Breaking down every region and all your contenders.
September 20, 2019 by Ben Murphy, Kelly Ross, Steve Sullivan, Karoline Hart, Colin Clauset, Hugo Sowder, Sean Brady and Graham Gerhart in Preview with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s reporting on the Club Mixed division is presented by Universe Point cleats. All opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Universe Point!
The regular season and Sectionals are now behind us. We can finally get down to business. After a regular season where incentives and motivations are constantly in flux, teams are at the point where their goals are on the line. After this weekend, labels will be slapped on their accomplishments, evaluating their season for better or for worse. We take a look at who is on track to get a good grade, and which teams could surpass expectations and upset the order.
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Number of Bids: 1
Excitement Level: ?????
It’s no surprise that the Great Lakes has only one bid to nationals in the mixed division. Since the 2012 redraw when the region came into existence, there’s only ever been one bid. This is, however, the most competitive picture that Great Lakes mixed has ever painted, with teams ranked 16th (Cincinnati Steamboat), 21st (Columbus Cocktails), and 27th (Ann Arbor Hybrid) in the USA Ultimate final regular-season rankings. The region also features Chicago U54 Ultimate, a team that may be the betting favorite but who were not ranked because they did not play before Sectionals.
In a division where very few teams stand the test of time, #18 Cincinnati Steamboat is one of the stalwarts, enduring for 11 seasons now. They’ve been at or near the top of the region seemingly every year and are easily the most storied club team in Great Lakes mixed history. They posted another strong season in 2019, losing only three games, all in their first tournament of the year at Select Flight Invite. They went on to win every game at Chesapeake Open (avenging one of their losses by beating Bucket in the final, and another of those losses by beating Alloy in pool play) and then cruised through sectionals comfortably. They’re riding high coming into regionals as the top seed and have as good a chance as anyone to capture the lone bid.
#17 Columbus Cocktails are the defending regional champs and have a roster revamped with talent from Ohio State as well as a few men from the dissolved High Five, including Axel Agami and Jordan O’Neill. They were close to earning a second bid for the region, but struggled at Elite-Select to finish out the regular season, dashing the chances of making history for the region. As the second seed, they face a more perilous path to victory than Steamboat, but should still be considered among the favorites to head home happy.
In much the same tradition as their forebears The UPA, Chicago U54 Ultimate features a stellar website and a logo made to look like it says “USA Ultimate” in the style of basketball’s Dream Team. The logo isn’t the only thing that recalls the former Nationals darlings and their troll of the sport’s governing body — the roster features many players from the team that stormed into the Great Lakes and captured a bid in 2015. The team from Chicago is a polarizing story as a continued demonstration that not everybody is on board with the way the Triple Crown Tour is designed to work. Showing up just for sectionals, U54 cruised and beat everybody handily. Some argue that they ought to have played in the regular season in an attempt to earn another bid to nationals for the region. For better or worse, we’ll never know if they could have done so.
Ann Arbor Hybrid also saw significant roster turnover coming into 2019, bolstered by several former High Five players, including James Highsmith and Mike Ogren. In their first year as a Select Flight team, they couldn’t grab enough quality wins to ascend the rankings and earn a bid, but did manage to win two of the tournaments they attended, Motown and Cooler. In their best chance to pick up rankings points, they put in a solid performance at Select Flight Invite, but ultimately fell to both Bucket and Steamboat on double game point. The latter result will give the Michigan squad plenty of confidence ahead of a potential regional semifinal rematch.
What makes Great Lakes Mixed so exciting this year is that all four top seeds will enter the weekend believing that have a realistic shot at winning the bid. With just a single one-point result between that cohort, there’s no telling how it’ll unfold. There are rumors that there won’t be any observers on site, which may add to the drama as well. With a forecast that could include some messy weather, the 2019 Great Lakes Mixed regional championship may be the most exciting tournament this weekend.
Location: Milford, DE
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: ????
With two bids, five teams ranked in the Top 25, and evidence that the 2018 Club National semifinalists might not be quite as commanding this season, there will definitely be nerves and excitement in the air in Delaware this weekend.
Top-seeded #2 Philadelphia AMP are the reigning national champs, but their sloppy last regular season game — the Pro Championship final — is a prime example of how the powerhouse could falter. Overall, they put together a strong regular season, but their few losses — to Drag’n Thrust, Toro, and Mischief — give hope to their rivals that Philly might not cruise through Regionals this year. AMP surely has goals beyond qualifying for Nationals, and they will probably use Regionals to work on tightening up their systems while they attempt to secure a bid. Look for veterans Linda Morse, Sean Mott, and Raha Mozaffari to raise the level of play and harness the energy of young newcomers such as Liz Hart and Paul Owens.
The second bid for the region was earned by #8 Washington D.C. Space Heater. While last year they were a confident newcomer who got to design their season as they saw fit, Space Heater was forced into the Triple Crown Tour system this year and leave the regular season with a middling 6-8 record. While dealing with some significant roster turnover, another semifinals appearance may be a stretch for Space Heater, but they should still secure a bid back to San Diego if they are able to play to their considerable potential this weekend. They have wins over nationals-quality teams like Blackbird, Love Tractor, and Toro, but have not found success against the division’s truly elite squads, going 0-6 against the top 7 with an average loss margin in those games of more than three points. They also suffered an unsightly Pro Championships loss to XIST. With four other teams who are in the top 25, Space Heater will need to come out firing with cohesive play from their many star players in they’re to retain their bid.
In their second year, #16 West Chester Loco are the most likely to challenge the squad from DC. They were very close to earning a third bid for the region but came up agonizingly short on the final weekend of the regular season. Loco had an impressive 16-4 record while attending a few elite events this summer, claiming a victory over San Francisco Mischief as well as a split with Columbus Cocktails. West Chester mostly cruised at Sectionals, earning a 12-10 win over Pittsburg Alloy in the final. With returning players such as Will Hoehne and 2019 U24 Mixed national team member Lindsay McKenna, Loco is primed for an upset should either of the favorites give them an opening.
Two other teams should also be in the hunt for bids this weekend, as #22 Pittsburgh Alloy and #24 Washington D.C. Rally enter Regionals inside the Top 25 of both Ultiworld’s and USAU’s rankings. Rally had strong regular season performances at the Select Flight Invite West and Chesapeake, where a couple double game point losses kept them from winning the tournaments outright. With Space Heater availing themselves of the bye they earned to regionals, their crosstown rivals won the Capital section. Alloy attended the East version of Select Flight Invite and had some notable wins against #5 Boston Wild Card and #18 Cincinnati Steamboat. Both teams have the potential of causing some chaos if things go their way and they use their underdog mentality to their advantage.
Location: Blaine, MN
Number of Bids: 1
Excitement Level: ?
For the first time in the region’s history, the North Central will send just a solitary mixed team to the Club Championships. And with #1 Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust playing at home in a venue where they’ve already knocked off the best squads in the world by winning the U.S. Open, we shouldn’t expect much drama to interfere with the proceedings.
The three-time national champs enter the postseason as not just the favorites within the region, but the oddsmakers choice to complete an impressive Triple Crown. Drag’n eased into their season, dropping two games at the Pro-Elite Challenge while working in some new pieces and fidgeting with their systems. But since their trip to Colorado, they’ve been on an absolute tear, managing undefeated victories at both the U.S Open and Pro Championships. Minneapolis has an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. Stars Erica Baken, Brian Schoenrock, Sarah Meckstroth, Becca Ludford, and Caleb Denecour have been playing at an All-Club level this season, plus young studs like Kat Ritzmann and Leo Sovell-Fernandez look like seasoned veterans already. Drag’n continues to make their living with a tenacious defense that hounds and wears down opponents. Their offense is well-drilled in their system and deadly on the counter-attack. If there is any worry at all for Minneapolis, it may be that they have yet to really see any of their regionals opponents so far this season. They smoked crosstown foe No Touching 13-5 way back in July in their only in-region game of the summer, as their top-end TCT schedule has sequestered them from the next tier of North Central contenders
Speaking of Minneapolis No Touching, it would appear their three-year Nationals streak is about to reach its end. Carrying a disappointing 4-7 record on the season, the second squad from the Twin Cities owns just a single victory over a team inside the top 30, from way back on their first day of the campaign. Paul Norgaard is still slinging discs up-and-down the field with little regard for a mark, though without favorite target Sam Valesano tracking them down, it hasn’t worked to the same effect as in seasons past.
Retaking the mantle as the region’s primary challenger is #20 Iowa Chad Larson Experience. Program founder and long-time leader Kevin Seiler is back for what feels like his 900th season with the team, though this is not the same CLX that was a staple of the national quarterfinals for more than a decade. Finishing the regular season inside the top 20 and posting wins over other fringe National contenders like Alloy, Montana MOONDOG, and Dallas Public Enemy should be seen as a positive step forward for one of the oldest and proudest programs in the division, but it is unlikely to be enough to overtake Minneapolis for the lone ticket to San Diego.
#25 St. Louis Chalice put together the finest season in their history and appeared to be in the chase pack with a shout — at least until they were thrashed by CLX in the West Plains Sectional final. Previous qualifiers Madison NOISE proved they have the ability to knock off elite teams with a win over Denver Love Tractor on their ledger, but their lack of consistency should spell doom at Regionals.
Location: Devens, MA
Number of Bids: 3
Excitement Level: ??
With three bids and three top ten teams, it would seem that the Northeast is more or less already decided. But that was the case last year, then we saw one unbelievable upset after another until New York XIST emerged as a shock second seed while Wild Card was left home. So, on one hand, no one would be surprised to see the Boston elite charter a private jet to San Diego together. But on the other hand, each of these teams has shown weaknesses that hungry challengers know how to exploit. Regionals could be a backyard formality for Boston to jockey for hometown bragging rights — or it could be a complete whirlwind once again.
As the top seed coming into the weekend, #5 Boston Wild Card head to Devens on a mission, aiming to rectify their regional capitulation last fall with a highly impressive 2019 record in tow. They didn’t lose a single game at the Elite-Select Challenge, besting long-time rivals Slow White. Their ledger has its fair share of close call double game point wins — like over #13 Boise Lochsa and # 11 San Francisco Mischief — which suggests they have a good mental game in tight games. While Ian Engler, Hailey Alm, and Lloyd Olson remain heavily involved, the continued emergence of young stars Kyle Jonnson, Tamar Austin, and Luke Webb pushed Wild Card up a notch this season and should see them through to San Diego, though in what position remains to be seen.
#7 Boston Slow White have shown a consistently high-powered offense and a D-line that habitually goes on big runs to shut other teams out of games entirely. All-world talent Tannor Johnson has his pick of incredible receivers working in a highly systematic offense, and his throws open up an impressive deep game for Slow White. Renata Pepi and Marcel Oliart are playmakers who make big offensive gains for Boston, but if the dwarves win regionals, it may well be on the back of emerging star Orion Cable. With Ari Nelson and Brett Tan on board to rack up the defensive stats, Slow White is coming into regionals looking strong. Fatefully, they’ll face a Saturday pool play matchup with Brooklyn Grand Army, a team that defeated the juggernauts in the regional quarterfinals last year and forced them into the backdoor bracket. Don’t bet on a similar result this time around.
#6 Boston Snake Country boasts a talented roster again this year, and now have more experience playing against the top teams in the division after a season inside the Pro Flight. It may not always have been easy as their 8-8 record will attest, but Snake Country battled their way to the semifinals at both the U.S Open and Pro Championships this season, which included a definitive 15-11 quarterfinals win over Slow White in the latter. Their improved chemistry mixed with their remturning high-level experience leave them looking ready to cinch a bid. Peter Prial, Piers McNaughton, and Jacob Taylor remain player to watch, but the team has seen huge defensive contributions from new addition Chelsea Murphy, veteran Jamie Quella, and a newly healthy Jon Cox.
The clear challenger to the Beantown triumvirate is New York XIST, who has been struggling to eke out wins in their high-level schedule this year. But a recent double game point win over Space Heater at Pro Champs and big wins over Love Tractor and No Touching! at Elite-Select Challenge suggests the team has found its chemistry and success at exactly the right time in the season. Players to watch for this NYC team: Ryan Drost and Tricia Smit.
Long shots in Devens include Mansfield Darkwing, who had a dominant sectionals until they ran into Wild Card, and Brooklyn Grand Army, who breezed through their competition, including, notably, a struggling Connecticut Metro North, 13-3. The 2016 national finalists, who played in a game-to-go last year, have had an up-and-down year, perhaps due to a roster that has fluctuated from tournament to tournament. If they bring their stars this weekend, they may make an unexpected run.
The format for three bids and sixteen teams includes a championship bracket for the first two bids, and a back-door fight for the third. The all-important first game of Sunday determines which track teams will take through the tournament, so it’s vital that teams come out collected for the beginning of their second day of regionals, lest we see another shock like last fall.
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Number of Bids: 3
Excitement Level: ??
The Northwest locked down three bids to Nationals this year thanks to strong play all summer from the expected Emerald City pair of #3 Seattle BFG and #4 Seattle Mixtape and the less anticipated #13 Boise Lochsa.
The Seattlites are again the clear favorites in the region and will likely focus on keeping their teams healthy and focused for San Diego. Expect a tight final between the two in another chapter of this in-city rivalry, but both should emerge with a bid. Mixtape always seem to have BFG’s number when the games matter, but BFG’s win at the Northwest Fruit Bowl could be enough to tip the scales in their favor in Salt Lake City. With several former BFG standouts now plying their trade on Mixtape, there’s more fuel on the fire, but don’t expect things to get out of control at Northwest Regionals. Expect cutters like Kieran Kelly and Emily Smith-Wilson to set the tone for Mixtape, while Tommy Li and Alexa Kirkland head up a younger BFG squad than in years past.
The real competition is for that third bid. Boise Lochsa looks to be the class of a crowded tier, pulling away from the field thanks to good second day at the Pro-Elite Challenge and a strong showing at the Elite-Select Challenge. After beating their nearest rival Montana MOONDOG twice at sectionals, the bid is theirs to lose. They’ve proven they can hang with some of the best in the mixed division, and a trip to Nationals would be a fine cap to the season. Despite a few star pickups, Lochsa are powered by contributions throughout the roster. When teams overplay the big names, don’t be surprised to see players like Cori Bigham and James Dahl happily take over and keep things moving. This balanced approach should make Lochsa the favorite to keep their bid.
MOONDOG initially missed out on Regionals thanks to a loss to the Saskatoon Bunnies, but after a withdrawal from another section, they have a chance to make amends. After winning the Select Flight Invite West with a victory over Washington DC Rally, the Montana outfit fell back to earth at the Northwest Fruit Bowl and Big Sky sectionals. With a reprieve from their stumble at Sectionals, expect MOONDOG to give Lochsa a tough battle for the bid to Nationals. At the same time, with teams like Seattle Lights Out, Seattle Birdfruit, and Eugene Garage Sale lurking, MOONDOG face a tough road to even qualify for the game-to-go.
Seattle remains the gravitational center of the Northwest and should once again send two squads to San Diego with a chance to challenge for a semifinals berth or better. Lochsa have a target on their back at Northwest Regionals this year, but they’ve gone toe-to-toe with the top teams in the country all year. If they lean on their athletic defense and smartly structured offense, they’ll be the Northwest’s third representative at Nationals.
Location: Tulsa, OK
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: ??
After failing agonizingly short last season, #9 Denver Love Tractor and #10 Fort Collins shame. mercifully both earned bids for the South Central this season. The two Colorado powers have met twice this season already, splitting the series between them, but shame. holds the most memorable advantage: last season’s Regional title, in which they spoiled the favored Love Tractor’s Nationals aspirations. Both teams will be grateful that the other has fulfilled the requirements to avoid a repeat of that scenario.
If the tournament goes according to seed and the two teams again meet in the final, expect another tight game. Love Tractor may have the edge this time after getting the chance to tune up at Sectionals. Also, the impact of this drastic change by key cutter Jesse Roehm cannot be discounted.
Third seed Dallas Public Enemy has a very realistic chance to play spoiler. A fringe Top 25 team with plenty of Nationals experience on the roster, Public Enemy will have multiple opportunities to take down one of the Colorado powers in bracket play, on the heels of a gritty performance in the wind and 100 degree temperatures to win the Texas section. Playing outside of the Colorado altitude, where they finished a disappointing fourth in the region in 2018, should provide the Texans another edge. The difference maker for Public Enemy may be whether or not the team’s talented new additions, such as Helen Eifert, Brandon Malecek, and Alan Villanueva, can fully gel within their roles this weekend.
On the outside looking in are the top teams in Pool D, Austin Waterloo and Tulsa Boomtown. Both are squads that have had strong results this season — they own a 33-1 combined record, albeit against weak competition — and will need to perform at their absolute peak in order to have a shot at winning the second bid. Waterloo will rely on the experience of their core offensive unit, most of which competed at Nationals with the Cosa Nostra teams of 2012-14. Boomtown will hope that the timing of a strong season with a Regionals in their own backyard will be enough to carry them to new heights.
Location: Advance, NC
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: ????
With two bids on the line for the first time since the redraw, the Southeast was finally rewarded for the depth that really started to take hold within the region last season. There is A LOT of great talent packed into the mixed division in the Southeast right now and with a larger margin for error in the tournament, there are plenty of teams that could work their way into the games-to-go.
#14 Durham Toro probably has the biggest claim to the Southeast crown given their ability to challenge and beat the top mixed teams nationally. The biggest concern for Toro right now is their depth in the women’s column. Mary Rippe and Tyler Smith have both battled serious knee injuries and neither were close to being cleated at the Pro Championships on Labor Day weekend. That’s Toro’s best young female thrower and one of their best defenders. That said, the Carolina outfit has plenty of size and speed to throw on the field this weekend and the confidence of having played and beaten some of the toughest competition they’ve faced in their club’s tenure. Christine Bookout and Heather Zimmerman are two of the best women playing in the mixed division and the combination of experienced veterans with an infusion of younger talent from UNC Pleiades has brought Toro much closer to building the consistency that is the hallmark of a nationals caliber club team.
The battle for the second bid is where things truly get interesting. #21 Atlanta Bucket actually finished higher than Toro in the final USAU rankings taking the autobid for the Southeast. But Bucket played far weaker competition over the length of the season, and at East Coast sectionals they finished fourth losing to both Atlanta JLP and Nashville ‘Shine. Bucket’s vulnerabilities open the door to a host of different teams that could be knocking on the door of nationals on Sunday. The fact that they have to face Toro in the first round of pool play could jump start their weekend but it could also push them down into the backdoor bracket early.
#15 Florida Weird, who just barely missed out on a third bid for the region, are a good pick to see both the first place and backdoor final with a strong contingent of athletic Florida and UCF alums. It would be a big mistake to think that Weird is somehow new to the challenge of competing for a bid at club regionals, as they’re largely a rebranded Gainesville G-Unit squad that took the Southeast’s bid in 2016. Weird’s offensive approach has changed considerably from last year, with a higher emphasis on keeping possession rather than just throwing deep. Veterans Lisa Fitton and Bennett Wachob have led Weird behind the disc, while Tori Taylor has been the go-to defender to match up on the opposing team’s best cutter.
The big Saturday test that could heavily determine Weird’s path on Sunday is their last game in pool play against Asheville Superlame. Rebranded from last year’s Mixfits, Asheville Superlame is a who’s who of former Ring of Fire, Phoenix, and Turbine players — the amount of pure talent on the team cannot be understated. The fact that Superlame has not held a single practice this season makes them a true wild card; they could fizzle out in a flurry of poor decision making and execution errors or explode into an upstart regional champion. If Superlame can reel in the turnovers which plagued them throughout sectionals they will be worth more than a few tough games in the bracket and could realistically find themselves in a game to go.
Two other North Carolina teams will be looking to leave their mark on the bracket, as both #23 Charlotte Storm and Raleigh Malice In Wonderland have shown more than just a few flashes of excellence. Storm took the North Carolina section in decisive fashion on the back of a very strong duo of seasoned handlers in Brian Casey and Micah Hood, while Abigail Berry continued her rise as a speedy mid in her still very young tenure in club. Raleigh finished second at Carolina Sectionals; with a young cadre of current and former NC State players as well as an experienced club crew helmed by Eric Martin, Jesse Lieberman, and Katy Harris, Malice will be tough to eliminate on Sunday.
Also in contention is a Nashville ‘Shine side that combines the cutting prowess of Claire Brigdaire-Curtis with the surprise infusion of Sadie Jezierski who’s been playing with Nashville since early August. At sectionals they handed Bucket a 12-11 loss with their only blemish coming against a young Athens Murmur team. Murmur combined talent from both UGA college teams and may not appear to have the depth of the other elite teams, but they have been slowly building a strong fluid system that is very comfortable working the disc rather than defaulting to a deep shot on an initial pull play.
Location: Norco, CA
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: ??
It’s not breaking any news to admit that #11 San Francisco Mischief and #12 San Francisco Blackbird are the heavy favorites to take the region’s two bids to Nationals. The two Bay Area powerhouses consolidated copious amounts of talent in the offseason, which has predictably put them in a comfortable position in the postseason.
Mischief appears to be the more comfortable of the two, as they opted to skip Sectionals, preferring to save their legs that weekend and preparing for Regionals by practicing on their own. The squad has a roster spilling over with talent, and the extensive amount of practice players that the team accrued is a testament to how deep they truly go. There are still players that stand out from the pack, though. Cody Kirkland remains a dangerous firebrand in their backfield, but has been given more room to operate downfield with the steady hands of Ben Feng and Caitlin Rugg helping anchor the team. Mischief has also benefited from the additions of Lexi Zalk and Ethan Falat, who’ve been effective in every position on the field that they’ve been given. The team has shown well enough that they can efficiently dispatch teams beneath their skill level, which will serve them well at Regionals. Barring a Chernobyl-level meltdown, Mischief should have no trouble taking the bid they’ve earned.
Blackbird is in much of the same spot as Mischief, albeit with a few too many close wins and puzzling losses to be entirely comfortable. Still, at tournaments like Regionals, it’s almost always talent that wins out, and that’s what Blackbird has in spades. You could blindly throw a dart at their roster and still get a guaranteed hit on one of the best players in the world. Mac Taylor isn’t going anywhere and remains their most productive piece, but he isn’t alone. Tim Gilligan, Shane Earley, and Lucas Dallmann have taken to the team with almost no growing pains, and are menacing on both sides of the disc. Complement that with the offensive talents of Andrea Romano and Malina Wiebe, and you’ve got yourself a team that has every right to leave Regionals without a black mark against them.
With only two available bids, it’s up to #19 San Francisco Polar Bears to prove themselves this weekend if they want to make a return trip to Nationals. After making a splash in 2018, the team lost a lot of their young core this season, forcing an unwanted rebuild. Without the likes of Ian Sweeney, Cheryl Hsu, and Sean Liston, the Polar Bears have had to rely more heavily on players like Nicholas Alexander, Molly Munson, and Joe Thompson. Their regular season results have been promising, but lack a resounding victory over a team at Mischief or Blackbird’s level. There’s plenty of promise with this team even with the cards stacked against them. All they need is one good game to turn the tides in their favor.
Sitting right on the bubble of bid contention are two other Bay Area teams: Sunnyvale BW Ultimate and San Francisco Classy, neither of whom have made a trip to Nationals yet. BW played tight with Blackbird at Sectionals, but it’s hard to take that result without some skepticism: their entire season has been one close loss after another. They’ll need big performances from Michelle Slaughter, Sai Uchida, Cullen Coyne, and Matt Yee to have a chance at a bid. Classy started their season looking like they could trade blows with the best, but stumbled enough at Sectionals to put that into question. When Classy are on their game and Joel Anton’s hucks are working, they’re a tough team to beat. Unfortunately, Mischief and Blackbird both have a history of closing out their games against Classy, as do BW and the Polar Bears.
Further south, newcomers Phoenix Pivot and Los Angeles Lotus will be hoping to shake up regional pecking order by stealing a bid. They’ve yet to pull off any notable upsets in their combined tenure, but it’s hard to deny the talent that each team has accumulated. They’ve now traded 11-8 wins against each other, making it quite an even match between the two programs. While a rematch might be in the cards, it’s clear that the teams they will have to beat are the ones outside of their section.