October 18, 2017 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s coverage of the Mixed Division at the 2017 Club Championships is presented by Tokay Ultimate; all opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Tokay Ultimate!
Pool D features two of the strongest teams in the division in Boston Slow White and Seattle BFG, a team that is looking to spring an upset on both contenders in Cincinnati Steamboat, and a relatively unknown team in Minneapolis No Touching! who could surprise a team looking too far ahead. Here’s what to watch for.
Boston Slow White [Pool #1, Overall #4]
Last year’s mixed National Champions posted another strong season, boasting two wins over top seed Seattle Mixtape throughout the year and reaching the final of the Pro-Elite Challenge. Despite a long layoff after the U.S. Open, the Boston squad went undefeated through Northeast Regionals and, despite strong challenges from Connecticut Metro North in pool crossover play and Toronto Union in the semifinals, comfortably put away Metro North in the final to lock up their spot in Sarasota. While the tournament wins may not have come through this year, Slow White turned in consistently excellent performances and seem to be peaking at the right time.
Standout cutters headline Slow White’s roster, with Lexi Zalk’s big play ability spearheading the offense. Tannor Johnson is one of the most dynamic players in the division. Between the two, the Boston O-line is tough to stop. On defense, rookie Mia Bladin provides energy and huge layouts to spark the team, and the team has a knack for coming up with key blocks at the right time. Anchored by handlers Vicki Chang, Jeff Smith, and Miles Montgomery-Butler, Slow White has gelled just in time to defend their crown.
One of the longest-tenured teams in the division, Slow White has kept itself near the top of the mixed scene for years, and despite an early loss to Seattle BFG, still has a strong chance to win Pool D and secure a bye into the quarterfinals. Expect Slow White to make a strong push into the bracket and be in contention for a repeat championship.
Likely Ceiling: National Championship
Likely Floor: Quarterfinals
Seattle BFG [Pool #2, Overall #5]
Following an explosive first season, Seattle BFG proved that they were not a one-year wonder, winning both the Pro-Elite Challenge over Boston Slow White (after coming in seeded 16th!) and the Elite-Select Challenge. BFG kept its roster mostly intact and pulled in several high-impact rookies to bolster their chances at making a deep run into the bracket. Testing themselves repeatedly against some of the top competition around the division at Triple Crown tournaments around the country, the Seattle outfit has proven that they are among the best teams in the country. BFG defeated Boise BoyShe in the game-to-go at Northwest Regionals to cap the regular season with a berth to Nationals. Despite an 0-3 record against local rivals Seattle Mixtape, BFG is rarely out of a game, with their three losses at the TCT Pro Championships coming by a combined four points.
Kieran Kelly and Jeff Pape headline the team’s new pickups on offense, with Pape’s poised handling and Kelly’s relentless cutting giving a boost to the BFG O-line. Combined with Crystal Koo’s arsenal of throws, the BFG offense is one of the most consistent in the mixed division, rarely turning the disc and boasting the experience to earn it back when they do. Twins Alissa and Linnea Soo bring athleticism and speed to the team’s D-line, able to shut down opposing cutters and get timely blocks. With Tommy Li anchoring their D-line offense, BFG has the talent and the consistency to challenge for the top spot in Pool D.
BFG is 1-1 this season against Slow White and Cincinnati Steamboat, and the depth of the team should help the team contend with the other top mixed teams in Sarasota. The final round matchup against Boston should determine who gets the bye into quarters: expect a tight game throughout.
Likely Ceiling: Final
Likely Floor: Quarterfinals
Cincinnati Steamboat [Pool #3, Overall #9]
Cincinnati Steamboat had an up-and-down year, with a few big wins over other Nationals contenders combined with some tough losses. Still, the team proved to be the class of the Great Lakes region, opting to play Sectionals to get more reps as a team and some additional preparation for the Sarasota wind before edging out a resurgent Chicago UPA team in the Great Lakes Regionals final. Steamboat spent most of the season looking ahead to windy conditions, choosing to work on their zone sets at each tournament and preparing for Regionals and Sarasota. With an early season victory over Minneapolis No Touching! and a close double game point victory over Seattle BFG, Steamboat should have the confidence to make a strong push for the quarterfinals.
Led by one of the best female cutters in the game in Brittany Winner, Steamboat can score quickly and consistently on any of the top teams in the country. Complemented by Tim Settles and the handling ability of Ryan Gorman and Nichole Kwee, the Cincinnati offense should keep Steamboat competitive throughout the first day. With defensive powerhouse Nancy Haskell locking down the top women from opposing teams, Steamboat’s consistent attention to defense can put them in good position to spring an upset or two. Expect the team to push both the top teams in Pool D to the brink and get themselves ready for the bracket.
Likely Ceiling: Quarterfinals
Likely Floor: Prequarters
Minneapolis No Touching! [Pool #4, Overall #16]
Minneapolis No Touching! burst onto the scene last year, boasting a veteran roster and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, and broke seed on their way to a 12th place finish. This year, the team made appearances at the Pro-Elite Challenge and the Elite-Select Challenge, posting an 0-2 record against Seattle BFG and Cincinnati Steamboat. However, No Touching! improved throughout the course of the season, defeating Iowa Chad Larson Experience for the third bid to Nationals out of the North Central region after an earlier pool play loss.
Offensive lynchpins Graham Brayshaw and Sam Valesano take on the primary scoring burden for the team, and expect them to pick up where they left off from last year’s Nationals. Jo Munsterhuis and Patrick Jensen provide additional cutting ability, and with the four of them, No Touching!’s offense may be less tragic and more effective. Matched up against two contenders for the mixed final, and a team which has surprised teams across the top 10 throughout the year, the Minneapolis team has an uphill battle to make it into the bracket this year. However, coming out of the perennially windy North Central could give No Touching! an edge when it comes to the usual Sarasota conditions.
Likely Ceiling: Prequarters
Likely Floor: Done on Day One