WHERE IS MY FFH!?

Loyal readers,

[Mic tap] Is this thing on?

Well, you may be wondering “Man, where is FFH at? We are a week from the College Championships!” Wonder no more. I’ll be heading up Women’s Division coverage for Ultiworld! I’ll be on the ground, in Madison, giving you the low down on who is doing what, talking to players and coaches, and hopefully making the tournament experience awesome. It’s my first time, so who knows.

That means you gotta hop over to Ultiworld to find my College Championshps covage, like this reaction piece to the seeding and pools! My twitter handle is still in play, so if you’re looking for live updates from Madison, make sure you give that a follow. I’ll have plenty of coverage leading up to the games next week and it’ll all be through Ultiworld.

Thanks to everyone! Special shout out to the Minnesota ladies, the Florida State ladies, and to Gwen Ambler, they’ve been awesome supporters of the blog!

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.

Up Calls: Bids to Natties, pro ulti, Skyd 5

Let’s just jump in (College Series brief recaps at the end):

Headlines

  • Skyd announced their Wild Card candidates for the Skyd Five Callahan nominees, their shortlist of top players. On the Women’s side, UNC-Wilmington’s Claire Chastain was chosen. On the Open side, Texas’s Will Driscoll was chosen.
  • Brodie Smith’s China Trick Shot video is attracting some attention. Honestly? It was super awkward, but that’s just me.
  • Skyd’s also collecting – and updating – this Callahan videos page. Who needs RSD? Shouts out to Reddit though.
  • Know some kids who wanna play Ultimate? Nike Ultimate camps, offering overnight and day camp.
  • Here are you College Championships Qualifiers. Skip this if you wanna read more detailed stuff below: (Open) Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, Pittsburgh, Ohio, Cornell, Oregon, Washington, Illinois; (Women) Virginia, Texas, Ohio State, Ottawa, Northwestern.

MLU Scoreboard

  • PHI Spinners @ NY Rumble: The usual suspects were at it in this one, with Hirranet, Murray, and Shull turning in strong Spinners’ stats. Chris Mazur put up a fight for the Rumble, with Ben Faust turning in a nice first half and Jonathan Cox picking up slack in the second. It wasn’t enough for NY, Spinners win, 19-17.
  • BOS Whitecaps @ DC Current: Lots of hucks in the first half of this one, but tight all the way, 11-11 at half. Peter Prial made a great debut for the Whitecaps, involved in a lot of plays. Boston wins, 20-19.
  • POR Stags @ SEA Rainmakers: Seth Wiggins was putting on a clinic in Seattle, filling up the stat sheet. It was 7-7 as the teams neared half, but Seattle scored a pair for 9-7, and rolled from there. Rainmakers win, 18-12.
  • SF Dogfish @ VAN Nighthawks: The Nighthawks would spend the first half trailing, but take the lead twice in the second half. With under a minute to go, a hammer tied it at 17s. San Francisco would work the field, call a timeout, and bury the game winning score with 6 seconds left. Dogfish win, 17-16.
  • VAN Nighthawks @ POR Stags (Sunday): After trading their way up to 5s, the Nighthawks would get a little breathing room, taking half 12-9. Despite Ben Lohre and Ben McGinns solid outings, they could never get it closer than two from there.. Nighthawks get the W, 21-17.

AUDL Scoreboard

  • ROC Dragons @ PHI Phoenix: The Phoenix’s home opener saw them get out to an early lead. Over time, the Philly team would just overwhelm the Dragons. This team is not a fluke. Phoenix wins, 26-14.
  • TOR Rush @ NY Empire: Isaiah Masek-Kelly (3G, 2A), Jeff Lindquist (5G, 2A), and Cameron Harris (6A, all second half) led the way for the visiting Rush, overcoming the Husayn Carnegie show that is the Empire. Lots of layouts from him, but Rush win, 22-14.
  • DET Mechanix @ CIN Revolution: Saturday’s rain in Cinci kept this to a low scoring affair – and even stopped the game for roughly 30 mins – but could not stop the road team from stealing a win. The Mechanix move above .500, Detroit wins 15-11.
  • WC Wildifre @ IND Alleycats: A really tight first half in this one, but the Wildfire trio of Brodie Smith, AJ Nelson, and Geoff Serednesky proved too much, with a big run late in the game to open it up. Wildfire win, 25-15.
  • MAD Radicals @ MIN Wind Chill: The visitors played a tight one and emerged the winner of the first game in this classic rivalry. Madison wins, 22-20.
  • ROC Dragons @ DC Breeze (Sunday): An exciting game for a Breeze team hungry for their first win and the Dragons on a back to back after being severely shorthanded by Regionals eating up a lot of their roster. The teams went to OT, where the Breeze’s TJ Ryan caught a score with 4 seconds left to force sudden death double OT. The Breeze would pull it out with a score from Justin Solis, Breeze win 26-25
  • CIN Revolution @ WC Wildfire (Sunday): Brodie Smith had a dominant first half for the Wildfire, but the Revolution D-line would not quit, keeping it close. However, the Wildfire closed hard, winning the 4th quarter 7-3, making a Windy City win, 23-16.
  • TOR Rush @ NJ Hammerheads: The Rush took a 20-9 lead into the half. The Hammerheads – ME Regionals taking some of their talent – actually won the second half, but moral victories don’t get you into the playoffs. Rush win, 29-19.

USAU College Series

A brief Saturday recap/Sunday preview can be found here.

Women’s

  • Atlantic Coast Regionals was one of the more dramatic weekend tournaments. Virginia, after playing just 32 points in the Quarters and Semis, came into the Final fresh. North Carolina played 49 points coming into, a little over half a game more. This was in large part because Pleiades had to go through rival UNC-W, who they beat 15-13, in the Semi. However, the Carolina women fought and kept it very close, demonstrating what a quality them they (and by extension, UNC-W) are. They’d fall 12-15. Virginia advances to the College Championships.
  • Metro East Regionals was no easy region. The top four seeds all made their into the Semi, though Rochester took a strong push from Princeton, 14-12. Both Semis were good games, Ottawa beating Cornell 12-10 and NYU topping Rochester 14-12. It was a blow for blow Final, but Ottawa keeps the status quo with a very tight 11-9 win. Ottawa advances to the College Championships.
  • Great Lakes Regionals despite Purdue and Notre Dame’s Semis runs, this Region sort of all seemed like it would going to come down to Michigan vs. Northwestern. The two top teams in the Region battled it out, and Gung Ho gutted out the win, 15-12. Northwestern advances to the College Championships.
  • Ohio Valley Regionals is a Region that belongs firmly to Ohio State Fever. I said in my preview that “anything less than dominance is not an option.” Well, they delivered. Fever never gave up more than 4 points. Pitt’s first round 11-10 win over Penn might have taken some of their energy away, but rolled in the Semifinal. Fever won the Final, 15-1, a hell of a statement. Ohio State advances to the College Championships.
  • Southeast Regionals…was rained (well, lightning’d, actually) out and postponed until next weekend.
  • South Central Regionals saw the surprises of Saturday give way to more expected results Sunday. Colorado and Texas both made Semis, along with a strong Colorado College squad and a determined Texas A&M team. Neither could keep up with the Regional powers, setting up a rematch of Saturday’s Pool A top end. Melee took half 8-6, and Colorado wasn’t really able to close the gap, leading to a 14-9, Texas win. Texas advances to the College Championships.

Open

  • Atlantic Coast Regionals worked out with the teams you’d expect, but not in the way you might have thought it would. Virginia Tech would upset UNC-Wilmington, 15-14, in the Semifinal, to get a shot at North Carolina. North Carolina had no trouble with Burn. UNC-Wilmington would fight back to the backdoor game to go and get their rematch on VT. Vengeance is a dish best served with your season on the line, and the Seamen got it, 15-6. North Carolina and UNC-Wilmington advance to the College Championships.
  • Great Lakes Regionals was perhaps the most up-for-grabs of any Regionals. The top four seeds all played their way into Semis unscathed, and finally got down to business. Michigan knocked out Eastern Michigan and Illinois surprised Michigan State. Despite expectations for Michigan to finish strong, Illinois broke through with a healthy roster, winning 15-12. Illinois advances to the College Championships.
  • Metro East Regionals went to the status quo on the Women’s side, but would the men suffer the same fate? The #1 seed Cornell Buds would beat Queens-Kingston in Quarters, Princeton in Semis, but run into a talented and gutsy UConn team in the FInal. UConn was no match, Buds roll 15-6. Cornell advances to the College Championships.
  • Northwest Regionals went to Oregon, no question. They showed they were in another class. But with a second bid up for grabs, Saturday’s effects creeped into Sunday’s results. I can’t help but think Whitman – who struggled in pool play, and had to play an additional two games Sunday – was at a significant disadvantage going into the Final against Washington. Washington takes care of business, 13-11. Washington advances to the College Championships.
  • Ohio Valley Regionals had the potential for excitement, but was mostly expected to go one way. And it did. Ohio nearly upset Pitt in the Final, but Pitt put together a strong second half to take the Region. Ohio played Penn State, who put down Cinci, in the game to go, and controlled the game, 15-5.
  • Southeast Regionals has been postponed. Stay tuned.
  • South Central Regionals went to Texas, 15-12, over Colorado, but with a second bid up for grab, the story continued. Texas A&M, who lost in Semis, fought their way through Kansas and Missouri to get back to the game to go. Facing Colorado, who knocked them out of the championship bracket, they came to play. However, Mamabird proved the stronger, winning 15-11. Texas and Colorado advance to the College Championships.
  • Northwoods Conference Championships saw Minnesota beat Carleton 13-8 in the Final. Wisconsin-Mankato and Minnesota-Duluth also qualify for North Central Regionals.

Northwest Women’s Regional Preview

2013 College Series

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Oregon Fugue, UBC Thunderbirds, and Washington Element walk into the College Championships…and then Victoria Vixens shows up. If you want to say the regular season doesn’t matter, talk to these four teams. After four strong regular seasons, they’ll be able to sleep a little bit easier going into a Regional tournament with four bids to the College Championships. Whitman and Western Washington don’t plan on it being a picnic, eying that fourth bid and a Victoria team with limited experience on the big stage.

The Northwest fielded two of the Finalists at last year’s College Championships in Oregon and Washington. Their top four teams have been widely considered four of the top 10 (depending on how people view Victoria), and you have to consider this a Region with multiple title contenders. That’s a lot of pressure. These players all know one another well, seeing each other all year long. Winning this tournament could result in a number one seed at the College Championships. “Although there are four bids out of our region, we do not take a bid to Nationals lightly,” noted senior Captain of #1 seed Oregon Fugue, Lily Herd, “Our goal is to win this weekend so that we can go into Nationals with a high seeding.” There’s a lot of pride in winning the most prestigious region in Women’s Ultimate, so expect that to be on display in Eugene this weekend.

Here’s the seedings (by my estimate) and pools:

  1. Oregon (PC #1)
  2. British Columbia (PC #2)
  3. Washington (PC #3)
  4. Victoria (PC #4)
  5. Whitman (NW-III #1)
  6. Western Washington (PC #5)
  7. Pacific Lutheran (NW-III #2)
  8. Montana (SKY #1)

Pool A: Oregon, Victoria, Whitman, Montana

Pool B: British Columbia, Washington, Western Washington, Pacific Lutheran

Pool winners make the Final and lock up a bid. Second place in each pool gets you into a game to go, with the loser falling into another game to go. Every team is in the running Sunday.

Pool Play

Pool A

#1 overall seed Oregon Fugue may be the favorite going into Madison, should they qualify (I have to write that part). They won both Stanford Invite and Pres Day, losing only one game all season (8-12 to UBC).Their roster is, as usual, stacked like an All-Star team. Junior Sophie Darch’s handling, where she often makes dominating her matchup look effortless, anchors the offensive line, with the dynamic cutting of senior Kimber Coles and a number of tall and athletic downfield targets, like playmaking sophomore Bethany Kaylor. On defense, Skyd Five Callahan nominee senior Bailey Zahniser propels their D-line’s offense with her take-no-prisoners approach of throwing anything and everything. “We have a bit of our target on our backs, going into Regionals the #1 seed,” acknowledged Herd, with sophomore Jesse Shofner adding, “Every team is giving you their best. It’s fun.” They’re the type of team that imposes their will, their speedy disc movement and aggressive cutting capped off with monster spikes in the endzone. They will turn it, and the only way to beat them is to be efficient when they give you those opportunities, which is a lot easier to write than it is to do. They’ve taken on the personality of Coach Lou Burruss, meaning on the field, they are passionate, wear their hearts on their sleeves, and are fiercely loyal to one another, operating under their difficult-to-explain Clown Tent (SS) philosophy. When I asked Herd about Fugue’s attitude, she replied “Work hard, have fun.” She went on to explain about finding the balance between those two. Shofner spoke to the team’s bonds, saying “We love each other, and we’re all unified through our [Clown Tent].” When they are all clicking, they’re a whirling dervish of Ds, hucks, spikes, smiles, cheering, and they’re the best team in the country.

A smiling happy energetic Fugue is a dangerous Fugue

A smiling happy energetic Fugue is a dangerous Fugue

The Victoria Vixens are the upstart of this season, and a bit of a lightning rod. The drama comes from a team that traveled to just two tournaments – Santa Barbara Invite and Stanford Invite – and didn’t play again until the Series. Without competing outside of California, they piled up enough good results to be USAU’s 9th ranked team. Wins over UC-Santa Barbara, Sonoma State, and a beating on Stanford powered their rank. They only lost one game – a close one against Western Washington – before the Series. Makes sense people would have doubts. Once they arrived at Conference Championships, however, they kept pace with Oregon, Washington, and UBC, though they also edged Western Washington by just two, demonstrating they are no flash in the pan. Victoria plays a smart and very skilled game, with a number of throwing threats, ranging from the hucks of Jen Brown and Corrinne Dunwoody to the break work from Katie Hikida. Out of their ho stack, they are adept at using field space, opening up the field for those throwers to work with. With lower seeds gunning for them, Victoria can’t afford to give them opportunities.

The Whitman Lady Sweets are a team on the middle ground coming into Regionals. They lack marquee wins from their two tournament regular season, but beat solid teams, like Colorado College, Western Washington, and Texas A&M. However, of those three teams, they lost to the two they played more than once (CC and WW). Playing D-III in the first round of the Series, they rolled their competition, not telling us much. Jeremy Norden patrols the sideline for the Lady Sweets and Julia Bladin, a 2nd team All-Region selection last season, remains their go to option. They lost in the game to go last year, and could find themselves in the same situation this season.

Montana comes in as the final seed, having earned they way in with a win of their Conference. However, they have almost no reported results, giving us precious little information. Their 1-4 record from PLU BBQ, including a blowout loss to the host team, doesn’t bode well in such a hyper competitive Region; in 3 meetings with PLU, Whitman won each handily. Just putting up good scores will be a victory for a program looking to grow.

Pool B

The British Columbia Thunderbirds come in the second seed for the second year in a row. However, the past two years, they’ve played third fiddle to Oregon and Washington, and the subsequent College Championships performances (19th & 11th place) left them way behind their Northwest brethren. As one of the nation’s top ranked teams, the expectations are for this season to be different. “Washington is still a great team this year, but we have won against them more often than not,” stated senior Captain Rena Kawabata, adding, “And to have been the team that notched Oregon’s only loss this season says a lot about what we will be bringing to Regionals.” Of British Columbia’s five losses, only one has come from a team outside of the region: a 6-13 stumble against a white hot Wisconsin squad. They’re 3-1 against Washington, including two wins at CCs, and 1-3 against Oregon. It is setting up to be the year they break through, and the T-Bird women sense that, wanting more from themselves, Kawabata telling me, “No matter how many bids our region gets, our goal is always to take the 1st one. The fact that there are 4 is irrelevant. We will be playing to win Regionals and we will do whatever we need to do to make that happen.” Led by dynamite Skyd Five Callahan nominee Catherine Hui and fellow Traffic player Kawabata, as talented a duo as you’ll find in the college women’s game, UBC is a threat this year. They also return 2012 All-Region selection Crystal Koo, who does a lot of the heavy lifting behind the disc. “We are a receiver heavy team and we look to get the disc downfield as opposed to swinging to handlers,” noted Kawabata, referring to the extensive complement of tall, athletic, and experienced downfield players on their roster. A strong weekend at Regionals could prove crucial for their confidence and give a clue to how far they can go at the Championships.

UBC's Crystal Koo's handling abilities make her critical to the team's success

UBC’s Crystal Koo’s handling abilities make her critical to the team’s success

Washington Element comes into the weekend the three seed, but knowing they are still the country’s reigning champion and confident in their talent. Their regular season returns are actually a little underwhelming, with a 10-5 record that includes a blowout loss to Wisconsin and stumbles against British Columbia and UC-Santa Barbara. Their Series results also include losses to Oregon and UBC. They lost a lot of talent coming into the year in Leah Fury, Jillian Goodman, and Kristin Gruver, but also returned a loaded top end. Unfortunately, word is that Sarah “CO” Davis, the team’s Callahan nominee, will be missing the rest of the season with an injury. This’ll put more pressure on 2012 All-Region selection Amanda Kostic and cutters Shira Stern & Barb Hoover to lead their offensive line. Lucy Williams, 2012 All-Region selection Alysia Letourneau, and 2012 FOTY Sarah Edwards will hold things down on their talented defensive unit. Coach Kyle Weisbrod, in his first year with Element, has his work cut out for him with a teaming missing its star and losing the season series against their top rivals, but the talent and leadership of this team could push them to success.

Western Washington Chaos comes in very similar to Whitman – stuck in the middle ground. They’ve got a very solid resume, with wins over aforementioned Whitman, Texas A&M, Victoria, and Colorado College. At Champies, Chaos played tight games with UBC, Washington, and Victoria, indicating they may be closer to breaking through than their Pool A counterpart. The last close game is most notable, as they are gunning for the bid Victoria brought in. 2012 All-Region player Lindsey Miller returns, joining Riot’s Callie Mah (who would be a star at a more noted program) to form a very effective 1-2 punch. If they and some of their young talent are hitting the right notes, they could find themselves headed to Madison.

Pacific Lutheran, or PLU, comes into this weekend having lost just three sanctioned games on a fairly weak tournament docket. All three of those losses came at the hands of Whitman, all by a margin of nine or more. If PLU steps their game up this weekend, they can push one of the contenders, but otherwise, they may struggle against some of the game’s elite talent.

Predictions

Pool Play

Pool A: Oregon, Victoria, Whitman, Montana

Pool B: British Columbia, Washington, Western Washington, Pacific Lutheran

Championship

Oregon over British Columbia

Second Place Bracket

Washington over Victoria

British Columbia over Washington

Fourth Place Bracket

Whitman over Pacific Lutheran

Western Washington over Montana

Western Washington over Whitman

Victoria over Western Washington

Final Thoughts

These teams have mostly played each other over and over, giving us larger sample sizes to look at than is typical. That’s why it is hard to see this tournament having too many upsets. Particularly with the loss of Sarah Davis, I think it’ll be tough for Washington to usurp UBC and may leave them vulnerable to a hungry Victoria team, but ultimately, their embarrassment of riches wins out. While I think Western Washington can and will push these top four, I can’t take them over any of the other four.