Nexxgen Women’s Ultimate

Nexgen

The Nexgen Tour has emerged over the past two years as a household name in Ultimate. Aside from winning the Callahan, it might be the best way for Ultimate fans to find out who you are. Taking a cut of some of the best Open college players, Nexgen travels the country playing elite club teams, filming and streaming their games in high quality video. In order to make the team more fun for the fans and expose more players to the masses, they tend to pick from teams around the country. They also add an international player and usually someone from a smaller school who was maybe overlooked during the season.

What they don’t have is a Women’s tour. This isn’t really about that, because I’m not here for that argument. This is about, if they did – and I could totally see Without Limits joining forces with them to try and make this happen – who would be on it? Which 15 college women’s players have the skills, flair, and geographic distribution to form a badass team of collegiate superstars? Here’s my guess at it.

Claire Chastain, Nexgen tailor made, throwing a low release flick

Claire Chastain (UNC-Wilmington) – This was the first person I thought of. There’s some others – who will come later on the list – with arguments for the title, but she may very well be the most exciting player in Women’s college Ultimate. You never really know what’s going to happen when she’s got the disc or when it is in the air, headed in her direction. A full arsenal of the throws that make crowds go “Oooooh” and all the big layouts you could ask for. There’s a reason she was the only active college womens player invited to the Team USA World Games tryouts.

Paige Soper (Ohio State) – Coming off her huge breakout season last year, “Diddy”‘s legend has grown this season, culminating her Skyd 5 Callahan candidate selection. Hyper competitive, Diddy brings fire and intensity to the field. Her throws are textbook and she fears no team, matchup, or throwing situation. She’d make a great addition.

Magon Liu (Iowa State) – I’ve made pretty clear my fandom of Magon’s game. Whether it is on frozen fields with Iowa State at Midwest Throwdown, or in the wind and sun of Sarasota with CLX, Mags is a big play waiting to happen. Her layouts are the ones where you turn to someone on the sideline and go “I didn’t think she had any chance of getting to that.” She’s also got that trusty high release backhand. Yes, there’s definitely arguments for Becca Miller or Cami Nelson, but if you want to leave fans wide-eyed, I’m taking Mags.

Anna Reed, possible robot, with a dirty low release backhand

Anna Reed (Carleton) – There probably isn’t a more dominant handler in the college women’s scene right now than Anna Reed. With a nuclear-level flick bomb, she can essentially alter the field of play. She might be a robot – in which case, she might not be eligible – but she also just might be a total badass with a disc in her hand. A lot of Nexgen highlights could start her getting a great D, picking it up, and boosting it with gusto.

Lien Hoffman (Northwestern) – Aww man, those first steps are killer. With Anna Reed, Diddy, and company hucking to her, Lien might not be the most exciting player to watch, but that’s because her defender probably won’t be in the shot anymore. Batman-like disappearing abilities aside, Lien is a well rounded cutter, able to hurt you underneath too, and is more than willing to take on the opposition’s top cutter when coming down on the pull.

Michela Meister, alliteration inspiring beast, with an extension grab

Michela Meister (Stanford) – The Stanford Superfly superstar seemingly shows sensational skills…ok, alliteration be damned, this is who I’d pick to fight with Claire Chastain for “most exciting player”. And maybe Bailey Zahniser. But anyway, Michela is the “do everything” stud who would probably play everywhere on the field for the Nexgen ladies.

Shellie Cohen (North Carolina) – If you didn’t think Shellie would appear on this list, you’re probably a first time reader. Her play spoke pretty loud and clear at Nationals last year, and she continues her dominance this season. Her tall frame gives her some of the biggest throws in the country, and she’s just as capable of skying for the big backhand as she is putting it up. I’m also thinking she’d be pretty entertaining in front of the camera for nexgen’s segments between games.

Lane Siedor, versatile star of Georgia and Ozone, with a layout grab

Lane Siedor (Georgia) – Did someone order more tall handlers? Well, college handlers, anyway. Lane sees tons of touches in the middle of Georgia’s offense, scanning the field while her mark stalls away in vain. But when I saw her in Sarasota this past year playing for Ozone, she spent most of her time downfield, digging up discs before they hit grass with giant layouts. Poised veteran with the disc, big time playmaker without it.

India Stubbs (Harvard) – We need someone who hasn’t gotten a lot of exposure because their team isn’t on the National scene. Hello India Stubbs. She gives you the name recognition you’d like, carrying the Stubbs-gene, and she’s a very talented player whose experience playing on stud-filled teams (Junior Worlds, Bucket) would let her integrate quickly. You could also try Sasha Bugler from Maryland, who’s a confident break thrower that plays killer downfield defense, or if your heart is set on D3 (like Tommy Li), Claire Baecher from Williams is a hell of a player.

Catherine Hui, suspected teleporter, with a grab at Club Championships, as photographed by Brandon Wu

Catherine Hui (British Columbia) – She may very well be this year’s Callahan frontrunner. Frontrunner is a good term, too, because she’s usually running way out in front of her defender. I’m not sure if she is cutting or teleporting, leaving a comical trail of roadrunner dust in her wake. She was pegged by Skyd as one of the best targets at Nationals last year. No, not college nationals, club nationals. Yeah, she’ll be a highlight reel feature.

Fuguers (Oregon) – Maybe you’re wondering at this point “Uh, where are the players from last year’s college Final??” Well, it is their own fault there’s too many of them. Luckily, Nexgen takes two Oregon players, so we better too. Oregon alone brings Bailey Zahniser, Sophie ❤ Darch, Kimber Coles, Jesse Shofner, and Bethany Kaylor to the table. The first three in particular jump out to me and it is hard to pick two of them. Bailey’s Skyd 5 Callahan candidate selection and penchant to take super aggressive choices should get her a spot, and while my heart – anybody who knows me can attest – would choose Sophie a million times out of a million, Kimber’s fiery and confident style is the kind of personality and player that the Tour could use. Plus, she’s already traveled with them, helping out behind the scenes. Time to get in front of the camera, Kimber. Bailey Zahniser and Kimber Coles, folks.

Sarah Davis (Washington) – The woman known as “CO” is the Callahan nominee from the reigning champs, and their roster is stacked with exciting players. They have four U23 players (Davis, Shira Stern, Alysia Letourneau, and Amanda Kostic), plus Lucy Williams and Barb Hoover are extremely tough matchups. You could get into a bit of  Fugue-ish situation here, but CO is the pick, with her athleticism, pretty puts, and “do anything to get the disc” cutting.

Claudia Tajima, better known as Zilla, demonstrating why she is better known as Zilla

Claudia Tajima (Tufts) – You didn’t think I’d leave out the last Callahan frontrunner, did you? To be honest, I’m a bigger fan of Hailey Alm, and their teammate Emily Shields is pretty awesome, too, but if you want the type of plays that will make Tyler Kinley go “Let’s get another look at that,” then you want Tajima. Another fiercely competitive personality who fears no match up, Tajima has the puts and the defense to fill in nicely with this group.

We leave the final spot for the international choice.

Of course, there will be players I could have chosen, but didn’t. Chelsea Twohig, Sunny Harris, Becca Miller, Biz Cook, Alicia Thompson, and Meagan Cousins fans probably won’t be my friend anymore. But tell me you wouldn’t tune in to see if this squad could beat Fury or Riot?

QCTU Women’s 2013: 7 Stars Line

QCTUPreviewLogo

Queen City Tune-Up isn’t just a chance for the top team’s to begin marking their mark on the season. It presents an opportunity for the top players to assert themselves. New stars emerge in new roles, players return from injury, and others return more well developed after gaining additional experience. There were a number of talked about players in Charlotte this weekend, but there are only seven on a line, so I was forced to pick the seven that stood out the most. But I’ll show some love to those who didn’t make the list, too.

Without further ado, your first 7 Stars Line presented by Full Field Hammer (obviously, since it is here (man, this is turning into more ado than expected))

Anna Reed (Carleton) is probably the first name you’ll hear about from folks talking about this weekend, and that’s with good reason. She was one of two players that approached the term “unstoppable”. On Saturday – along with partner in crime, Julia Snyder – she showed a vicious arsenal of break throws, particularly an IO flick that works well with Carleton’s vertical stack. On Sunday, her giant hucks consistently got over the top of defenses, even if they knew they were coming. On defense, she put pressure on her girl and generated Ds that she could immediately pick up to get her offense moving. Watch out for this one.

Shellie Cohen (UNC) is the second player referred to in that “approached the term ‘unstoppable'” sentence you read earlier. The book is pretty similar to Reed’s, despite the fact that Shellie is tall and long while Reed is small in stature. Cohen has big throws and the Pleaides deep game was a weapon all weekend. She has the size to catch bad dump throws, forced by being matched up by the opponent’s best defender and it also helps her get off hucks against good marks. The Pleaides captain also showed off some touch with over the top throws against zones employed to slow down her huck game. I also should note that she is a leader. Rarely did 10 minutes go by when I didn’t hear her leading UNC in their signature “Raise Up” sideline cheer. I specifically remember her going through the high five line with her team, jumping up and down and smiling as she excitedly gave respect to her teammates. The video below shows her using her break throws to create scoring opportunities.

Shellie Cohen Highlights

Chelsea Twohig (Iowa) is a fairly well-known name already, making her name in both the college and club scenes. Her performance this weekend was the most complete of any player I saw. Despite showing her athleticism when on defense with nice layout Ds against some of the top players at the tournament, she could flip the switch to offense with a nice variety of hucks and breaks. Chelsea was just as happy to take the swing or the short gainer, though. She appears capable of filling any role on the field. Her playmaking ability – especially on defense – is the kind of thing you want to be there to see. In the video below, she shows off a break throw for a score against Ohio State.

Chelsea Twohig & Liza Minor Highlight

Rebecca Miller (Iowa State) surprised me a bit. I knew of her coming in, but didn’t expect her to stand out the way she did with studs like Magon Liu and Cami Nelson next to her. I was a fool! Miller asserted herself as a defensive dynamo. She isn’t super fast and isn’t big, but can match up with bigger offenders because she can be physical and reacts very quickly. That translates to her cutting after the turn, exposing defenders as soon as she spots a weakness. It fits perfectly into Iowa State’s transition offense. As a trio, she, Liu, and Nelson will be a serious handful for any defense that lines up across them.

Liza Minor (Iowa) is someone I’m thankful to have seen, because I didn’t know about her before. With as much playmaking as Twohig was doing, Minor managed to stand out anyway. Often she was on the receiving end of Twohig’s initiating throws (see video above, where she also gets the D), creating the separation necessary to continue to move the disc right away. That sort of player is invaluable to an offense. When there was a set mark, she wasn’t afraid to leave it in the dust with some nice break throws. She was a big part of Iowa’s run and has a very impressive skillset.

Alika Johnston (Virginia) is a young playmaker coming off a year of elite Club experience with Scandal and who fits in perfectly with her squad. Virginia’s 3-1 Saturday can be heavily attributed to the play of Johnston, who has the speed to get all over the field and get Ds in the under and deep lanes, including help and poach Ds. Virginia, in my mind, thrives on playing hard D and beating you after the turn before you can set, and Johnston is the engine that powers that gameplan. Without Johnston, I’m not sure Virginia wins a game. With her, they finish second in the pool.

Sunny Harris (Central Florida) can be fun to watch or a huge annoyance. She probably wants it that way. That’s because she plays aggressive, in-your-face Ultimate that is just as loud as she is. [Incoming pun warning] Sunny is the right name, because she is the source of fire at the center of this UCF team that breathes life into them. Harris was dropping in transition hucks, making hard upline cuts, and coming back to the disc. On defense, she was happy to grind against top players or patrol the deep position in the UCF zone, where she can command her troops.

Honorable Mentions

Lisa Couper (UNC) very nearly makes this list. She was a dangerous downfield weapon, but just as comfortable behind the disc.

Nina Finley (Ohio St.) had to step into a big role for Fever this weekend, with no Cassie Swafford and limited Paige Soper. Dynamic player, still so young.

Meeri Chang (Michigan) was one of my favorite players to watch this weekend. All quicks and lefty breaks.

Magi Neliu (Iowa State) How am I supposed to pick one of these two? Nelson was everywhere, especially on D, and Liu’s “get open under and then gain 30 yards to the break side” strategy is – shockingly – effective.

Julia Snyder (Carleton) only played one day, but it was a hell of a day.

Claire Chastain (UNC-W) is a player I wish I watched more. You never knew what throw she might make with the disc as she scanned the field, but she also had some huge layouts. You could just tell she’s a boss.

Plenty of players I didn’t get to see enough of to say, so feel free to shout them out in the comments or on twitter. Just to note on Wisconsin and Tufts, who didn’t get any players here, they had a pretty solid top 4 or 5 girls, so one player didn’t distinguish themselves. This gives a picture of some of the East Coast and Midwest stars to watch out for this year. Never to early to start campaigning for Callahan and All-Region…