2014 D-I Regionals Preview: Metro East (Women’s)

Metro East Womens Regionals - Ottawa
Photo by Daniel Brooks — UltiPhotos.com

For as long as the modern Metro East has existed, the Ottawa Gee-Gees have reigned supreme over their region. Three straight Regionals, three straight Metro East Championships.

Last year’s Regionals was the closest anyone had yet come to taking down the top seed, who survived a semifinal scare from Cornell and a game to go battle with NYU, each by just two points. Even their Conference Championship was challenged; they were similarly pushed this year.

The Gee-Gees enter the weekend in Farmington, CT, the heavy favorite, but a bevy of challengers await them, and everyone is eying the crown above their targeted back.

Seedings based on preliminary seedings

THE FAVORITE

Ottawa Gee-Gees (#1)

“Our team’s motto of sorts has always been that it’s “never enough”: It’s okay to be happy, but it’s not okay to be satisfied,” said Ottawa Coach Kathryn Pohran.

Back to back to back titles haven’t satisfied them. 13th place at the College Championships hasn’t satisfied them – and a number of them were big contributors on last year’s squad. Back are Kaylee Sparks, Vivianne Fortin, and Jahleel Bonaobra. This is an experienced team that’s seen a higher level of competition this season than most of their opponents can claim.

“A lot of the girls know the work that it takes to be in the series,” said Coach Pohran, “to make the next step to nationals. They’ve heard or been that extra voice on the sideline, working hard in the gym, getting extra throwing practice in.”

The Gee-Gees played at many tournaments, including Centex and their Conference Championships, with partial rosters, and will be missing a few key cogs at Regionals, including Romy Proulx and Alyssa Mainwood. They seem well prepared to overcome that issue.

Like so many teams in the upper half of the country, Ottawa’s season has been dramatically impacted by the weather. They weren’t even able to hit the 10 game rankings threshold. The lone full regular tournament they were able to get in was Women’s Centex – a tournament well known for its love affair with inclement conditions – which gave them their best wins of the season against teams like James Madison and Northwestern.

But perhaps the most important win so far is against second seeded Cornell, Ottawa’s friendly rival.

THE CHALLENGERS

Cornell Wild Roses (#2)

Six points is all that stands between Cornell and being 3-0 against Ottawa the past two years. That slim margin of victory is all from the Series, and each match up has been successively closer. Is this the year the Roses finally get over the hump?

“Composure and confidence are the keys,” said Cornell captain Katy Bland. “We have seen them as a tough rival in the past, but viewing ourselves as equals and being confident in our own abilities will keep our flow moving and hopefully lead to a victory.”

They certainly appear to the most likely heir to the throne. Wins over UPenn, UNC-Wilmington, and Georgia all indicate that Cornell can win games against strong competition. With Sarah Zhao leading the charge with her top notch throwing talents and a solid supporting cast (although Bland remains sidelined), seeing Cornell fall short of the final would be a surprise.

“They have good flow – we work on shutting it down. They throw on a junk zone D, and we work to get out of it. Conferences is always only a sneak preview of what teams may actually pull out at Regionals,” said Coach Pohran.

Columbia NYPD (#3)

East Metro East Champion Columbia NYPD is looking to make some noise at Regionals. Last year, they struggled with the pressure on, getting upset in prequarters by Connecticut.

“We learned [from last year’s Regionals] that we need to forget earlier games and any other distractions in order to focus solely on the game at hand,” said Columbia captain Emma Kahle, “We need to focus on playing our game and using our strengths.”

What they lack is the experience against quality teams that the top two seeds have. West Virginia was the team’s marquee win before beating Yale and NYU at Conferences. Still, they have played in big games, which may prepare them for the pressures of Sunday at Regionals.

“We made it to the finals at both of the full tournaments we attended, giving us great practice playing meaningful games at the end of the day on Sunday,” said Kahle.

Kahle is a very likely 1st Team All-Region pick after a 2nd Team showing last year and is a powerhouse behind the disc for NYPD. Surrounded by some younger but talented handlers, Columbia will be relying on them to make plays. Coach Isaiah “Izzy” Bryant will have his team focused and motivated.

THE FIELD

Rochester EZ’s (#9)

Rochester is probably underseeded going into the weekend, priming them for an upset. They’ve got a big roster, a regional star in Michelle Landis, and are smart defensively. They played Cornell tight twice at Western NY Conferences and have some wins over decent teams. Don’t be surprised to see them make a run at semis.

Yale Ramona (#4)

A late season surge from Romona could help them make a deep run. They bounced back from a pool play upset at the hands of Rutgers to make it to the EME final , where they gave Columbia a tough game. Cassie Pan and Sarah Jacobson give Yale the offensive weapons to compete.

The Rest

It is tough to make sense of Connecticut, Rutgers, Princeton, and NYU, all of whom have mixed results but could get hot at the fields in Farmington.

Players to Watch

  • Emma Kahle (Columbia)
  • Sarah Zhao (Cornell)
  • Michelle Landis (Rochester)
  • Sherry Li (Princeton)
  • Kaylee Sparks (Ottawa)
  • Vivianne Fortin (Ottawa)
  • Jenny Gobin (Connecticut)
  • Julia Longinotti (NYU)
  • Amy Zhou (Rutgers)

THE VERDICT

I expect a mish-mash of battles along the way, and things to not go to seed, but I don’t see anyone beating an experienced and talented Ottawa team. They’ll likely see Cornell on Sunday, which will make for a fun matchup, but Ottawa should prevail and return to the College Championships once again. After that, handicapping this race becomes incredibly difficult.

  1. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the Business Development Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email (keith@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

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