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Bay Area Invite 2018: Tournament Preview

The final tuneup.

Fury’s Opi Payne makes the catch vs. Riot at WUCC 2018. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2018 Women’s Division is presented by VC Ultimate; all opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at VC Ultimate!

Eight of the West Coast’s top women’s teams meet in Palo Alto, California, this weekend for the Bay Area Invite. With seven teams in the top 21 of Ultiworld’s Power Rankings, there’s bound to be plenty of fireworks. #1 Seattle Riot, #3 San Francisco Fury, and #4 Denver Molly Brown are the headliners, but five other talented teams will battle for strength bids. As the final regular season tournament for all eight teams, each team has this one last chance to make an impact on the club rankings and build some momentum prior to the postseason.

Tournament Profile

  • Dates: August 25-26
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Weather: Highs in the mid-70’s, sunny, approximately 10 mph winds
  • Top 10 Teams: 4
  • Top 25 Teams: 7
  • Gameplay Schedule

The “Round Robin Minus One” Tournament Format

Each team plays six unique opponents this weekend (three games Saturday, three games Sunday). There’s no bracket play, and all matchups for the entire weekend have been pre-set.

Generally, the teams participating have positive pre-tournament feedback about the format. Traffic’s Catherine Hui said, “It is great to be able to get reps and exposure to [six super high caliber teams].” Fury’s Meeri Chang added, “It’s also a great opportunity to simply compete and interact with almost every team there.”

We’ll see if the format provides exciting and competitive games throughout the course of the entire weekend. Ultiworld will be live-tweeting 2-3 games during most rounds this weekend, as well as filming one game per round that will be later released for Full and Plus subscribers.

#1 Seattle Riot

Notable Absences: Alyssa Weatherford, Claire Trop

Riot will play in their first tournament since winning a world championship five weeks ago. With a 22-1 record in tournaments this year, Riot should be favored in every game this weekend. They also have winning records this season against all six of their opponents (including 2-1 against Fury and 2-0 against Molly Brown).

However, this is Riot’s first tournament in the post-Sarah Griffith era. Riot’s only competition since WUCC was a 15-12 loss to the EuroStars in an exhibition last week. In that game, Riot’s O-line had some uncharacteristic execution errors, while their D-line struggled to force turnovers. Saturday’s 1 PM game against Fury (and Griffith) may be the biggest game of the tournament.

#3 San Francisco Fury

Notable Absences: Darragh Clancy, Marika Austin

Unlike Riot, Fury participated in the U.S. Open three weeks ago. Out of all the teams participating at the Bay Area Invite, Fury had the best August, combining a second place U.S. Open finish with a win against the EuroStars last Saturday, 15-10. Fury has also been boosted by the addition of Griffith, and they continue to find ways to integrate her into their system.

However, Fury endured a 6-0 Brute Squad run in the U.S. Open championship game, so the San Francisco team will look to improve their offensive execution this weekend. While Fury would love to avenge two blowout losses to Riot, Chang said Fury is more focused on growth. “Our goal this weekend is to continue getting better and working on implementing the concepts from practice,” she said. “We’re excited to grow, learn, and continue working on new things throughout the course of this tournament.”

#4 Denver Molly Brown

Notable Absences: Liza Minor, Manuela Cardenas, Claire Chastain (Saturday)

The story for Molly Brown this weekend is how they’ll adjust to not having offensive stars Liza Minor and Claire Chastain. Can their offense generate efficient clean holds with a shorter roster on Saturday? With Chastain available on Sunday, it will be worth watching their results from Saturday versus those from Sunday.

Molly Brown is the only team in this tournament who attended Pro-Elite Challenge, WUCC, and the U.S. Open. During that intensive four week stretch, Molly Brown didn’t hold a practice. Captain Sara Taggart said, “We were [finally] able to have a double practice last weekend to work on a few specific strategic adjustments, so we’re looking to implement those adjustments in our games this weekend.”

#7 San Francisco Nightlock

Notable Absences: None

Nightlock is excited to bring their full roster to the Bay Area Invite. They are hoping that the added depth will help them improve from lopsided losses earlier this season to Riot and Molly Brown. Throughout the tournament, they’ll look to dial in on discipline and execution, while recognizing the strengths of opponents and playing strategically against each team they encounter. Nightlock’s schedule is interesting: Riot and Molly Brown right off the bat on Saturday, but no game against Fury.

#11 Vancouver Traffic

Notable Absences: None

After a disappointing 15th place finish at WUCC, Traffic will look to rebound before heading to the postseason. Fortunately, they’ll bring their their full roster this weekend, adding five players who weren’t on the WUCC roster.

Traffic currently sits at 14th in the USAU club rankings. The Bay Area Invite is just the second and final regular season tournament for Traffic, meaning that their results will carry heavier weight in the rankings. While Traffic is looking to build chemistry and grow as a team, an underachieving performance may knock Traffic out of the bid picture and spell doom for the Northwest.

#20 Seattle Underground

Notable Absences: Abby Hecko, Katie Raynolds, Tiffany Phan

Underground sits 127 points outside the bid cutoff, but, fortunately for them, a strong group of teams provides the opportunity to get back into the picture. Wins against regional rivals Schwa and Traffic will go a long way toward giving the Seattle team a mental edge during the postseason. Generally, Underground will utilize this weekend to focus on offensive timing and defensive tenacity in an attempt to string together a competitive series of games.

#21 Portland Schwa

Notable Absences: Noelle Takahashi (injured)

Schwa’s 13th place Elite-Challenge performance leaves them just 26 points above the bid cutoff. They’ll certainly be looking to rebound this weekend and play closer to their potential; close losses to Riot and Fury earlier this season demonstrated that. Saturday’s 11 AM revenge match vs. Underground may be crucial not only in terms of the bid picture but also in terms of Schwa’s confidence heading into the postseason.

Oakland LOL

Notable Absences: Laura Bitterman

LOL last played in a tournament seven weeks ago at Pro-Elite Challenge, where they went winless with a small roster. This weekend, they’ll be playing at home with a much larger one. The majority of LOL consists of players who have previously competed at national and international levels. Since the team doesn’t get together often, they will certainly savor the opportunity this weekend to improve as a team and enjoy each other’s company. LOL has the talent to upset teams and shouldn’t be overlooked, despite being the only unranked team in the field.

Filming Schedule

Games are being filmed (NOT livestreamed) for later release to Ultiworld Full and Plus subscribers. Your subscription helps support all that we do!

Saturday

9:00 AM – Traffic v. LOL
11:00 AM – Underground v. Schwa
1:00 PM – Riot v. Fury

Sunday

9:00 AM – Riot v. Molly Brown
11:00 AM – Fury v. Molly Brown
1:00 PM – Nightlock v. Traffic

  1. Ben Feng
    Ben Feng

    Ben Feng has played for Truck Stop, the DC Breeze, and Georgetown University. He has coached at National Championships in three divisions: Club Mixed (Ambiguous Grey), College Women's (Pittsburgh), and YCC Mixed (Swing Vote, BUDA). Ben lives in Oregon and you can reach him by email (bfeng7@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@BFeng7).

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