it out in a long hard point. The Lillies would take it, and with their second point, the momentum. They’d rattle off four more before Tulane could respond, winning another very long point. With Auburn up 7-5, the soft cap would come on. The Tiger Lillies would hold Tulane scoreless in the cap, winning 9-5, and putting them in the driver’s seat for the Conference title.

After a bye, Auburn would go into their game against Alabama in control of their own destiny – win out, take the bid. Ramma Jamma, coming off two games against the last two seeds and a bye, would go hard against Auburn. In a state rivalry game, the Bama ladies would keep their Regional dreams alive, winning 13-11. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt would fight off #5 seed LSU in a 13-10 game, meaning Saturday would end with the top 4 seeds 3-1 and LSU 2-2.

Sunday’s early morning game would pit #6 Miss State vs. #7 Ole Miss. The rain rolled in, making conditions less than enjoyable for all involved. Both teams probably were aching to win this one, but Ole Miss would dominate on their way to a 12-3 victory. Meanwhile, the top four seeds would each play one game against one of the other top four and one game against one of the bottom three seeds. Second round games included a big Tulane win over Alabama, 12-4, and another close loss for LSU, 8-12, at the hands of Auburn. The final pool play round would see Vanderbilt hand Auburn their second loss of the weekend to the tune of 8-4. The shocker would be LSU, who had been knocking on the door all weekend, finally breaking through with a 7-1 win over Bama, knocking them out of contention. LSU would find themselves still in the running as the teams went to the brackets.

The Semifinals had the 5-1 Muses going up against surprising 3-3 LSU, while 5-1 Vanderbilt would do battle with 4-2 Auburn. Tulane jumped out to a big lead against LSU as the rain & wind subsided, waltzing 11-3. Vandy took down Auburn, earning them a spot in the Final and a rematch with Tulane. VUDU would draw first blood, going up 2-0 before Muse Stephanie Hurwitz would bomb a huck to get them on the board. After trading a couple of runs, it would be VUDU who would take half, 7-5. Some highlight reel plays marked the early second half, with Vandy going up 9-6. Things would slow down a little bit, a lot of calls and discussion taking place on the field, perhaps the pressure of what was at stake setting nerves on edge. A long point would go the Muses’ way to make bring them to just a two point deficit. A huge handblock would get Tulane the disc on the next possession, where they’d use a goal line timeout. However, Vanderbilt would deny the score with critical defense, and a couple of possessions later, went up 10-7. A missed huck from Tulane would give VUDU the disc once more. Tulane would get a D, but it would deflect to a Vandy player, with VUDU punching in the Conference winning score, 11-7.

A VUDU lady is carried off the field like a Gulf Coast Champ after winning the Conference

“Real unfortunate that our section only gets a single bid. Too many of these teams deserve a longer season,” tweeted the Tulane twitter, later adding “Kinda hard to leave the field.” For the second straight season, Tulane would come in the favorite, only to be unseated, with Vanderbilt coming out on top. The tide is rising in the Gulf Coast Conference, the heated competition for bids breeding more resilient and harder working teams. Vanderbilt is a bit of a mystery and it’ll be interesting to see how they fit into the Region in a week and a half.

Florida

The scene in Gainesville, FL differed greatly from Tuscaloosa’s. While seven teams battled for just one bid in the Gulf Coast, Florida had six teams vying for five bids. Still, bragging rights, mental edges, and Regionals seeding were all up for grabs. The tournament itself had some pretty defining tiers coming in: at the top, Central Florida and Florida State would presumably vie for the Conference title and Regionals seeding, where they would be in the mix for a bid to the show; Florida and South Florida would make the next tier, two teams looking to surprise the top tier and best each other. The final tier would be the two B teams, Florida-B and Florida State-B, who would be aiming to defeat one another to win the final bid.

The first round of round robin pool play would see two top tier teams against two middle tier teams: UCF would play Florida while FSU would play USF. The Central Florida Sirens would open up early on Florida FUEL, a trio of breaks digging a quick hole. FUEL would never recover, and UCF would take their first game, 13-5. Florida State Seminole Ladies would have similar success against the South Florida Scallywenches. They’d open with a layout Callahan by Rebecca Williams, obviously a huge statement.They’d add another before half, this time by Caroline Davis, and take half 7-1, on their way to a 13-3 victory. Florida State-B would upset Florida-B, a convincing 13-7 win.

The second round would see the second tier teams blow out the third tier teams while the #1 seed Sirens would get a look at #2 seed Seminole Ladies. Some early breaks would be big for Central Florida, allowing them to control the first half, holding FSU to just three points. Florida State, unsatisfied with their sloppy first half, would clean it up somewhat, but couldn’t overcome the deficit. UCF would beat the Seminole Ladies for the first time this season, 12-7. The next round would pass without upset, though South Florida was able to push Florida before falling, 11-8.

Closing out Saturday, we had one final game of note, a matchup between FSU and UF. Florida is a program not used to being overlooked in their own Conference, but their results coming in did nothing to discourage it. However, the reigning Southeast Region champs made their statement. Undoubtedly behind Jenna Dahl and Jackie Fane – the two names every other team in the Conference knows they have to stop – FUEL was able to shock the Seminole Ladies, winning 11-10.

FSU's Kari Tomarelli gets up for a score against FUEL (Credit: Caroline Davis)

FSU’s Kari Tomarelli gets up for a score against FUEL (Credit: Caroline Davis)

After a final round of pool play Sunday morning, we’d get into the bracket. Florida State and USF dispatched of the pair of B teams without much trouble. Florida State would get a chance to get revenge on Florida for their Saturday loss and South Florida would get another crack at a UCF machine firing on all cylinders. Central Florida went up early and never let the Scallywenches gain any traction, taking that Semi 13-6. A more rested State squad was also not interested in playing around with Florida, rolling them 13-4, and setting up the expected and anticipated 1/2 Final and 3/4 3rd place game.

Central Florida would open the Final on offense and the teams would trade to 2-1. The Sirens would take the first break for a 3-1 lead. Bogged down by calls, physical play, and rain, the intensity level of the game stayed high. The Sirens would add another break in the half and take it 7-4. With lightning strikes starting to appear, the game was forced to be called and the Conference title awarded to UCF. While that ending may not be dramatic, UCF showed throughout the weekend that they have the potential to dominate. UCF’s Coach Joe Tilley and FSU’s Coach Matt Childs were both having a bit of a chess match, showing some strategies and holding back others, so who is to say what these games mean. It is very possible we are looking at four of the top five teams in the Region.

Southern Appalachian

The SAPP Conference Championships had more in common with Florida’s than the Gulf Coast’s. While the weekend originally had two neat 8-team pools, one team dropped early in the week and another just before the games were played Saturday, leaving a new 6-team round robin with backdoor bracket play to follow. The oddity here was the presence of Georgia College, who as the (now) lone D-III team in the Southeast, would compete and have their scores count, but would not factor into D-I Regionals bids on their way to D-III Nationals. This meant four of the five remaining teams would be headed to Tupelo.

Round one actually had a bit of a bang to start, with #5 seed Tennessee Boss upsetting #2 seed Georgia College Lynx Rufus, 13-11. Both teams have small rosters, so a first round matchup was a well played game that just had Tennessee looking efficient, led by the versatile Rachel Smith. #1 seed Georgia Dawgma, resting legs and protecting their injured rotational players, had one of many cruising games throughout the weekend, beating #3 seed Georgia Tech Wreck 13-5. #4 seed Emory Luna had a close first half with #6 seed Georgia State Vixen, but pulled away in the second, 13-8.

The second round was home to more upsets, and another Dawgma walk, 13-5, over GC(SU, formerly). Luna would see crosstown rival, Tech, who was without a number of key contributors, including All-Region handler Leah Tsinajinnie and Captain Xenia Wirth. The Emory women would jump out early, taking a 7-2 half, much on the back of the defensive play of Abbey Hewitt. However, led by the handling of Ashley Smith, Wreck would claw back in the second, but it would be too big a hole to climb out of, with Luna winning 13-9. Meanwhile, Vixen and Tennessee were battling it out. Both teams rely on a strong handler/cutter duo and a key support player, but Vixen’s use of the break side helped separate them on their way to an 11-9 victory. The final two rounds of Saturday play would see convincing wins from all of the top seeds. Sunday had one final round of pool play, where Tech would beat State 13-4 and Georgia College would fight off an Emory comeback, 13-9.

Two of the region's top players, Abbey Hewitt of Emory and Leah Tsinajinnie of Georgia Tech, match up

Two of the region’s top players, Abbey Hewitt of Emory and Leah Tsinajinnie of Georgia Tech, match up

At this point, the bid picture was almost entirely settled. Only an 11:00 AM battle between Georgia State and Tennessee would have a bid on the line. Tennessee, undoubtedly still feeling the previous five games on their short roster, struggled to keep up with a deeper Vixen squad. They’d take the last bid, 13-6. In the Final, Georgia College took it easy in a loss to Dawgma. Emory would beat a reinforced Georgia Tech squad, 11-6. However, both of these teams have a shot at getting hot at Regionals and finishing in the top five. Lynx Rufus would beat Luna in an uninspired placement game, 15-5, while Wreck would do the same to GSU, 15-1.

Georgia Dawgma had an easygoing weekend on their way another SAPP title

Georgia Dawgma had an easygoing weekend on their way another SAPP title

Pregionals

Looking back at the Conference Championship weekend that was, I think we can get a pretty good idea of seedings, but not how the results will play out. Most of these teams have knocked each other around enough to leave doubts. Does Florida State’s CC stumble indicate that they, of the big three, are vulnerable to a Regionals upset? Does Florida, a team with plenty of big game experience and a winning culture, have another shocking run in them? It is tough to say. Here’s my initial crack at seeding Southeast Regionals:

  1. Georgia Dawgma
  2. Central Florida Sirens
  3. Florida State Seminole Ladies
  4. Florida FUEL
  5. South Florida Scallywenches
  6. Emory Luna
  7. Georgia Tech Wreck
  8. Vanderbilt VUDU
  9. Georgia State Vixen
  10. Florida State Seminole Ladies-B

Dawgma is the top ranked team, by USAU math, and has the head-to-head with Central Florida. UCF is 2-2 vs. FSU and finished ahead of them in Conferences. USF I put ahead of Emory, as USF has two USAU wins over Emory (Emory’s win over them was unsanctioned) and a higher ranking profile. Emory finished above GT at Conferences and beat them twice. VUDU’s wins over Tulane and Auburn should put them above Vixen. If FSU-B drops, which is possible (6 1/2 hours to go to Tupelo), the bid order as I understand it would send another to Tennessee first, Tulane second. Since I don’t think it’d make it past those two and I don’t know what happens after that, we’ll leave it at that. If Tulane draws in, they’d take the #9 seed (yikes, wouldn’t want them as last seed in my pool) and Vixen would be #10 seed. Tulane entering the picture really could change the complexion of the tournament.

What an exciting season the Southeast has had. It all comes down to what happens in Tupelo.

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

Florida Women’s Conference Championship Preview

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.

The Setup

Seeding

  1. Central Florida
  2. Florida State
  3. Florida
  4. Florida-B
  5. South Florida
  6. Florida State-B

The Format

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 Teams

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.

The Challengers

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.

The Longshots

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.

Predictions

Florida State over Central Florida in the Final. South Florida upsets Florida for third place. Florida-B takes the last bid over FSU-B.

  1. Florida State
  2. UCF
  3. USF
  4. Florida
  5. Florida-B
  6. FSU-B

Gulf Coast Women’s Conference Championship Preview

The story of the Gulf Coast has been one of growth. Unfortunately, the rest of the region may not get a true look at it until next season. The Conference will have only a single bid to Southeast Regionals. While in the past, many of these developing teams may have had trouble competing at that level, that doesn’t appear to be the case this season. A number of teams have stepped it up, and having a single bid gives almost no room for error, so this tournament has the potential to be very exciting.

The Setup

Seeding

  1. Tulane
  2. Auburn
  3. Alabama
  4. Vanderbilt
  5. LSU
  6. Miss St.
  7. Ole Miss

Format

With 7 teams and 1 bid, the teams will play a round robin over two days. If there is an undefeated team at this point, that team will take the bid. If there is not, a four team bracket will be played out.

The Teams

The Favorite – Tulane Muses

Last season, Tulane Muses struggled with the stronger teams in the Region, but came into this same tournament, and dominated their Conference competition… on Saturday. They would, however, lose 9-10 to Auburn in the game to go and miss out on a shot to go to Regionals. This year, their strong fall results showed everyone the Muses were planning take it to a new level. Tulane’s only recorded performance is a 5-2 showing at Tally Classic, where they beat Alabama, South Carolina, and GCSU while taking a beating from Florida State and a loss to Notre Dame. They haven’t lost a game to a Conference opponent and have been one of the region’s top squads. Saturday’s performances will be pretty influential.

This is a team that can score very quickly and use their deep game to open up the field and the scoreboard. If you’re not careful, teams will find themselves down three or four without knowing what hit them. Stephanie Hurtwitz’s upline cutting and dynamite flick hucks mesh perfectly with their downfield speed. If Mallory West is healthy, they get even scarier, as she and Hannah Mellman can work with Hurwitz to decimate defenses in a hurry.

The Challengers

The Auburn Tiger Lillies are a team I still feel like we don’t really know. They had a solid T-Town Throwdown, putting the Region on notice that they wouldn’t be a pushover. At Tally Classic, they’d go 4-3, but what was of note was a 7-11 loss to South Florida and a 9-6 win over GCSU. They would lose a later game 0-7 to South Florida, perhaps cause for concern. However, Auburn has demonstrated that teams taking them lightly could end up regretting it. Last year, they upset top seeded Tulane 10-9 on Sunday to knock them out of contention. They may get their shot to do the same this year and to head to Regionals for the second straight season. Katie Cuson is at the center of their attack, acting as a steady reset and firing hucks.

A rising program that I expect to keep growing, Alabama Ramma Jamma had a strong fall season that had them looking primed to be a favorite in the Gulf Coast. However, their spring results were disappointing, going 2-5 at a windy Flick’n Nuts and losing their Tally Classic games against good competition (7-10 vs. Tulane and 7-9 vs. South Carolina). In addition, they beat Rhode Island 13-4 – the same score Auburn beat them by – and nearly were upset by Florida-B. The 7-10 game against Tulane shows potential for this team to bring it when they need to, which may be the exact attitude they need to make their move at GCCCs. Abbey Sedlacek’s prowess as a handler opens up the field for them, while Megan Wojick does a bit of everything for them, taking on tough matchups, throwing breaks, and making big bids. This is a team that plays tough defense and has the athletes to challenge deep. If their windy tournament schedule has polished the throws of their second and third handlers and cutters, their offense could become scary quickly.

The reigning champ of the Gulf Coast is Vanderbilt VUDU, who went 5-2 at this tournament last season. This year, they’ve managed a 4-3 record from Music City Mash-Up, where they beat LSU 11-10 and Tennessee 11-9. They topped Harding, who nearly upset Georgia Tech and who beat LSU, and gave a close game to a Rice team that beat LSU, Harvard, MIT, and nearly Florida at points during the season. They could actually be the team in the best position to challenge Tulane and once again take the throne.

The Longshots

LSU could very nearly fall into the above category, but their season’s results are just a little too marked with red for me to take them. Their head to head loss to Vanderbilt was a one point affair, but they struggled against Rice and Vermont. They fell to Georgia Tech 6-9, as well. They do have a 12-5 win over Mississippi State and a 10-6 win over Indiana that show positive signs. The depend heavily on the play of University School of Nashville grad Allyson Lutz, who has some monster throws she can put up in bad conditions or against even strong marks. LSU would need to be playing their best Ultimate all weekend to steal the bid.

Mississippi State Night Mares has had a tough year, still experiencing the growing pains of a newer program. They notched a win over Hendrix earlier in the year, but fell 5-12 to LSU. Katy Fuqua leads this group, and putting up strong games against LSU and Ole Miss will go a long towards instilling confidence for Night Mares.

Ole Miss Hotty Toddy is in a similar situation to their in state rivals, MSU. Still a growing program, they have few results to look back on, but have started hosting their own fall tournament. They’ll be looking to improve on last year’s performance at this tournament, where they struggled offensively against more experienced opponents. Marielle Oestermayer is a player to watch on the roster, and she’ll be a focal point for them offensively.

Predictions

Tulane goes 6-0, surviving a couple of scares. Everyone laments bid situation and the team leaders band together next year to vow to get in more sanctioned games by hosting tournaments, leading T-Town Throwdown and an Ole Miss spring tournament. Next year’s Regionals has 3 Gulf Coast teams.

  1. Tulane
  2. Auburn
  3. Vanderbilt
  4. Alabama
  5. LSU
  6. Mississippi State
  7. Ole Miss