July 16, 2013 by Keith Raynor in Preview with 0 comments
Two women’s club teams went into the 2012 Club Championships undefeated. One was six-time champion San Francisco Fury. The other was Madison’s Heist, a first year team that would go on to finish 11th at the Championships and be named Ultiworld’s Breakout Team of 2012.
Heist’s undefeated regular season transpired without seeing any of the top eight seeds at the Club Championships, but not without overcoming some strong competition. Among their victories were wins over Championships qualifiers Hot Metal (Pittsburgh), Molly Brown (Denver), and two over Nemesis (Chicago).
“2012 was about laying a solid foundation to build from,” explained captain Robyn Wiseman (formerly Fennig). “This season it was realistic to have higher expectations.”
The Triple Crown Tour will give them a chance to be tested with a stronger schedule. While they are attending the same two regular season tourneys as last year (Colorado Cup and Heavyweights), Colorado Cup is also the Elite-Select Challenge and they’ll also be attending Terminus, the Pro-Elite Challenge.
“This year, we set ourselves up to be challenged in every single tournament and become a better team,” the second year captain said.
Heist does face some difficult challenges on top of their competition. Some important personnel depart, with former Callahan winner Courtney Kiesow and Iowa Saucy Nancy star Chelsea Twohig chief among them. Twohig’s college teammate Jen Nowak, Kimmy Chapman, and Anne Williams also make their exit.
“We had a bit of roster turnover this season: some players moving away, some retiring from competitive ultimate, and some concentrating on school,” said Wiseman. “That means we have the opportunity to bring in new players and build something new this season.”
Among those new players are Kelly “Sapphire” Wiese (UCLA), Maria Mahowald (Pop), Maria Signore (Noise), and Amelia Quarenta (Wisconsin). Wiese, in particular, should be put in a position to make an immediate impact for the team.
Perhaps the most important addition, however, will be on the Madison sideline. Iowa’s Mikey Lun has been brought in as coach, having coached Saucy Nancy to the collegiate semifinals this season. The team struggled to implement in-game adjustments last season, an area they are confident Lun will bolster. Wiseman agreed.
“His coaching style is collaborative, with an emphasis on preparation and training, which is a great fit for us,” she said. “His knowledge of strategy combined with our players’ hunger for improvement makes me excited to see where Heist can go this season.”
As a new team and program still establishing itself, one of Heist’s biggest challenges has been dealing with a regional roster. While they are based out of Madison, a number of the team’s players take on significant travel for their practice weekends, something many regional club teams experience, but that is most difficult to manage during those formative years. Wiseman is adamant about the passion the team has and what an accomplishment uniting them has been.
“I love that we can balance having a Madison-based core with our crazy-dedicated traveling players. The team dynamic is energetic and just makes me feel alive,” said Wiseman, before adding, “Every weekend, it’s like I get to see my friends who moved away in second grade.”
That exuberance combined with Lun’s coaching should help them establish the sort of long term program Wiseman said Heist is aiming for. It should also help them repeat – or even exceed – last season’s success.
“Our team goal is to raise our ceiling,” said Wiseman. “This means we want to increase where our potential can be and eventually reach that potential to peak at the right time. If we are able to focus on the controllables and follow through on our objectives to reach our goals, we know that Heist will grow and improve.”
Terminus will give them a chance to begin that process, giving them what will likely be the toughest schedule they’ll see before the Series. As the Pool B #4 seed, they’ll get early season matches with a much-hyped Nemesis team and a perennial contender in the Ottawa Capitals.
In order to find success, they’ll be looking to Wiseman and her co-captain Corinne Wade to both play and lead well. Team USA’s Georgia Bosscher is a playmaking machine for Heist, a threat to make the insane happen at any given moment. Jenny Gaynor, Rebecca Enders, and Emily Jenkins should also be important contributors, while Bella Donna’s Sara Scott and Biz Cook look to rack up Ds.
The Pro-Elite Challenge in Atlanta offers them the opportunity to score more big wins in a weekend than they did all of last season. “Having a winning record was like someone handing us a warm homemade brownie–it’s good and we enjoyed it at the time, but we want more,” said Wiseman.
We’ll get a taste of whether or not they can handle seconds in Atlanta this weekend.