March 29, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 4 comments
The New England Open is more competitive this year than ever before pitting all of the top Northeast and Metro East contenders against each other. Harvard, the one seed, is the heavy favorite to win this year but Tufts and Dartmouth are right on their heels. Could a Metro East team step up and make a big run this weekend? Here’s a look at this weekend’s storylines.
Harvard (UW #10, USAU #12): Despite preseason hype focused on Dartmouth, Harvard has proven to be the team to beat in the Northeast this season. They opened the season at Queen City Tune-Up with a semi-finals loss to strong North Carolina (#5) team, beating cross town rival Tufts (#12) along the way. Harvard has beaten Tufts each time they’ve seen them this year, dating back to the fall. Led by Mischa Herscu, Harvard continued their success at Centex with quality wins over Arizona (#11), Texas A&M (#20), and Georgia Tech (#23) before losing in the finals to Texas. They’ll be looking ahead to Sunday when they’ll have to get past an out of region challenger (likely Penn State or Michigan) before facing a top New England team in what could be a Regional finals preview.
SUNY-Buffalo (USAU #54): This is a big weekend for SUNY Buffalo who is looking to put themselves in the driver’s seat for a possible one seed at Metro East Regionals. They beat Connecticut in pool play at Easterns Qualifier, but they’ll have a bigger test against reigning Metro East champion Cornell, who they’ll during pool play. They may very well get another Metro East contender in prequarters.
Cornell (USAU #65): Cornell has had a lackluster season, going 1-8 at Warm Up and losing in the semi-finals at Woodside Invite to Massachusetts, but they weren’t dominant during the regular season last season either; they still took the Metro East title. This is a team that’s used to playing with a target on its back, but this year more than ever other times think Cornell is vulnerable. They can silence the critics with a win over Buffalo in pool play and a strong weekend.
Wesleyan (USAU Unranked): Wesleyan takes the field for the first time this weekend in South Hamilton. They’ll look to their captains John Baeril and Joseph Schindler to the lead them in quality games this weekend.
New Hampshire (USAU #152): Though they had a disappointing result in terms of wins and losses at UNH Spring Open, New Hampshire opened its spring season with close games against Bentley, Middlebury, and BU, including a universe point win against Brandeis. They followed that up with a 6-1 showing at Awaken, and should be looking to break seed this weekend.
Tufts (UW #12, USAU #13): After an excellent performance at Stanford Invite Tufts jumped into the top 5 of the Ultiworld rankings and their captain Robbie Perkins-High said that they were in the hunt for a national championship. But they didn’t look like the same team at Easterns, going 1-4 including a Sunday morning loss to regional rival Dartmouth. The fact remains that Tufts has to get through the region before they can talk about nationals; they have head to head losses against both Harvard and Dartmouth this spring, and given their seed they’ll need to beat both to come out on top this weekend.
Bentley (UW #5-DIII, USAU #1-DIII): Bentley’s off to a fantastic start this season, going 2-0 on tournament wins this spring. They only have one loss on the season, to Northeastern, which they convincingly avenged later in the tournament. They’ve had success against quality DIII teams, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in their game against Vermont. Tough games against DI competition could give them an edge as they prepare for DIII nationals.
Vermont (USAU #72): Vermont hasn’t played in a month and a half, when they took the field in San Diego for the President’s Day Invite. There, they had mixed results, going 4-5 but playing very close against Colorado (UW #7, USAU #10) in a 14-12 loss. This is one of the wildcard New England teams, probably one that the top teams’ coaches will scout this weekend. We expect last year’s 1st team All-Region player Sam Hart, now a senior, to lead this team to success this weekend. Their game against Tufts should be one of the better games on Saturday.
Middlebury (UW #11-DIII): Middlebury doesn’t have a lot of results this season, but they’ve proven to be a top-tier DIII team with a win against Brandeis and a double game point loss to Bentley. Second team All-Region player Davis Whitehead returns for the Pranksters, who will look to avenge their loss to Bentley and get into the top 10 in the DIII rankings. Middlebury is returning to DIII competition this year after finishing 10th at D-I New England Regionals last year.
Yale (USAU Unranked): Yale is headed to their first sanctioned tournament this weekend (they were at High Tide for Spring Break) after getting outside for practice for the first time this season earlier this week. Hard to say much about this team at this point. They took 6th at Regionals last year after losing to Cornell in quarterfinals 10-8. Like most Metro East teams, they likely feel they have a shot at a Nationals bid this year.
Dartmouth (UW #19, USAU #20): Dartmouth got off to a great start at Easterns on Friday night with a 15-11 win over Colorado. But they had a disappointing 0-3 Saturday before getting a win against Tufts on Sunday morning. This will be their chance to live up to the preseason hype, putting the pieces together to get wins against their toughest regional competitors. Ian Engler and Spencer Diamond will lead the way for the Pain Train — will they be able to take down Tufts again in the nice conditions expected this weekend?
Connecticut (USAU #37): UConn has been on the cusp of a great showing all year, and looks like the team with the highest ceiling in the Metro East. Their offensive line — led by PoNY’s Kamil Skwarek — is as tough as any, but their defense has been very suspect. They lost to regional rivals SUNY-Buffalo (a game in which they went down 7-0 before losing 15-12) and Princeton at the Easterns Qualifier. They have been content to ride through the season on their decent athleticism and talent, but haven’t put in the work to get fast and strong. They’ll need to if they actually want to win at Regionals.
Northeastern (USAU #85): Northeastern started their season at Awaken last weekend and made it to semifinals, where they lost to Bentley (who they had beaten earlier in the weekend). They will certainly miss Tim Spittle (2nd team All-Region last year), but they are capable of getting upsets this weekend.
Rutgers (USAU #111): On paper Rutgers is one the Metro East frontrunners this season, with Southpaw rookie Jibran Mieser and a crop of experienced players like Scott Xu and Mike Sender leading the way. However, their season results have been unimpressive so far as they maintain open lines to develop their younger players. They’ll need to start developing O-line cohesion this weekend or they’ll have a hard time come series.
Salem State (USAU #245): Salem State is unlikely to get any wins in this competitive pool. They finished 15th at Awaken and will be looking ahead to Sunday to break seed.
Penn State (USAU #26): Penn State cracked the Ultiworld rankings earlier this season after a strong performance at Queen City Tune Up. But they showed up to Hellfish Bonanza a little too sure of themselves and lost to teams below their level. A program consistently near the top but not at the top, Penn State could still earn another bid for the Ohio Valley region with a big showing this weekend; their game against Michigan will be crucial towards that end. Both teams rely heavily on their athleticism and defensive intensity; it should e a fiery game.
Michigan (UW #22, USAU #31): Michigan is the favorite to win this pool. Despite having a lower USAU ranking than Penn State they’ve played much better since their poor start to the season at QCTU. They actually qualified for Easterns, but declined their spot which fourth place finisher Brown took instead. Matt Orr will have some huge plays and Michigan will look to continue building towards regionals.
San Diego State (USAU #92): San Diego State has shown themselves to be a middle of the pack regionals team in the southwest so far this season. They’ll get a slate of out of region competition here at New England Open, it will be interesting to see how they play in the colder conditions. 2012 first team all region player Dom Leggio is back as a grad student and will lead the team to any success they have this weekend.
Bowdoin (UW #22-DIII, USAU #13-DIII): Bowdoin looks like one of the better DIII teams in the Northeast again this season. They’ll have their work cut out for them against their first tough DI competition this year. They will likely get some shots at DIII rivals on Sunday.
Rhode Island (USAU #260): Rhode Island went 1-5 at the Tally Classic, but should do better against a less talented overall field. They’ll have a winnable game against Bowdoin on Saturday.
Quarters: Harvard, Tufts, Dartmouth, Penn State, Michigan, Connecticut, Vermont, Cornell
Semis: Harvard, Tufts, Dartmouth, Connecticut
Finals: Harvard, Tufts