Its time for the MA, NE, SC, and SE to take their turns on the chopping block. Seasons will end and teams will qualify for nationals, and a weekend chock full of high stakes rivalries guarantees fireworks.
September 25, 2014 by in Preview with 4 comments
By Sunday’s end, the nation will know which 16 teams will be competing for the club championship in Frisco, Texas. But before we get there, the four remaining regions have to decide which squads will be representing them. And this weekend looks primed to provide a bit more excitement than the previous set of regional championships.
There’s a little something for everyone this weekend. A known power program will be staying at home at the conclusion of Northeast Regionals. A second bid in the Mid-Atlantic has some solid teams looking to take a major step for their clubs. And two of Ultimate’s tightest rivalries – Atlanta vs. Raleigh and Colorado vs. Texas – will play out on the regional stages that preface the big show. Four regions play for the remaining seven bids to see who will join the field and earn their ticket to Texas.
See our full preview of one of the most exciting Regionals of the season.
The Favorites: DC Scandal and Philadelphia Green Means Go
It has been three years since Mid-Atlantic Regionals weekend brought with it real intrigue, back when Phoenix was in the region. Last year, Scandal thumped GMG in the final, 15-7, not that different from 2012, when they rocked Hot Metal in the final. But when it was revealed this year that the Philly women had wrangled in second bid for the region, suddenly things in the MA shifted and the pressure was on.
Pegging the reigning national champion the regional favorite is easy. It would be a shock if Scandal didn’t win the regional title for the fifth straight year. They’ve got some of the nation’s best players and now a Championship pedigree. Although the two teams haven’t met since tryout season, Scandal is 11-2 against common opponents while Green Means Go is 3-7. They’re a heavyweight in the division, and the featherweight fighters are not ready to box with the champs.
For Green Means Go, that is more than true than ever because they’ll have to focus squarely on beating Hot Metal. Fuel was poured onto the fire when Pittsburgh Hot Metal defeated Green Means Go, 13-10, to win the Founders Section. Philadelphia remains the favorite, however, on the back of their successes during the regular season, including wins over Nemesis, Phoenix, and Heist. And when these two teams danced at Chesapeake Invite, GMG landed a resounding 13-6 win.
Philadelphia’s team is capable of not only making it to Frisco, but has the talent to potentially upset teams. Keri Dorko, Nikki Ross, and Katie Ryan are the leaders for this squad that will look put up a strong showing at the team’s most important weekend. With their shot at their first nationals appearance being barred by their rival, Green Means Go has all the motivation they need and that is enough to make them the favorite to take the second bid.
The Challenger: Pittsburgh Hot Metal
This year’s regionals will likely put a new chapter into the rivalry on Green Means Go and Hot Metal. The duo has taken turns knocking each other out in the semifinals at Regionals. They expect to reprise their intra-state struggle in the game to go, the same setup as in 2012, when Hot Metal beat GMG in the semis, lost to Scandal, and then took the ticket to Sarasota with another victory over Philly.
Hot Metal’s experience winning that big game might not mean much, since only a handful of the current roster was in Sarasota that year. While younger players like Vaughan Skinker, Danielle Runzo, Sophia Knowles, Charlotte Koerner, and handler Liz Lehman have injected energy into the team, allowing the team to use quick disc movement to set up deep shots, they’ll rely on veterans like Kelsey DeLave, Lucy Bender, and cutter Molly Moore to get them back to Nationals.
Who has the edge depends on what history you look at. Hot Metal has the edge with the most recent victory at Sectionals. But prior to that, they had lost their last six games to Green Means Go. But going back further, their last win was the one that sent them to the Club Championships and ended Green Means Go’s season. If Pittsburgh has their way, Sunday will feature some 2012 déjà vu.
The Favorite: Continued Rivalry
Two bids and two elite teams is not an uncommon formula, so expectations for little in the way of nationals drama are well founded. But as always, the battle for the South Central championship will come down to the classic ultimate rivalry of Colorado vs. Texas. Molly Brown enters the weekend as the top seed, but there’s little that makes either them or Showdown a favorite.
There’s a case for each team. Molly Brown is 2-1 against common opponents vs. Showdown’s 1-2. However, Showdown’s lone win is 13-12 over Brute Squad at US Open; Boston beat Molly Brown 13-5 the next weekend and then beat Showdown 13-4 at ECC. Showdown won both of last year’s battles are regionals, including tuning up Molly 11-4 in the final. And the second seed has beaten the top seed in both pool play and the championship game in both South Central Regionals.
The Triple Crown Tour and World Ultimate Club Championship calendars kept these two rivals separated, so there isn’t a head to head to draw on. They haven’t been to any of the same tournaments and have barely played the same teams. Molly Brown has been very impressive this year against mostly Elite and Select flight competition. Showdown’s ledger is slashed with a lot more red, mostly the doing of Pro Flight teams competing for semifinals spots.
Even from the beginning, these two teams have had different trajectories. Denver’s early season was filled with talks of their new additions and up and coming youngsters. Expectations were for a breakout year. Meanwhile, Showdown was facing a bevy of personnel losses and looked to be in a transitional year where they shepherded new stars to the forefront. But the storylines and past results won’t be in play when these two rivals meet up with the region’s top spot – and all the bragging rights – on the line.
The Challenger: None
In this perennial two bid region, there’s always hope for the lower seeded teams to break through. But Dallas Maeve, Houston Inferno, and Boulder Jackwagon have never really put together the string of play necessary to top their elite regional brethren. Despite some solid competition, none of the three teams has demonstrated such a capability this season, and even tight games against the top two seeds would come as a surprise.
The Favorite: Atlanta Ozone
It would be pretty simple to link back to last year’s preview and let that suffice. The ghosts of 2013 Regionals still haunt the region’s top teams. Ozone is hoping the script doesn’t have the same ending hidden on the final pages. It may come as a shock, but Atlanta is still seeking their first Southeast Regional championship, having ceded it every year to their rivals from Raleigh.
That’s right, Raleigh Phoenix has won the region over Ozone for every season of its three year lifespan. Even when it looked nigh impossible. And once again, the chips are stacked in Ozone’s favor. The top seed has the head to head, with two comfortable victories over Phoenix (plus two tryout tournament wins). The common opponents also indicate Ozone’s superiority, with their Ws against Green Means Go and Underground (who beat Phoenix). The rankings and records all echo the idea: this should be Ozone’s region.
Unlike last year, however, the Atlanta squad has been away from the spotlight. Their regular season, for an elite team, has been pretty mundane. And their roster has seen some significant changes, most notably the loss of Maddy Frey (who will be playing against them with Atlanta Outbreak), and breaking in a slew of elite Ultimate rookies. But this may all benefit a team who has needed the chance to develop without the pressure to succeed right away.
All that to get to this point, where the pressure will be on. Ozone has qualified for nationals 13 straight times. But they’ll have to deliver to win the Southeast for the 1st time.
The Challenger: Raleigh Phoenix
Phoenix is in “phlux”, as they’d write it, for yet another year. For the second straight season, they finished the regular season without a winning record, some disappointing scores along the way, and zero wins against Ozone. Their roster watched some their top talent – Claire Chastain and Shellie Cohen – walk out the door and their rookie class brings minimal elite experience. Obviously, none of this stopped them from capturing the regional crown last year, or prevented their ensuing 1-5 performance at Nationals.
Their flow through the season also parallels 2013. The lack of change in performance through the regular season is a red flag. At the tournament where they might finally come together, weather warped the results; Chicago Heavyweights had heavy rain that impacted scores. What does a 7-6 loss to a Heist team they beat 13-10 at Chesapeake mean?
Nobody in Atlanta is going to be taking Phoenix lightly, and with good reason. Judy Winglee and Johannah Sanchez-Adams will still be getting open for throws in the endzone, while Michelle Ng and Jessi Jones will still be slinging them. Jinny Eun, one of the few additions with major club experience, has been a high impact presence since coming over from Ozone. Phoenix will need to fend off the teams below them as well, with Florida Tabby Rosa and Nashville Encore eager to take advantage of Phoenix’s potential weakness. Few results indicate that these challengers represent a threat to Phoenix – or Ozone – but Southeast regionals isn’t afraid to improvise.