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

Southeast Women’s Snapshot

College2011_Southeast

The Southeast Region seems to be growing more and more competitive, on both sides of the gender gap. The Women’s side has a number teams vying for what could wind up being one or two bids to Nationals. Traditionally a one bid region, it’ll be a fight all the way, and last year showed you can’t take anything for granted into those fateful days of the Series. Here’s a brief look at how the region stacks up, topped off by the Big 4: UGA, UCF, FSU, and UF.

Georgia Dawgma (9-4)

Key IR Wins: UF x2, FSU x2, UCF

Key IR Losses: FSU

Key OR Wins: None

Dawgma opened the year strong, coming off of a fall where they dominated Southeast competition and won a double game point finals victory at CCC over Texas. They could really use that out of region win on their record now. They were by far the strongest performing team at Florida Winter Classic, which allowed them to assert themselves over the in-region competition and stake out a nice win %. Unfortunately, they disappointed at QCTU, failing any marquee wins (their best win was a 15-5 win over Wash U, a team UCF beat 11-2) and losing their first in-region game to Florida State, 11-10. The talent is there for this team and they were battling health issues at QCTU, but we’ve heard this song before. This is the most talented team Athens has fielded in a while and excuses are not calculated in the ranking algorithm. A rebound performance at Music City Mash-Up would be huge: there’s a rematch of that glorious CCC Final against Texas and a competition for the top spot in the SE against UCF on the docket. They need to get a big out-of-region win – probably two – if they want to reestablish themselves.

Central Florida Sirens (8-6)

Key IR Wins: Florida

Key IR Losses: FSU x2, UGA, UF

Key OR Wins: Michigan (12-7), Wisconsin (9-6), UNC-Wilmington (12-11)

UCF’s start was the exact opposite of Georgia’s: unimpressive Florida Winter Classic, where they took some tough losses to the SE’s top competition, and then a huge showing at QCTU against out of region competition. They carry virtually every big Southeast win against competition from the rest of the country. This break out performance makes them a team to watch. Michigan had a really poor showing at QCTU, but that win over Wisconsin stands out as a big one and is a sign anybody sleeping on the Sirens may not get to wake up at all. A chance to add to their resume with a game against Texas is good, but for UCF, beating Georgia – the team who tore up their ticket to Nationals last year – will be more than sweet revenge, but a statement about who really runs the Southeast.

Florida State SLUT (7-6)

Key IR Wins: UF x2, UCF x2, UGA

Key IR Losses: UGA x2

Key OR Wins: Michigan (13-7)

This has been coming for a while. FSU has been knocking on the door and they have finally broken through as one of the region’s elite. They put up solid showings are both FWC and QCTU, getting wins out of every other team in the Big 4. Beating UGA at QCTU was huge for the Seminole Ladies, as it was a sign that they have the talent and ability to beat anyone in the Southeast and a legitimate shot at the crown. While they will not be at Music City, they will be hosting Tally Classic (side note: great tourney for mid-level SE teams) where they will look to score decisive wins over next tier SE talent (GCSU, Alabama, USF) and some similarly seated talent from other regions (Notre Dame, Purdue). They’ll have to wait for Centex to get their shot at adding some more big wins to their list and proving their mettle.

Florida FUEL (6-8)

Key IR Wins: UCF

Key IR Losses: FSU x2, UGA x2, UCF

Key OR Wins: None

Florida had a tough start to the Spring, coming away from their home tourney FWC with just one notable win to show for it. At QCTU, they did give Pitt a tight game and had a five point loss to eventual winner, Iowa State, with a pair of wins against a short-rostered Maryland team as well. It was definitely a sign of progress for a team that I expect to come on much stronger and surprise some folks at Centex. Right now, you have to put them at the bottom of the pile. Music City offers a chance to stake their claim and prove they are still Southeast elite. Unlike UCF and UGA, they’ll draw three opponents where any win would be the highlight win to jumpstart them (Pittsburgh, Ohio State, and Michigan). Opportunity is staring FUEL in the face.

The Field

To start the spring, it seemed the most likely threat to challenge the Big 4 was Emory, the most recent Southeast team that was in the club. However, they stumbled through an awful FWC, failing to grab a single victory. While they rebounded with wins over Bama (x2) and USF at a very windy and unsanctioned Flick’N Nuts, they will need a strong showing at next weekend’s Midwest Throwdown in order to push back up in the middle tier – for now, they are in the backseat. South Florida notched a pair of wins over the aforementioned Emory squad at FWC and played Florida tight, and also made finals at Flick’N Nuts. I’d say they reside in the shotgun spot at the top of the middle tier. If they can take down the other SE middle tier teams they see at Tally Classic and/or beat FSU, they will be in a great position.

GCSU’s performance at their home tourney, Flick’N Nuts, gets them mention. They won the tournament despite a short roster. In fact, with a solid group of girls that relies on no stud to bail them out, they might even be better with a short rotation where they all know each other well. Their Tally Classic will be our first chance to see what they really look like. Georgia Tech has a solid record and will get some shots at Music City, so keep an eye on that one. Wreck has arguably the region’s best player, and despite losing some of their best cutting talent this Spring, has cultivated the depth to keep winning.

Bama and Tulane have both been pushing to finally give the Gulf Coast strong representation.T-Throwdown was a chance to finally find out more about these teams, even as an unsanctioned event. Tulane went undefeated on the way to winning the tournament and I’ve heard they were by far the strongest performing squad in Tuscaloosa. Auburn also had a strong weekend, making the finals. Alabama struggled through a disappointing weekend, with a winless Saturday, which definitely surprised me to hear. A rebound at Tally Classic will shoot them up the rankings.

As I see it? Just for the time being, and almost entirely based on known Spring results:

  • 5. USF
  • 6. Tulane
  • 7. GCSU
  • 8. Georgia Tech
  • 9. Auburn
  • 10. Emory
  • 11. Alabama
  • 12. Georgia State

What to Watch

3/2-3/3: Midwest Throwdown (Emory)

3/9-3/10: Music City Mash-Up (UGA, UCF, UF, GT), Tally Classic (FSU, USF, Bama, GCSU)

After that, Centex, Southerns, and Terminus will be on deck. I’m not sure where Tulane or Auburn are headed next, but obviously, keep an eye on where they are.

Women’s Weekend Slate: Bonanza, Stanford Open, and some regional action

This upcoming weekend lacks for headlining tournaments, but it turns out these games count just as much in the ranking algorithm.

Women’s Easterns

This field of seven is not your average small tournament. Three of the four seminfinalists from last year return and two of those teams were at Nationals last year. Both the 1 and 2 seed missed out on a berth of their own by a game. The top four were all in attendance at Queen City Tune Up and that mostly informed the seeding (Pittsburgh beat UNC-W, UNC-W beat Virginia) but anything could happen within this top end. Penn State will be looking to prove themselves and have a close 11-14 loss to Virginia from Winta Binta Vinta Fest. I’m expecting UNC-W and Virginia to make the finals and Pittsburgh vs. Michigan in the semis. Important to see how Michigan rebounds from QCTU, though.

Stanford Open

This tournament is really a regional level one, except for two teams that I’m just so curious about: UCSD and Victoria. The Psychos had a solid showing at Pres Day and that makes them a notable in the Southwest. Victoria’s undefeated run through the SB Invite included wins over Santa Barbara, Sonoma State, and a romp over Stanford. This will also be a chance for Humboldt State and San Diego State to make some moves within region. Everyone will be gunning to beat Victoria to score a valuable out of region win. The winner gets a huge opportunity playing at the Stanford Invite two weeks later. Should Victoria win, that’s a lot of travel.

Bonanza

Delaware sits at the 1-seed spot, the kind of respect you earn getting to the show last year. That said, they are 0-2 vs. the field here (losses to Penn and JMU at Winta Binta Vinta Fest), so it will be interesting to see if the time between then and now has allowed them to transition to the post-Nikki Ross era of this season (after she went down to injury). Towson has really become a consistently strong squad as well, and could challenge Penn and JMU for the title. Also curious to see what NYU brings to the table. Plus, there’s those Dirty Ladies from American University, and with a gamechanger like Lauren Sadler of Scandal, anything could happen, and wouldn’t be surprised to see them take Pool A.

T-Town Throwdown

Non-sanctioned as it may be, as a Southeast coach, I’m always keeping an eye on the competition. The teams, as I’ve been told, are Tulane, Hotbox (club team), Florida B, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia State, Western Kentucky, Miss. St, and West GA. Tulane and Alabama have both become emerging programs to watch out for and will be battling to rule the Gulf Coast. Georgia State has great top end talent and could offer some surprises and I’m mostly interested in seeing how those three teams stack up. No idea what Hotbox will do to things, or where Vandy and Auburn will fall. I’m expecting Bama to win their home tournament.