2013 Northwest Regionals Preview (Women’s)

USA Ultimate Northwest Region.With four teams in the Ultiworld Power Rankings, including #1 ranked Seattle Riot, the Northwest Region is still considered the cream of the crop in the Women’s Division. After sending four teams to the Club Championships last year, this year’s Regionals will host seven squads in Burlington, WA, vying for just three bids. One of the few obstacles standing in the way of a #1 seed at the Club Championships for Riot is Vancouver Traffic, and the field of Northwest challengers looking to make their way to Frisco.

This year’s Riot squad has to be hungry to see how far they can go. Their roster is arguably the deepest in the women’s game, an open rotation meaning Seattle stays fresh point after point, game after game. Standout stars like Sarah “Surge” Griffith, Shannon O’Malley, and Calise Cardenas slide into roles, with the team never leaning hard or depending on them to win a game. Younger players are emerging, like Callie Mah, Angelica Boyden, and the increasingly dominant Katy Craley.

Beyond their depth, they are both strategically and emotionally sound. Their response to their opening round loss to Austin Showdown at the Pro Flight Finale was to climb the slope of improvement, relying and focusing on the strength of each player’s commitment to the team. They have poachy looks and aggressive dump D sets and are plenty capable of attacking with the deep ball. The coaching of Ben Wiggins and Mike Lawler, along with experienced leadership and team buy-in, are powerful influences on the team’s mentality.

Traffic will need to show some mental strength of their own to overcome the strengths of Riot. They come into the tournament having seen Riot only twice — losing both games at ECC — and having lost their last five games against the rivals across the border. Still, with stars like Kira Frew, Catherine Hui, and Candace Chan now joined by recently acquired Danielle Fortin, Vancouver is capable of pulling the huge upset. They’ve already beaten Boston Brute Squad, Madison Heist, and Denver Molly Brown this season.

While those two teams are unlikely to miss out on one of the region’s three bids, the drama really kicks in when talking about Portland Schwa and Seattle Underground. Last season, Schwa would win their first three games against Underground before losing to the Seattle second team in Sarasota. This time, they enter Regionals having played each other only once. The game was an 11-9 victory for Schwa at the Pro-Elite Challenge at Terminus. While Schwa’s #16 ranking earned the region the final bid, Underground is only a spot behind, although our Power Rankings have Portland at #13 and Underground down at #18.

Schwa holds the early edge, having posted a stronger resume than the tournament’s #4 seed. While Underground has managed a couple of nice wins against San Diego Safari, Minneapolis Pop, and Philadelphia Green Means Go, Schwa has beaten Safari, Pop, as well as Bay Area Nightlock and Raleigh Phoenix. A team as athletic as Schwa is the type of team that scares even stronger opponents.

Outside of their own battle, which should have a return berth to the Club Championships on the line, it’ll be interesting to see if either of these teams can surprise one of the top two. Underground lost to Riot 11-9 in a pre-Series scrimmage and has a 13-10 Terminus loss to Chicago Nemesis to their credit. In addition to their wins, Schwa has managed close losses to Madison Heist and Denver Molly Brown. Unfortunately, both teams have also received beat downs from some of the elite teams they’ve been tasked with during the season.

The field’s final three entrants are Vancouver Zephyr, Eugene Further, and new northwest squad, Seismic. Of the three, Zephyr stands the best chance of a shock upset; they played well against Underground earlier in the year and already have beaten all the teams seeded below them. The second Vancouver team even cracked our early season Top 25.

The big picture at Northwest Regionals is that this is one of the deepest fields in the country. Games may wind up being tougher than final scores indicate, and the wealth of talent is the type of atmosphere that breeds surprises and drama. We know at least one team from last year’s Championships field will not make the return, but after that, there are more questions than answers. That’s why they play the games.

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