Women’s Centex 2015: Tournament Preview (Tier II & III)

The quality of team in Tier II & III at Centex are what make it the deepest tournament in the country and decided some bids last year. There are teams to watch in this year's field.

Centex 2015While the Tier I teams battle for power, pride, and bids, many Tier II teams are stretching their legs and honing their strategies for the post-season. The level of competition for these teams is pretty even, which the chance to play up to Tier I for the added challenge. That will keep each team on their toes. Everyone has developed a style over the past five months, and now it’s time to see if it works.

There are several new faces in Tier II, and their stories this season could forecast what their post-season looks like.

Who is MIT?

Last year at Centex, MIT competed in Tier III, placing 29th and making little noise.

This season, a lot of people are asking who they are and what they’re doing right. Their performance at Commonwealth Cup – upsetting Michigan Flywheel and playing very close games with Ohio State – boosted them into Tier II. They will face Michigan again as well as Florida FUEL and the Minnesota Ninjas during pool play.

Some of MIT’s success this season stems from captain Lisa Liu. Returning to the team as a graduate student, Liu is the spirit of sMITe. Her primary role is downfield, but MIT uses her speed as a mark in their zone as well.

Can Chicago Keep Their Legs?

University of Chicago battled their way to the Midwest Throwdown finals, but once there, they looked exhausted. The team relies heavily on the energy and talent of captains Jesse Handler and Amanda Dobbyn. Both seniors play a majority of the team’s points, but the system thus far hasn’t been sustainable for them.

Their success landed them in one of the toughest pools of the tournament, facing the Seattle Fryz, the Nebraska Cuddle Raptors, and Rice, the second best D-III team in the country right now.

Chicago will probably continue running tight lines, so the question is whether or not Handler and Dobbyn can make the decisions they need to late during Sunday games. Chicago’s post-season prospects depend on the answer.

The Fryz Could Spell Trouble

As if anxious college teams didn’t have enough to worry about, the Seattle Fryz — the youth club team out of the Northwest city — are ranked first in the Tier II bracket. The Fryz are notorious for their talent and depth, and they regularly compete at and win Club and College tournaments. The pedigree of youth ultimate players within the Fryz program is unparalleled in the country, and this weekend they’re bringing heavy hitters into Tier II.

Captain and U23 Worlds player Jaclyn Verzuh is likely to do some damage in Austin alongside her Worlds teammate Hallie Dunham. If they hold seed, they could meet and upset a Tier I hopeful to break into the bracket. There are many that believe that, if they were a college team, they would have made it to the College Championships last season.

…like I said. Trouble.

Which Saucy Nancy will show up?

At Midwest Throwdown, Iowa unveiled the new Saucy Nancy: their veteran stars worked off each other quickly and efficiently, making plays when they had to and punishing the midfield. Their game broke down when they faced zone on Sunday; handlers gripped the disc too long, and Nebraska ran away with the game.

Iowa will likely face zone again this weekend if the rainy weather reports deliver. The potential for a contender at North Central Regionals is there. Count on Liz Gronert and Anna Pritchard to make game-saving plays, but Iowa will have to polish their zone offense if they want to survive Tier II.

Where has Michigan been this year?

It’s no surprise Flywheel (UW #21) is a different team this season. After graduating their best handler, Meeri Chang, and their best defensive duo, Jacqueline Jarik and Becky “Tots” Moore, the team was bound to recalibrate. So far this season, the calibration hasn’t turned in their favor. They will enter Centex with a 7-6 record and zero wins to hang their hats on.

It’s hard to pin down the stakes of Centex for Michigan. They have never sought a strength bid for the Great Lakes region, always counting on winning the region themselves. The region definitely won’t earn another bid this year, but Flywheel should be worried about the force that is Notre Dame (USAU #6, UW #22).

Centex is their last tournament before the post-season begins; Flywheel still has a bank of solid players, including Hannah Henkin, Carolyn Vlach, and Tracey Lo, a trio of athletic handlers with excellent throwing touch. But they have a lot to prove as a team if they want to earn the Great Lakes region.

Wisconsin Builds a Program

In the post-Sara Scott era, Bella Donna is building a deeper program in the North Central, with strategies designed to highlight the whole roster.  The team receives hype for their three stars — Rachael Romaniak, Lorraine Guerin, and freshman Maggie Kennedy — and coach Robyn Wiseman prefers it that way; it allows the rest of the team to subtly run the game without being targeted.

Like many North Central teams, Bella Donna’s exposure to outdoor play and tournament experience has been limited this season: they attended both Florida Winter Classic and Queen City Tune-Up, but they still see late March tournaments like Centex as their chance to shine:

“Centex is sort of the point of no return where we put all the chips on the table and see where we end up,” said Wiseman. “We aren’t developing new strategies; we are refining and making small in-game adjustments.”

Bella Donna is ready to capitalize on the work they’ve invested into rebuilding this year, and they have the talent to see it through.

Any Danger in Tier III?

Two teams from last year’s Tier III (Rice and Colorado State) made it the 17th place bracket semifinals, nearly as high as those teams can go. Another team in that semifinal was Wash U (from Tier II). Could any teams repeat that impressive performance, strong enough to win Colorado State a bid for the South Central?

Once again, two teams stand out in the field. One of them is Wash U, originally slated to be a Tier above, and now potentially the scariest team in their new Tier. To their credit, Iron Horse has beaten two teams from Tier II – aforementioned MIT and Florida – and has played close with Tier I’s Iowa State. But they’ve also won just 1 of their last 7 games.

The other team is Georgia Tech, the top seeded team in Tier III. They roared out of the gates to begin the year, winning Tar Heel Tune-Up, including topping UNC in the final, 8-6. But their performance at Moonlight Invite – losing to Emory, getting thumped by both Georgia and Clemson – left something to be desired. They are an athletic and veteran-driven outfit that fight hard and should be considered a threat.

  1. Katie Raynolds
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    Katie Raynolds took a break from Seattle ultimate to test out the Midwestern scene, but now she's back in the Northwest to investigate this "bubble" she keeps hearing about. She played for Northwestern Gungho, two seasons with Chicago Nemesis, and now plays for Seattle Underground. Katie serves as Ultiworld's Women's D1 College Editor, and is damn proud to cover women's ultimate. You can reach her by email (katie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@kraynolds90).

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