The girl's division of the inaugural Neuqua Valley Knockoff will pit some strong youth teams from across the country off against each other. Check out which teams are expected to rise above the pack.
April 16, 2015 by Annie Wells in Preview with 0 comments
**Disclosure: The lead author plays for one of the top-seeded teams, eNVy.
Over the past couple of years, the Chicagoland area has become an epicenter for youth ultimate in the Midwest. This growth can be attributed in part to Neuqua Valley Ultimate, a high school club located in Naperville, Illinois. Neuqua Valley is hosting the first ever Neuqua Knockout, a youth tournament that is bringing over 60 teams together to compete in 4 divisions.
In the girl’s division, there is a lot of excitement and high competition to be expected. There are 12 girls teams hailing from Utah to Massachusetts to compete in the new Joliet-based tournament this upcoming weekend.
Seeded first in Pool A is Omega, Holy Family Girls Ultimate team from Cincinnati, Ohio. The girls are on fire coming off of a first place win over eNVy at their own tournament, Rivertown Throwdown. In addition to this championship victory, they came in second place at Deep Freeze earlier this season.
There is no doubt that Omega is a team that has a chance at winning the tournament. They play a very fast paced game with aggressive defense and few teams have been able to come close to their level of athleticism and skill. You can count on a strong performance from Omega this weekend as they look to continue to step up their game.
Denver East comes in as the second seed. They had a few tough games at East Invite this year but are hoping to solidify and strengthen their offense with a team roster of 16 players this weekend. Marlee Ackerson and Anna Martens are going to lead the new recruits; Neuqua Knockout is a great opportunity to see these girls try to mesh as a team and grow team chemistry together.
Walter Payton East Girls team is in only its second year as a program, but already have two girls teams. Much improved from their first year, Payton is still trying to get through some struggles that come with being a new team. The Grizzlies may not have the most experience, but they do have numbers. They are also coming to prove that they are making their way up in the ultimate world.
One interesting scheduling note: Because of their A team consisting of mainly juniors that will be taking the ACT on Saturday, all of their players will be playing as one team on the first day. When the juniors return on Sunday, the WP B team will take Lone Peak’s spot on Sunday as Lone Peak will not be participating for religious reasons. Both the Walter Payton A and B teams will play on Sunday separately.
Seeded fourth are the Vipers from Lake Zurich, Illinois, who have not had a chance to play in many tournaments so far this season. Combining with some players with Geneva will give the relatively short roster some additional legs subs, but it still is a difficult situation to be in.
Finishing out Pool A is Center Grove from Greenwood, Indiana, also known as Holy Mackerel. Their girls team is new this year and they are very excited to start building the team as a whole and grow together. Junior Delaney Johnson, one of the founders of the the team, will lead her 12 girls this weekend with some others from the Indianapolis area. They do not have a lot of experience and Neuqua Knockout is their first major tournament of the season.
For the first time in its history, Neuqua Valley is debuting a separate A and B girls teams. Their A team is coming off a tough loss in Cincinnati to Holy Family Girls in the championship. Having only lost a few seniors, eNVy’s A team consists largely of returners from last year. Led by senior captains Kelly Crowley and Stephany Stumphauzer, the eNVy girls are a force to be reckoned with. They defeated Depaul University’s team in a scrimmage a few weeks back and the team hopes to continue to improve even more. All eyes are on the home team to see if they will be able to defeat some of the best high school teams in the nation.
Rush from Easthampton, Massachusetts is the wild card team 2 seed from the East, who could possibly bring a different style of defense to the Midwest and trip up some of the local teams.
The Washtenaw Night Witches come from Ann Arbor, Michigan and are the third seed in Pool B. With plenty of experience playing in the wind, they may have a leg up given that the weekend forecast calls for pleasant but windy conditions.
James Madison Memorial won states in Wisconsin last year, but also took seventh at Centrals and had only an okay performance at Madison Mudbath. Neuqua Knockout is their chance to show how well they can play out of state, despite the loss of a few key senior players.
This is the very first tournament for eNVys new B team. The majority of the team are rookies to the game, but seniors Rachel Lindsey and Sandhya Dave are determined to lead the team to a strong showing at Knockout. They’ll look to learn at this tournament and start building team chemistry as they play together for the first time, and may be a team to watch for some upsets.
LONE PEAK AND FINAL FOUR PREDICTIONS
The last team that finishes out Knockout’s impressive roster are the Lone Peak girls from Highland, Utah. They will not play Sunday because of religious reasons, but do not count them out for playing some incredible ultimate. They have had an outstanding season in their spring league back in Utah and there is a lot to be expected as the girls team travels to the Naperville area for the first time. They will be playing two games under the lights Friday night — against a Walter Payton/eNVy B combo, and then against eNVy A. The former will be a great opportunity for two Chicago teams to make friends and mesh together, and the latter will be an interesting game to watch and a tough challenge for both teams.
So, the question arises. Who will take the championship at Neuqua Knockout? It is hard to tell, but the top four seeds- Omega, eNVy A, Denver East, and Rush all look like the forerunners to steal the four spots in the semi finals. Money would be on another matchup between the eNVy girls and Omega in the finals, but Rush is the dark horse and could end up surprising a lot of teams.