April 10, 2014 by Jesse Moskowitz in Preview with 2 comments
Little has changed in the Southwest this season. The Claremont Braineaters have established that they’re still one of the top teams in the nation while Occidental Detox continues to nip at their heels. Occidental believes they have what it takes to return to the national stage, but big-brother Claremont is confident that they can hold their neighbors at bay. With so much at stake between these familiar foes in a winner-takes-all game, expect a finals battle.
Coming off of a 7th place finish at 2013 Nationals, the Braineaters hunger for a to return to a Championship game. Since the start of the season, this young team has felt confident in their ability to play with any DIII team in the nation — a belief that was validated at DIII Warmup back in February. While they lost in quarters, they finished the tournament 7-1 racking up big wins over top-twenty opponents.
They performed admirably at Trouble In Vegas despite missing key defensive players. They took down Colorado State and UC-Irvine and almost took a win against a strong DI program. “I’m very pleased with how we played this season,” said captain Alex Cloud. “Getting third at Trouble in Vegas after playing [San Diego State] very close in the semis was a highlight of our season for sure.”
Anchored by the strong play of Cloud, junior Alex Gruver, and sophomore Jimmy Bright-Dumm, the Braineaters run a disciplined offensive system. They work hard for unders in order to punish teams with well-timed deep shots. Cloud works behind the disc with Southwest Freshman of the Year favorite Jordan Lim and captain Chris Brown while their cutters plug away downfield.
“Chris Brown has shaped himself into an incredibly reliable handler who commands the flow of our offense,” Cloud said.
On defense, Claremont relies on big plays from a handful of athletic defenders and simple offense to move the disc downfield.
“Nathan Hall continues to help our defense get Ds and convert on them,” explained Cloud. “Defensive cutter and former B-team player Stephan Kim has become a massive threat on defense, laying out for blocks and getting huge in the air. Look for him to make plays in the upcoming tournaments.”
The Braineaters have been tested this season and look forward to the challenges that are ahead of them. A familiar matchup with Detox will be the first step if they hope to reestablish themselves as one of the nation’s top teams.
“Our goal is to perform to the best of our ability, which I think should get us far into Nationals,” said Cloud. “Occidental is always tough, but I’m confident that our O-line will hold serve while our young and hungry D-line does work.”
Detox, however, is looking to flip the script from seasons past. “We’ve looked at how we’ve done in past years at sectionals and it pretty much has always come down to depth; our top guys are always completely exhausted by the time we get to that final game,” explained captain Jacob Surpin. “We took half on Claremont last year, but faded as our legs went in the second half. We’ve made a conscious effort to build depth this year, and we’re confident that we have the talent up and down our roster to compete at a high level even late in the day on Sunday.”
Occidental has been practicing and training at a high level for the past month and a half to prepare for the regional tournament. By increasing their depth past their senior leadership, the team has better prepared themselves for their match-up with Claremont.
Detox is led by potential SE-III Player of the Year Andrew Featherston. Featherston has been making noise in the region for some time and much of the offensive work will fall on the athletic cutter’s shoulders. With the ability to put the disc accurately into space, Featherston poses a dual threat for the Braineater defense. Seniors Zachary Bruno, Ben Toney, and Surpin should contribute as well.
Still, it will be the play of the mid-tier players that will make a big impact if they hope to earn a spot at the College Championships. Kyle Rodriguez, Dan Terner, and Kai Foster will be key in stopping the hard-working offensive attack of Claremont. Freshmen Spencer Goldman and Jesse Moore will serve as important cogs on both sides of the disc as well.
Surpin feels as though the team is playing as well as they have in years and sees their showing at Trouble in Vegas as a sign of good things to come. “It was the best tournament we’ve played as a team during my time at Oxy,” he said. “We got to the fields early, were focused on each point in each game, were able to be versatile in our defensive and offensive looks, and received contributions from up and down the roster,” he explained.
If Occidental can play at their peak, they’ll have a shot at dethroning one of the region’s and nation’s best.
Surpin knows his team is ready to go: “We can’t wait.”
Caltech Aftermath sits at third in the conference. While Aftermath is unlikely to take down Claremont or Occidental, the team is pleased with their season thus far. They finished 6-2 (mostly over B-teams) at Santa Barbara Invite Qualifier and took down Northern Colorado and UC Irvine at Trouble In Vegas.
Captained by Radka Dancikova and JP Ocampo, the team has had as strong of a regular season as they’ve had in years. Dancikova has no problem playing high level ultimate on the same field as men as evidenced by her appearance at Mixed Club Nationals with LA 7 Figures this past summer. Ocampo plays on the Caltech varsity soccer team and provides a spark of athleticism for this squad. Competing against high level competition at conferences will only help the Aftermath program going forward.
Last-seeded San Diego has not participated in a tournament this season and finished fifth of five teams at conferences last season,. They’ll likely struggle again this season.
Is this the season Occidental takes down Claremont or is conferences just the start of the Braineaters run deep into Sunday in Westerville, Ohio? We’ll find out this weekend in Claremont.