Could we finally see a new team emerge as champion?
August 6, 2015 by Xavier Stewart in Preview with 5 comments
With the advent of the All Star Ultimate Tour, women’s ultimate has recently been given a spotlight it hasn’t had before. While some of the top college players from around the country head to Washington DC this weekend with the Tour, their younger counterparts will be headed to Minnesota to play in the most competitive Youth Club Championship (YCC) in recent memory.
While DiscNW has to be seen as the clear U19 favorite—having won 10 out of 10 titles since the tournament’s inception—a slew of teams could give the Seattle team a run for their money. The biggest thing working against the reigning champs might be the new pool play format. With only the top two seeds in each pool advancing, every game matters. If one or two teams can get a victory on DiscNW while their guard is down, this could be the year a new team takes home the top spot in Blaine.
DiscNW Seattlesaurus (1)
Viewers at this year’s Youth Club Championships will see that a notable name is missing from the Seattle outfit. While the rest of her team battles for glory in Blaine, Jaclyn Verzuh will be 1000 miles away in Washington, D.C. playing against Scandal with the All Star Ultimate Tour. While this is a big blow for the team’s roster, by no means is Seattlesaurus anything less than the favorite.
With all the attention Verzuh draws, its almost possible to forget about the other elite club player on this team, Hallie Dunham. Dunham will be more than a handful for whoever lines up across from her. Not to mention that the team around her could probably hold their own against lower level club teams. The majority of this team traveled to Centex this past March and held their own playing college teams. Despite being put in what appears to be the more difficult pool, this team will probably sweep the competition. The game to watch will be the Friday morning rematch with Maine Rip Tide. The Northeast team lost by one point to the Seattle team last year and with the loss of Verzuh it’s possible Seattle could slip in their first game of the day.
North Carolina Warhawks (3)
Like Seattle’s Fryz program, North Carolina has experience and chemistry as a team. They played in Paideia Cup together this spring, where they took third place. It wouldn’t be shocking if the team used that experience together to advance to semis. At the same time, the team lost to both Paideia and Neuqua Valley at Paideia and cATLanta and Nightmare’s squads are comprised of large portions of those two teams, respectively.
It will be interesting to see how Warhawks does this time around with additional time to prepare. The biggest question for the Warhawks this year will be how they replace the production of arguably their top three players from last year. The NC team has lost Domenica Sutherland and Ashley Powell, both of whom went on to be the Freshmen of the Year for their college’s region, along with Klara Calderon-Guthe, who was First Team All-Region. In spite of these losses, it’s tough to bet against this team; if there’s any team in the tournament who can replace that level of production, it’s the Triangle Area.
Maine Rip Tide (5)
Rip Tide gave DiscNW their best game of the tournament last year. While Marissa Risbara is the only departure from that squad, losing their statistical leader could be a bigger blow than one might think. The team also had a very up-and-down tournament last year. It’s possible they could still put it all together in Blaine this weekend, but it remains to be seen if the depth players can handle expanded roles and more defensive attention.
Chances are this team will rise up to the challenge. Their roster is comprised of a collection of players from various schools rather than any one school’s players dominating. The roster is very small at 12, which could be the difference in later games against the Warhawks and Glory. A good portion of the team played together last year, that extra experience will be key in helping this team reach its ceiling.
Oregon Glory (7)
Oregon Glory is a first year youth club team, but by no means should this team be written off. For starters, they have USA U19 player Clea Poklemba. Not only that, but the team is primarily comprised of Poklemba’s teammates from Corvallis High School, meaning the team should have plenty of chemistry coming into the tournament. For a new team in the girls’ tournament this can be invaluable. Still with a roster of only 14, this team will need to rely on every member of the team to keep pace with the other teams in Blaine. If this is anything like the Corvallis High School team, expect a lot of Poklemba with some Bethany Llewellyn thrown in for good measure.
Chicago Nightmare (9)
Last year, Nightmare struggled against some teams (including the Warhawks) but acquitted themselves well against others (like Minnesota). This year, they boast a roster of players mainly from Neuqua Valley high, arguably one of the best high school teams in the country. Transferring those players over and bolstering them with other regional talent makes for a good mix. The road for this team will be tough with virtually every other team in their pool boasting a roster as good, but this team has talent and experience playing together.
Atlanta cATLanta (11)
cATLanta had a disappointing showing last year after being put in a pool of death with Riptide and DiscNW. This year, they find themselves with an even worse pool draw with Riptide and DiscNW again. Differences between those two teams end there, however, cATLanta is no longer a first-year team and their roster has aged a year. Not to mention the high school program from which half their team comes from put together an undefeated season playing against some of the toughest teams in the country. By no means should the results of last year color perceptions about how good this team can be.
Pool Prediction: Of the two pools, this pool is definitely the more challenging due to its depth; upsets could happen in virtually every game. Expect Seattlesaurus to clearly rise to the top of the pool. Second place in the pool could come down to point differential, as the Warhawks and Glory will be hotly contesting the second seed, with the Warhawks prevailing. cATLanta, Nightmare, and Riptide round out the bottom three places, in that order, but will probably be very close in records.
Cincinnati Belle (2)
Belle had a top four finish last year, but after losing their top four statistical leaders, can they get back to the semis? Belle has a bunch of playmakers from Holy Family Catholic but sports a smaller roster of 14; facing BUDA in the last game of pool play could be killer. Whether or not the Cincinnati team is winded by then could decide whether they make the Championship Bracket.
Boston BUDA (4)
BUDA had a tough loss to Nightmare last year in prequarters, knocking them out early. This year, however, they should be expecting a better result. The team competed together at Neuqua Knockout as Rush 2015, losing only to Holy Family Catholic and placing second. The expanded field of teams should help BUDA put its large roster to good use. In particular, playing Belle in the last game of pool play puts the Boston team in the best possible position to win the pool. BUDA also has one of the best players in the tournament, New England College Freshman of the Year Val Willocq of Tufts.
New Jersey DEVYL (6)
DEVYL has tremendous turnover from last year, returning only four players from last year’s roster. Thankfully, those returners are all top players. Sadie Jezierski will factor heavily into the team’s success. She’ll bring her experience playing with Ohio State Fever with her to Blaine as she and this team try to improve upon last year’s 5th place finish.
Denver Cutthroat (8)
Cutthroat finished second in Blaine last summer, but that might as well have been an entirely different team. This year’s Cutthroat returns just one player, Akane Kleinkopf, from last year’s team. Suffice to say, her role on the team is expected to increase substantially. She’s joined by several players from the Denver metro area but notably none from the local powerhouse, the Monarch School. While this may seem like a large issue on the surface, the other teams from Colorado are fairly good in their own right. East High School, a middle of the pack team in Colorado, finished 4th at Neuqua Knockout in April. Cutthroat could make a big splash in the tournament, but the roster turnover has to be a concern.
Minnesota Superior (10)
Superior boasts one of the biggest rosters in the tournament, nearly double the size of 2nd seeded Belle. Expect Minnesota to use this depth to their advantage. Playing with home state advantage should give the team a nice boost. With Belle, DEVYL, and Cutthroat all experiencing large turnover, it’s not out of the question for the team to sneak into the Championship bracket.
Pittsburgh Moxie (12)
Moxie was overwhelmed by the level of talent in Blaine last year. This year with so many teams in their pool experiencing major roster turnover, they might be able to surge into one of the top three spots in their pool. Roster size could put them at a disadvantage however. They have combined the talents of mid-level Pittsburgh high school girls to form this year’s team. They may not have any stand out players, but based on their familiarity with each other they should be able to win a game or two this weekend.
Texas Tango (13)
The new team out of Dallas has an uphill battle if it wishes to be competitive in an ever-improving field of competition. They took an important first step by attending Texas Two Finger together. They took their lumps as first year club teams tend to do, but they also made a significant leap forward in terms of chemistry; doing so while playing excellent teams like Showdown is always a plus. Still, as a first year youth club team, it’s hard to envision them advancing to the Championship bracket, even in the easier pool.
Pool Predictions: BUDA takes the top seed thanks to their talent and depth. DEVYL takes second in the pool after a key victory over Belle at the end of the first day. Minnesota plays Belle early in the first day and loses a hard fought battle which ultimately puts them in third thanks to differential. Belle, Cutthroat, Moxie, and Tango finish in that order.
Players to Watch
Hallie Dunham (Disc NW Seattlesaurus)
Clea Poklemba (Oregon Glory)
Katie Cubrilovic (North Carolina Warhawks)
Allison Bashford (North Carolina Warhawks)
Hayley Samson (Cincinnati Belle)
Val Willocq (Boston BUDA)
Sadie Jezerski (New Jersey DEVYL)