Presidents Day Invite 2013: Open Preview

Colorado and Minnesota come to San Diego to challenge the top Southwest teams at the 2013 President's Day Invite. With the Santa Barbara Invite in the rearview, Prez Day marks the transition from preseason into midseason from teams across the West.

UC Davis takes on Cal at the 2012 Southwest Regionals.
Photo courtesy of Kyle McBard for Ultiphotos.

Three weeks ago, the Santa Barbara Invite kicked the season off for most of the Southwest teams. This weekend, UC San Diego is hosting the President’s Day Invite, an opportunity for teams to build on what they accomplished last month or to turn their early season around. Minnesota and Colorado add a bit more national prominence to the three-day tournament, and the long awaited arrival of Las Positas College to the SW regional landscape makes Pres Day 2013 prominent in the transition from warm-up to mid-season.

With just over half of the teams from the Southwest Region, there will be ample opportunity for inter-regional competition. Additionally, other than Stanford, who is spending the weekend in Hawai’i for the Kaimana Klassik, and Arizona State, who went to Queen City Tune-Up last weekend, all of the big players in the Southwest will be in San Diego.

The top three finishers in each pool will be reseeded into new pools for day two. The top two finishers of these reseeded pools will qualify for the championship bracket on Monday.

Pool A (Minnesota, British Columbia, California, Las Positas, UCLA)

Last year after escaping the North Central Regionals with a fourth-place finish and a bid to Nationals, Minnesota showed up in Boulder, losing in quarters, but only dropping two games along the way (Oregon in the first game, and eventual champions Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals). Grey Duck is experiencing some roster turnover this season, with nine players leaving from last year’s squad, but is anchored by Sub Zero players Greg Arenson and Jason Tschida, both who captain Minnesota with David Eddy. This fall, Minnesota showed their handler strength at Missouri Loves Company, fighting through the wind and easily winning six straight games as the weather turned ridiculous, before losing to Colorado in the Quarterfinals.

UBC and California will be looking for better results than they had at Santa Barbara. The T-Birds dropped two games in their pool, leaving them out of the bracket on Sunday. They didn’t fare as badly as UGMO though, who went 0-5 on the weekend, with two loses to arch rival Stanford. While UBC seemed to be playing with a short squad, it’s plain to see that Cal is dealing with a large roster overhaul. UGMO will be helped by the return of senior handler Bryan Pine, and junior handler Andy Smith, who were missing from their last tournament.

One of the biggest southwest question marks coming into the weekend is Las Positas. Relegated to qualifier tournaments up to this point, LPC has gone undefeated through 13 games. They have a veteran heavy team that does not make many mistakes. The team’s core is comprised of Club mixed players Simon Higgins (Polar Bears), Kevin Cocks (Polar Bears), and Sonny Zaccaro (Mischief). Last year they knocked off San Diego State and Arizona in the backdoor bracket at SW regionals before losing to UCSB 13-15.

UCLA is a very young team, and without a tournament to ramp up before Pres Day, it is hard to expect anything good or bad from Smaug this weekend.

Pool B (Colorado, Vermont, California-San Diego, Cincinnati, California-Santa Cruz)

Colorado Mamabird starts its annual journey to Nationals this weekend. When talking about Colorado, it is easy to assign their success to their star player Jimmy Mickle (Johnny Bravo and NexGen). Mickle will get his share of touches in Mamabird’s system, but the real reason for Colorado’s prolonged success is their talent down the roster. Their coach Brent Zionic explained it best, they’re “just a bunch of droids trained to do their job.” Possibly the deepest and most storied program in the country, Mamabird impresses with their dominance at every position.

Vermont made the Quarters last year at Pres Day and made the Semis of New England Regionals. They will have to adjust though after losing two 2nd-team All-Region players in Jake Saunders and Ryan Rzepka. 1st-team All-Region Sam Hart is still there and should be patrolling the skies for Team Chill.

The host team, the Air Squids of UCSD, fell on the wrong side of a couple of games last month, losing by two to ASU and by one to Washington. The Air Squids have a strong and historic program that is never lacking in quality players, but the past few years they have not been able to challenge for a top spot in the region.

University of Cincinnati Cinister played last weekend at Queen City Tune-Up and had a somewhat disappointing weekend losing some winnable games. Nate Botti, Kieran Kelly, and Scott Schriner all played club with Madcow this summer and have Cinister poised to improve on their semifinals appearance in the Ohio Valley Region. Something to keep in mind over the weekend is the effect of playing back to back weekends and having to travel thousands of miles in such a short span. Not to mention a third day of play on Monday.

UC Santa Cruz, another team that had to wait an extra three weeks to cleat-up, will be looking to rebound from a disappointing season, where they did not attend Regionals. They only came away with one victory last year at President’s Day, beating Duke 14-11 in the 17-20 place bracket.

Pool C (Arizona, Washington, Cal Poly-SLO, San Diego State, Virginia Tech)

Arizona comes to San Diego looking to add to their hardware from their win at Santa Barbara. They will square off against Washington, a team that they meet in the Quarterfinals last month. Arizona put the pedal down late, beating the Sundodgers 12 -7. Sunburn relies on depth to pressure opponents on defense, and sure handlers on offense to move the disc. Arizona has shown their strength in playing through the wind, using a zone that usually frustrates opponents into giving up the disc. Sunburn is looking to forget about their last year struggles at Pres Day when they fell to Washington in the first pool play game 13-12 and could not recover, losing five straight.

Washington is a dangerous 2-seed who could easily right the ship after a forgettable first tournament. Duncan Linn (Sockeye) missed the second day at SB due to injury, severely hurting their offensive movement. The Sundodgers were still able to make plays especially through Ian Hash, but they were unable to take advantage of turnovers enough. Last year they had an outstanding showing at this tournament, dropping Colorado on their way to a finals appearance. They are a well-coached team and if they are able to field their entire roster, they could challenge again this year.

Cal Poly-SLO and San Diego State both had promising years last year, but they fizzled out at Regionals. SLO Core is in a major rebuilding phase after losing the top of their team last year, but SDSU does not look to be in as bad a shape. With a very strong rookie class coming in, the Federalis have a chance to make some noise. Dom Leggio is always a player to watch out for and should be touching the disc a lot. And look out for Alec Benton on the other side of the disc.

Virginia Tech seems criminally underrated coming into this tournament. They attended ACCUC and cruised through the lesser competition, only losing to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, both in close games. VT Burn will be matching up against a lot of new teams this weekend and will be looking to make an impression.

Pool D (California-Santa Barbara, California-Davis, Colorado College, Brown, Cal State-Long Beach)

Black Tide made it to the semifinals of the SB Invite, but only did so on to wins over Washington and UC Davis. They finished 4th, going 2-4 over the weekend. They did show that they are a gritty team keeping all of their losses close. They play a physical style of defense and rely on their playmakers to score on offense. Collin Gall, captain of Black Tide, thought their offense was too stagnant at times at SB Invite, leading to ill-advised decisions. They might get playmakers Adam Bolenbaugh (captain) and Curtis Worden back at full strength for Pres Day, which would go a long way to remedy this problem.

UC Davis has shown that they are not quite at the level they were last season. They fell down 12-7 to Arizona State, before mounting an absurd comeback to win 14-12 to open the SB Invite, but then fell completely flat against Arizona, losing 13-5. With that being said, Eli Kerns is a boss, and he was making outstanding plays all weekend. The Davis Dogs might take some more lumps throughout the season, but don’t expect them to fall away.

Colorado College Wasabi is also coming into Pres Day having lost the opportunity to play in their first scheduled tournament. They were scheduled to play at New Year’s Fest in Phoenix, AZ before the whole tournament was rained out. Wasabi is returning nearly their whole team that finished 7th in South Central regionals, with hopes of repeating their success two years ago when they made Nationals. Conor Crowley will be driving the offense with his impressive throws, while Dan Eppstein will dominate on the Wasabi D-line.

Last year Brownian Motion brought a young squad with eight freshman to San Diego and had a decent showing, going 3-4 with some close loses to UCSD and SDSU. This year, led by that huge sophomore class and a focus on conditioning through the fall semester, Brown is looking to take the next step.

The Stalkers of Long Beach earned a bid to Pres Day as the second place finisher at the Qualifier, behind LPC. To start the season at the SB Qualifier they faced off against LPC and lost 13-5, but a few weeks later had a much closer game falling 13-11.

Predictions

1 Seeds Advance Unscathed

Chalk. I know… kinda weak. But I believe these teams are strong enough that they should win their pools. Pools A and B are locks in my mind. Pool C is very deep and if Virginia Tech travels well, they could do damage. UCSB is not invincible, but I still see them coming out on top.

Pool C and D Are Toss Ups

This would be the reason I chose to take the one seeds to win the pools. Arizona will not finish in the bottom two and I don’t think Long Beach will advance to the re-seeded pools, but aside from that I could see these pools finishing in any other variant.

Las Positas and Virginia Tech Break Seed Substantially

Both of these teams will make it into a power pool on day two. LPC could knock out California and/or UBC from the top three. Virginia Tech is not as much of a certainty, but they should not be a 5th seed. Especially with many teams who have not proven their strength to this point.

  1. Seth Stephens
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    Seth Stephens is a reporter for Ultiworld. He is a fifth-year player and previous captain of the University of Arizona's Open team, Sunburn. He started playing ultimate in high school in Cave Creek, AZ. He lives in Tucson. Reach him by email (sethbstephens@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@ulti_joke).

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