Pro Flight Finale Preview (Women’s): Possibilities Of Parity Put To The Test

Riot v. Scandal at the 2013 US Open.
Photo by Brandon Wu — UltiPhotos.com

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The much anticipated weekend of the Pro Flight Finale is finally upon us. One of the most exciting elements of the Triple Crown Tour regular season, this highlight tournament brings together an elite group of teams just before the Series. A strong crop of top tier teams will make their way to Davis, California, to set the tone for the Club Championships.

Three teams have already identified themselves as contenders: San Francisco Fury, Seattle Riot, and Washington DC Scandal. The other five squads — headlined by Chicago Nemesis and Atlanta Ozone — are looking to enter that conversation with a strong tournament. It should be a weekend of excellent competition and give us plenty of stories heading into the postseason.

Status Quo At The Top

It is no surprise to see Fury, sporting their 14-1 record, entering the weekend as the top seed. You know about the streak of seven titles. You know about their pedigree, their talent level, and dynastic domination. Their last action was at the Emerald City Classic, where they battled a group of teams of relatively similar strength to the teams they’ll see in Pool A. While Fury is beatable — they lost to Riot and have played close games this season — make no mistake that they are capable of winning every game for the rest of this season. At this point, they offer a great measuring stick for the rest of the division’s top teams.

Part of the reason for Fury’s dominance is how spread out their success is. Lakshmi Narayan quietly delivered an impressive US Open performance. It’ll be interesting to see if she continues to stand out in the metrics the way some of her teammates do on the highlight reels.

NamePPGG+A/OPoss.Yards/OPoss.UsageCompl. %Def. ECOff. ECUW D ScoreTotal EC
Narayan7.250.1712.1613.498.311.716.440.8811.4
Jorgenson6.670.169.1510.296.880.034.771.636
Snyder6.890.2413.9720.992.160.753.651.135.6

Riot and Scandal Set Up For Pool B Throwdown

The two teams who have proven that they can threaten Fury will first have to tackle each other in the final pool play round of Pool B (watch the game live on Ultiworld!). They split their last pair of meetings at the US Open, but Scandal’s 13-7 win over Riot in the semifinals was a statement game. It looks likely the winner will earn a crossover against Fury.

Both Seattle and DC have made defense their calling card, with elite high production stars anchoring their efforts. Riot’s Sarah “Surge” Griffith has been playing arguably the best Ultimate of anyone this season, while Scandal’s Sandy Jorgenson — Griffith’s World Games teammate — has emerged as a stat-sheet-filling force downfield. Elite strategists prowl the sidelines for each team, so adjustments and game plans will be worth watching, though both coaching staffs won’t be tipping their full hands in anticipation of a key matchup in the Club Championships.

NamePPGG+A/OPoss.Yards/OPoss.UsageCompl. %Def. ECOff. ECUW D ScoreTotal EC
Griffith6.250.1916.2314.987.234.075.232.412.37
Cardenas7.620.3117.9117.695.65-1.917.8-0.318.23
NamePPGG+A/OPoss.Yards/OPoss.UsageCompl. %Def. ECOff. ECUW D ScoreTotal EC
Johnston7.330.067.7113.899.29-2.634.380.123.72
Jorgensen7.780.1912.5610.577.78-0.913.690.512.88

Ozone And Nemesis With A Chance To Move Up The Ladder

Ozone has turned in a very strong start to their season, making the final of all three tournaments they’ve attended, but losing in each of those games. Twice, they fell victim to Scandal, but at their hometown Terminus, they were upset by Nemesis. The game between those teams should be exciting, as they match up well and have played at very similar levels for the body of the season so far.

In fact, Nemesis and Ozone have been so close to one another than even their scores against this weekend’s shared opponents will merit interest. They have only one common opponent — Pittsburgh Hot Metal — who Ozone beat by 10 and Nemesis beat by 7. Of course, Nemesis holds the head to head edge, but Atlanta has already beaten one of the elite teams in their 15-14 win over Scandal at the Chesapeake Invite. Chicago is looking for their first chance to see one of the top three teams and to protect their undefeated season.

How they stack up against the elite will be important to see. If they can demonstrate the ability to dominate lower ranked competition and push the top teams, it’ll confirm what some people believe is increased parity in the women’s division.

Can Showdown, Capitals, or Molly Brown Surprise?

The three lowest seeded teams are a combined 18-14 on the season, so expectations coming into the Pro Flight Finale are tempered. Austin Showdown comes in 0-5 against the field, while Denver Molly Brown is 1-1 (the win is over Showdown, however) and Toronto Capitals sits at 0-1.

Both the South Central teams had underwhelming regular season results before turning it on at the Club Championships and they both seem to be steadily improving this season, so there is cause for optimism. Showdown, in particular, is a returner-heavy squad that made good additions this season, and gave Fury a run for their money at the US Open. Our stats from that tournament suggest that they may be an especially top-heavy team, relying on contribution from key players like Team USA’s Cara Crouch.

NamePPGG+A/OPoss.Yards/OPoss.UsageCompl. %Def. ECOff. ECUW D ScoreTotal EC
K. Forth10.620.2217.3517.590-0.094.592.166.67
Crouch10.50.1516.2821.289.22-1.34.11.334.75

Meanwhile, Capitals is a bit of a mystery. Their roster saw some big names leave, but this team is well armed. Caps should be in good form, with some of their players having prepared for the Canadian Ultimate Championships. Their only stateside performance was a 3-3 showing in a Terminus field that was missing a lot of key contributors across the division. It is possible we will see a much different game out of Toronto.

How Will Midseason Acquisitions Integrate?

Two of the season’s biggest player acquisitions have come midseason: Scandal adds Anne Mercier and Nemesis is joined by Lindsey Hack.

Mercier is a physical presence with an arsenal of throws appropriately described as monstrous; Scandal coach Alex Ghesquiere told Ultiworld, “It doesn’t take a genius to see that she’s a great handler.” With a couple of practice weekends under her belt, it’ll be interesting to see how Scandal deploys their newest weapon and how many touches she gets.

The addition of Hack to Nemesis comes under unusual circumstances, but the Chicago leadership already feels like she has molded with the team’s style well. Hack will undoubtedly benefit from a weekend of experience with the defensive line at Heavyweights. Her keen eye for field space should help her contribute on both sides of the disc, adding to a deep and multi-faceted defensive unit for Nemesis.

  1. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the College Content Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email (keith@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

  2. Jeremy Weiss
    Avatar

    Jeremy Weiss is an Ultiworld statistics contributor. He began playing ultimate at the University of Pennsylvania Void and now resides in Madison, WI, where he studies statistical machine learning and medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Contact him at jeremy.weiss@gmail.com.

  3. Sean Childers
    Avatar

    Sean Childers is Ultiworld's Editor Emeritus. He started playing ultimate in 2008 for UNC-Chapel Hill Darkside, where he studied Political Science and Computer Science before graduating from NYU School of Law. He has played for LOS, District 5, Empire, PoNY, Truck Stop, Polar Bears, and Mischief (current team). You can email him at stats@ultiworld.com.

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