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Club Regionals 2021: Mega-Preview (Men’s)

Breaking down every region and all your contenders.

Revolver's Michael Ing at NorCal Sectionals 2021. Photo: Rodney Chen -- UltiPhotos.com
Revolver’s Michael Ing at NorCal Sectionals 2021. Photo: Rodney Chen — UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s 2021 coverage of the club men’s division is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

The regular season and Sectionals are now behind us. We can finally get down to business. After a regular season where incentives and motivations were 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.

Great Lakes

Competition Schedule
Dates: October 2-3
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Number of Bids: 1
Excitement Level: Zero? Is Zero an option? Ok, 🔥

After making it to the 2019 National final and losing by the narrowest of margins, #2 Chicago Machine has upgraded and reloaded as much as they could, adding established stars like Kevin Pettit-Scantling and Dalton Smith, seeing returners establish themselves as club stalwarts (probably too many to name at this point), and adding young players to let them follow in their teammates’ footsteps. They’ve tested themselves against the best competition they could get to at US Open and Pro Championships. They’ve only lost two games this season, both to Sockeye. After cruising through Sectionals, Regionals feels like merely a formality as they set their sights on being just one point better than last year at Club Nationals.

If Machine were to pick their seven worst players — which might be the most interesting way to analyze their roster — and run them every point, the teams that have any chance of beating them are Indy Club, whom they defeated by five in their sectional final and seven in pool play, and Cincinnati Omen, who won the East Plains section with some tough wins. Indy has most of the local AUDL club’s top talent, including veterans Travis Carpenter, Cameron Brock, and Rick Gross, along with divisional rival Joe Cubitt and some athletic defenders like Nick Hutton and Josh Venegas. Omen has improved since last season, notching a third-place finish at Elite Select Challenge earlier this summer, but their results against other fringe Nationals contenders don’t bode well for their chances against mighty Machine.

Mid-Atlantic

Competition Schedule
Dates: September 25-26
Location:
Frederica, DE
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥

At a distance, the Mid-Atlantic men’s division could be a carbon copy of any of the past few seasons. Washington DC Truck Stop comes in securely on top, with Pittsburgh Temper as favorites to take the second bid, but with just enough doubt in the air that they aren’t locks. That’s all still true, but there is plenty of intrigue roiling just below the surface, threatening to churn up this placid scene.

First and foremost there is Virginia VAult, who have already beaten Temper once this season at the I-95 Round Robin in late June. Temper will no doubt be more formidable this time around, but Vault should also pack a bigger punch now that they have had the chance to integrate their full complement of DC Breeze players like Garret Braun and Kevin Healey. VAult were soundly beaten 15-6 by Temper in the 2019 game-to-go, but if there is a rematch this weekend, bet on it finishing a good deal closer.

Coming out of the Founders Section is a mish-mash of potential rakes to be stepped on, from the AUDL feeder program Phoenix FC to perpetual backdoor semifinalists Garden State Ultimate. And while they sputtered to a confounding fifth place finish in the section, Philly Phantom are adding Jeff Babbitt in time for Regionals, making them a much more imposing prospect.

Truck Stop, coming off of a final appearance at Pro Champs and getting Rowan McDonnell back on the roster, should be fine. Temper, having won their section and showing flashes of a high ceiling at Pro Champs, should be fine. But there are a lot of holes to step in in this region, and in the double-elimination bracket format of the Mid-Atlantic, upsets can turn the tournament on its head in a hurry.

North Central

Competition Schedule
Dates: September 25-26
Location:
Blaine, MN
Number of Bids: 1
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥

In many ways, a one-bid region is about the purest thing in ultimate. No backdoor bracket nonsense. No having to play a team twice in back-to-back rounds. No throwing games or saving legs. Win the tournament, go to Nationals. Simple.

Or not. The obviously pick for this region is #8 Minneapolis Sub Zero. Hometown team, perennial regional power house, generally over performs at the U.S. Open, you know the rest. But this year, the pick isn’t so wide open. This isn’t the Sub Zero of yore, and they’ve had a rocky road to get here. In fact, this is hardly the same Sub Zero we saw in 2019. No Josh Klane, no Jason Tschida, no Ryan Osgar; Wystan Duhn, Thomas Echols, Codi Wood, Kevin Brown, and KPS are gone, too. Point is, they’re younger, and if Sectionals was any indication, they’re going to need to play well to earn the bid that seems rightfully theirs on paper.

That’s because there’s another young, fiery team looking to take it from them. Men’s club ultimate in Madison has taken taken many forms in the last few years, and #18 Madison Mad Men is nothing to sneeze at. Between the Radicals and the Hodags, a lot of this roster has played together before. Then you add in some spice — enter one Kai DeLorenzo — and viola, you get a sectional championship team raring to break out.

Reportedly, Sub Zero was missing some of their players at Sectionals, forcing the team to cross people over to the O-line, but a 13-7 loss to a team that looked like “KPS and friends” just a month ago should be sounding the alarms in the Twin Cities. On that note, KPS will be playing his club ultimate with Machine, but that by no means spells death for Mad Men. In fact, Mad Men are yet to lose a game on the field this year.

Elsewhere in the region, Golden Valley Knights of Ni could cause a ruckus if conditions permit. Many of the aforementioned missing Sub players are suiting up for Ni this series. That includes Klane, Bumsted, Meckler, Tschida, and others.

All in all, this is surely Sub’s Regionals to lose. Cole Jurek, Nick Vogt, Tony Poletto, Andrew Roy, and company are still clearly the more talented group. However, if they do falter, don’t be stunned.

Northeast

Competition Schedule
Dates: September 25-26
Location:
Devens, MA
Number of Bids: 3
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥

The Northeast Men’s division is usually a “three bids for four teams” affair, but without the Canadian delegation led by GOAT, the region’s three bids all appear to be spoken for this year. #15 Boston DiG and #16 Amherst Sprout swatted aside the competition at East New England Sectionals, and despite their season long foibles, #11 New York PoNY have far too much talent to be put under real pressure by the rest of the chasing pack. There just does not appear to be a fourth team out there whose track record this year would indicate that they are a viable threat to the top three in the region.

The main draw in this instance is how these three teams finish, as each team has a good reason for wanting to walk away from the weekend with a regional title.

Both PoNY and DiG struggled at Pro Champs in Boulder and could really use the boost of a strong showing in Devens. PoNY, in particular, will need to see some proof that they still have the ability to boss around Nationals level competition if their hopes of winning another National title will ever become more than mere hopes. If nothing else, beating DiG and Sprout will land them a more palatable seed at Nationals. No Men’s team in the past decade has won Nationals seeded anything lower than 5th.

DiG are the defending champs of the region after upsetting PoNY in 2019. They may have the tools to do it again with plenty of exciting talent coming up from the Boston pipeline, but they just lost 14-10 to New York at Pro Champs, and that was a PoNY team that lacked Ben Jagt and the other AUDL stars on the Empire. DiG played their best game of the year to win the region in 2019, and they may have to do it again this time around.

Sprout have lost only two games this season, both to DiG, but haven’t beaten any teams with Nationals experience. Getting a win over PoNY or DiG would show that Sprout is a team to be taken seriously in San Diego and not just a one-off interloper filling the GOAT shaped hole in the region. Adding Dylan Tunnell to the series roster is a fun addition for a squad that contains mostly aging legends and wet-behind-the ears college players. A lack of prime age stars may lower Sprout’s ceiling, but all of their veterans will come in handy when the rubber meets the road at Devens.

Northwest

Competition Schedule
Dates: September 25-26
Location:
Olympia, WA
Number of Bids: 3
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥

There’s a handful of ranked teams making their way to Olympia this weekend on the men’s side. With three bids up for grabs, two of them feel locked in, and both of those teams have legitimate semifinal aspirations.

For #1 Seattle Sockeye, you might better classify those aspirations as expectations. This season hasn’t lacked speed bumps for them. They started the season by dropping a couple games at CoCup to SoCal Condors and PoNY, each of which they’ve since avenged. They fell to Revolver at Pro Champs, too, in a virtually meaningless cross-over in a rankingless year, and then went on to win the tournament. In fact, Sockeye hasn’t lost a tournament yet. And they’re the odds on favorite to win the Triple Crown. They’re not an identical team to the one that won it all in 2019, but they’re just as good. Matt Rehder, Simon Montague, and Dylan Freechild are joined by newcomer Mac Hecht on the O-line; we’ll see if his shoulder is ready to go this weekend.

The other team in the mix is #7 Portland Rhino Slam! The team that took PoNY to the brink in 2019 is back, and they’ve loaded up. Eli Friedman is back wearing green, along with Ian Sweeney, Ted Sither, Chris Strub, and Daniel Lee. Add in two USC standouts in Wyatt Paul and David Sealand, and you’ve got a team that’s going to get a couple “upsets” at Nationals. I put that in quotes because who’s really going to be shocked? The only knock on Rhino is perhaps that sometimes their stars don’t show up. If that’s the case, head coach Mike Payne should be able to still steer this team into a quarterfinal in San Diego.

With the absences of Vancouver Furious George, there’s a few other teams that could impress at Regionals and nab the third slot to Natties. #19 Utah Killjoys are, as you may expect, full of strong BYU players like Joe Merrill, Jordan Kerr, and Taylor Barton. The youth scene in Utah continues to grow and it feels years away from producing a nationally competitive team if they can keep their talent in-house, but with the extra bid, they at least have a chance to make the trip this summer. They have a pretty sick logo, too. #20 Seattle Emerald City will also be in attendance, and they’re rocking a couple ringers, namely Adam Simon and Mark Burton. This team’s already lost to Sockeye twice at Sectionals, but depending on who they draw in a game to go, they might take their inaugural season all the way as well. And don’t totally sleep on Seattle SOUF either — they boast a talented young roster including some players who suited up with Sockeye at events earlier this summer and pushed Emerald City to the brink at Sectionals. They may not have the experience to earn a bid, but could absolutely ruin a contender’s weekend if they get caught overlooking the South Enders.

South Central

Competition Schedule
Dates: September 25-26
Location:
Round Rock, TX
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥

#9 Denver Johnny Bravo and #13 Austin Doublewide have generally held this two-bid region on lockdown in recent memory, and the odds-on expected outcome for this year is more of the same. However, a handful of contenders will throw their best efforts at the two stalwarts this weekend and some have a real chance to pull off that key upset – perhaps more real of a chance than in past years, due to a few notable factors.

Johnny Bravo is not likely to be one of those factors. After losing the regional title to Doublewide and finishing 15th out of 16 at Nationals in 2019, the team has reloaded their roster and gained experience against top competition this summer, scoring wins against PoNY, Temper, and Condors. They poached a couple of notable cutters from Doublewide in Jay Froude and Kai Marshall to add to the usual cohort of Denny Bechis, Matt Jackson, Ben Lohre, Quinn Finer, and company. They did drop an early season game to regional contender #14 Boulder Lotus, but have since avenged that loss with three straight wins against the younger squad. This is a returned-to-form Bravo that would be my first pick to have a clean sheet this weekend.

Doublewide, on the other hand, is not in quite as strong of a position. The perennial leaders of men’s ultimate in Texas were later to the party in this shortened season, opting not to travel to any tournaments and only finalizing their roster in time for Sectionals. Gone are Froude and Marshall as well as Dalton Smith, Carson Wilder, Gabe Hernandez, and a few other main contributors. The team that remains is younger and will rely more heavily on talent and chemistry from the AUDL and the college division – of which, make no mistake, there is plenty. Returners like Abe Coffin, Kyle Henke, and Connor Olson helped the team breeze through Sectionals. It’s a very good unit, but one that will have to work to prove that they are still nationals-caliber.

Past those two teams, the fun really begins. How good would a top-5 college team be if they played in the club division, you ask? Well, #14 Boulder Lotus is here to provide a practical answer to your fun offseason hypothetical. And the answer, so far, has been: quite good! The team made up almost entirely of current and/or very recent Colorado Mamabird players took advantage of their favorable TCT location to play the same strong schedule as Bravo, and looked highly competitive in it, putting up double digits against top teams like Sockeye and Machine and notching a win against DiG. The Lotus vs. Doublewide matchup, if it lines up, has the potential to be the game of the tournament.

Lotus isn’t the only contender with a shot, either. Dallas Flash Flood had a somewhat disappointing Sectionals outing, but has the ability to rebound this weekend. Houston Clutch and Houston H.I.P. each remain strong teams full up on talent, and new Colorado team Golden Fungi has made a splash in its own difficult schedule. Rest assured, if one of the top teams misses a step this weekend in the Austin heat, there will be ample opportunity for someone new to grab that coveted Nationals spot.

Southeast

Competition Schedule
Dates: October 2-3
Location:
Bermuda Run, NC
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: 🔥

If you really squint, you could see a Southeast cohort in San Diego that isn’t made up of #4 Raleigh Ring of Fire and #5 Atlanta Chain Lightning. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The traditional powerhouses are heavy, heavy favorites to advance once again this season.

Ring only made their 2021 debut last weekend at North Carolina Sectionals. But don’t expect chemistry to be an issue. Most of them have been getting reps together all summer with the AUDL’s Flyers — a season, by the way, that ended in a championship. They have their eyes on another title for the club iteration, and to that end they’ve added some major pieces from other top AUDL teams: 2019 PoTY runner-up Ryan Osgar, 2019 first-team all-club player Jack Williams, and 2017 PoTY Jon Nethercutt. The fact that Ring of Fire haven’t played against top-tier club competition yet might end up hurting them — just not at Regionals. They’ll grab one of the two tickets to the Show.

The outlook is equally sunny for Chain Lightning. They’ve been revamping the program for a few years now, and it’s ready to pay big dividends. Wins over Truck Stop, Sub Zero, and Rhino Slam at the US Open in August have this year’s Chain team looking like the best in years, maybe a decade. Austin Taylor has stepped up his play in the backfield; Jakeem Polk, Michael Fairley, and Kelvin Williams lead a tremendous defense; and cutter Karl Ekwurtzel has come out of the woodwork as one of the surprise stories of the year.

It looks for all the world like Ring and Chain will meet in the regional final, and whoever loses there will mop up in the game-to-go.

Which is a shame, because #21 Tennessee Tanasi have put together a really strong 2021 season, possibly good enough to have earned another strength bid, if earning strength bids had been on the table. Having played up against tough teams throughout the summer, including a good game against Chain in the East Coast sectional final, they are the team most likely to step up and get a key win if one of the top two really stumbles. Zack Avello, Matt Smith, and John Lithio are all more than a handful in coverage. Can the defense get hold of the disc enough against the elite offenses?

#22 Raleigh-Durham United has had a solid season of their own, with all eight of their losses coming against competent opposition and generally by close margins. But a 14-13 loss to Tanasi looms large on their prospects. They won’t be an easy out themselves. At North Carolina Sectionals, they split a pair of games with a sneaky-good Ring alumni team called The Expendables. Possibly named after the film series directed by Sly Stallone paying homage to aging action stars, you’ll recognize many of the names on this roster: Cretella, Pope, Bender, Hartzog, Mullen, Perales, Inselmann. They’ll be raising hell against the younger generation, and they’ll probably run into several wins in the process. Their experience was enough to upend RDU on Sunday of Sectionals, playing very clean offense to take the second spot out of the section, and they’ll be adding some significant firepower for Regionals. Will they come away with a spot at the Club Championships? It seems unlikely, but it would be pretty cool if they did.

Southwest

Competition Schedule
Dates: October 2-3
Location:
San Francisco, CA1
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: 🔥

For the fifth straight season, two teams will battle for the Southwest regional crown: #3 San Francisco Revolver and #12 SoCal Condors. Luckily for the loser, there’s two bids this year and nobody else in the field seems capable of taking them.

The Bay Area juggernaut retooled this offseason, adding luminaries like Michael Ing and Markham Shofner and future stars like Riley Kirkman-Davis and Sean Liston. Former D-I Coach of the Year Cody Mills from Cal Poly SLO also joined on as an assistant coach. Revolver has just one loss on the season, a universe point defeat to Portland Rhino Slam at the Pro Championships. Along the way they’ve beaten tough competition in top-ranked Seattle Sockeye, Washington DC Truck Stop, and Boulder Johnny Bravo. They will likely wait until Nationals before walking off an ultimate field without a win.

Down south, SoCal Condors likewise rolled through their section, taking down San Diego Streetgang 15-3 in the final and never giving up more than eight goals. Unlike Revolver, Condors has had a rougher season. A win over Sockeye in the season opener at CoCup was tempered by losses to PoNY, Bravo, Truck Stop, and Machine. Condors lost quality contributors from their 2019 campaign in Sean Ham, Tim Okita, and Jesse Cohen, but has retooled with a youth movement including long, athletic defenders like Seamus Robinson and Matt Miller, who impressed in their AUDL debut seasons. Paul Lally joins the offense, giving Condors the kind of experienced hub handler they haven’t played with in recent seasons. This might not be the year Condors takes down Revolver — or qualifies for that still elusive Worlds berth at the center of the 2016 merger — but the team should have no trouble getting back to Nationals.

For the teams on the outside looking in, Livermore OAT is likely the toughest competition that the Condors or Revolver would face, but San Diego Streetgang, Los Angeles Hazard, and Berkeley Zyzzyva will all try to play spoiler at Regionals, too. OAT has more raw athleticism than many of the others in this second tier, with a litany of downfield cutters and a strong backfield that features Gavriel Gelbert & Jeremy Dolezal-Ng. They’re on the upswing as a program, and have a point to prove as the ‘best of the rest’ after the COVID-induced hiatus put a pause on their rise in the region. Streetgang is the strongest contender to the top two out of SoCal, although their 13-3 loss to the Condors indicates they’re still a far step behind. Despite featuring athletic defenders like Reggie Sung, Clark Wang, and Zach Spidell, their offense hasn’t shown itself to be at the level of the teams ranked above them.

Hazard & Zyzzyva are both first-year teams looking to make a statement at their inaugural Regionals event and have enough top end talent to stay competitive with the likes of OAT and Streetgang, but likely not anything beyond that. Zyzzyva has drawn from a pool of recent college grads like Dylan Villeneuve and Lukas Ambrose to help strengthen their roster, and Hazard is a similarly young team, with Ricky Kirkpatrick, Tucker Lemos, and Christopher Cogswell headlining the roster. Neither team has yet to make a statement win this season, but Hazard did play the Condors closer than any competition at Sectionals. Still, while all of these teams may have their moments, it is unlikely that anyone will seriously threaten the legacy programs that are basically permanent fixtures in the top 25 at this point.


  1. Originally scheduled for Norco, CA but moved this week after the field reservation fell through. 

  1. Patrick Stegemoeller
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    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

  2. Sean Brady
    Sean Brady

    Sean Brady is an Ultiworld reporter based in Austin, TX. He is a proud alumnus of the incredible Notre Dame Ultimate community. You can contact him via email (sbrady8@alumni.nd.edu).

  3. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years, but now spends his time playing pickup and coaching de Toledo High School in Los Angeles. You can reach him through e-mail (rubin.alex14@gmail.com) or Twitter (@arubes14 or @dthsultimate).

  4. Luca Serio
    Luca Serio

    Luca played ultimate in Maine before attending and playing at Syracuse University, where he graduated in 2021. He's a member of Ultiworld's video and social media, and runs Ultiworld's TikTok account. He's currently working as a television news producer in Maine. He can be best reached on twitter (at)lucaserio_.

  5. Ben Murphy
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  6. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

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