The Friday Five: March Madness, Winter Weather, Single Games v. Tournaments

A fun five.

2015 DIII Midwestern Invite
Midwestern winter ultimate. Photo: Sam Dinning.

This season, we’re trying something a bit different. Every Friday, our team will look at the exciting stories, teams, players, events, quirks, and all the inbetweens, and highlight five that have them hyped for the weekend of ultimate to come. Check out what’s caught our eye and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments.

This Week’s Roster

Sam Echevarria, D-III Women’s Editor
Keith Raynor, College Content Manager
Katie Raynolds, D-I Women’s Editor
Simon Pollock, Managing Editor
Charlie Eisenhood, Editor-in-Chief

The Five

Simon: Tournaments Too Tiring

Earlier this week, I wrote about the experimental format that Northwest Challenge organizers are using in the Men’s Division. The process of understanding the format and subsequently writing about it kept the entire notion of tournaments stuck in my craw for the rest of the week.

My noodle really got cooked while listening to an interview with Steve Clifford, head coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. Here’s a snippet of Clifford, talking about how difficult it is to get young athletes mentally perform at high-anxiety AAU (high school club) tournaments filled with college and NBA scouts:

“There’s no way you can play with proper effort playing three games a day.”

Between the incredible physical demands of tournaments and the difficult mental task of focusing across two eight-hour days of play, I found myself daydreaming about what ultimate would look like if everyone, from youth to club (not just the AUDL), had a baseline in the one-game format instead of tournaments.

What would change about the game? What would change about our training? Our injuries? Our preparation? Our marketing?

I’m not going to pull you all the way into this rabbit hole unless you want to be down here with me.1 You get the idea.

Katie: Northwinter Challenge

NW Challenge is here, and it is as snowy/rainy and cold as the prophets foretold. Some of the best teams in the country flew here to compete with each other, but mostly they will be competing with slippery discs and cold fingers. This intrepid reporter will play the game of “how much can I tweet before my phone drowns?”

Today’s games were played on turf, so players won’t have to deal with mud. But last year several teams struggled in Saturday’s Burlington muck, and the ruddy fields slowed the pace of teams who rely on their speed to progress the disc.

I expect to see more zone defense and more possession-based offense (as opposed to “let’s huck it and count on our defense” offense). Will teams like UCSB or Oregon reign in their deep shots in the rain, or will they let ’em rip? Will Vermont or UCSD or Stanford’s zone be even more effective in this weather?

If I stay dry enough this weekend, I will report back.

Sam: Not Much Melt At Meltdown

First order of business: my sincerest condolences to all teams who had their tournament plans this weekend thwarted by the weather. As Mike and I discussed on this week’s episode of The 7500 Club, a lot of teams are trying to get their piece of the ranking influence pie, and it might just not happen. Lucky for teams in the northern Midwest, Meltdown is, as of writing, still on. Even with the weather report calling for some sort of snow-rain slush—you just can’t beat a high of 38 degrees—Rockford’s turf fields will let teams and me catch some late March ultimate. As my college teammates remember, I’m a bit of a tournament over-packer, and as I won’t be playing2, I will be decked out beyond belief. Behold, Sam’s Sideline Reporting Tournament Packing List, Meltdown 2018 edition:

  • Hat
  • Scarf
  • Large gloves
  • Small gloves to put under the large gloves
  • Neck warmer
  • Winter coat
  • Rain or snow boots (game time decision)
  • An umbrella; also, maybe a backup umbrella to lend out (no promises though)
  • One of those three-legged stools you might’ve seen popping up on sidelines—a game changer for me during last summer by letting me put on my cleats without getting wet two seconds after getting to the fields
  • Hand warmers that will likely make an appearance in above-listed boots and gloves
  • Phone for recording sound clips/interviews, taking notes to hopefully collect enough information to rival Tad’s back pages piece
  • A protein bar or four from the pack I bought in a moment of weakness at Costco recently
  • Tissues to share, or a spare TP roll to make tissues to share (again, thanks Costco)
  • Water bottle–not for sharing, I have enough of my own germs as is

My only hope? That I don’t need half this junk come May.

Charlie: Spectator Ultimate

I’m going to piggyback off of Simon above and talk about a trend I am thrilled to see: showcase ultimate.

With Kansas City’s event coming up this weekend and the Atlantic Coast Showcase having just concluded, it seems to be a good time to recognize that ultimate has been getting the stadium billing in lots of ways outside of the AUDL recently.

And why not? You don’t need a big audience to put together a fan-focused event, even just for family and friends. Having weeknight college ultimate doubleheaders between two local teams is so obviously a good idea that I can’t believe it hasn’t already been a thing. They could do similar events in Seattle, Denver, Boston, and other hubs of colleges (and, therefore, ultimate teams).

Starting to build the foundation for a departure from tournaments as the most common form of competition just makes sense. It’s not likely to be the future of the sport, especially as it gets codified as a school-based sport around the country a la Vermont. Sure, college basketball teams play some tournaments (and not just March Madness), but the primary competition format is a single game against a conference opponent.

Kudos to those who are putting the time and energy into developing and marketing events to make showing up to watch an ultimate game a truly fun experience.

Keith: March Madness

In past years, we have actually broken down the March Madness bracket as if all of the team were ultimate teams. Since we didn’t, and still ’tis the season, I thought I’d take it upon myself.

In Men’s:

  • Sorry UMBC (Booya!), but UVA isn’t getting knocked off here. In the South bracket, there’s some interesting matchups, but I think Texas gets out through a tough road of Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Virginia. Very close.
  • UNC crushes in the West bracket, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Florida State versus Ohio State in Sweet 16.
  • Virginia Tech vs. Florida might be the best Elite Eight matchup coming out of the East bracket. But VT can go toe to toe and then some with Florida’s athletes, and makes it to the Final Four.
  • The Midwest bracket is fairly weak, and the winner of NC State and Auburn in the Sweet Sixteen is the de facto final. Gimme NC State, who has looked much more consistent than Auburn this season.
  • Final Four: UNC vs. Texas, Virginia Tech vs. NC State. Let’s cut to the chase and admit UNC might not give up double digits in a single game; Carleton and Oregon didn’t make it to March Madness. Three Atlantic Coast teams. Are they good at basketball or something?

In Women’s:

  • In the Albany bracket, UConn’s typical dominance goes by the wayside, but there are some solid teams here. But I expect Cal to find the sustained success that’s eluded them in the college ultimate regular season and beat Virginia, South Carolina, Florida State, and Georgia in succession.
  • Oregon gets a test in the second round from a competitive Minnesota team, but otherwise waltzes through the Spokane bracket, backed by the Fugue Fanatics3. They do the “Sike sike, your mama rides a bike” cheer.
  • It’s a clear path the Elite Eight for Stanford. They finally get some competition there from Michigan, but they still get to the final four. I think this is the first matchup we’ve run into that might actually happen in ultimate this weekend4.
  • Texas versus NC State might be the highest level Elite Eight game, but that makes Texas the team to take in the Kansas City bracket.
  • Final Four: Oregon vs. Cal, Stanford vs. Texas. We have historical data for Oregon and Cal, since Fugue steamrolled 14-6 at PDI. Texas lost to Stanford by a similar margin at the same event. We get Oregon vs. Stanford, a blue blood matchup. Seeing as how Oregon took this one at the Stanford Invite in quarterfinals, I’m taking Oregon.

And that’s the Madness, folks! Congratulations to North Carolina Darkside and Oregon Fugue. Let us all hope for some sort of single elimination format for entertainment purposes in ultimate’s future.


  1. For those that do, here’s a link to the show

  2. no matter how much a team might ask me, I’m sorry, them’s the rules 

  3. Trademark pending 

  4. NW Challenge 

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

  2. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the College Content Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email (keith@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

  3. Sam Echevarria
    Sam Echevarria

    Sam Echevarria is the Women's D-III College Editor at Ultiworld. She has been playing ultimate since 2010, starting with the Centerville HS Outsiders and later the Claremont Colleges Greenshirts. Currently based in Madison, WI, you can reach her on twitter (@sechevarria27).

  4. Katie Raynolds
    Avatar

    Katie Raynolds took a break from Seattle ultimate to test out the Midwestern scene, but now she's back in the Northwest to investigate this "bubble" she keeps hearing about. She played for Northwestern Gungho, two seasons with Chicago Nemesis, and now plays for Seattle Underground. Katie serves as Ultiworld's Women's D1 College Editor, and is damn proud to cover women's ultimate. You can reach her by email (katie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@kraynolds90).

  5. Simon Pollock
    Simon Pollock

    Simon Pollock is a Contributing Editor at Ultiworld. He lives in Seattle and started writing for the site in 2014 while living in Baltimore, MD. Email him: simon@ultiworld.com or tweet at him: @_simonpollock_ .

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