February 15, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood and Wes Cronk in Preview with 5 comments
The first tournament of the year that tests elite college teams, Warm Up is more than a chance to shake off the early season cobwebs. The Tampa tournament is a bellwether; the winner in the past three years has gone on to win the National Championship.
This year, the country’s top four teams — and eight of the top 25 — face off with an opportunity to test their strength against the best. Here’s a look at each of the teams heading into the weekend.
Pittsburgh (#1): The road to the repeat for the 2012 National Champions En Sabah Nur starts this weekend in Tampa. For the first time, Pitt can enter the season expecting everyone’s best game, as the top contenders look to knock off the champs. Luckily for Pitt, they will be up to the challenge, as they return their top playmakers, Alex Thorne and Tyler Degirolamo. With many of their other top players getting elite club experience playing with Oakland, their depth is as much of a weapon as their top end talent.
Georgia Tech (#21): Georgia Tech had a decent showing at their first tournament of the year, the ACC Ultimate Championships, with a 15-9 finals loss to North Carolina (#8). But this will be their first big test after losing 2012 Callahan winner Nick Lance, who led the Tribe to a 12th place finish at the College Championships. Jay Clark, a 2012 1st team All Region player, will have to rise to the occasion if Georgia Tech is to make another deep run this year. Watch for Nick Hunter and Tyler Plunkett to make big plays this weekend as well.
Dartmouth (#17): Dartmouth Pain Train has been knocking on the door to Nationals for the past two years, losing to Tufts (#18) in the game-to-go both seasons. Adding coach Brook Martin (formerly of Oregon and Seattle Sockeye) in the 2011 season has been a big step forward for the program. Many are looking at this year as their chance to break through. Dartmouth has already beaten Georgia Tech this season, with a November win against the Tribe (16-15) at CCC. Don’t be surprised to see the upset here either. Watch for Ian Engler and Spencer Diamond to make big plays all weekend.
South Florida: With a wider field this year, South Florida, playing on their home campus, will look to avoid getting shut out again at Warm Up. The last seed in the tournament, a win would be an achievement.
Wisconsin (#3): Coming off of two straight finals losses at the College Championships, Wisconsin will look to get its season rolling with a big tournament win at Warm Up. With NexGen alum Colin Camp returning to lead the team in his senior year, the Hodags will look to add to their impressive trophy shelf. Wisconsin has must-watch games under the lights on Friday and Saturday night against Pittsburgh and Carleton, respectively. Look for Brian Hart to make big contributions all weekend.
Florida: For most of the last decade, Florida has relied on some of the biggest names in ultimate to carry the team to Nationals appearances — and two wins. (Just check out the 2012 Club Champions Doublewide roster for a list of who’s who.) But this team no longer has that top end talent, and looks a lot different than years ago. After losing Travis Catron, Florida will need big seasons from Alan Baird and captain Jason Silverman to break out of the tough Southeast region. Look for 2012 Freshman of the Year Bobby Ley to make contributions as well.
Cornell: Say what you want about Cornell — they keep making it to Nationals every year out of the weak Metro East. All the hype around other teams breaking through never materializes in wins late on Sunday. 1st team All Region player Nick Thompson should lead the Buds to any success this weekend. They will have a big early test against Florida.
Dayton: Dayton Ghetto Force will look to get some valuable experience in Tampa this weekend. They will face a big uphill battle to get any wins in pool play, but should have winnable games on Sunday in lower bracket play. Captain Mark Fedorenko should make some big plays, but he’ll be hard-pressed to push them past the deep teams at Warm Up.
Carleton (#2): One of the most consistently competitive teams in college ultimate history, Carleton Cut will look to get back to the top this year after a 14-12 semifinals loss to eventual champions PIttsburgh at last year’s College Championships. They have only missed Nationals once (2006) since 1990 and still hold the record for most consecutive appearances (16). This year, Carleton returns three out of four of their All-Region players, including standouts Simon Montague and Julian Childs-Walker. Their rematch against Pitt on Friday should be a classic.
Georgia: Last weekend at the Queen City Tune Up, Georgia had a decent showing, with their only losses coming to top 25 teams (North Carolina, Ohio, and Tufts). They took a strong Ohio team to universe point in the quarterfinals. But they were plagued by turnovers. They will be hoping the warm up before Warm Up brushed off some of the early season rust before they face a stronger set of teams this weekend. They will be looking to notch a big upset over Carleton like they did last year in pool play.
Maryland: Maryland graduated a lot of their top talent, including Freddy Tsai, the first-team All Region standout. Two weeks ago at ACCUC, Maryland went 3-5; two of the losses came against Georgia Tech. A team in a rebuilding year, this tournament should offer some valuable experience, but they are likely to lose this pool.
Florida State (#11): This is a bizarre seeding for a team that has just one loss on the season — to Arizona (#10) in the finals of the Santa Barbara Invite. DUF went undefeated in the fall, with wins over Dartmouth (twice) and Central Florida (#4). Even given all the usual caveats about the fall, this is a strong team that is likely to come out second in this pool. Watch for Chris LaRocque and Ben Stringer to run the show on offense.
Texas (#6): Here’s the first thing to know about Texas: they are returning 6’3″ NexGen star Will Driscoll. He will lead a tall, athletic team (15 of 18 of their players listed on Score Reporter are 5’11” or taller) into the 2013 season. Mitchell Bennett should also make an impact for TUFF this weekend. To crack the top five in the rankings, they’ll have to get through at least one of either UCF, Carleton, or Wisconsin in pool play.
Central Florida (#4): Coming off of a fifth place finish at Nationals, UCF won’t look too far ahead, as they will focus on avenging their finals loss to Pittsburgh last year at Warm Up. Mischa Freystaetter and Mike Ogren — both 2012 first team All Region players — will lead this team in a pool where, despite being seeded second, they are the favorite. UCF has the benefit of an easy day on Friday, before they gear up for Texas and Pitt on Saturday.
Massachusetts: It will be a challenge for Massachusetts to get far against two top 10 teams in their pool, but they will need big game experience to get far in a tough New England region. Watch for Ben Katz to make some big plays.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee: After a rough QCTU performance last weekend, going 0-6, Wisconsin-Milwaukee will now face an even tougher crop of teams at Warm Up. Captain Kevin Brown is the leader of this young team that is looking to build towards the future.
The top five seeds (Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Carleton, Texas, and Central Florida) advance without much of a problem. It will be a tossup between Florida State and Georgia Tech for the sixth spot in the championship bracket.
Texas beats Florida State and Central Florida beats Carleton in Quarters.
Pittsburgh and Wisconsin make the finals. Pitt defends their Warm up title.