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!

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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.

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.

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

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.