August 5, 2013 by Keith Raynor in Preview with 2 comments
USA Ultimate has been building towards having a fully-fledged regular season for some time, and this year’s launching of the Triple Crown Tour has fundamentally changed the way the season builds towards the Series. Few teams will likely see a bigger change than the Toronto Capitals. They didn’t participate in the regular season last year, though that didn’t stop them from making it to Quarters at the Club Championships and finishing 7th.
In some ways, a Quarters appearance may have been a down year for the Caps. They made it to the semifinals each year from 2009 to 2011, which included a finals appearance in 2010. Prior to that, they had only failed to make the quarterfinals once (2008; they finished 9th). These successes, however, are only steps towards Capitals’ ultimate goal: the World Championships.
“As with most teams it’s a four year cycle to build towards the World Championships, which means we are starting the cycle over and are in the first year building towards the next Worlds,” said returning captain Malissa Lundgren. She continued on, explaining that the end of the last cycle has taken with it a number of vets.
Gone are strong players like Sara Udow, Kate Werry, and Alena Papayanis, along with talent like Rebecca MacPherson and Jamie Galloway. Some younger talent, including Dominique Rioux and Cassie Berquist, is also gone. The most glaring absences, however, are those of Danielle Fortin and Anne Mercier, the two members of the Canadian World Games team that won Bronze in Colombia. Time will tell if the two will rejoin Toronto, who would graciously welcome back two of the top Women’s players in the world.
“We have a ton of athletic and talented women joining the mix this year!” said an excited Lundgren. “This was the strongest year yet at tryouts with more people trying out than ever before and a tougher set of choices than ever before.”
The new class of Caps welcomes in a blend of veterans and up and coming youngsters. Jessie Wu and powerful cutter Sarah Bobak both played with Canadian national teams in the past, while Annika Lindqvist and Stina Thim also went after an international title in 2008 with Sweden. Another experienced player will be break-thrower Kirsten Niles.
The youth movement comes from Canadian U-23 players Steph Mandal, who was on the Women’s team in Toronto, and deep threat Krista Kotwa, who played with Mixed squad. Marie-Christine Jacques is a solid cutter, and she’ll be joined by Laura Main, Catherine Pak, and Stacey Samis.
The level of talent incoming has big shoes to fill, but the returning veterans should temper some of the loss. Plus, as Lundgren said, “With the new class coming in, I think we’ve increased our average height by about six inches. I’m no longer even close to the tallest!” Look for the Toronto ladies to stretch the field more often this season to take advantage.
The changes in roster make up and schedule complicate preparation for the year.
“Given there are still a large number of returning players, and the last 4 years have taken quite a toll on people and we were hoping to lighten the load and created a schedule accordingly,” said Lundgren. “So with that in mind we’ve changed the way we do things. We’ve taken to having practice weekends to allow for out of town players instead of practices twice a week. We’ve also limited the number of tourneys we are going to the minimum to qualify in the TCT.”
In addition, the team has a commitment to helping their country’s Women’s ultimate scene grow. Lundgren went on to explain how involved the players are with other teams, allowing their players to join Canadian rosters of teams like PPF and Union. Some Caps are even captaining other Canadian teams.
The newcomers join a group that is still rich with top end players, even without Mercier and Fortin. Darcy Drummondn nearly traveled to Cali with Team Canada, but was one of the final cuts. Former Ottawa Geegee’s playmaker Kathryn “KPoh” Pohran returns, along with impressive downfield targets Sarah Kidd and Kate Jardine. Lundgren is a big, strong handler who can deftly manipulate field space. Newer Caps like Jordan Meron (another U-23 team member) and Megan Thomas are expected to take on bigger roles.
The returning Northeast Region Champions will look to defend their title this season, and Lundgren indicates the season goal is another Quarters appearance at the Club Championships. Capitals took a skeleton crew — roughly 2/3 of the roster — to Atlanta for Terminus and turned in a 3-3 performance, a solid showing. Brute Squad, Bent, and the rest of the Northeast won’t make it easy, but Capitals has shown the ability to meet those challenges.
This year may be the start of a new cycle for Capitals and their quest for a World Championship, but be careful calling it a rebuilding year.
Editor’s Note: Changes were applied to this article regarding the international competition history of Jessie Wu, Darcy Drummond, Kathryn Pohran, and Sarah Bobak