D-I Regional Preview: Northwest (Open)

Oregon's Aaron Honn at the Stanford Invite.
Photo by Scott Roeder — UltiPhotos.com

When you think about the Northwest Region, you think about Oregon. While it’s pretty clear that Ego will be heading to Madison, a second bid should keep things interesting in Boise.

THE FAVORITES

#2 Oregon

After another spectacular regular season (with just three losses), Oregon again finds themselves with the one seed at Regionals. They shouldn’t struggle to take the Region for the second straight year.

Ego is led by a host of great players, but the center of the team sits with Dylan Freechild, the Team USA U23 Open team member and NexGen standout.

Aaron Honn, Gabe Fruchter, and Camden Allison-Hall are also big-time contributors to the squad.

Despite having so many big names, Oregon has shifted away from relying heavily on big plays from their stars, like they often did last year. Freechild told Ultiworld that it was part of the reason they ended up losing in the semifinals last year.

With a more team-focused approach, Oregon surprised even themselves by winning the Stanford Invite. Then, at Easterns, they lost a first-round Saturday game to a red-hot Minnesota and then got bounced in quarterfinals by Central Florida in an ugly, huck & hope game in high winds and rain.

That’s not a terrible way to lose at a tournament. UCF coach Andrew Roca even admitted after the game that, in perfect conditions, he’s not certain his team could beat Oregon.

Ego is still rightfully known for its high-octane offense — it’s very difficult to break them. At the Stanford Invite, both Wisconsin (quarters) and Tufts (semis) managed just one break against Oregon.

With a relatively weak Northwest this year, Oregon should have little trouble heading straight to Madison, where they are likely to wind up with one of the top seeds.

Key wins: Carleton, Wisconsin, Tufts, Florida

Key losses: Carleton, Minnesota, Central Florida

#19 Whitman

The ever-impressive Whitman, a D-III school competing with the best in the nation, is having an outstanding year and is poised to return to Nationals after missing out last year.

The highlight of their 9-4 regular season was a shock 13-10 upset over #1 ranked Wisconsin at the Stanford Invite. That win alone may have vaulted the Sweets into the USA Ultimate top 20, sealing a second bid for the Northwest.

Nick Cross, Nathan Sany, Ethan Parrish, and, most notably, Jacob Janin are the veteran leaders of this team. All three played on the 2011 team that went to Nationals. Eddie Hill and Russell Arkin have all developed into strong players. They will help the team as they look to accomplish a simple goal: play the best ultimate they can at Regionals.

“If we make it to Nationals, it will be a consequence of that rather than because Nationals is our goal,” the team told Ultiworld.

That said, they are looking to upset Oregon, and think they are entirely capable of doing so. With a win over Wisconsin, why shouldn’t they?

Key wins: Wisconsin, UNC-Wilmington, Victoria, San Diego State

Key losses: Colorado, Texas, Central Florida, Las Positas

THE BUBBLE TEAMS

#22 Washington

The Sundodgers haven’t had an outstanding season, but they are always a team at their best at Regionals.

They haven’t notched any big wins this season, but have been right there with a lot of top teams. They only lost to Oregon at Conferences.

2012 2nd team All Region player Duncan Linn returns as a captain, but the highest profile name on their team may be Khalif El-Salaam, the Seattle youth scene star that is already making noise as a freshman at Washington.

Although Washington had a better regular season last year, there are a lot of similarities to this year: they’re seeded third behind Whitman and they flew under the national radar. But, in the game-to-go, they prevailed over Whitman last year, taking Whitman’s spot at Nationals.

Could they do it again? Considering Whitman’s stars have added a year of experience to their resumes, it will be an uphill climb.

THE DARK HORSES

British Columbia

It would be a stretch for the Thunderbirds to grab a Nationals berth after getting blown out 12-4 by Washington at Conferences. But now that they’ve had a look at the Sundodgers, can they adjust and get themselves into the backdoor game-to-go?

With Furious George captain Marc Seraglia coaching the team this year, they have savvy leadership backing them.

Keane Knapp, a Vancouver Nighthawks and U23 Team Canada player (Open), leads the Thunderbirds on the field and will prove to be a tough matchup for anyone. His U23 teammate Kevin Greer will also make an impact.

Victoria

Despite losing to Oregon, UBC, and Washington at Conferences, you can’t count out Victoria. Their losses came by a combined total of ten points.

They have one of the Region’s premier playmakers in Kevin Underhill, who made it onto Furious George after just his freshman year at Victoria. Now a captain and senior at the university, he’s hungry to get to Madison.

Victoria had a great showing at the Stanford Open, going toe-to-toe with Whitman in the semifinals before falling on double game point. If they can replicate that performance, they can absolutely challenge for a bid.

A good sleeper pick.

NOTABLES

– Montana finished 2nd behind Whitman at the Big Sky Conferences and avenged their only loss in the 2nd place game. Don’t ignore them: they’re an athletic team on the way up in the region. In just their third year as a program, they are playing their first serious Regionals. They are a fast, defensive-minded team. They are eager to prove they are the “real deal.”

– Washington State says the “chip on their shoulder is massive.” They believe they can hang with anyone in the region. They are looking to finish better than .500 in their second competitive trip to Regionals.

PREDICTIONS

Oregon has the first bid on lock. Whitman will give them a good game, we expect, but it won’t be enough to unseat a team gifted with talent and great coaching from Jay Janin.

While the battle for the second bid could get interesting, it’s hard to pick against Whitman after the impressive season they’ve had. They’ve added a year of experience to an already talented team from last year and have the right mentality to succeed in high-pressure games.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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