February 26, 2014 by Katie Raynolds in Preview with 6 comments
Two weeks ago, Michigan Flywheel traveled to San Diego for President’s Day Invite; they probably packed their cleats, their Nalgenes, and a bottle of sunscreen. Maybe some sunglasses.
This weekend, Michigan will have to pack their Under Armour layers, their fleece jackets, and a pair of winter gloves. Maybe some handwarmers.
Midwest Throwdown is a very different beast. This weekend may not be the coldest tournament of the season, but ask any Midwestern team about the most miserable tournament in any given year, and Midwest Throwdown will probably come up.
In 2012, the Central Florida Sirens were the lone non-Midwestern team to travel up during their Spring Break to compete, and they were so shell-shocked by Saturday’s driving wind and cold that they haven’t been back since, despite placing 9th on the windless Sunday. If it’s not windy, it’s snowing. If there’s no snow, count on deep, pervasive mud. I can’t blame the Sirens.
The reliably bad weather means, however, that Midwest Throwdown represents a perfect mid-season opportunity for Midwestern teams to hone their zone defense, test their throws in the wind, and stretch their legs after a long winter of single-digit temperatures. Teams that can force a lot of touches and risky throws on defense, while having a strong handler core that can capitalize on upwind movement on offense are the ones who have historically fared well at the Throwdown. No matter what the weekend brings, teams can expect low temperatures and at least a little snow.
|Pool A||Pool B|
|Colorado State||Washington University|
Pool A (Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Colorado State)
Michigan Flywheel (#21) hasn’t lost to any of the teams attending Midwest Throwdown this season, and Flywheel has the chance to practice producing definitive wins against Midwestern teams they don’t often meet. They’ll hope to churn through pool play with veteran handling from Meeri Chang and a zone defense that forces over-the-top throws.
Iowa State Woman Scorned (#24) had an unremarkable early season, and they were still warming up at Queen City Tune-Up. At QCTU, their best game was a close loss to Carleton College, a rematch that contrasts last year’s finals when Iowa State finished 1st.
Breaking seed early against Flywheel or a vulnerable Northwestern Gungho will show that Woman Scorned deserves to stay in the Nationals conversation. Look for Seniors Cami Nelson and Sarah Pesch to direct the team’s play on both sides of the disc.
Northwestern Gungho’s play this season has been tentative so far, and as the 2nd seed they could be set up to fall. They failed to establish themselves at Missouri Loves Company X and Queen City Tune-Up, and while their top players such as Alex Chudler have been reliable, the team as a whole has failed to click into a higher gear. That said, the game of the day in this pool will be the Northwestern vs. Michigan rematch in the last round on Saturday. Despite their dominant season so far, Michigan won’t soon forget their defeat in the game-to-go last year, and both teams will amp up for a reunion.
Colorado State Hell’s Belles added Becca Miller – a playmaker and Callahan finalist last year for Iowa State – to their roster this season, and they have the opportunity to surprise their pool from the bottom. At last year’s tournament, Colorado State rose from Division-II all the way to the semifinals and a 4th place finish, their best result in 2013. The Belles could be capable of another surprising run.
Pittsburgh Danger is coming off a tough couple of days at Queen City Tune-Up, losing five of their seven games. However, they do have the edge of experience, having already had a chance to take on a competitive field and further develop. The fell 7-12 to Michigan, and led by Jess Sheehan, will be eyeing some upsets.
Games to Watch:
- Michigan vs. Iowa State
- Michigan vs. Northwestern
Pool B (Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado College, Washington University)
University of Kansas Betty (#22) won Missouri Loves Company X, and heads turned. Then they beat Carleton (#9) 12-11 at Queen City Tune-Up and ended up in the quarterfinals, and now eyes are on them to bring a strength bid to the South Central region. Kat Songer, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Jenni Corcoran, Christine Baker, and Clare Frantz are all strong handlers for Betty, and their throws will be tested by whatever combination of snow/cold/wind St. Louis produces this weekend. They identified themselves as underdogs at the beginning of their season, and now they’re sitting on top: beating University of Iowa Saucy Nancy (#17) in the fifth round would show that they deserve to stay.
Saucy Nancy won’t be an easy opponent: they beat the Minnesota Ninjas to win Midwest Throwdown last year after losing to them during pool play, and they will meet again this weekend during the fourth round. While Saucy Nancy has had a quiet season so far, influential Liza Minor will lead their experienced squad through a tournament where conditions clearly benefit their style of play.
Minnesota Ninjas was ranked #16 in Ultiworld’s Preseason Power Rankings after a strong breakout 2013 season, but other more active teams have shuffled them off the list as they train a younger team. Look to Sophomore handler Greta Regan (North Central FOTY ’13), matched by veteran cutters Sarah Anciaux — who played on Minneapolis Pop — and Mindi DePaola, to run their offense, but their goals for the Throwdown are to build team cohesion and fine-tuning their play.
Colorado College Lysistrata’s Tools have also had a quiet fall season during which they won several smaller tournaments, but this weekend could give them a chance to stretch their legs and play good out-of-region games. Washington University WUWU will be on their home turf with nowhere to go but up, and they could be well-matched against Colorado College.
Games to Watch:
- Kansas vs. Iowa
- Iowa vs. Minnesota
#Bidwatch: Midwestern Edition
March is the last chance for ambitious teams to scramble for strength bids, and there are still a lot of bids up for grabs. With five bids to Nationals last year, the North Central teams have the most to lose and the most to prove this year, and so far Iowa State, Iowa, and Minnesota have flown pretty far under the radar.
If Iowa and Iowa State want more than a lone bid — a bid that Carleton will fight to claim — they will have to produce upsets in both pools, and Midwest Throwdown is the perfect setting for both these Throwdown veterans. Both Carleton and Wisconsin will be in action at the Stanford Invite fighting their own potential bid battles, so this weekend means a lot for the North Central’s hopes.
The South Central is clamoring for more bids this season as Texas and Kansas notch upset after upset, and this weekend will be the Betty’s moment to show they deserve top billing. Pittsburgh Danger represents the only team from the Ohio Valley region, and they need more out-of-region victories if they want to earn a strength bid and therefore avoid going through the formidable Ohio State. The Great Lakes is a notorious one-bid region, and Northwestern will have to produce a miraculous March if they want to avoid a rematch against the much-stronger Michigan.
The Midwest Throwdown will be a frigid but important dress rehearsal before all ten teams meet again in sunny Austin, Texas. But until then, pack your fleece.