February 20, 2014 by Eric Williams in Preview with 25 comments
Deep Freeze 2014 is set to host a variety talent from across the south and includes a pair of power programs from the Ohio Valley area. The tournament is hosted by the Chattanooga Flying Disc Club along with the continuing merchandise sponsor, Spin Ultimate. Deep Freeze has been, since 2001, a great experience for high school teams to start their season, and this year is no exception. Going into the weekend the buzz has surrounded the top four seeds and their opportunities to start their seasons with their own goals.
A New Chapter for Paideia & Baccarini
Last season ended in an uncharacteristic way for the long-time powerhouse Paideia (Atlanta, Georgia), coming in second place at the 2013 High School Southerns tournament. They also said good bye to one of the most dominate players in their program’s history, John Stubbs. Stubbs picked up a key spot on Harvard’s roster as a freshman, and is already making a name for himself in the college game.
His shoes are impossible to replace, according to Paideia head coach Michael Baccarini. “John was a tremendous young player, and I hear he’s picked right up where he left off up at Harvard,” he said. “You can never replace players of that magnitude.” Baccarini said his team has a great opportunity to turn the page in Paideia’s history and allow the next great players and teammates to fill roles.
Baccarini is doing some personal adjusting as well, as he just became a father. “Admittedly, my wife and I don’t have a ton of free time between changings and feedings!” he said. Though he has missed some practice time, he will be attending the tournament; we can only speculate about how long it will be until Baccarini Jr. starts to throw around plastic.
Paideia will have their work cut out for them this year, as the field is stronger than ever at Deep Freeze. The addition of new teams — Holy Family Catholic and Neuqua Valley High School — coming to Chattanooga has Baccarini excited. “These two teams are always right in the thick of things,” he said. “…I love that [coaches] Java and Dave are committed to such a big travel effort early in their seasons.” Tougher competition is exactly what teams like Paideia are looking for in an early season tournament; they want to see how their players react to different speeds and strategies.
Key senior players on Paideia’s roster Ben Mapes, Anders Olsen, and Nathan Haskell will look to continue the school’s early season dominance. The last three seasons have started with first place finishes for Paideia in Chattanooga. It will be interesting to see which style of attack Baccarini will choose with their offense and who will step up as the next great player from Atlanta.
Carolina Friends Ready To Take The Next Step
Carolina Friends School (Durham, North Carolina) has quietly transitioned into a great program in North Carolina, producing talented players for the U19 Youth Club Championship, Tri-Force, and local college stars, like 2013 UNC Callahan nominee Tristan Green. Last spring their record was technically the best in the country, 32-1; with their only loss coming by one to Paideia.
Captain Sol Yanuck described his team from last season, pointed to their under-the-radar status. “Outside of North Carolina we’ve always been a bit of an unknown,” he said. “No one had many expectations for us to push Paideia to the brink at Southerns last year.”
Yanuck and his freshman teammate Liam Searles-Bohs were invited to Junior Worlds tryouts and Yanuck plans on attending Carleton College in the spring. This weekend will be the first time Carolina Friends attends Deep Freeze, and they hope the competition improves them for later spring tournaments. Their tough spring schedule involves the YULA Invite and Paideia Cup — their first ever invitation to the renowned tournament.
After changing the team’s attitude and tactics of recruiting of athletes at school, the team started taking the next step. Carolina Friends School has 150 enrolled students and when the team started to win more, the other athletes took notice and joined in. “At first it was only a few of the soccer players playing, one of whom was Nick Macleod, who is now a member of UNC Darkside,” Yanuck said.
Getting early exposure to capable teams and talented players from different regions, Carolina Friends hopes to hit their peak and win when it counts.
“[We] hope that somewhere along the road we are going to run into a few teams that are going to push us, and that we are going to grow as a team from that experience. I would be thrilled if we came in last at Paideia Cup if that is the experience we need to have in order to be able to win the last game of the day on May 11th,” Yanuck said, referencing the weekend of 2014 HS Southerns and winning that tournament as a definitive goal for the season.
Along with the rise and success, modesty arose from the senior captain. “I was surprised to see that we were seeded ahead of Holy Family and Neuqua Valley,” he said. “They both have a little bit more name recognition, and because they placed higher in their respective regional championships last year, but I’m not complaining.”
Carolina Friends’ impressive first place finish at QCTU two weeks ago might have something do with the seeding, going 9-0 with a defense that did not let a team score more than seven all weekend. With an offensive system tailored heavy on experienced handlers making the majority of the throws, success comes easy when their athletes come up big and make plays downfield.
Central Region Teams Make Deep Freeze Deeper
Holy Family Catholic and Neuqua Valley High School normally start their seasons in March. But in 2014, they find themselves among the top four seeds in their first Deep Freeze appearance.
At the 2013 High School Centrals tournament, Holy Family and Neuqua placed first and second, respectively. Two different programs have the potential of not only playing against each other once, by way of a crossover game, but potentially a second time in the finals.
Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Illinois) started playing ultimate seven years ago, and since then has produced an elementary and middle school program, a year-round program including a winter league and a summer camp, Chicago ‘CUT’ Camp.
The man behind all of it is none other than Coach Arnoush Javaherian. Better known to the ultimate community as Coach Java, he helps spread the game.1
Still being a relatively new program in the eyes of many, Java is open to switching things up each year if it helps build their program and gives the players additional experience. This year a change for them is starting the season earlier at Deep Freeze.
“The problem has been that we were not playing our best ultimate until late in this season,” Javaherian said. “Baccarini had told me about it and how the competition is good. We were even more excited when we learned that Carolina Friends and Holy Family were coming. At this point, Deep Freeze is one of the most competitive tournaments we will play at all season!”
Losing experienced players such as Andrew Lin (University of California-Berkley) to graduation happens to all high school teams. But injuries to seniors always changes a team dynamic and expectations. Hafeez Shams had his season end before it started, suffering a painful ACL injury.
“I was extremely bummed out for a while as he has worked four years to get to this point to be our best handler, only to have it taken away from him,” Javaherian said. “But the team has overcome adversity and rallied and Hafeez has been a tremendous teammate through it all.”
Due to the size and strength of their program, Neuqua has a deep bench, full of players who already have years of experience. Examples of the strength of the system are two senior players, Dom Peluso and Jack Shanahan. Going into his fourth year, Peluso is perhaps the highest caliber of a defender Java has ever coached.
Along with Shams, Shanahan was invited to Junior Worlds, “He has been working extremely hard for the past four years and I am excited about this year for him,” said Javaherian. Expect Neuqua Valley’s offense to rely on Shanahan’s disc skills plus his cuts down field and keeping the motion simple by doing give-and-go and handler cuts in front of the stack.
Joining in on starting the season early (and, for their sake, getting better weather) is Holy Family Catholic from Cincinnati, Ohio.
“We have looked at Deep Freeze as a possibility a couple of times in the past,” said coach Steve Conrad. The team had similar reasons in traveling south for the winter.
“One of our crosstown rivals, Moeller High School has been down before and had good things to say about it,” added Conrad. “With the Chicago Invite moved to April and our local early season tourney not enjoying much success, it opened up our schedule.”
Holy Family Catholic Revolution started in the late 90’s and helped create the Youth Ultimate Cincinnati (YUC) League. The program started dominating the local competition from 2003 onward, and decided to travel out east to receive more competition. “We attended High School Easterns four times starting in 2008 and finished runner up to Amherst in 2011,” Conrad said.
Only having 125 families involved in their home school group (Holy Family Catholic Home Educators) to recruit from, the team struggles at times with numbers, having different activity schedules and needing to change their practice site 15 times.
This season, Holy Family had more than their fair share of talented seniors graduate. But Conrad is confident. “We have been fairly successful over the years in making those adjustments and it seems we always have one or two kids who really begin to shine when those larger-than-life shadows aren’t over them,” he said.
One of those kids is Dom Schuster. Dom’s older brother Daniel was a key Holy Family player for a couple of years; once he graduated, Dom really asserted himself and is poised to eclipse his brother as a great team player. Schuster last year at High School Centrals accounted for 23 assists, which tied for second at the tournament.
Expectations are high for the squad but they welcome the challenge of playing new opponents, “We are really excited to play some different team as that helps us grow,” Conrad told us. Outside of Schuster it is hard to say who else will step up the downfield cutting with his two favorite targets, Jay Ratajczak and John Paul Bort, recently graduating. Stephen Kenney put up balanced numbers during the 2013 High School Centrals tournament and will most likely pick up more touches and more opportunities to score.
Given the pools structure — plus the number secondary teams, B or JV, participating — there really is not anything too hard to predict in terms of who will be advancing into the bracket. The format has the top 3 teams in each pool advancing to the Sunday bracket, and every team winning their pool gets a bye in prequarters. Historically there have been one or two teams who go under the radar and mix things up with upsets on Sunday.
Brookwood Inferno has been one of those under-seeded teams breaking through in previous years. The past couple seasons their record shows they are a hot and cold team, but they might have their best chance at Paideia in the first game of pool play. Blackman High School returns a good core group of smart throwers that might give Paideia some trouble if they play their cards right. At the very least, the Brookwood and Blackman match will be the closest 2 seed vs 3 seed match up on Saturday.
Catholic High School has a history of also being a hot and cold team, and they also are known for producing stellar talent (Garrett Yetman, Louisiana State University) as well as smart players. While they did lose four players from last year’s average team, Dylan Zerginue was invited to Junior Worlds and he highlights their roster.
Montgomery Bell Academy has a rich tradition and history starting in the early 2000’s, but since the turn of the decade their program has not progressed as much as other teams in the state of Tennessee. Carolina Friends should have an easy time during pool play but if they look ahead to the crossover game, then Catholic will catch them off guard and keep the score close.
Holy Family Catholic’s first real test will come when they play Grady Gauntlet, who return a key number of players that were a part of the Atlanta YCC team. One of those players is Sebastian Di Francesco; he is the bread and butter for Grady’s handler line. They lack tall athletes to compete in the air downfield but, if Grady can convert on defensive points, watch out.
McCallie School is sort of a mystery; they attended 2013 High School Southerns, but did not compete in the 2013 High School Tennessee State Tournament. Like MBA, McCallie is one of those programs that has not really improved as of late and it would surprise us all if they were to finish higher than third in their pool.
The main show for this pool will be during the last set of pool play, when Neuqua Valley and Independence Flight will square off for the first time ever. With Neuqua and Independence seeded 4th and 5th overall, this will be a test of where the line of competitiveness will be drawn.
Independence defeated Grady, 15-5, in the Blackman Fall Warm-Up Final. Neuqua Valley also participated in a fall college tournament, No-Wisconsequences, going 4-2 with a close loss to Purdue University. Those tournaments happened four months ago, and both teams are ready to compete in potentially the closest pool play game on Saturday.
Players to Watch
#8 Sebastian Di Francesco – Grady
#17 Ben Mapes – Paideia
#88 Nathan Haskell – Paideia
#2 Sol Yanuck – Carolina Friends
#12 Liam Searles-Bohs – Carolina Friends
#31 Luke Hudgin – Independence
#9 Dylan Zerginue – Catholic
#4 Grant Waldron – Blackman
#7 Jack Shanahan – Neuqua Valley
#22 Dominic Schuster – Holy Family Catholic
“It is pronounced ‘Nee-quah’. Trust me, if I had a nickel for every time someone said it wrong…” There you go, saved all of the Ultiworld some change. ↩