President’s Day Invite 2015: Tournament Preview (Women’s)

Some of the top west coast squads battle it out for early season supremacy, including top ranked Oregon and some of the teams expected to make deep runs at the College Championships.

Presidents_Day_Invite_2015_2015-02-04The beginning of the east coast’s early season more or less concluded this past weekend at Queen City Tune Up. This weekend is a chance for the west coast to shine, to deliver their final lines in the first act of this year. #1 ranked Oregon tangles with some of the top contenders, like #4 Stanford, #6 Colorado, and #7 Washington.

The road to battle one another and win the tournament is not the typical one. The three day tournament includes power pools that intervene between Saturday’s pool play and Monday’s three-game bracket. An elongated format may challenge teams’ roster depth, toughness, and focus.

It also may prove a great way to prepare for the grueling gauntlet that is Nationals.

Tournament Profile

  • Date: February 14-16
  • Location: La Jolla, CA
  • Ranked Teams: 7
  • Score Reporter

Stanford Is Legit

The word is out on Stanford and that word is “ready.” Preseason speculation lifted Stanford towards the podium, pegging them a national contender. Their performance at Santa Barbara Invite had all the hallmarks of a powerhouse. Nobody came close to toppling them, despite playing against some solid competition. They carved up rival UC Santa Barbara in the final.

Superfly’s deep and experienced roster has the tools to take down the tournament. Anne Rempel, Halsey Hoster, Steph Lim, and Monisha White are all playing strong ultimate. Their role players seem locked in defensively. And to top it off, they played SBI without Michela Meister (whose status is likely still in the air), meaning they should get even better.

Grad Students Accelerating Washington’s Progress

While the tournament marks the debut of Washington, the team’s already drawing attention. Their trio of grad students — Lauren Sadler, Tess Young, and Emma Kahle — began the news and then Nora Landri was selected to the U23 team, along with Sarah Edwards. This follows Grace Noah’s appearance in the Mixed Club Nationals final. Considering what the team lost last year, such a reload is impressive.

But we’ve learned never to underestimate strong programs and Washington fits the profile. Coach Kyle Weisbrod has a unique challenge in getting all these players on the same page. Early returns from Bellingham are positive.

The team’s forward motion is strong at this point. Their veteran core has been injected with an influx of talent. How it comes together is going to be fun to watch and a strong performance could launch them right back into the conversation.

First Look At Colorado

This year represents a new opportunity for Colorado. They have an impressive roster with elite club experience, big play makers, and youth talent. That’s why expectations are high for them. Yet that was all true last year and they failed to make it the elimination rounds of nationals.

They’ll need to take advantage of their depth if they want to be successful. Megan Cousins has starpower, but they go deeper than that. If they can get production out of Katherine Heil, Kirstin Johnson, Amy Leder, and other players down the roster, the ceiling starts looking within reach. Consistency was a struggle for Colorado last year, an area that they may have shored up.

Of course, another roster piece is scary: Lisa Doan. The Molly Brown veteran’s name is on the roster and that’s a scary prospect for opponents. She’s pursuing a Masters degree at Colorado and did not play in college previously. She’ll get the opportunity to tear up the division this time around, and it’ll be interesting to see what roles she takes on.

Oregon Still On Top

The hype on Oregon is standard fare: they’re one of the best teams in the country. Maybe the best. That’s status quo in Eugene. Fugue’s talent level is sky high, their pedigree is elite, and they know all about playing with a target on their backs.

Pres Day is actually Fugue’s second tournament this year, after getting in reps at Colluvium earlier this year. They did get two matchups with #10 Western Washington, which they won 13-4 and 14-9. Those extra games may actually give them even more of a leg up on their competition. Even with potentially reduced influence from Lou Burruss, the veterans know how to maintain the team’s level of excellence. They are definitely the favorites, but the challengers are waiting for any mistakes to capitalize on, much like last year’s UCSB team did.

Top Southwest Teams Take Aim

Both #9 UC Santa Barbara and #16 UCLA can stake their claims this weekend as well. The Southwest would love another three bid season, and wouldn’t mind getting greedy and taking more.

The Burning Skirts had an underwhelming showing at their home Santa Barbara Invite, despite an appearance in the final. They won a lot of close games along the way and then got run out of the gym by the aggressive Stanford. With the competition level higher, the margins are smaller. Depth has also been the question mark, and while Winnie Lam and Angela Dong looked solid at SBI, they’ll need more to back up Lisa Pitcaithley and Joy Kang.

UCLA also could use some more production from further down the line. While they did get to semis at SBI – and that game was their only loss of the weekend, 9-3 at the hands of Stanford – they did it relying heavily on the offensive firepower of Han Chen and Kristen Pojunis. They’ll need to diversify their angles of attack as their personnel continues to develop.

Darkhorse Potential

The field does have a couple of other landmines in it. #23 UC San Diego leads that group, coming off a very solid showing at Santa Barbara Invite, but they aren’t alone. Both Cal and Colorado College are teams to watch, showing potential to break into the top 25 and rise up regionally. Cal couldn’t quite get over the hump in Santa Barbara, playing without some of their injured top end players. Colorado College begins the post-Lohre era, relying on Robin Fassett-Carman and U23 selection Chloe Rowse to pilot them towards a strong showing. All that experience from last year’s Nationals run is an edge few teams can claim.

Ultiworld will be filming games at the President’s Day Invite. Here is the filming schedule; here are details about college subscriptions.

  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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