Commonwealth Cup 2023 Weekend 2: Tournament Preview (Women’s)

Virginia are the favorites, but with eight top 25 teams in attendance, wins will be at a premium

Pittsburgh Danger topped Michigan Flywheel 9-7 in the 7th place final of Queen City Tune Up 2023. Photo: Katie Cooper – UltiPhotos.com

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Axton, Virginia is a nexus of college ultimate. As the site of staple tournaments like Blue Ridge Finale and Fusion, as well as Atlantic Coast Regionals, it’s not uncommon for East Coast teams to find themselves at Axton three or more times in a single season. The fields are considered “home turf” by not one, but dozens of teams this side of the Mississippi. At Commonwealth Cup Weekend 2, the best of those teams will get their annual chance to plant their flag in Axton and claim it as theirs and theirs alone, and this weekend the competition for that prize will be as fierce as ever. 

Since Without Limits switched the tournament to a two-weekend format in 2020, Commonwealth Cup Weekend 2 has been populated with a highly concentrated list of Nationals qualifiers and top Regionals finishers. This year, the pack is split into a ten-team Tier 1 and a twelve-team Tier 2, with the top two finishers from each of the three Tier 2 pools getting their shot at the heavyweights on Sunday in the bracket.

As is typical this early in the spring, it’s looking like teams will have to pit themselves against the elements as much as their opponents. With highs of 42º and rain on the menu, we might be looking at a tournament that mirrors the soggy 2019 edition.

Tournament Profile

  • Date: February 25-26
  • Location: Martinsville, Virginia
  • Weather: Highs in the high 40s on Saturday with chance of rain, mid-60s on Sunday, 5-10 mph winds
  • Women’s Top 25 teams: #12 Virginia, #15 Northeastern, #18 Pittsburgh, #20 Michigan, #21 Brown, #22 Ohio State, #23 Notre Dame, #24 Tennessee
  • Women’s Competition Schedule

Post-Production Games

While we will not be streaming games this weekend, post-produced footage will be available on-demand for Ultiworld Full and Plus subscribers in our video library following the tournament’s conclusion.

Storylines

Tier 1

  • Virginia has been rolling. With no North Carolina in the mix for the first time in several years and a victory over tournament two-seed #18 Pittsburgh Danger at Queen City Tune Up, #12 Virginia Hydra are the favorites to be tournament champions. Virginia could essentially lock in a second bid for the Atlantic Coast, and a Nationals berth for themselves with it, if they get the job done this weekend.
  • Can Georgia bounce back? After sliding to 13th place at QCTU and out of the top 25 in the Power Rankings, this is Georgia Athena’s chance to prove they still belong in the Nationals conversation. Hanging with the likes of Pittsburgh and #20 Michigan Flywheel in Pool B would be a good sign. 
  • What’s the pecking order in the Metro East? SUNY-Binghamton, darlings of the women’s division, headline the class with back-to-back regional titles. But what about the rest of the challengers nipping at their heels, including Columbia and Yale? This weekend will be our first chance to evaluate their Nationals hopes, and a relatively rare opportunity for these teams to test their mettle against genuine Nationals-level competition. The results will tell us how they stack up against each other as well as the country at large.
  • New England needs another strength bid, and it’s up to #15 Northeastern or #21 Brown to earn one. #3 Vermont and #7 Tufts, order still to be determined, are entrenched at the top of the region, and if Regionals weekend is anything like it was last year, challengers shouldn’t bank on an easy path to snag a bid from the frontrunners. Clara Stewart and the Valkyries will be looking to earn quality wins after steamrolling the field at Florida Winter Classic, and Brown will need to keep pace to avoid being first-out again this year.

Tier 2

  • There’s no room for error in pool play. Since only the top two finishers in each of the three Tier 2 pools advance to bracket play, teams have no choice but to come out sharp, especially if they harbor hopes of boosting their bid-earning chances with a deep bracket run. Teams like #23 Notre Dame1 at the top of Pool E, and UPenn and #22 Ohio State2 at the tops of Pools C and D, better be the first ones at the hotel breakfast bar on Saturday morning. Speaking of the Ohio Valley…
  • Can Ohio State compete in the crowded Ohio Valley? The former Nationals stalwarts have undergone a serious rebuild recently, missing out on back-to-back College Championships after nine straight appearances. Nevertheless, this is a program with a proud history under DeAnna Ball, and Fever notched several solid wins at Winta Binta Vinta this January. Is the rebuild finally over? This weekend, we’ll take stock of the Ohio Valley and Fever’s place in it – regional foes Pittsburgh, Case Western, Carnegie Mellon, and UPenn will be present, and OSU will see Temple in pool play.
  • Hot streaks collide in Pool E for Notre Dame and #24 Tennessee, two recent additions to the top 25. Both programs have enjoyed solid Februaries so far: Tennessee is coming off a victory at TOTS, their hometown tournament, where no opponent put up more than three goals against them. That same weekend, Notre Dame pulled out some solid wins to finish 9th at Queen City. If nothing else, this should be a fun one to watch.

  1. Contending with Michigan in the Great Lakes 

  2. Contending with Pittsburgh in the Ohio Valley 

  1. Bridget Mizener
    Bridget Mizener

    Bridget Mizener is a Midwesterner by birth, but a product of the North Carolina ultimate machine. She thinks women’s college ultimate coverage is important, so she’s taking it into her own hands. She lives, plays, coaches, etc. in Durham. Tell her everything she got wrong about your team at [email protected].

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