Chicago Invite 2013: Open Preview

The logo of the Chicago Invite 2013.Well, it’s official – now that the first day of spring has come and past, that means warmer temperatures could be close, or so we hope. Unfortunately, after two major events were cancelled due to extreme weather, much of the Midwest talent has been left scrambling for sanctioned play – consequently creating some extra attention to Huck Finn this year. The same could also be said for the Chicago Invite, and as the Open Division gets ready to compete, this year’s tournament has attracted ranked teams from around the nation that, conditions aside, are still eager to play.

However, a bit of a change had to be made this year, and while past competitors and hosts alike have been used to the Naperville Polo fields, because of permitting complications the tournament venue will now be held at Dave Ryan Woods – Tournament Directors, Luke and Kelly Johnson, released a short video a couple of weeks ago on Twitter explaining the change.

Here’s a break-down of a few teams that are poised to make some noise.

Carnegie-Mellon – Mr. Yuk (USAU #31)

Mr. Yuk hit the ground running this season, and after some early victories at Hellfish Bonanza (6-1) and Tally Classic VIII (6-1), they’ve been climbing the USAU D-I ladder – although, not without some struggle. Saturday at Hellfish proved to be a very long day even while coming out 4-0, enduring through three back-to-back-to-back games to universe – in fact, every game in their pool came down to a double game point.

“We’re happy that we went 4-0, but we’re not happy that it had to go to universe 3 times,” Captain Nipunn Koorapati told Ultiworld. “Things were a lot closer than they should have been. It’s definitely not desirable to play so many close games on Saturday.”

But, with two outdoor tournaments already in the books – two more than most teams attending this year’s Chicago Invite – they’ve had a lot of practice playing outside, and you can expect them to come into this year’s Chicago Invite with a similar pace.

“We’re tired of 6-1 finishes,” said Koorapati. “We want to see that 6-0 record at Chicago this year.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 9th

Northern Iowa – AmmUNItion (UW #25, USAU #11)

Ammo has been making a lot of noise in the North Central region this season, and with all their recent success at Huck Finn (7-1), they even cracked into the Ultiworld Top 25 last week.

Despite the brutal conditions at Huck Finn this year – ankle-high cake of mud and heavy rain – Ammo came out with some big wins on the weekend, only losing to Kansas in the semifinals.

“They broke us first but we came back and took half 8-6. At this point the temperature was dropping pretty quickly and the wet and the mud was not helping to keep us warm,” Junior Captain, Robbie Dennis, told Ultiworld. “We tried to stay warm through half doing our warm ups again, but it was really no help. Came out of half cold and our offense looked like it. They scored three straight points to win the game 9-8 on a universe (Bummer).”

Coming off their success at Huck Finn, you can expect Ammo will want to continue that momentum throughout their stay in Chicago.

“We really want to show the nation that we are no fluke,” Dennis said. “A Chicago victory would do that.”

Dennis also told Ultiworld one thing Ammo is continuingly striving to improve is the philosophy they’ve adopted from Tim Morrill, UNI Alumni, called “dudebroship.”

“One of the hardest things for a college ultimate team without a coach to achieve is unity, so we really push the whole team mentality,” Dennis said. “Dudebroship is just our way of saying that.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 10th

Iowa State – ISUC (USAU #53)

Iowa State is nother North Central regionals-level team that you can expect to make some noise in Chicago. Despite Huck Finn being their first tournament of the season, they came out 5-2 on the weekend – however suffering from a huge 3-15 loss in the semifinals to UNI (who they beat 10-6 earlier this season at the Iowa Indoor tournament). Nevertheless, they’ll be eyeing this tournament as the final prep-work before the very competitive North Central Conference Championships begin in mid-April – looking to prove their wins over Luther, Iowa and UNI weren’t just luck.

Chicago Invite 2012 results: Didn’t compete.

Iowa – IHUC (USAU #80)

Despite being a consistent regionals-level team in the North Central region, this season has proved to be rocky for Iowa to say the least, as they’ve had to work through the weather at Huck Finn and deal with some disappointing losses at Centex. The Chicago Invite, if the their newly-rescheduled April 6-7 Old Capitol Open falls through, will be their last chance to see some serious improvement before the Conference Championships.

However, it’s hard to forget Iowa’s commanding performance during last year’s Chicago Invite – completing the weekend with a perfect 6-0 record, never allowing any team to score more than 8 points.

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 1st

St. John’s University – Bad Ass Monks (UW #6 – DIII, USAU #21 – DIII)

Similarly, much of Iowa’s story could also be said for BAM – this Nationals-level team has been a consistent North Central region powerhouse ever since 2006 – and with an uncharacteristic finish at Huck Finn (21st), the Chicago Invite will be a crucial time for their younger, inexperienced players before the competitive North Central Conference Championships, said Charlie Enders, St. John’s junior.

“Many of our new players this spring didn’t play in the fall, and have a lot to learn before the series,” said Enders. “While we didn’t have success at Huck Finn looking at wins and losses, I think it was successful for the new guys.”

“We’ve been trying to improve our bottom line (as previously mentioned), as well as our conditioning,” he added. “We’ve been throwing a lot as well, but throwing indoors can only help so much, especially in the windy Midwest. We’re excited to get back outside.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 8th

Eastern Michigan – Fighting Hellfish (UW #24, USAU # 71)

The Fighting Hellfish started off the season red-hot after winning the 2013 Cat Fight tournament – delivering a 12-8 defeat to Kenyon in the finals – but fizzled at Centex, which could be attributed to the small roster of only 13 that weekend.

Unfortunately, game one at Centex against Wisconsin-Milwaukee proved to be a difficult one, indeed – having to deal with the close 8-10 loss, Captain James Highsmith suffered a concussion on the second point, and told Ultiworld he will not be playing in the Chicago Invite this year. Still, even without Highsmith, Eastern Michigan should be a team you can expect to see as a top contender this year at Chicago.

Highsmith also commented on how the rough weather that’s been plaguing the Midwest this season has been severely hurting the region.

“People look at the performances of some of the Midwestern teams, but what they’re failing to realize is that our first tournaments are usually the first time we’ve been outside all season, “ Highsmith said. “There are teams like Wisconsin that thrived in their first outdoor tournament, but then there is a team like [Michigan] MagnUM that didn’t do well in their first outdoor tournament, but performed much, much better at Easterns Qualifier. We don’t get to work against zone very much indoors and so that too is always a bit of a surprise when it initially happens at outdoor tournaments.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 6th

Oregon State – Beavers (USAU #47)

Looking to mix it up a bit, Oregon State is turning to Chicago an as opportunity to eagerly play against teams they’ve never seen before. Already having played in two outdoor tournaments, they also have more experience than most.

Their season so far hasn’t been anything spectacular, but at Colluvium this year they managed to take Oregon to universe, something most teams can’t say.

“I don’t think they took us too seriously until we hung with them the whole game,” said Drew Larson, Oregon State’s President. “We are a more experienced team this year and we were out to prove it from day one.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: Didn’t compete.

Truman State – JujiTSU (UW #18 – DIII, USAU #10 – DIII)

A South Central region team that’s also had some large success so far in their season, and because of it they’ve been climbing the USAU D-III rankings. Finishing 5th at this year’s Midwest Throwdown (6-1), JujiTSU enters the Chicago Invite as no strangers to playing in rough weather.

“In regards to the weather, we know what we can and can’t do in certain conditions,” said Thomas Crockett, Truman State junior. “We know that all we have to do is play simple ultimate.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 14th

Xavier – B.L.O.B. (USAU #6 – DIII)

Xavier has started off this season with some success at the T-Town Throwdown (5-3) and Huck Finn (4- 3), as well as getting some vital outdoor experience. They enter the Chicago Invite planning to come out in the top 16 hoping to get matched up against other D-III teams as they prepare for Conference Championships, said senior John Cassidy.

“Last year at conferences we played with 30 mph winds, so if the weather ends up being bad like usual, we will just use this as a chance to prepare us for what conferences may (probably) be like,” he said. “Doing well here would be huge for us not only for the momentum we would gain but also a possible strength bid for our region.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 40th

Missouri – MUtants (USAU #24)

With an 8-1 finish at Huck Finn, Missouri is fresh off a tournament victory after a dominating performance against bordering rivals Kansas in the finals. Mizzou should be a team you can expect will be very comfortable with any weather and as top contenders looking to continue their momentum throughout Chicago.

Chicago Invite 2012 results: Didn’t compete.

North Park – Lost Boys (UW #14 – DIII, USAU #19 – DIII)

A hometown favorite, the North Park Ultimate Program has been involved in the Chicago Invite’s inner-workings since its birth back in 2008 – in fact, winning the very first one over Western Michigan 13-5. Word spread quickly around the region, and in two short years the number of teams interested quintupled – with 122 teams attending in 2010, the Chicago Invite earned the title of the single largest event in the world. And since then, it’s been continuing to draw more attention from around North America.

Coming into the Chicago Invite with some success at the Midwest Throwdown (5-2), North Park has had a good start to their season – and another team you can expect will play at the top level even amid rough weather.

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 18th

Michigan State – Burning Couch (USAU #82)

Michigan State has been busy this season, already competing in two well-known sanctioned tournaments – Queen City Tune Up and Easterns Qualifier – and while they haven’t had the greatest success in terms of wins and losses, what Burning Coach has done, however, is provided top teams like Tufts and UNC-Wilmington with some very close games, despite going down early in each.

“Success isn’t necessarily winning the tournament or going to the finals, although that has been the story of the past two years,” said Zach Barnhart, MSU captain. “But it is more achieving the goals set out for our team for the weekend, and playing to the best of our abilities at that given time.”

Chicago Invite 2012 results: 2nd

***

With so many top Midwest teams competing, the Chicago Invite’s lineup looks better than ever. With bids on the line and (fingers crossed) good weather to hold up, this will be the most meaningful play in the Midwest this season.

  1. Nicholas Bravos
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    Nicholas Bravos is a reporter for Ultiworld. He recently graduated from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism, and has years of experience as a sports writer and editor. He was also the captain of St. Mary's ultimate team.

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