Let's kick this thing off!
July 27, 2015 by Keith Raynor in Preview with 1 comments
The day is upon us! Tonight marks the star of the All-Star Ultimate Tour, a momentous event designed to spotlight female stars in ultimate. 17 of the brightest young stars in the women’s division are banding together, hopping on a bus, and challenging some of USA Ultimate’s best club teams to hometown showdowns.
The All-Star Ultimate Tour is the brainchild of Qxhna Titcomb, one of the namesake five siblings of Five Ultimate. A highly accomplished player in her own right, Titcomb hastily set about working on putting place the logistics and creating the buzz to get the Tour up and running. A crowdfunding campaign quickly broke the $35,000 goal with an outpouring of community support. When they landed a sponsorship from E.R.I.C., they added further financial and logistical support, securing the situation for the Tour.
You’d be forgiven for seeing the visage of the Nexgen Tour when you look at the ASU Tour. There’s no question that the latter drew inspiration from and is modeled after the former. The revival — and redesigning — of Kevin Minderhout’s media organization behind NexGen paved the way for their involvement (in partnership with E.R.I.C.) and influence. It’s safe to say you can expect much of the same as what came from the prior Tours, even if they traded in the bus for a pair of vans.
Along with the goal of promoting women in ultimate is a goal of creating additional media for the same subgroup of our sport’s population. While the creation of ultimate video has dramatically shot up lately, the majority of content is still focused the men’s division1. Titcomb and her teammates have taken it upon themselves to bring new and exciting video content to the arena, more fuel for the promotional fire that could yield results in inspiring youth female athletes to succumb to ultimate’s siren call.
No surprise that the team is loaded with heavy hitters from the college division. Six Ultiworld College All-Americans (plus 3 unofficial third team selections by yours truly)2, three college National Champions, a two-time club champion, and highly successful Team USA players from various divisions make up the roster, along with one international playmaker.
With such well rounded and dynamic players, it is hard to predict positions, but there are some skillsets too good to avoid.
Expect Titcomb, Erynn Schroeder, Alika Johnston, Dori Franklin, Hayley Wahlroos, and Steph Lim to take up most of the backfield sets. Johnston, the 2015 Ultiworld Player of the Year, is already an elite level handler with gamebreaking quickness and mark-breaking throws (and fakes). Titcomb is long and difficult to defend, with huge throws. Schroeder, Franklin, and Lim are all steady and reliable veteran handlers. Wahlroos, the youngest of this group, is a showstopping thrower.
Operating in the middle of the field, we can expect a lot of action from Jesse Shofner, Stevie Miller, Margot Stert, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Carolyn Normile, and Hannah Leathers. Shofner’s lightning play speed and merciless throwing talents are difficult for any defender to contain. Stert, Fitzgerald, and Normile are all typically handlers, but on such a talented team, will be free to roam the cutting lanes and add flow to the offense. Normile showed the was plenty capable of operating in this role in London with the U23 Women’s team and Stert’s wingspan will make her a natural downfield threat.
The deep lanes will likely be patrolled by Aussie import Rebecca Brereton, Canadian rep Kate Scarth, Lisa Pitcaithley, Megan Cousins, and phenom Jaclyn Verzuh. Brereton and Scarth are probably the least known names on the roster. The Australian led her country’s U23 team in goals (despite playing only eight of their ten games) and added a healthy number of assists. Scarth was one of the top producers at this year’s College Championships. Each has the ability – and, excluding the athletic Scarth, size – to dominate in the air or on the run. Each is highly capable coming under, but are probably the premier deep receivers the team has to offer.
On the other side of the disc, every player on the roster is obviously a very capable defender. Leathers, Fitzgerald, and Cousins all have Ultiworld Defensive Player of the Year runner-up awards to their name and will be some of most impactful defenders on the Tour. Johnston, Lim, and Titcomb are all exceptional on defense, as well. Of course, pretty much the whole team is used to be one of the top three defenders on their team and battling the toughest offensive matchups.
Riot (July 27th – Seattle, WA): The team better feed off the adrenaline of starting the tour, because mighty Riot awaits them in Seattle. They’ll be better rested than any other part of the tour, but even with two of Riot’s own, expecting them to topple this well-oiled machine with little experience together is unrealistic.
Traffic (July 28th – Vancouver, Canada): The next night brings the ASU Tour to Vancouver, where an experienced Traffic team awaits them. Traffic has gotten off to a nice start to the year, and has the system and defensive chops to give the All-Stars trouble.
Schwa (July 29th – Portland, OR): The tour features two of Schwa’s top players in Shofner and Wahlroos, and the hometown team might not have the depth to compensate. However, the All-Stars are in on the third leg of a back-to-back-to-back, so this one could cut it close.
Molly Brown (July 31st – Denver, CO): After a lengthy drive, the women of Denver will be facing a revitalized crew. But there’s a lot of firepower on Molly and they have the size and speed combination to frustrate the traveling Tour.
Ozone (August 5th – Atlanta, GA): This is the biggest wild card game. The Tour has a brief break, but most of the team will be playing the Pro-Elite Challenge in Colorado a few days prior. How fresh will they be halfway through the tour? And how tough will an inconsistent Ozone team play them? A toss up game.
Scandal (August 7th – Washington, DC): The defending champions have had some doubters, but still have an impressive roster. Scandal’s handler core may have trouble overcoming the absence of Johnston. The All-Stars should be gelling at this point.
Green Means Go (August 9th – Philadelphia, PA): Fresh off their first nationals appearance, Green Means Go may be the most motivated team the Tour will face. With games every two days at this point, I expect the All-Stars to overpower GMG.
BENT (August 10th – New York City, NY): New York’s squad is typically solid and pretty stout defensively. But the size and strength of the ASU Tour roster is a lot of overcome. But this being after another back to back makes this a trap game.
Brute Squad (August 12th – Boston, MA): Titcomb, the tour’s creator, returns to her former stomping grounds to play her former team. While that makes for a storybook ending, Brute Squad has all the tools to make the going rough for the tired All-Stars. The Tour will be well tuned at this point, however, and this could wind up being an incredible game.
Follow Ultiworld for game recaps of every game, links to the livestreaming coverage, and exclusive content from the women on tour!
Ultiworld can proudly say we’ve maintained a heavy focus on showing both genders in our video coverage ↩
Margot Stert, Hannah Leathers, and Kate Scarth ↩