Three teams from 2019 Pool D reunite here alongside a Southeast power and brand new Nationals contestant.
December 16, 2021 by Eddie Scott in Preview with 0 comments
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The 2021 College Championships are unusual in many ways: the quick ramp-up to a winter Nationals meant that qualifying Series events were the first tournaments some recruits ever played, while extended eligibility rules allowed teams to roster sixth- or seventh-year players and even alumni. Add one more point of distinction: for the first time, the D-I and D-III tournaments are being held as a single tournament event with four divisions.
The unique format of the 2021 Series as well as the long hiatus since sanctioned play make for lots of unknowns going into the weekend. In these previews, we’ll offer a snapshot of each team and the competition they’ll face when play begins on Friday, December 17. Watch ultiworld.com/live then for updates in all four college divisions!
Seeding: B1, no.2 overall
Power Ranking: #2
Path to Nationals: Def. Texas 15-9 in South Central final
Roster & Schedule
Fresh off of a semifinal appearance at Nationals in 2019, Colorado Mamabird will look to build off of that success. That Nationals was all about the return to the “National Stage” for Mamabird, after failing to advance out of their region for the first time in 20 years in 2018. This season, Mamabird looks to return to the final for the first time since 2014, a year in which they took home a national championship.
Colorado returns a stellar roster that finished the season ranked #3 in the 2020 Power Rankings. Their cast includes 2020 First Team All-American Quinn Finer, 2020 Second Teamer Alex Atkins, as well as Mathieu Agee, Daniel Brunker, Calvin Stoughton, Danny Landesman, Aylen Learned, and 2020 Breakout Player of the Year runner-up Conor Tabor. Colorado will also look to lean on Nathan Buckholtz and Saeed Semrin on defense, as well as featuring Thomas Brewster on their O-line, a sneaky cutter with extremely reliable throws.
One key advantage that Colorado has in this shortened season is experience playing together. Much of Colorado’s roster came together and played club during the 2021 club season on Boulder Lotus, making Nationals as the no. 13 seed. In a season where most teams have not had a significant chance to practice and play together, this is sure to be a noteworthy advantage. However, there was a downside, too. “While it was amazing to play and gain that experience together, it was taxing on our bodies, so injury and health are definitely challenges for us,” the team’s captains told Ultiworld.
After beating Texas 15-9 in the South Central final to qualify for Nationals, Colorado Mamabird enters the 2021 College Championships as a sure-fire favorite to win Pool B, and as one of the favorites to bring home a national championship.
Seeding: B2, no.7 overall
Power Ranking: #9
Path to Nationals: Def. Stanford 15-8 in Southwest final
Roster & Schedule
Putting Cal Poly SLO and Colorado in the same pool is sure to put fear into the hearts of anyone else in their grouping. SLO, similarly to Colorado, lost in the semifinals in 2019, ending the 2020 season ranked #5 in the Power Rankings. Ironically, Cal Poly also saw this semifinal appearance come one year after failing to qualify for Nationals, and this year will mark back-to-back Nationals that saw this pair in the same pool, with SLO coming out on top 13-10 in their 2019 pool play game. The Friday afternoon showdown this time around figures to be equally as exciting and weighty.
Although Cal Poly’s team looks significantly different from their 2019 star-studded group, their 2021 roster is just as dangerous, featuring Calvin Brown, Jeremy Dolezal-Ng, Jake Thorne, and KJ Koo. These stars, plus freshman and Revolver practice player Garrett Bush, key defender Kyle Lew, and SoCal Condor player Seamus Robinson, figure to be a handful for any team to matchup with.
“Ultimately we want to be competing for a championship. Part of that is going to be improving as a team over the course of the tournament,” said the team’s captains when asked about their focus for Nationals. “We also want to celebrate and enjoy the last college event for our graduated players.”
With their eyes set on a national championship, SLOCORE’s incredibly young team will look to gain valuable experience. Given their recruiting, development, and programmatic structure, we should all expect to see this team for years to come, with this merely being more prologue of their ultimate story.
Seeding: B3, no.11 overall
Power Ranking: #10
Path to Nationals: Def. Tulane 13-5 in Southeast final
Roster & Schedule
Perennial Southeast powerhouse Jojah will return to their fifth straight Nationals on the back of a 13-5 victory over Tulane. After stomping through Regionals, Jojah will look to capitalize off these strong performances, creating some big-time upsets at Nationals. After a quarterfinal exit in 2018 at the hands of Carleton, and a 12-10 prequarter exit in 2019 at the hands of Colorado (who is, naturally, in this pool), Jojah will hope to reach even further into bracket play this time around. Doing so would match their deepest run ever, a 2006 semifinal appearance.
Georgia features an extremely well-rounded roster, with captains Adam Miller, Jared Bennett, and Drew Di Francesco leading their D-line not only with their lockdown defense, but also with their ability to excel and pilot the offense off turnovers. On offense, Aidan Downey, Hayden Austin-Knab, and Cole Tappero, Georgia’s Callahan Nominee, head the offense with the help of Matt Cook. Breakout candidates Jake Powell, a former Atliens YCC standout and a true toolbox player who can play anywhere, and Cole Chanler, a super athletic defender, are crucial to this team’s success, as well.
With an all-around athletic and aggressive style, Jojah’s not afraid to lean into physical challenges and to target the weak links in their opponents. They run a large range of different offensive and defensive sets, and their coaches Liz Leon and Sam Batson have prepared them well for this moment.
Georgia has arguably the most fall experience playing against Nationals-caliber teams, as they got the chance to play against UNC, UNCW, NC State, Ohio State, and Tulane throughout the fall season. Those learning experiences bolstered their confidence, as the captains indicated it set the tone for the season and left the young guys itching to go against more tough competition. Georgia’s entire roster from this Nationals will return in the spring of 2022, so expect big things from them for the foreseeable future.
Seeding: B4, no.14 overall
Power Ranking: #13
Path to Nationals: Lost to Brown 15-9 in New England final; def. Tufts 15-14 in second-place final
Roster & Schedule
Yet another graduate of 2019 Pool D (reuniting with Cal Poly SLO and Colorado), Northeastern will make their second consecutive and second-ever Nationals appearance on the back of a thrilling 15-14 victory over Tufts1 in the second place game-to-go at New England Regionals.
Although they fell short of making the bracket at Nationals in 2019, losing out on a tiebreaker to Washington, Northeastern has their eyes on the bracket this time around. A scrappy, energetic team, Northeastern is a scary fourth seed for any pool, one especially keen on pulling off big upsets, such as the ones they made in qualifying for Nationals in 2019.
Northeastern will heavily feature star Ben Field and transfer Gus Norrbom, a huge addition who was not present for their 2019 Nationals run, as well as Noah Kurland and Simon Carapella.
“Our focuses are mostly growth-based,” said coach Dan Hourigan. But he admitted the team aspires to improve on 2019’s showing. “I’d like us to make the bracket… we are good enough to be making the bracket.”
He also acknowledged how challenging the field at Nationals will be, but said he felt it would offer important long-term benefits. His team covets the high-level reps Nationals provides, especially for the promising rookie class on this team, as the fall did not provide as many opportunities as a normal season would provide.
Northeastern feature a deep, well-rounded roster that is not lacking in firepower nor in spirit. Look out for the Huskies to turn some heads and surprise some teams this tournament, as their grittiness is likely to take them far in a season where most teams are unpolished.
Seeding: B5, no.18 overall
Power Ranking: Unranked
Path to Nationals: Lost to Washington 15-6 in Northwest final; def. Utah 12-9 in second-place final
Roster & Schedule
Welcome to the national stage Utah State ultimate! It’ll be a debut Nationals for USULT, who probably benefitted from the Northwest absences of Oregon, UBC, and Victoria.2 After falling to Washington 15-6 in the final of Regionals, Utah State made up for it by handing in-state rivals Utah a 12-9 defeat to stamp their first-ever ticket to Nationals.
According to captain Garrett Martin, Utah State is planning to “enjoy every minute” of being at Nationals for the first time ever. This first trip to Nationals for Utah State will provide them with their “foundation for the future,” paving the way for a bright future of a young program.
Utah State will lean on Martin, the team’s Callahan nominee who is coming off a solid season contributing for Sockeye, as their main initiation cutter on offense, as well as deep threat Tony Mounga and handler Blake Jordan. The latter plays a key role in Utah State’s offense, making the hard throws to help activate their athletes with a high level of accuracy. While Martin is the team’s most consistent talent, Jordan might be the most critical to their success.
On defense, Utah State will look to lean on brothers Jonny and Ben Hoffman to make huge blocks and lock down the other team’s biggest threats. Expect to see Jonny’s name a lot in the near future, with freakish athletic ability and staunch downfield defense; with the fact that he is only a freshman, he figures to make a big-time impact on Utah State’s program. Utah State’s D-line will be quarterbacked by captain Skyler Jones, a consistent thrower who can attack the mark to key breaks.
Full of exciting play potential, Utah State should be an easy underdog to root for.
Although Tufts would have declined a bid had they won it. ↩
Although they are far from the first NW team to benefit from a top-level team in the region not being at Regionals… ↩