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.

Southwest Women’s Regionals Preview

2013 College Series

The Southwest region, as far as I can tell, seems to be one of the more controversial regions in the women’s college game. The question comes down to: how strong are they really? With the two premier West Coast tournaments happening in their backyard – Stanford Invite and Santa Barbara Invite – they play each other a lot. It becomes tough to ascertain their national strength. They have two of most successful programs in women’s history, with Stanford Superly and UC-Santa Barbara Burning Skirts, but this year’s tournament will yield only two College Championships bids. Last year, the reigning National champ, Santa Barbara, failed to qualify, while Stanford nearly missed the cut themselves. With two bids, and lots of questions we won’t get answered until we see them in Madison, there should be plenty of drama on tap in Goleta, CA this coming weekend.

What I believe to be seedings, and the pools:

  1. UC-Santa Barbara (SoCal #1)
  2. Stanford (NorCal #1)
  3. Sonoma State (NorCal #2)
  4. California (NorCal #3)
  5. UC-San Diego (SoCal #2)
  6. UCLA (SoCal #3)
  7. San Diego State (SoCal #4)
  8. Southern California (SoCal #6)
  9. UC-Davis (NorCal #5)
  10. Arizona State (DES #1)
  11. Cal Poly-SLO (SoCal #7)
  12. Arizona (DES #2)

Pool A: UC-Santa Barbara, California, UCLA, San Diego State, Arizona State, Cal Poly-SLO

Pool B: Stanford, Sonoma State, UC-San Diego, Southern California, UC-Davis, Arizona

Pool winners going into the a Championship game, while the 2nd/3rd finishers in each pool going into a backdoor bracket. Everyone else is eliminated from contention for a bid. Harsh format.

Pool Play

Pool A

The UC-Santa Barbara Burning Skirts are back. “The whole team is really excited. We’ve been working hard since Sectionals to try to improve on different aspects of the game to come out strong during Regionals,” said Captain Katie Hawn, “We’re going to go in and play our game with the goal to be in Madison in a few weeks.” Expectations are high once more, and with good reason. The Skirts already have shown they have the potential, beating Washington, Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. In the region, they’re 14-2, with their losses coming at the SB Invite (Rain edition) by a point to Southern California and a one point loss to Cal at Stanford Invite. However, UCSB played a lot of close games at their Conference Championships. The specter of last year’s humbling performance also may prove a tougher opponent to beat. Hawn paints a prettier picture, however, “It’s definitely been a motivating factor. We’ve used the past year to strengthen our bond as a team and maintain focused practices.” This year’s version of the Skirts may lack Marie Madaras and Stephanie Karba, but they added Lisa Pitcaithley and return Hawn and Alicia Thompson. Pitcaithley and Thompson are highly capable behind the disc or downfield, making them difficult to gameplan for. Hawn, Kaila Pollart, and Noelle Neason have all stepped into bigger roles for Santa Barbara and could help lead them back to the top of the region.

Santa Barbara’s Lisa Pitcaithley is one of the region’s most dominant forces from behind the disc

The California Pie Queens are coming off an uneven year that still shows they’re not to be taken lightly. Their victims this season include UNC-Wilmington and Texas, and while they haven’t played Stanford, they have beaten both UCSB and Sonoma. However, they have several close games against strong teams, like Colorado, Washington, and Virginia. Between those and their close losses, this team is only a few adjustments away from making a big splash. They lost as much as anybody in the region when Claire Desmond and Abby VanMuijen graduated, but do retain a very strong handler group, anchored by Lily Lin. These don’t quite look like the Berkley ladies that won the region last year, but with Lin, fellow handler Maya Gilliss-Chapman, and new coach Manisha Daryani of Fury, they have shown they can beat top teams.

Lily "Thud" Lin is the biggest component of the Pie Queen offense

Lily “Thud” Lin is the biggest component of the Pie Queen offense

UCLA Bruin Ladies Ultimate (BLU) has, not unlike Cal, shown they can beat top teams, but have also struggled in some winnable games. Victories over North Carolina and Florida State highlight their regular season, while two losses to Dartmouth and four at the hands of UC-San Diego reflect poorly. In fact, BLU is 2-4 against UCSD, 0-3 against Sonoma State, and have dropped games against SDSU, UCSB, and Arizona State. The losses of Sabrina “Kodiak” Fong and Kelly “Sapphire” Wiese have obviously sent this team into a transition. That is eased by their regional Coach of the Year, Caitlin Rugg, and returning FOTY, Megan Beck. They’ll need to put together a more consistent performance at Regionals if they want to be a factor.

The San Diego State Gnomes have done solidly against in region competition. They scored wins versus UC-Davis (x2), Cal, UCLA, UC-San Diego, Arizona, and USC. The Gnomes lost some very close games in region as well, two of those against UC-San Diego, once to UCLA, and once to UC-Santa Barbara. One of those UCSD losses and the UCSB loss came at Conferences, which is a good sign. They could definitely turn in some surprises at this tournament.

Arizona State Caliente may demonstrate the drop off in this pool. Their early season results weren’t bad, where they beat UCLA and played Sonoma, Davis, and Dartmouth tight. Perhaps most importantly, they beat Arizona twice at Conferences. Other than that, there isn’t much notable about their results this season. If they can harken back to their early season play, and add on their development since then, they may be able to push the teams above them.

Cal Poly-SLO may have a tough time at this tournament, with the quality of team they will see game in and game out. They’ve struggled against teams from tiers above them. The challenge of deep tournament fields like this one is that you get no games off, but the flip side is that your opponents may spend all day fighting in close games and you can catch someone off guard.

Pool B

Superfly Captain Hillary Vance will need to be a part of Stanford’s success this weekend

Stanford Superfly is also looking to rebound, but their regular season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. At Stanford Invite and Centex, they went 4-10. Sure, they got good wins over Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Minnesota, but more importantly, they did enough to get the Southwest a strength bid (can you imagine going from five bids to one in a year!?) Yes, they have beaten UC-San Diego and Cal this season. However, they have also lost to Sonoma once and the Burning Skirts twice. Fortunately, they put it together at their Conference tournament, blowing out Sonoma 14-6 in the Final. Superfly has struggled with injuries and issues getting their full roster together, including at that Conference Championships tournament. Jamie Nuwer and Robin Davis will have to balance chemistry issues that come with roster inconsistency, but they could also show teams some things they haven’t seen before. One thing opponents know to expect is junior Michela Meister to go ham. The U23 selection and 2012 All-Region player is a total package stud. Hillary Vance and a variety of tall receivers aid Meister in the effort for a Southwest takeover.

Sonoma State D’Vine has been a consistent team most of the season. They’ve beaten most of the teams below them and haven’t caught up to the teams above them. Their win against Stanford came early in the year at the SB Rain Invite, and while they’ve beaten Cal, UCLA, and UC-San Diego, they’ve fallen short of beating Oregon, UC-Santa Barbara, and Washington. Most recently, they turned in a weak showing against Stanford in their Conference Final. Sonoma is a team that has an interesting juxtaposition of returning a large chunk of last year’s cinderella squad, but having lost superstar Maggie Ruden. They do still have 2012 2nd Team All-Region hucker Hannah Stueckle, and a stable of athletes like Candice Pacheco, so their talent level will allow them to capitalize on mistakes from even the top seeds.

UC-San Diego Psycho has been plagued by inconsistency, in contrast to D’Vine. The bright side includes wins over Northwestern, Florida, beating Colorado St. 13-0, and beating North Carolina 13-6. However, they are also 0-2 vs. Sonoma, dropped games to SDSU and Cal, struggled against most of the the elite competition they saw at Stanford and Centex. The Psychos rebounded at Conferences, losing only to UC-SB, but their win over San Diego State was 12-11. If Captains “Chip” Chang and “Fiddy” Wong can build from their success there, it certainly could be a platform to make a run like Sonoma or Cal did last year.

The Southern California Hellions hold an early season win over the Burning Skirts (and one OR win against Western Washington), but otherwise have not had much success against the region’s stronger teams. Those are the types of teams they’ll need to beat if they want to break seed this weekend. Conferences wasn’t their best showing, so they’ll need to put that in the rear view and regroup. Kate Schlag, Kristine Brown, and Amy Lee (aliases: Stamp, Pando, and Hoover, respectively) lead the way for the Hellions.

UC-Davis Pleiades will have to really kick their game up a notch to repeat last year’s success. They do seem to be playing better during this part of the season, with all of their losses at Conferences being fairly close games. Prior to that, they struggled, though they notched wins over Arizona and Arizona State, who they may need to beat in order to hold seed.

Arizona Scorch has an uphill battle at Southwest Regionals. They have really struggled against the Regionals field, though they gave USC a tight game earlier this season. Still, improving on last year’s 0-5 showing at this tournament would be a sign of progress.

Predictions

Pool Play

Pool A: UC-Santa Barbara, California, San Diego State, UCLA, Arizona State, Cal Poly-SLO

Pool B: Stanford, Sonoma State, UC-San Diego, Southern California, UC-Davis, Arizona

I’m thinking Cal, SDSU, and UCLA each end up 4-2, but UCLA is left out on point differential. Tough break.

Championship Bracket

UC-Santa Barbara over Stanford

Backdoor Bracket Quarters

Cal over UC-San Diego

Sonoma State over San Diego State

Backdoor Bracket Semis

Sonoma State over Cal

Backdoor Bracket Final

Stanford over Sonoma State

Final Thoughts

I think this region gets challenging in the backdoor, but I think Santa Barbara cemented themselves as the favorite in my mind. They just have too many weapons and Pitcaithley and Thompson are so hard to match up against. I do like both Sonoma and Cal, but my gut tells me Cal slips on Saturday. Having to go through that bracket is brutal and will keep either Cal or Sonoma (so hard to pick in that Semi) from making a hard move in the backdoor game. Stanford is too experienced to let the backdoor blues cost them that one. Should be interesting, to say the least.

North Central Women’s Regionals Preview

2013 College Series

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:

  1. Iowa State (WNC #1)
  2. Iowa (WNC #2)
  3. Carleton (WNC #3)
  4. Minnesota (WNC #4)
  5. Wisconsin (LS #1)
  6. Wisconsin-Eau Claire (LS #2)
  7. Northern Iowa (WNC #5)
  8. Nebraska (WNC #6)
  9. Luther (NC-III #1)
  10. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (LS #3)
  11. Winona State (WNC #7)
  12. 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.

Pool Play

Pool A

Iowa State's Becca Miller lets go of a sharp high release backhand

Iowa State’s Becca Miller lets go of a sharp high release backhand

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.

Pool B

Iowa Captain Anna Pritchard extends for a grab at Conferences

Iowa Captain Anna Pritchard extends for a grab at Conferences

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.

Predictions

Pool Play

Pool A: Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Northern Iowa, Luther, Minnesota-Duluth

Pool B: Carleton, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, UW-Milwaukee, Winona St.

Championship Final

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

Final Thoughts

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.

Weekend Slate: Bloody Sunday (Regionals Pt.1)

Here’s a special update to tell you what we’ve got on tap for tomorrow – who’s in, who’s out – at the Regionals tournaments taking place.

Women’s

  • Metro East Regionals is through PreQuarters. Tomorrow morning, we have Quarters, with: Ottawa vs. SUNY-Buffalo, Cornell vs. Connecticut, Rochester vs. Princeton, NYU vs. Yale. A potential Ottawa/Cornell Semifinal should be exciting, but watch out for Princeton against Rochester.
  • Atlantic Coast Regionals is through PreQuarters. Of the #1 seeds, only North Carolina saw any challenges today. Also, I was right about Duke, wrong about Maryland. Quarters matchups: Virginia vs. Towson, Maryland vs. James Madison, North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech, and UNC-Wilmington vs. Duke.
  • Great Lakes Regionals hasn’t updated scorereporter, but I know both Michigan and Northwestern went undefeated, asserting their dominance. When I looked, scorereporter had Northwester and Michigan both in Pool B, so this is a new development.
  • Ohio Valley Regionals had some upsets, with Penn State beating Carnegie-Mellon and Pool B winding up with three 2-1 teams (Pitt, Case, and Penn). Ohio State was dominant. Quarters are: Ohio State vs. Ohio, Case Western vs. Carnegie-Mellon, Penn State vs. Penn, and Pitt vs. West Virginia.
  • South Central Regionals was an exciting (also cold and rainy) one. In Pool A, Texas smoked Colorado 11-4. Pool B was crazy. Mysterious Missouri State wound up winning the pool, 4-1, with a lot of very close games. Their one loss was to Colorado State, who finished 4th. Wash U and TAMU go 3-2, and make the bracket. Quarters are: Texas vs. Colorado State, Texas A&M vs. Kansas, Colorado. vs Wash U, Missouri State vs. Colorado College. Can Missouri State continue their run all the way to the Final? They’d have to beat Colorado. I had Colorado College as my surprise performer. Lots of opportunity still here. Only one bid available.

Open

  • Atlantic Coast Regionals was a double elim bracket, so there isn’t much left for Sunday. Virginia Tech upset UNC-Wilmington 15-14 in the Semifinal, meaning we will see North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech in the morning. Winner goes to Nationals and will likely be the first team to punch their ticket. Also notable: George Mason, in their first Regionals, knocks out Maryland, 16-15. Maryland is out, losing again on double game to John Hopkins, 17-16. Backdoor Quaters are Virginia vs. James Madison and Appalachian State against UNC-Wilmington.
  • Great Lakes Regionals saw all the top seeds go undefeated, but only one pool go to seed. Quarters tomorrow are: Michigan vs. Indiana/Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan vs. Michigan-B (!), Michigan State vs. Chicago, Northwestern vs. Illinois.
  • Metro East Regionals isn’t fully reported, but all the top seeds go undefeated. Dark horse SUNY-Buffalo loses their first three games and is eliminated. Quarters are: Cornell vs. Syracuse/Queens-Kingston (I think), Princeton vs. SUNY-Albany, NYU vs. Stony Brook/Yale, and Connecticut vs. Rutgers.
  • At Northwest Regionals, Pool A went to seed, while Pool B saw the surprises. Top seed Whitman drops two games, while the fifth team, Boise State, is 3-1. Washington is 4-0. Each team has a pool play game in the morning, except Oregon and Washington, who are in the frontdoor Final. If Whitman struggles against Boise State, they may be eliminated before the backdoor bracket begins.
  • Ohio Valley Regionals saw what we expected: Pittsburgh and Ohio take care of business to get to the Final. Carnegie-Mellon and Kenyon play in a backdoor PreQuarter, with the winner playing Penn State. Ohio State plays St. Joseph’s/Penn, with the winner playing Cincinnati.
  • South Central Regionals had the always exciting double elim bracket, with two bids. The Final is set as Texas and Colorado. Kansas rallies from a first round loss to make backdoor Quarters. They’ll play Texas A&M and Missouri plays North Texas.

There’s plenty to watch tomorrow to see who will be taking their act on the road to Madison.

Atlantic Coast Women’s Regionals

2013 College SeriesEvery year, there’s a Region that feels like they just don’t have all the bids to the Championships they deserve. This year, no Region has more room to gripe than the Atlantic Coast. With three strong teams vying for one bid, and challengers lurking in the lower seeds, there should be plenty of drama. The traditional powers of North Carolina and UNC-Wilmington have, since the regional redraw, had to deal with competition from Virginia. This year, Virginia is the favorite, having proven themselves among the elite. However, both other teams have some big wins that show their potential. One bid tournaments tend to be very unforgiving, so teams have to take advantage of every opportunity. Expect fireworks for Atlantic Coast Women’s Regionals in Axton, VA.

Here, by my estimations, are the seedings and pools:

  1. Virginia (VA #1)
  2. North Carolina (CAR #1)
  3. UNC-Wilmington (CAR #2)
  4. Maryland (COL #1)
  5. Virginia Tech (VA #2)
  6. James Madison (VA #3)
  7. Towson (COL #2)
  8. South Carolina (CAR #3)
  9. Duke (CAR #4)
  10. Clemson (CAR #5)
  11. American (COL #3)
  12. Delaware (COL #4)
  13. Appalachian State (CAR #6)
  14. Georgetown (COL #5)
  15. George Washington (COL #6)
  16. Virginia Commonwealth (VA #4)

Pool A: Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware, Appalachian State

Pool B: North Carolina, Towson, American, Georgetown

Pool C: UNC-Wilmington, James Madison, Clemson, George Washington

Pool D: Maryland, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia Commonwealth

Pool winners bye into Quarters while the second and third teams in each pool play PreQuarters crossover games.

Pool Play

Pool A

Virginia Hydra, the Atlantic Coast’s reigning Champ, announced themselves in the Region with a third place finish in 2011 before winning it all last year. Now, they’ve become the favorite in the Region to take their only bid. In just a few short years, they’ve become a power, despite roster turnover, indicating a strong program. They have wins over Stanford, Colorado, and Ohio State, but perhaps more importantly, they have wins over North Carolina and UNC-Wilmington. However, they aren’t invincible: UNC-Wilmington beat them 11-10 at QCTU and James Madison played them close at Virginia Conference Championships. This is a team that knows how to compete against the best and can also efficiently close games against weaker opponents. These attributes will be pivotal this weekend. Senior and 2012 2nd Team All-Region selection Mary Kelly is a force in the air for Hydra, with support from junior speedster Theresa Hackett and sophomore stud & 2012 FOTY Alika Johnston (calling this: future Callahan Finalist). They play suffocating defense and will strike mercilessly back once they force their opponents into bad plays. Hydra’s disciplined, aggressive, and well coached. At their best, this is a Semis-quality team at the College Championships.

Alika Johnston is a rising star in the game, and a huge part of Hydra’s continued success

South Carolina Scorch has had a bit of an up and down season so far. While they have wins over Georgia Tech, Georgia College, Duke, and Towson, they also have losses to Appalachian State, Clemson, and Chicago. They have the potential to make Quarters, but they could also turn in a poor showing if they aren’t prepared for the rigors of the Region. Adrienne Turner and Noel Holmes provide the team’s top options and will need to be on their game to help lead Scorch to success.

Delaware Sideshow’s season story begins with Nikki Ross, their all star handler, who has missed the whole season with a ligament tear. For Sideshow, it doesn’t end there. They’ve had ample time to move on and make adjustments. It shows, with blowout wins over American and Yale, and a nice win over Rochester at Garden State III. They posted a few more wins over the field at Colonial Conference Championships, demonstrating they could also make a move to Quarters.

The Appalachian State Nonads played well when they needed to at Carolina Conference Champies, notching a win over South Carolina and playing well in losses to Duke and Clemson. They also have a win over VCU, so breaking seed is definitely possible for them this weekend.

Pool B

UNC-Wilmington Seaweed is playing their best at the right time. While they’ve shown potential all year, their early returns were not what they hoped. They dropped games against Pittsburgh, California, and a blowout loss against Michigan. Along the way, they’ve played some of the nation’s top teams tight, while scoring wins over Virginia, Ohio State, and UC-Santa Barbara. At Conference Championships, they were able to beat UNC to take the Conference crown. To add onto their momentum, Claire Chastain was recently announced as the final member of the Skyd Five Callahan nominees. And honestly, she might be the best women’s player in the county. She’ll be backed up by sophomore Sadie Gosselin, who continues to emerge as a playmaker for Seaweed.

UNC-W superstar and Callahan nominee Claire Chastain with a big bid against UNC’s own stud, Shellie Cohen

Towson Hammertime has been on the rise, going from a team fighting to make Regionals to one that can compete on a bigger scale. They haven’t seen many teams this year quite like the top end of the AC, but have strong games against NYU and scored two wins over American at their Conference tournament. They are 3-1 on the year against teams in their pool. Led by Captain Jordin Fox, they’ll be looking to hold seed and find a way into Quarters.

The American University Dirty Ladies have followed the suit of Towson, developing over the past few years from a team fighting to get Regionals to a competitive team on the scene. Their season got off to a rocky start at Bonanza – though they notched their lone win over Towson – but they rebounded at Garden State, beating Rochester and Delaware and playing well against Cornell. Their losses to Towson and close wins against Georgetown may cause some concern, but there is talent within this group. Senior and U23 Women’s team member Lauren Sadler is one of the region’s top playmakers and defenders. She has help from fellow seniors Jess Wolf and Aly Martori, plus leadership from Coach Shino Yoshen.

Georgetown Huckin’ Foyas have struggled in some regards this season. That isn’t a huge surprise, losing the talented Alisha Kramer, who essentially built the program. However, their close games against American at Colonial Champies give hope they can crack the PreQuarters games. Junior Sue Marie Breeden is a key cog in the Huckin’ Foyas machine.

Pool C

North Carolina Pleiades are not used to being on the outside looking in. Finishing just barely out of reach for another bid for the AC, they’ll need to put on a great weekend to get back to the College Championships, where they made Quarters last year. They know they can beat just about anyone in the country, with two wins over Wisconsin and Central Florida, and additional wins over Colorado and Tufts. Unfortunately, two teams they haven’t beaten are rival UNC-Wilmington, who they fell to 13-15 in the Carolina Conference Final, and Virginia, who they lost to 12-14 at Centex. If they hit a rough patch, like they did at Stanford Invite, it could get ugly, but this is a smart team that is close knit. Coaches Lindsay Hack and Raj Prasad will have them well prepared. FFH All Star handler Shellie Cohen anchors their offense with her arsenal of field changing throws, while cutter Lisa Couper provides downfield speed and shutdown defense. Both are U23 team players. Kendall Beadleson has also stepped up as a playmaking receiver. Pleiades will need all hands on deck to get back to the show for the sixth straight season, as their projected path takes through both UNC-Wilmington and Virginia.

UNC’s Lisa Couper gets up for a grab at last year’s College Championships.

The James Madison Bitchmonkeys were one of the buzzier teams in the region at the beginning of the year. They played their way to the Final of Winta Binta Vinta Fest and went undefeated at their home tournament, Bonanza. Along the way, they got wins over NYU, Penn State, and two over Penn. However, they’d lose seven games at their next two tournaments, taking the shine off. At Conferences, they lost twice to Virginia Tech, a worrisome trend. Senior Victoria Elmore will need to play well and the team will need to refocus coming into a tournament where they need to prove they aren’t outclassed.

The Clemson Tiger Lillies have some potential to break seed at this tournament, but could also find themselves struggling. Their results are mixed bag – wins over Vermont, South Carolina, and Georgetown, but losses against Georgia Tech and Duke – that leave you unsure of what damage they can really do. It will be a tall task to ask them to make Quarters, but this is a veteran laden team that won’t back down.

The George Washington Lady Hippos have had some bright spots this season, but most of those have been close losses. Playing Vermont and Rochester close are nice, but Conference tournament blowout losses against American and Towson, and a pair of losses to Delaware, are disconcerting. Junior Zoe Dorian will be relied on heavily if G-Dub wants to make a splash in Axton.

Pool D

Maryland Helpful Corn has had to adjust over the past few years. The former ruler of their Region, the regional redraw brought over traditional AC powers that have forced Corn to take a back seat. Still, this is a program with a strong history and sense of pride. Their big win over Pittsburgh at QCTU proves they can take out strong opponents, and they’ve lost only one game to an AC opponent (7-13 to UNC-W). Sasha Bugler is one of the premier talents the region has to offer and Jessie O’Conner has proved herself capable against strong competition. Their offense will flow through these two and will need to be pinpoint in order to run with the big dogs.

The Virginia Tech Burnettes have put together a decent resume, but didn’t really enter the conversation until they beat JMU twice at Conferences. Whenever they have had to take on strong squads, they’ve folded (save a win over Cornell), so it was a welcome change. If they can beat Maryland and take pool D, it will give them a signifcantly better chance of making Semis.

Duke Swerve comes into the weekend looking to build on a solid Conference Championships performance, where they went 5-2. Getting wins over Clemson and App State are a nice start for Duke, adding to wins over Carleton Eclipse and Emory from earlier tournaments. I’ve had no success in locating a name, but they do have a particular player – tall, blonde hair – who is a great athlete, able to cut effectively for extended periods of time and make some highlight reel grabs.

Virginia Commonwealth is looking to make Regionals a habit. They finished tied for 9th last year, and lost a lot of their talent with outgoing seniors. They’ve had a year to acclimate to new roles, and brought it together at Conferences to qualify. They have the experience of being here before, so we will see if they can repeat last season’s success with so much new blood.

Predictions

Pool Play

Pool A: Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware, Appalachian State

Pool B: UNC-Wilmington, American, Towson, Georgetown

Pool C: North Carolina, James Madison, Clemson, George Washington

Pool D: Maryland, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia Commonwealth

After the dust settles, almost every pool will go to seed. In Pool B, I’m thinking all three teams after UNC-W go 1-2, but this is their point differential results.

PreQuarters

American over Clemson

James Madison over Towson

Virginia Tech over Delaware

Duke over South Carolina

Quarters

Virginia over American

Maryland over James Madison

North Carolina over Virginia Tech

UNC-Wilmington over Duke

Semifinals

Virginia over Maryland

North Carolina edges UNC-Wilmington

Final

Virginia over North Carolina

Final Thoughts

If North Carolina and UNC-Wilmington weren’t playing each other in the Semifinal, they’d have a shot at Virginia. Coming off a game that is almost certain to be a slugfest, it is going to be hard to have the legs needed to run with the #1 seeded Hydra. While Chastain’s talent is unmatched in the region, I think the organization and leadership of North Carolina should be able to make the adjustments needed between Conferences and Regionals. I expect that Semi to be a great game though. It should be a hell of a weekend in Axton.