January 29, 2014 by Dennis Maclaine in News with 22 comments
Disclosure: The author is a player for Richmond University.
It’s difficult to look at Fall results and at the rosters that the Atlantic Coast is bringing into the Spring season and say that the region doesn’t have a chance to earn that coveted second bid to Nationals.
Last year, when USA Ultimate released the preliminary final rankings, it seemed as if the Atlantic Coast was in the position to send two teams to the Championships. Wake Forest was earning the autobid while Navy was ranked high enough to earn a strength bid. However, a week later, after finalizations to the rankings, the strength bid was taken from the Atlantic Coast and yet another bid was given to the strong Northeast region. 2014 looks to be a different year for the region. The Atlantic Coast will have the opportunity to earn at least two bids to Nationals; it should be fun watching these teams compete for them.
#4 Wake Forest WOMB
As the regional champions last season, it is tough to look at Wake Forest and not see them in the same position come April. In 2013, they earned two nominations for first team all-region with Tim Kreutzfeldt returning as a senior. Wake Forest had one of the most skilled offenses in the region and could beat any team with fundamentals and intelligence. Just by looking at some of their game footage from the championship game last year, one can tell that they are an extremely skilled team.
Their precision on offense give them the ability to beat any DIII team in any conditions. Unafraid to throw a large physical cup, WOMB can frustrate offenses in windy conditions and take weaker opponents out of games early. Going with X and Y rosters for most of the Fall will only improve their depth and overall skill for the series. It should be interesting to see whether Wake Forest elects to play against top Division I competition as they have in past seasons or challenge themselves against DIII opponents in the regular season. They will be an early favorite to take the region again.
After a disappointing end to their season, Richmond looks to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Seeded third overall at regionals, the Spidermonkeys were ousted by an upset-minded Davidson squad and never got a chance against top opponents. With a strong group of leaders that includes All-Region players Alex Lichtenstein, Joel Reimer, and James Robb, Richmond could be the team to bet on early in the season.
Richmond is known for their extremely gritty performances, fighting for every point, and never allowing themselves to quit playing hard. They rely on solid handler movement and are extremely deep at the position. Look for freshman handler Henry Babcock to compete with DI freshmen for the freshmen of the region. This team has a lot to prove, and it will be fun watching them fight to earn every point and every victory. A one-point loss to Stevens Tech this Fall may indicate the ability for Richmond to play with the best DIII teams in the nation. Expect them to keep pace for the Atlantic Coast and don’t be surprised if they are on the field on May 17th in Ohio.
Elon Big Fat Bomb
Last season, Elon may have had more talent than any other team in the region. With first-team All-Region player Samuel Lee at the helm, Elon played a dangerous game of Ultimate. Had a few points had gone their way late in the Regional championship against WOMB, they would have been on their way to Nationals in 2013. This team took down Catholic and Davidson however they could not pull off another upset (after beating Wake Forest on Saturday) and fell 13-15.
Despite losing Lee to graduation, expect a similarly strong performance from this team. Elon had a successful Fall, performing well in tournaments such as Wolf-Pack, where they competed with solid DI teams, and Burlington Brawl, where they came away with the tournament win. It’s likely that they will be in the hunt at regionals with their eyes set on that Championship game yet again. The first couple of tournaments in the Spring should tell us a lot about this team. If they come out firing and competing against the DIII teams in their region, the rest of the Atlantic Coast should brace for another strong season from Big Fat Bomb.
In 2012, DUFF was not in attendance at regionals. In 2013, they got into the tournament after the eighth seed couldn’t attend. In 2014, they appear to be one of the potential teams to beat.
An impressive showing at the Matt Baccary Memorial Tournament in Richmond shows that they have the skill and the drive to be a quality team. For this reason, DUFF is a serious sleeper pick out of the Atlantic Coast this season. At Regionals, a group of guys in tie-dye shirts knocked Richmond out the quarterfinals with a solid blend of skilled players and athletes. While their strategies and discipline appeared unorthodox, it was clear that they had a great deal of potential.
This Fall, I watched a team of uniform-clad Ultimate players put on a clinic in the wind to hand Richmond a convincing loss on Sunday morning on Richmond’s home turf. It appears as if DUFF is continuing to transform themselves into a real team that has some serious talent. Davidson should compete with the best in the series. Don’t be surprised to see them emerge as the spring progresses.
Navy will likely be one of the most dangerous teams in the Atlantic Coast region. When you line up against this group, you are forced to accept that you will be on the less favorable end of at least one or two mismatches purely due to elite athleticism. While not as precisely skilled as many other teams, Navy works to their overall team strengths and utilizes their athleticism and speed.
This relentlessness allows them to run a zone that frustrates even the most experienced handlers in the region. Holes are quickly closed as their stamina allows their cup to move effortlessly with minimal fatigue. A physically demanding opponent, Navy loves to utilize their deep game and put jump balls to their strong receivers. However, while they return standouts Matt Silberberg and Nicholas Moilanen, it seems that they may lack the experience and skill to compete at the highest level. Although they continue to improve each season, a roster with more disciplined Ultimate players is more likely than Navy to make a run to Nationals. That said, Navy won’t be a team that opponents want to draw on Sunday in late April.
While these five teams seem to be the early forerunners in this division, don’t rule out the likes of Catholic, St. Mary’s, or UNC-Asheville. Catholic disappointed at regionals but proved throughout 2013 and at conferences that they have what it takes to play. Dan Grabowski returns as an All-Region junior to lead this squad. St. Mary’s SMUT is a consistent and tough opponent out of the North Atlantic Coast and should be in the mix throughout the series. UNC-Asheville failed to make semis at regionals but appeared to be one of the top DIII teams throughout the spring. A deep region that featured many series upsets, the Atlantic Coast is up for grabs yet again.