Condors Favored in a Tight, Competitive Southern California Section (Open)

The Southern California club open section once again is primed to be one of the most competitive in the country. With a plethora of top-end talent featured on several different teams, conference championships will be a real treat to watch. We take a look below at the top four club teams heading into the season based on last year’s sectional finishes.

Frisco, TX: Andrew Pebley (Condors #13) reaches back for the disc during pool play at USAU National Championship. Photo courtsey of Jeff Bell Photo, Ultiphotos.

SANTA BARBARA CONDORS- A TARGET ON THEIR BACKS

The team to beat this season, the Condors return 17 players from the 2013 squad that took 13th at nationals last year. Almost half have picked up valuable experience from the pro scene with the San Jose Spiders and San Francisco Dogfish during the offseason.

The Condors also add 7 new players, although it would be a misnomer to call them rookies, as all have professional, elite club, or at least high-level college experience. New pickups expected to be big impact players include Bryan Nguyen, formerly of Renegade, Kieran Kelly from Madcow, and Nick Greenfield of Boost Mobile.

Husayn Carnegie and Lu Wang will also bring their talents to the Southwest club scene after a year with the AUDL’s New York Empire. Team leadership considers the 2014 Condors roster arguably the deepest they’ve seen in years.

The team’s biggest weakness last season was stringing together quality wins; while they could run with the best in the country at times, consistency throughout tournaments was a challenge for them. Especially given the quality of competition they will face them at both sectionals and regionals, the Condors will need to find their groove early, and be able to stay in it if they want a more competitive appearance at Club Nationals.

The Condors want to be a challenger at the biggest stage of club competition, not simply a team that is satisfied with having qualified for the show. Given the more experienced look the team brings this time around, the Condors should be able to use their veteran leadership to create strongly skilled lines, deeper than many other teams in the section and region.

The Condors are coached by Steve Dugan, who has won several UPA and WFDF titles as both a player and coach. Expect him to channel the Condors’ experience and depth into late elimination round appearances throughout both the season and postseason.

Regular Season Schedule:

  • Colorado Cup
  • West Coast Round Robin

LOS ANGELES RENEGADE- HUNGRY AND READY

After a stinging 13-6 defeat at the hands of the Condors in the 2013 conference championship, and only having missed out on the regional semifinals by a single point last season, Renegade is out with a vengeance in 2014. Having lost almost half their team from last season due to a number of factors, Renegade brings a more youthful, fiery look to their roster this time around.

Notable additions include Andrew “Tweak” Padula, a lightning-fast defender coming off his senior year at UCLA, Ed Wu, impossible to miss with his orange mohawk, not to mention a dangerous arsenal of break throws and hucks, and Sean McDougall, a raw athlete looking to make up for his lack of experience with pure speed and hard, physical defense.

That being said, team captains Eric Lissner and Evan Valdes don’t see their team as a squad built around any specific players, telling us not to be surprised if 12-13 players are on the scoresheet after any given game. Renegade is looking to implement a more unified offensive system, one that allows their rookies to be just as influential as their most experienced vet. While their top players will certainly be expected to step up in crunch situations, Renegade will have worked out a cohesive system by the beginning of the postseason.

Renegade was quite content with their 5th place showing earlier this month at Cal States. Having attended with a skeleton roster of 7 rookies and 7 returners, they informed us that the tournament was treated as an opportunity to give their players a chance to develop chemistry with their new teammates. Additionally, they wanted to get used to their new system, focusing on that rather than Ws at this point in the season.

Tough losses at Cal States against Streetgang and the Condors (on universe) balanced convincing wins over Oaks, Atlas, and Journeymen. Lissner and Valdes were glad for the up and down weekend, saying that the team showed a lot of promise and consistency during the wins, but the losses pointed out clear areas of improvement that the team will have to work on going forward. They were especially praiseworthy of the weekend performances of McDougall, Jacob “Trunks” Surpin, and Takashi Isomoto.

In sharp contrast to the depth of experience on the Condors, Renegade looks to utilize its youth and powerful athleticism most of all. The balance of veteran leadership in the team, combined with the raw desire of their rookies, will allow Renegade to run with and over most teams. If Renegade can iron out the kinks inevitably accompanying such significant roster turnover and account for the presence of the youth and inexperience in their system, they will be out for blood in the postseason.

Regular Season Schedule:

  • San Diego Slammer
  • West Coast Round Robin

SAN DIEGO STREETGANG- STARTING OFF WITH A BANG

Streetgang is arguably the hottest team in the section right now after their early season tournament win at Cal States, having defeated several solid teams, including Renegade, on their way to beating out a consistently strong Boost Mobile team in the final.

However, leadership was quick to downplay the significance of the weekend results, stating that it was the equivalent of an early fall college tournament; no team is even close to their full potential.

That being said, Streetgang returns a strong core of 18 returners, adding several new players out of UCSD and SDSU. Players to watch include Casey Wu, expected to lead Streetgang’s goalscoring exploits this season, Jesse Cohen, recently graduated from being a major component of UCSD’s Air Squids squad, Zeke Ivers, looking to have a breakout club performance this summer after a strong individual season with San Diego State, and Alan Lai, an absolute workhorse who never stops running.

Streetgang expects their team dynamic to be very similar to the one they had last season, with a heavy emphasis on tough, physical defense. First-year captain Dom Leggio explained that in past years, lack of a cohesive offensive system had been the team’s downfall, leading them to implement a set system two years ago. They’re looking forward to reaping the rewards of two years of practice with their offensive sets this time around, with Dom stating that they are “focusing on achieving success today.” On the other side of the line, the captains are very excited about their defensive prospects, saying that their D-line is the best it’s been in years.

While their goal is still a berth at Nationals (winning regular season tournaments along the way), Streetgang’s leadership is erring on the side of caution, claiming that they won’t know their true potential until they’ve played more developed squads with full rosters. When asked about the section, they admitted that while the Condors may have the edge, the section is very much open. Streetgang believes that they have the system and personnel to beat any team, but also know that they’ll need to bring their A game to every match — coming out flat for even a few points could be the difference between a win or loss.

Look for Streetgang to be among the more polished teams in the section, as they are the only team attending three highly competitive tournaments before postseason play begins.

Regular Season Schedule:

  • San Diego Slammer
  • Colorado Cup
  • Chicago Heavyweights

PHOENIX SPRAWL- AN UNFORTUNATELY FITTING NAME

Having been knocked out of last year’s regional championship bracket by Revolver in the semifinals, Sprawl is back with much of the same roster, arguably even stronger this year.

One crucial loss that will be difficult to replace is former captain and offensive lynchpin Brandon Palmer. While they lose an individual team leader, Sprawl hopes to make up for his absence with 9 new players, all with varying levels of elite club and college experience. Captain Jia Xie will return for his 4th year with Sprawl alongside co-captains Vince Noe and Fernando Lugo, hoping to lead the team to earn (and retain for themselves) another Nationals bid for the Southwest region. They expect fresh additions Danny Bellissimo, Nathan Bridges, Kyle Wiegand, and Kevin “Sass” Coulter to have an immediate impact on the team, alongside savvy veterans such as Justin Gries and Josh Kohl.

Paired with the desire to perform well during the regular season is the need to involve their new players into the Sprawl system and develop a level of consistency across the roster so that all players will be contributing to winning games at regionals. According to team leadership, “steady improvement” throughout the regular season will be critical in performing well in the postseason. Sprawl are seeking to be raring to go well before then, however, with one of their goals being to earn the region a strength bid with their performance at Chicago Heavyweights.

The biggest hurdle Sprawl faces this season is the fact that their players are situated far throughout the state of Arizona; this will make it very difficult for Sprawl to have full team practices throughout the season. While the team is setting up weekend camps, and part-team practices in Tucson and Phoenix, the major question is whether only two tournaments and several full team practices will be enough for Sprawl to gel into a rhythm allowing them to compete with the much more localized Condors, Renegade, Streetgang, and other teams in the upper echelon of the region.

Regular Season Schedule:

  • San Diego Slammer
  • Chicago Heavyweights

The Southern California section is at a relatively even and high level, and the parity means that the conference championship could very well come down to which team is feeling it most on that particular Sunday.

The Condors, Renegade, Streetgang, and Sprawl all have little doubt that they will qualify for the regional tournament. When reached for questions, each team’s leadership admitted that Revolver is likely the favorite to take home the regional title, and that Boost Mobile would be the other big out-of-section competitor; given that Streetgang is the only team with the explicit goal of earning a bid for the region, it will be interesting to see whether the goals of the remaining teams will have the secondary effect of garnering an extra bid or two.

While the Condors and Renegade won’t see much out of region competition outside of Colorado Cup, Sprawl could very well be the team that steps up at Chicago Heavyweights. The battle for the extra bids to Nationals will be wide open, and based on the quality of in-region teams the qualifiers will have to beat, don’t be surprised if Revolver isn’t the only team out of the Southwest making a deep run at Nationals this year.

  1. Steven Wartinbee
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    Steven Wartinbee graduated Georgetown University in the class of 2015, where he captained the men's team, Catholic Justice. He currently lives and works in Arlington. You can contact him at swartinbee@gmail.com, or find him on Twitter @swartinbee.

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