Women’s Centex 2013: Preview

The logo of Centex 2013This year’s event marks the 10th anniversary of the women’s division of College Centex and the 5th anniversary of University of Texas Melee and Without Limits partnering to host a separate women’s event. In true Centex fashion, this tournament will be one of the most exciting competitions of the year. This year’s field boasts of 19 of the USA Ultimate top 25 teams and 18 of the Ultiworld Top 25. 14 of the teams attending participated in the 2012 USA Ultimate College Championships.

Numbers like that plus the beautiful backdrop of Austin, TX (and spring break for a number of teams) are what have made Centex consistently one of the most exciting and competitive tournaments of the regular season. Over the past five years, the organizers have worked hard to recruit the best teams in the country and provide the most complete experience at the event to keep teams coming back.

The current “era” of Centex began in Spring 2008 when a group of about 30 prominent college women’s ultimate leaders, including Melee leadership, met in the parking lot of the IM Fields to discuss the future of the college women’s division. Callahan winners, All-Region players, and passionate captains and players from all of the top teams were present and engaged in the discussion. It was an awakening of sorts – players realized that they had the power to make the changes they wanted to see. A vision was born.

The following fall, former Melee captain (and Without Limits founder) Michelle Ng skyped with a few Melee players to discuss the logistics of running Centex as a team project. The outcome of that discussion brought about the unofficial creation of Without Limits and the new vision for Centex. The purpose of both would be to foster the growth of women’s Ultimate by running a high-level event showcasing the best of the division as well as committing to providing opportunities for up-and-coming teams (particularly in the then South Region). To achieve this, the tournament field would have to expand from a 16 team field to a 32 team field in 2009 and it would eventually grow to 52 teams in 2010 before being scaled back to a more manageable 44 teams this year.

In the early years, teams including Michigan, Wisconsin, Cal (Michelle’s undergraduate team), Stanford, North Carolina, UC Santa Barbara, Carleton, Washington University, and Colorado pledged their support to the tournament. The support from all of these teams was a direct result Michelle “Big Tool” Ng’s toolishness. (Toolishness as in the ability to network and make sincere connections with everyone she comes in contact with).

The other huge result of Michelle’s involvement with Centex and college Ultimate on the whole is an increased sense of community between teams. While there is growing parity between teams, there is not growing hostility. A big reason for that is Michelle’s dedication: it demands a level of respect between teams that eventually grow into friendship. That sense of community has been the cornerstone of Women’s College Centex.

Providing opportunities for teams on the cusp of a breakout year has been another cornerstone of the event. Every fall, the Centex planning team contacts their network of friends to find out who the next big story is going to be. Centex has served as an important playing opportunity for up-and-coming teams to test their mettle against some of the best teams in the country.

The tiered playing opportunity with opportunities to move up or down based on Saturday’s results is a headache for the organizers, but an incredibly important element of the event. Expanding the tournament to include a D-III has also allowed Texas to help foster growth in their conference and region, something that the Texas leadership has been committed to for the past six years.

The Pressure Is On

As noted earlier, this year’s field includes 14 teams that attended College Nationals in 2012. This is also the second to last week of the regular season making this most region’s last shot at securing strength bids. The current bid allocation is pretty uneven with 1 bid going to the Atlantic Coast, Great Lakes, Metro East, Northeast, Ohio Valley, and South Central, 2 going to the Southwest, 3 to the South East, 4 to the North Central, and a whopping 5 to the Northwest. That means that teams like Texas, UNC, Pitt, Iowa State, Cal, UNCW, Michigan (and plenty of other teams) will be aiming to beat some higher ranked teams in hopes of securing an extra bid for their region.

As the ranking stands, bid allocations are not favorable to many teams who have appeared at the College Championships in the recent past. Teams like Michigan, UNCW, and Pitt (ranked 29, 30, and 33 respectively) all hold out hopes that they will secure a second bid for their region. Teams ranked in the top 10 are quite confident in their strength bids. But one must not forget that just this past week, rankings came out and 20 of the top 40 teams jumped at least 10 spots. Wisconsin, with their strong finish at Stanford moved up 18, while historically strong teams like Cal and Texas took big hits, each dropping 12.

The pressure is on and these teams know it. It’s time to see who rises to the occasion. Can the star players on teams relatively new to the national scene maintain composure? Will injured players come back in time to secure a rightful strength bid or have to wait until regionals when they steal it from another deserving team? There is only one thing I’m absolutely sure of coming into this weekend: no one is safe. There should be some high pressure games happening both in the championship bracket as well as in consolation play, with bids to Madison on the line.

  1. Janel Venzant
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    Janel Venzant is a coach and former player of University of Texas Melee, the women's team at UT Austin.

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