The final year of Southerns is here.
May 13, 2016 by Fred Wolf in Preview with 0 comments
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After spending three years in the Carolinas, the fifth and final edition of High School Southerns moves south to Atlanta, Georgia.
Every conversation about Southerns should start and end with Carolina Friends School. The two time reigning champs are the undisputed favorites after a regular season that included a fourth consecutive state championship, a Deep Freeze title, and a runner-up finish at Paideia Cup. The talk about Carolina Friends is always going to come back to Liam Searles-Bohs and Dillon Lanier. This is well deserved, as Searles-Bohs has possessed some of the best hucks in the division since his freshman year and Lanier is an almost unguardable workhorse of a cutter. However, simplifying the team down to two players is an injustice to how complete of a team CFS is. “I think our fire power at the top hides how deep we are a little bit. Dillon and I will make some plays but our ability to play 16-17 players in big moments is really what wins games,” says Searles-Bohs. It’s true: Conor Chickos is a premier handler, Aaron Wynmar is often the cutter in isolation, and watch out for the notorious “soccer” Ben. It will take a near perfect game for any team to take down CFS.
The big question around Carrboro is which team will show up. The team looked promising early in the season with a 15-14 win over Carolina Friends but has stumbled since. They compiled mediocre results at YULA invite and He4She followed by a rough 11th place finish at the state tournament. UNC commit Yuma Kobayashi will be the focal point of this team and will be instrumental in fighting off tough competition throughout pool A.
Washington & Lee has grown leaps and bounds from humble beginnings in 2014 and will make its first appearance at Southerns. Despite not having any ties to the U19 worlds team W&L actually features a player, Andrew Roy, that will compete in the WUGC this summer with Team Portugal. Roy will anchor the backfield along with Garrett Johnston. Kees Humes is the team’s only representative on YCC mixed champion Swing Vote and will be the team’s biggest deep threat. Despite a lack of victories over instate rivals Yorktown and HB captain Humes remains optimistic. “We have not hit our peak yet as a team, something that some of our in county rivals may have done already,” he said.
Rounding out the pool is Blackman, who has the potential to be the most dangerous four seed. Despite a disappointing 4th place finish at the Tennessee state championships, captain and U19 worlds player Grant Waldron isn’t counting his team out. “I think this team has just as much talent as our best year (last year),” he said. “We have just struggled with execution and simple mistakes.” Waldron is obviously the focal point but Blackman will also get contributions from Joey Brown and Michael Harris.
Paideia is one of the most storied programs in high school ultimate. However, they have been unable to bring home a Southerns title despite three straight semifinals appearances. Paideia might be hitting their stride at the right time as they’re coming off a state tournament victory where their closest game was 13-4 over Grady. Historically, Paideia teams aren’t flashy and are willing to endlessly swing the disc to wear out the defense. Despite their faceless army reputation, you’d be hard pressed to find a U19 worlds team without a Paideia player on it. This year’s Worlds representative is Carleton commit Stan Birdsong. Paideia looks well equipped to seek a finals rematch with CFS but isn’t taking anything for granted. “I don’t want to overlook the rest of the field. We have to get to the CFS matchup first,” said Birdsong.
Cardinal Gibbons returns from a streak of relative obscurity to make their first appearance at Southerns. When asked about the difference between this years team and those of the past, captain Luke Chaput had this to say: “As for our recent success I think it’s mainly because everyone has bought into the process. We also have great depth this year that allows us to sub whole lines if we wanted too which really lets us go all out every point.” Gibbons is lead by seniors Brian Davis and Jake Cheatham who will be instrumental in achieving their goal of making the bracket.
USN is the only other team than CFS to win Southerns with back to back titles in 2012 and 2013. Since those star-studded days of Eli Motyka and Jack Spiva, USN has pretty much fallen off the map with a winless appearance in 2014 and a hiatus from the tournament in 2015. This year’s team looks to be headed in the right direction with wins over Lakeside and Blackman to its name. Making the bracket might be a stretch this year but attending Southerns will be a good experience for this young roster.
Bethesda Chevy-Chase becomes the first school from Maryland to attend Southerns. As the two time reigning state champions they’ve earned the right to attend but the jury is still out on whether they can be competitive. “Our goal is mainly to break seed but also surprise some people who may be underestimating us,” says captain Kevin Versteeg. As the state’s only tryout invitee for U19 Worlds, Versteeg will bear much of the responsibility for accomplishing that goal. Although they don’t have any wins over teams in the field don’t be surprised if BCC takes advantage of some vulnerable teams in pool B.
East Chapel Hill has improved every single year going from 14th to 11th to 5th in their Southerns appearances and now find themselves as a one seed. Their resume from this season includes two tournament wins over strong teams like Yorktown and Center Grove out of Indiana and a 2nd place finish the the North Carolina state championships behind CFS. Despite only being a junior, Tyler French has been the face of East for a few years now. He’s one of the most complete players at the tournament with the ability to dominate both sides of the disc from any position on the field. Thomas Williams and Teddy Randby are both strong role players that provide depth. East probably doesn’t have the firepower to take down CFS but a run to the finals is definitely in the cards for this team.
Woodlawn benefits from a 6-12 school with a strong middle school program. “We’ve played together for years and it’s paying off now,” says senior captain Ted Sither. Nowhere is the chemistry more evident than with twin handlers Gus and Adam Norrbom. Both are small in frame but extremely clever with the disc. They’ll be working with U19 Worlds alternate and Oregon commit Ted Sither. Ted is dangerous as both a handler and a cutter and will be crucial to HB’s success. Results-wise HB has been a step behind state rival Yorktown this year but each game has been highly competitive. HB definitely has the potential to make noise this weekend.
Independence Flight has made the finals of Southerns twice in 2012 and 2014. After a Tennessee state championship, they look in good shape to make another run to the bracket. The team will be lead by Boone McClellan who was a star with the Nashvillains at YCC last summer. They’ve struggled against top competition with two big losses to CFS and one to Paideia but have had two months since any out of state games. Expect Flight to give East its most competitive game in the pool.
In each of the previous two years, Lakeside has entered Southerns as a top seed in their pool. They didn’t make the championship bracket in either year. After graduating a huge class which included worlds alternate Connor Brownell, Jacques Perivier, and Leo Warren; Lakeside is definitely in a rebuilding year but hopes to sneak out some wins. The team does include a U19 worlds player but on the girls side in Marie Perivier. “I’ve been playing with guys all my life so it’s not unusual for me. It’s definitely challenging physically but I think that both Katie and I can compete out on the field,” said Perivier about playing in the Open Division.
Yorktown has historically been known for its deep game but this year’s team plays a small ball style of ultimate. Anders Juengst is the face of the team after playing a big role as a quick handler for the past three years. Juengst will be joined in the backfield by Jonathan Malks who has really burst onto the scene this year. Malks earned a spot as a practice player on the DC Current this spring and will be one of the best throwers at the tournament. Yorktown faces questions about their athletes but their IQ and system should be able to take them into the bracket and possibly semis. Yorktown’s game against Grady will likely decide the pool and be the game to watch on Saturday.
Grady has enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in recent years. They beat Paideia four times, something they hadn’t done even once in the last four years, but suffered a 13-4 defeat in the state finals. “We are hoping we get matched up with Paideia because they are our main rival this year, and we would like to come out on top in the end,” said captain Drew Di Francesco. In addition to the Paideia wins, Grady won juniors Terminus this year and were the runners up at Deep Freeze. Expect Grady to make big plays this weekend and challenge for a spot in the semis.
SMUF is in a unique position where their school only includes grades 11 and 12. This makes it hard to build a consistent program as each year’s rookie class is based on luck as opposed to development. However this years team had its share of luck boasting 2 Triforce players. Jeffery He and Austin Von Alten, who will both attend Duke University, will be playing the majority of points on a roster that only includes 13 names. “To be completely honest I think that we are underseeded, so breaking seed should be the bottom line,” said He.
Catholic High School makes the trip to Southerns from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the fourth consecutive year. Last year they were the surprise of the tournament after making semis but this year come in as the bottom seed. Bayou Hazard recently won the Louisiana state championship with a dominating score of 11-2 but lacks wins over the rest of the Southerns field. You can’t completely count out this strong program.