Metro East D-I Regionals 2015: Tournament Preview (Women’s)

Handicapping the Metro East is a difficult endeavor: do you take incumbent #1 seed Cornell, up and coming star-studded #2 Princeton, the legacy of #7 Ottawa, or maybe one-loss #4 UConn?

Princeton's Sheri Li hauls in a disc past a UConn defender at EME Conferences.
Princeton’s Sheri Li hauls in a disc past a UConn defender at EME Conferences. Photo: Jolie J Lang —

There’s not much cachet in winning Metro East Regionals anymore. A Metro East team hasn’t finished in the top 10 at Nationals since Pitt did it in 2010, before the region was redrawn. No Metro East team has cracked the Ultiworld Power Rankings and the highest USAU ranking in the region belonged to Connecticut, at 46th.

Just don’t tell the Metro East that.

There’s plenty to play for in Middletown this weekend, and the region feels fresh again after Cornell ended Ottawa’s post-redraw reign of three straight championships. There’s a lot of uncertainty going into the tournament, and essentially any of these teams making to Milwaukee is an upset.

Tournament Profile

  • Date: May 2-3
  • Location: Middletown, NY
  • Bids Available: 1
  • Score Reporter

Cornell: Class of the Region

Even with the rest of the region breathing down their neck, the Cornell Wild Roses have firmly earned the top seed in the Metro East. If they can hold it, they’ll establish a new known power in the region. There are numerous challengers, but Cornell has bested nearly all of them: Princeton, Rochester three times, and a somewhat shorthanded Ottawa team at Conferences. The only team in the region to defeat them is said rival Ottawa.

Take the region’s past results with caution, though, as the fickle weather of the northeast has had its moments with Metro East ultimate. Then again, it was Cornell who fared best in the wind of last year’s Regional championships.

Experience will be a key resource for Cornell, both gained this year and at the 2014 College Championships. Few teams in the region have been tested in the same way in multiple games like Cornell was at I-85 Rodeo this season. Their losses must become lessons. With wily hardworking cutter Christine Georgakakos leading the charge and Olivia Olson manning the backfield, the Roses can turn to their experienced leaders and playmakers when times get tough. Returning to nationals without last year’s top end will be tough, but they’ve proven to be the top performer in the region so far.

Stars on the Rise for Princeton

Princeton Lady Clockwork has risen from a 6th place finish at last year’s Regionals to be one of the favorites to claim the Metro East’s lone bid. Heading that up are some people who know about nationals (or, in same cases, Worlds): Sherry Li & Lyra Olson, who each played at Club Nationals with Green Means Go, and Jane Urheim, who played with Team USA U-19 last year. Joining them is coach Kristen Franke, who won the Club Championships with Scandal.

They hope all that winning experience is transferring to the team. “This year, our focus has been on fitness, a strong defensive mindset, and commitment to the team,” says Urheim. “This is probably the most serious, committed team that Princeton has ever had.”

Their 11-4 regular season record was one of the region’s best. They traversed East Metro East Conference Championship without a loss, despite some close calls.  There’s simply no team that can individually matchup with Li’s composed handling, Olson’s downfield wheels, and Urheim’s size and strength. The team has also brought back a large roster, losing two players to graduation and adding a 10-person rookie class, which they can leverage over the course of a weekend.

Princeton has been far from dominant this season, however, playing a lot of close games as recently as the Conference Championships. One and two point margins dot their record, both in green and red. They have, however, won their last three close matches.

“Having the experience of being down in some of those close games and then being able to find our momentum and win the close ones is an experience to draw on when that inevitably happens again,” says coach Franke.

If they can do that, Princeton may find themselves at the program’s first D-I nationals since 1999, the lone appearance in the team’s history.

Ottawa Wants Revenge

Revenge for the Ottawa Gee-Gees means ripping their crown back from Cornell’s head, after the Wild Roses unceremoniously ended Ottawa’s season in the semis last year. It means beating a Rochester team that took advantage of them at Regonals. It means returning to Nationals.

Back is a familiar cast of capable Gee-Gees. Hannah Dawson, Pascale Robineau-Charette, and Alyssa Mainwood reprise their roles, with the consistent play of Isabelle Bedard lending extra pop. Their small roster was adversely affected by being incomplete at Conferences, contributing to their low 7th seed. But that lack of depth could challenge them if they wind up in the wrong part of the bracket and facing a tricky pool.

Going into the weekend, Ottawa is 1-1 against both Cornell and Rochester, and hasn’t seen Princeton, Yale, or UConn. The unfamiliarity is not new, as they typically play a pretty sparse sanctioned spring schedule. But the entire region knows better than to take them lightly.

The Region At Large

There may not be much of a barrier separating the top two teams from the rest of the field, Ottawa included.

Yale Ramona features one of the region’s best big player threats in Sarah Flintgruber. They’ve beaten Rochester and Columbia this year, and came up just a point short against Princeton at Conferences. They have plenty of opportunity as the third seed.

It has been a strong season for the UConn Huskies, who hopes to surprise everyone with a nationals bid. Handler Molly McCauley is arguably the region’s best thrower and influential presence. She’s guided Connecticut to an undefeated regular season. In fact, they’ve only lost one game and by one point, losing to Princeton 12-11 in their Conference final. The Huskies may pose the biggest thread to the top seeds.

Another team to watch is the Rochester EZ’s. Michelle Landis could be named ME POTY once all is said and done, and while they haven’t won many games, they’ve shown the ability to compete with the region’s best. Their program has developed steadily and remains one of the top challengers.

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