National Championships 2022: Pool D Preview (Mixed)

Three 2021 semifinalists converge.

Mya Hernandez of Ann Arbor Hybrid at WUCC 2022. Photo: Marshall Lian --
Mya Hernandez of Ann Arbor Hybrid at WUCC 2022. Photo: Marshall Lian —

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2022 Club National Championships 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.

Pool A PreviewPool B PreviewPool C PreviewCompetition Schedule

The 4-5-9 Pool D is almost always an exciting one, the expectations of which are notably raised by the presence of world champions Seattle Mixtape in the second seed of the group. Hybrid and NOISE have been near indistinguishable at times, though Hybrid seem to have an edge heading into the tournament. With The Chad Larson Experience filling out the pool after a surprise Regionals qualification, it’s hard not to think this group will be decided by one or two wild games and go chalk the rest of the way.

Ann Arbor Hybrid

Seeding: Overall No. 4, D1
Power Ranking: #5
Regional Finish: Great Lakes 1
Overall 2022 Record: 20-3
Against the Nationals Field: 2-3
Against the Pool: 0-0

It has been a long season of steady progress and focus for Ann Arbor Hybrid. They are conscious of the drop off that can follow a run to the National finals and have shaped their extended campaign to ramp up into the coming weekend so they can make an improved run at the crown and bring it home to Michigan.

“Teams can sometimes take the foot of the gas pedal after they achieve success,” said captain Michael Dagher-Margosian. “So it was ingrained preseason that we as a returning unit had to avoid that. To accomplish this, we had to build on concepts we introduced last year: field awareness, valuing disc possession, team defense, trust in one another, making sure all our teammates have a voice on the team, and integrating new players into our systems that we’ve had in place.”

One of the most prominent places this has been tested is on their O-line, where Hybrid have had the unenviable task of replacing Connor Lukas. Hybrid’s leadership has sought to fill this gap by strategic committee. First year players Tracey Lo and Raymond Lu frequently find themselves leading the charge. Their progress with the side is a testament to their commitment to their systems and willingness to welcome in fresh talent into significant roles. Katrina McGuire has also impressed, working herself into an indispensable addition on the O-line at Worlds and going from strength to strength since then. Captains Bailey Besser and Dan Donovan are also taking on increased offensive responsibilities alongside James Highsmith, while Madalyn Simko establishes her fierce reputation as a receiver and Adam Stautberg consistently finds the right spots to keep their offense flowing.

On the opposite side of the disc, Axel Agami and Theo Shapinsky have made a sizable impact on the defensive ferocity Hybrid are able to impose on their opponents. Backed up by longer-toothed Hybrid D-line players Nathan ‘Skunk’ Champoux and Justin Perticone, they bring an explosive element with their aggressiveness on both sides of the disc. Sara Nitz is a dominant player downfield chasing down hucks when they’re put up by either team on the pitch. A less well lauded though just as crucial component for Hybrid’s D-line this year has been Charlotte Wilson, whose no-nonsense approach helps bring a sense of calm direction to their D-line resets and swift finality to their endzone sets.

Hybrid recognized their shortcomings last year, one of which was a difficulty reacting quickly enough to the adjustments BFG made against them in the final. In response, they have established a strategy committee featuring the captains Simko, Lu, and Highsmith, who Donovan asserts is one of the sharpest minds in ultimate today. This approach has helped them achieve a strong season with some feature wins over significant opposition, including their revenge game pre-quarter knock out of BFG at WUCC, which Dagher-Margosian described as “a big step forward for us.”

Look, obviously we’re going to talk about what happened at the Pro Championships, which looked like a sizable step backwards to the rest of the ultimate community. Captain Brittany Wright appreciates the experience though: “It has helped people to lock in and not get complacent.”

Such perspective and focus is mandatory for a team looking to make that final extra step into the history books. We can’t wait to see how it reacts when they finally match up against Mixtape on Thursday afternoon.

Likely Ceiling: National Champions
Likely Floor: Quarterfinals

Seattle Mixtape

Seeding: Overall No. 5, D2
Power Ranking: #1
Regional Finish: Northwest 1
Overall 2022 Record: 18-5
Against the Nationals Field: 5-3
Against the Pool: 0-0

The reigning world champions are trying to complete the much lauded and rarely achieved double peak. Although they looked in fine form at WUCC, they did have some early hiccups in the USAU club season playing shorthanded, and it’s set them up as the #5 overall seed with a tricky early matchup against Hybrid.

Since Pro-Elite Challenge, however, they’ve been excellent, dropping just one game to BFG before avenging the loss in the regional final.

Kelly ‘Vegas’ Johnson has been a safe bet throughout the season, conquering the world with the disc in hand in Cincinnati while still retaining her cutting skills should the opportunity present itself, though it is rarely required downfield thanks to the incredible cutting of players like Lexi Garrity and Paige Kercher. They boast a retinue of players who can change a game on their own. Jen Cogburn has speed and power that terrifies opponents or at the very least logically should. 22 year old Marc Anthony Muñoz has been a revelation, taking on some major defensive assignments and working tirelessly after the turn to ensure his side converts the opportunity1. Cam Bailey is always a threat and Billy Katz has been playing like an unstoppable force this season, bouldering his way through opponents in a fashion that would have made Indiana Jones a much shorter movie. And Bert Cherry is a crucial part of their offense and is one of the best players at dictating pace in the division.

Look, we all know they’re talented, but they so frequently do the right thing too. Coaches Bryan Fox, Drew Johnson, and Zhi Chen have focused the team on fundamentals and execution to deadly effect all year. Skipping the Pro Championship and US Open means they haven’t had a wealth of elite level competition and raises some potential questions about how they’ll respond to Hybrid’s aggressive defense.

They did face some close calls in Cincinnati, both on and off the pitch. Brisbane Lunch Box Ultimate were up 12-10 on them in the semifinal of Worlds on Friday, and a team bus came five feet and a prayer away from a hydroplaning car on their way to the pitches on Wednesday, respectively. The former tested their mettle and resolve, forcing them into a late game deficit no other team has been able to inflict on them this season. The latter reminded them of the privilege and joy that playing ultimate with our friends blesses us with. Both experiences feed the “relentless positivity” that is at the core of this squad, and it is that force that looks set to blow the competition away this year, earning Mixtape our #1 power ranking and favorite status heading into San Diego.

Even if they still haven’t technically won Sectionals.2

Likely Ceiling: National Champions
Likely Floor: Semifinals

Madison NOISE

Seeding: Overall No. 9, D3
Power Ranking: #8
Regional Finish: North Central 2
Overall 2022 Record: 16-6
Against the Nationals Field: 4-5
Against the Pool: 2-0 vs. CLX

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for Madison NOISE. They have experienced a wide range of results that makes you wonder if sometimes they just don’t really know who they are. What we do know is they’re damn well committed.3

Their only two losses at Worlds came on universe point, though their quarterfinal faltering to Red Flag was particularly egregious given the amount of chances they had to finish the game on that final point. They bounced back brazenly at the US Open the next weekend, picking up wins against Slow, Polar Bears and poolmates The Chad Larson Experience. Though they did fall to AMP twice, they were close run affairs, with back and forth flow to the matches and a genuine sense that NOISE could upset the favorites.

They’re not afraid to mix up their lines and move players around, utilizing their spread of skill to counteract the strategies of their opponents. They have managed to pick up two wins against CLX this season, which bodes well for their pre-quarter prospects, but their troubles against the rest of the elite tier competition they faced, like Toro in the Pro Championship and Drag’n Thrust at Sectionals and Regionals, points to the challenges they’re going to have improving upon their performance last year. They are bringing back largely the same squad from 2021, with a few new players, among whom Sadie Reding and Rose Glinka have been particular standouts.

They have a certified superstar on both sides of the Atlantic in Robyn Fennig, who seems to have brought a European over with her to compete at US Nationals in former Eurostar and ongoing legend Laura Farolfi, offering this side some serious firepower in multiple fluencies. After an incredibly impressive showing with NOISE in Cincinnati, Victor Luo will be playing with Chicago Machine at Nationals, so the Wisconsinites can use some more experience and comfort in the backfield. Tom Annen still provides a lot of comfort back there, whether he has to earn the disc first or not.

Defensively, Dylan DeClerck has the ability to match up on just about anyone, something that will be put to a serious test against the talent in this pool. His teammate Matthew Grinde has proven that he can come up with big plays at the drop of a shoulder. Sydney French is another imposing figure on this defense, able to stifle cutters attacks downfield and stretch their tired legs after the turn.

They’ve certainly played a protracted season and had plenty of chances to discover themselves along the way. That’s reflected when captain Katy Stanton explains their team motto: “JAGS – joy, accountability, grace, and selflessness.” They’re certainly going to have fun at Nationals, but their recent stumbles are reflected in the power rankings, and they’ll have to scratch and claw to make it as far they did last year, let alone take the next step into medal territory.

Likely Ceiling: Quarters
Likely Floor: Prequarters

Amex Chad Larson Experience

Seeding: Overall No. 16, D4
Power Ranking: Unranked
Regional Finish: North Central 3
Overall 2022 Record: 12-12
Against the Nationals Field: 0-5
Against the Pool: 0-2 vs. NOISE

It might not look the most successful of seasons for the Iowans. They carry an 0-6 record against the field into this year’s Nationals, which includes two losses to pool and region mates NOISE. They haven’t been competitive with top teams. But after five years away from Nationals, CLX is rightfully thrilled about their year — thanks to some gutsy performances against Wichita Impact at Sectionals and Regionals, we can all enjoy their return to the show.

CLX has struggled to get steady against elite programs this year. Their two losses to Drag’n Thrust at the US Open and North Central Regionals ended with a -27 point differential for the Ames amigos. They have looked a step off the pace at the front of the pack and face a potentially harrowing experience in a pool with two title contenders.

The Amesites do have weapons available to them this weekend. Their main deep threat and workhorse for the male-matching side of our O-line in Ben Joerger, who will feature in the majority of their pull plays/ludicrous layout catch block highlights. Kayla Anderson is another big target downfield, though she is skilled with the disc as well; her willingness and ability to both handle and cut helps power the Iowan offense. If the games get close, expect to see a lot of Kayla.

On the D-line, captain Rebecca ‘Bex’ Crowne leads from the front. Taking on their opponents best handlers and grinding them down, she also handles following the turn, powering the D-line offense with quick disc movements and lighting fast throw-and-gos. Her frequent partner in crime for both shutting down opposing handlers and striking back them with a breakneck short game is Nick Culver. Their styles match together on both sides of the disc: with Culver’s ability to snipe passing lanes with acrobatic layouts, the two can really create problems for the experienced handler cores facing them in this pool.

Hopes are not high for CLX, but that’s no reason to assume their spirits are anything but. This is the first Nationals appearance for the vast majority of the team, and making sure not to take it for granted is a key part of their approach to the tournament. They have taken the circuitous route to the show but have broken seed in every tournament they’ve played so far this season, so we know they have the juju to perform when the music hits.

Likely Ceiling: Prequarters
Likely Floor: Out on Day One

  1. including grabbing the winning score against BFG in the Northwest Regionals final 

  2. The final against BFG were canceled so they entered regionals as the #2 seed 

  3. to both jokes and the sport of ultimate 

  1. Lorcan Murray
    Lorcan Murray

    Lorcán Murray is an Ultiworld contributor and freelance journalist. He lives in Limerick, Ireland. He plays ultimate for PELT and with his mustache regularly. You can reach him by email: [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RevLorcan.

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