September 19, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 1 comments
There is really just one question that will determine the outcome of North Central Regionals this weekend: which Sub Zero will show up?
Minneapolis’ club team has had one of the more bipolar seasons in recent memory, showing long stretches of brilliance alongside strings of awful play.
They come into Regionals ranked 10th in the USA Ultimate rankings and 11th in Ultiworld’s Top 25. They barely cracked the top 16 at the beginning of the season but made it all the way to #4 in the country after the Chesapeake Invite. Let’s break down their season.
They opened their 2013 campaign at the Pro-Elite Challenge at Terminus in Atlanta. They went 1-5, their only win coming against their #1 regional rival, Madison Club. Most of their losses were close, to be fair, but it still wasn’t an inspiring performance.
They came into the Chesapeake Invite with nobody expecting them to do any damage. But they knew better. For the first time in the season, they had Grant Lindsley and Nick Stuart, perhaps the team’s two most dangerous weapons, on the field. With Lindsley handling and Stuart running to the endzone and flying above the competition, they were nearly unstoppable.
With an aggressive defense and an offense that rarely budged, they rattled off a 6-1 performance (their only loss came to Toronto GOAT) and won the tournament with an impressive 15-10 finals victory over Boston Ironside.
Next, they stayed close to home, traveling to Chicago for Heavyweights. They melted down, losing their first four games, which included embarrassing blowouts at the hands of Madison Club (10-17) and Michigan High Five (10-15). They salvaged their tournament with wins over LA Renegade and San Diego Streetgang on Sunday.
So what do you make of this performance? Lindsley was open about the team’s mental weakness after the Chesapeake Invite, noting his concern that they might get complacent. Whether or not that’s what led to their Heavyweights implosion, only they know.
There’s no more room for error. With just a single bid this year out of the North Central, they will need a flawless performance to get a spot in Frisco. They may have the highest ceiling in the region, but they have too often seen the floor drop out on them.
Madison Club will be looking to punch Sub in the mouth the same way they did at Heavyweights. The team has been playing at less than 100% for much of the season — a lot of players needed a breather after a long AUDL season playing as the Madison Radicals.
Madison’s season has been more consistent, if not as impressive as Sub Zero’s. With a thin squad, they lost all their games at Terminus before playing better at the Elite-Select Challenge at Colorado Cup. They nearly took down New York PoNY there and played close against Denver Johnny Bravo. However, they also lost by four to Kansas City Prairie Fire, who will be in the hunt for a finals berth at Regionals.
At Heavyweights, they made the finals where they got rolled 15-7 by Chicago Machine.
In last year’s Regional final, Sub Zero beat Madison 15-13; expect a similarly tight matchup this year.
Some rising second tier teams will hope to keep that matchup from ever happening. Prairie Fire has had their best year in a long time with wins over Florida United and Madison Club, along with decent showings against Johnny Bravo and Truck Stop.
They lost to Madison Club in the game-to-go last year 15-10. Their pool play matchup will likely be closer than that this year.
The tournament’s 4th seed, Milwaukee H1N1, will also be putting up competitive games. They’ve played very shorthanded this year, but are adding some ringers for Regionals, including Scott Richgels, who was one of the Madison Radicals’ top cutters during the AUDL season.
Again, though, the question is: will the Chesapeake Sub Zero show up? If they do, it will be smooth sailing for Minneapolis. If they don’t, get ready for some fireworks.