October 16, 2013 by Nick Skrypek in Preview with 5 comments
Disclosure: The author is a captain on the University of Guelph Open team.
Eighteen open teams representing universities from across Canada will be gathering in Ottawa, Ontario, this weekend to compete in the Canadian University Ultimate Championships (CUUC). Established in 1995 by Canada’s governing body of ultimate, CUUC’s runs every October, through rain or snow, with the goal of determining the top university team in the country.
This year’s CUUC is a bit unusual compared to past years because of USA Ultimate Club Nationals falling on the same dates as CUUC’s. As a result, top university players from GOAT and Furious George will not be in attendance at CUUC’s. As seen at the Canadian Eastern University Ultimate Championships (CEUUC’s, equivalent to USAU’s Regionals), this will greatly increase the parity in the Open Division with more than a handful of contenders hoping to have a shot at the National title this season. Below is a preview of the top eight teams that could make a serious run towards winning the national title.
McMaster University (@MacUltimate)
McMaster will have a tough road ahead of them if they wish to compete with the top teams at CUUC’s this year as they are a young and developing program. Led by captains Taylor Los (OverDrive), Sean Coombes, and Robert Godfrey (ROY), their gritty style of defense and long ball game offense is a threat to any team.
McMaster had a great showing at CEUCC’s coming in seeded 10th and breaking seed en route to a 6th place finish. One of this team’s strength is that they “play every game like its our last” mentality, wearing down any opponent.
McMaster had a good off season, adding a solid crop of rookies including d-line standout Jeremy Stanford. Look for McMaster to push for a quarterfinals spot at Nationals with the potential to upset and make semis.
University Of Toronto (@TorontulaOpen)
University of Toronto Ultimate Torontula (or TULA) are always a threat to make the semifinals at Nationals and this year looks to be no different. Led by the same group of core veterans that took them to a 5th place showing last year, Torontula has the potential to take it all this year.
Coming off a heartbreaking universe point loss to Queen’s Mothership in the 3rd place game at CEUUC’s, they’ll be looking for revenge. Their roster is filled end-to-end with touring experience from the Toronto area with players coming from GT (Pat Pham, Mike Huang, Mateusz Bocian, Jack McDonald, Alex Vlahos), ROY, Zen, and Overdrive, as well as captain Carson Clark coming from Vancouver’s Blackfish.
TULA also added to its roster Canada U23 Mixed rookie handler Hugh Knapp, who will be relied on heavily on the backend. TULA plays a very confident game, structured around quick handler movement and shutdown zone defense. With a lot of seniors graduating after this year, this is the year they need to make a push to break through and win the national title that has evaded them since winning three consecutive national championships from 2006-2008.
McGill University (@RedmenUltimate)
McGill Redmen opened the season with an extremely strong performance at CEUUC’s taking down Guelph in the finals 15-9. Led by a group of solid, internationally experienced veterans which include the likes of Tim Tsang (Canada U23 Open), Greg Moore (Canada U23 Open) and Rumi Tejpar (Canada U23 Mixed), the Redmen will have their sights set on gold this year.
The roster is stacked top to bottom with depth drawing from local club Mephisto and their feeder system, as well as their own second team for developing players. Patience with the disc is where the Redmen have shone this year; no team at CEUUC’s could put an effective zone on them even in an extreme crosswind. The combination of Tsang, Moore, and Tejpar was nearly unstoppable on the offensive side of the disc, resulting in teams throwing a variety of different defensive looks at them that inevitably failed.
The emergence of Geoff Bevan as a solid handler has really helped balance out the lines this year for McGill as he’s been able to take pressure off of other key players generating a lot more space on the field. Given their strong showing at Easterns, and provided the team stays healthy up until Nationals, McGill has a very strong chance of reaching its goal and taking home the National title.
Queens University (@QueensShip)
Queen’s Mothership is a team that’s ready to re-establish itself as a strong program after failing to make quarters at last year’s nationals. With a strong performance this year at CEUUC’s, just barely falling to Guelph in a marathon universe point in the semis, Queens was able to take down TULA in the 3rd place game, 11-10.
Queens took a different approach to its team this year taking just 17 players on the 1st team roster and leaving a strong 2nd team roster to develop for next year. They have a stout handler presence with Alex Ginther quarterbacking the O-Line and new additions Gareth Tam and Chris Cartwright taking care of the rest.
Team Canada U20 open cutter and Queen’s captain Ryan Wilson is a player other teams will have to look out for as well this weekend as he’s one of the strongest deep cutter at the tournament. This is the year Queen’s will look to re-establish their program as one of the top in Canada.
University of Manitoba
Manitoba will be coming into CUUC as the sole team representing the Prairie Region this year after capturing the Canadian Prairie University Ultimate Championship title. Captaining the team is Team Canada U20 handler Jesse Greenberg, along with Kevin Boreskie and Zach Goldberg.
Manitoba typically fills its roster with club members from Winnipeg General Strike as well as from the Winnipeg junior team MOFO. The recent pickup of rookie Alan Scarth (MOFO), who was the MVP of CUC 2012 Juniors, is a big addition to the roster and should help this already well balanced team. Manitoba’s recent tournament history does a good job showing just how big of a threat they are to the other teams competing at CUUC’s this year. In 2011, they came in 1st at CUUC’s led by a strong performance by GOAT’s Mark Lloyd and followed it up with a 2nd place finish in 2012.
They will look to make this year no exception as they’ll try to keep the finals appearance streak intact. They play a typical Winnipeg General Strike style game: physical man defense and a love for the deep offensive game. Not playing against any of the other teams competing at CUUC’s all season could hurt the team but they are always a threat to make the finals.
Carleton University (@RavensUltimate)
After some glorious years at the top (CUUC gold in 2009, CEUUC gold in 2010), the Carleton Ravens have been building their roster with more young talent from various Ontario junior teams over the past two fall seasons. A short-benched Carleton crew (missing 9 of their 23 players) captured their first tournament victory since 2010 this fall at Hamilton’s Steeltown Classic. This performance was followed up by a lackluster showing at CEUUC’s, losing the 9th place game to crosstown rivals Ottawa by a score of 12-9, though this finish could be a result of losing a majority of their key players to USAU’s Northeast Regionals.
This year’s team is led by Mat Goodkey, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, Rob Schmidt (all of Ottawa’s club team Phoenix) and Carleton veteran Paul Lebron-Renaud. They are loaded with offensive weapons, defensive athleticism, and leadership experience that yield some tricky strategy.
Aside from the captains, keep an eye out for 7-footer Neal Dawson, the Zandbelt brothers, as well as a strong group of juniors freshly graduated from Toronto’s OverDrive and Ottawa’s Capital Punishment. Like Queens, this is a big year for Carleton as they look to re-establish themselves as contenders for the national title.
University of Guelph (@UoGMensUlti)
The University of Guelph Open team has been a power house in the Canadian Ultimate scene for years, but with the departure of key players such as Cam Harris (GOAT), Josh Meron (Canada U23 Mixed) and Eamon Pinto (Canada U23 Mixed), the team will be in for new challenges this year at Nationals.
Once a team that revolved around a select few players, Guelph has re-defined itself as a faceless army, relying on all players to step up and play key roles when needed. The O-line is quarterbacked by Jaret Meron (Canada U23 Mixed) while the D-line is run primarily through Andrew Kerezsi (Canada U20 Open) and John Atkinson. The Guelph team uses an effective vertical stack-based offense to initiate plays, creating space for cutters in the lanes and allowing for the disc to reach the break side. On defense, Guelph uses a 4-man zone, using large bodies in the wall to create trouble for the throwers.
After being seeded 1st coming into CEUUCs, they failed to hold seed, falling to McGill in the finals going undefeated to that point. Bringing in a strong group of rookies with players coming from Ottawa’s Capital Punishment and Toronto’s Overdrive as well as Carson Turner (Canada U23 Open), the future looks bright for this team. Very similar to McGill, Guelph is going into CUUC’s looking strong and if they’re able to peak at the right time, they will definitely have a good shot at the national title.
University of Waterloo (@WarriorsUlti)
The Waterloo Warriors started off the season with a strong performance at Hamilton’s Steel Town Classic with a second place finish, looking like a dominant team all weekend long. CEUUC’s was a different story as they faced stronger competition and were not able to keep up with the top teams at the tournament.
Coming in seeded first in their pool, Waterloo fell to Queens Mothership early on, followed by a loss to TULA in quarters. They made the best of the relegation round and ended the tournament in 5th place after being plagued by injuries throughout the tournament.
The team looks to run its offense through two key players: Nima Mostaghimi (Canada U23 Mixed) and Dan Huynh (Grand Trunk). They added some solid young rookies to the team this year in the likes of cutter Owen Wall (Capital Punishment) as well as big deep threat Matthias Wojnas (OverDrive). Waterloo is a team that plays an extremely handler-based game with quick disc movement and a focus on breaks. After sub-par performance at CEUUC’s, Waterloo is coming in as a major underdog but that title may be misleading. They’re a group of players that make up for a lack of size with sharp, clean throws which could be a huge factor if conditions aren’t the best at Nationals. If the team is able to stay healthy and their big players come to play, look for Waterloo to make a serious push for semis with the potential to upset and make finals.
Follow the tournament on score reporter and on Twitter using the hashtag #CUUC2013