This essential New England tournament is sure to have scrappy play, subpar weather, and upset potential - stay tuned.
March 23, 2023 by Ben Moyer and Keith Raynor in Preview with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 college ultimate season are 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.
Note: Both authors coach teams included in this preview. Ben Moyer is a coach for Brandeis and Keith Raynor is a coach for UConn.
Six D-I teams. Four D-III teams. Five squads that have qualified for Nationals in the past two years. Two teams with the word “rise” in their name. A volatile group convenes in Rehoboth, MA to duke it out before the series rolls around. Which team will conquer the weather and take home the trophy? Here are the storylines for New England Open 2023.
- Date: March 25-26
- Location: Rehoboth, MA
- Weather: 35-50 degree temps, 60% chance of rain both days, 5-15 mph wind
- Top 25 teams: #2 Wellesley, #13 Brandeis, #15 Mount Holyoke, #21 SUNY Binghamton (D-I)
- Schedule and Results
Will Any Team Be Able to Challenge Big Bear for the Title?
In a split of D-I and D-III teams, one may bet heavily on the highest rated D-I team present to take the trophy home. That team would be #21 (D-I) SUNY Binghamton Big Bear, the most recent Nationals qualifier out of the Metro East. Say what you will about the Metro East competing against other regions at the highest levels, but Big Bear has a clear path to the final of NEO. Sophomore Jolie Krebs has continually balled out this year, and there are no signs pointing to an end to her dominance. With solid results against top tier talent from around the country at Commonwealth Cup Weekend 2, Binghamton would be shocked to leave Rehoboth without taking home hardware. Big Bear are hunting for the Metro East region title yet again this year – a smackdown of the field at NEO would be a great result to slingshot into the Series with.
The no.2 seed at the tournament and red-hot squad looking to take down Big Bear, #2 Wellesley is undefeated this season among D-I and D-III competition alike. The Whiptails tore through the competition at No Sleep Till Brooklyn, with the only team coming close to slowing them down being #4 Williams. There isn’t too much clear connectivity between Binghamton and Wellesley, but intertwining results from No Sleep show that the two teams may be on somewhat equal footing. The question in this matchup would surely be two-fold – how well can Wellesley mitigate the energetic explosion that is Jolie Krebs, and how much can the supporting cast around Krebs create opportunity of their own? If the tournament goes to seed, these teams are on a collision course to meet in the final – keep your eyes on the score reporter page!
Getting to Know New England’s D-III Scene
In a late debut to the season, #15 Mount Holyoke is looking to justify their ranking and then some. U24 selection Gigi Downey will look to exert their will on the field in every game – teams facing Daisy Chain will need to have an answer for Downey or be prepared to face her wrath. Slated to face off against Wellesley in pool play, upsetting the Whiptails would have massive ramifications for the bid picture in the stacked New England region. The strength of New England teams1 will surely net the region four bids, and the first three are essentially in the pockets of Wellesley, #3 Middlebury, and Williams. Mount Holyoke and #12 Dartmouth are the teams currently in the best spot to grab that fourth bid – if Daisy Chain can play close or even hand Wellesley their first loss of the season, the pecking order could be turned on its head.
Currently looking from the outside in, #13 Brandeis are looking to cement themselves as a legitimate contender to snatch a bid come Regionals. As a team without Nationals experience until a breakout performance at Fall 2021 Regionals led them to Norco, flying under the radar is comfortable for Banshee. To add to potential in-region shakeups, a fiery matchup with Daisy Chain may be in the cards for Sunday. As a rematch of the 2022 Regionals game-to-go where Mount Holyoke took the win on double game point, revenge will be on the mind for Banshee should the teams meet in the bracket. Look for standout handlers XiHu Arfa, Nina Zhang, Sofia Cohen, and grad student Laurie Chen, a former cutter for Middlebury, to lead their team to a seed-breaking weekend.
The Classic Question: Are Top Tier D-III Teams Stronger than Mid-tier D-I Teams?
Matchups between top tier D-III teams and mid-tier D-I teams can end up being a tossup. Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, and Brandeis have shown their ability to take down D-I teams, but against the solid D-I field at NEO results may be different. Brandeis and Connecticut have already faced off this season – Rise ran away with that game 8-3 in windy Vineland at Philly Special. Banshee will need to pull all the pieces together in tough conditions to have a chance at an upset win over the three D-I squads in Pool A.
Boston University Uprise is coming off of a trip to Texas for Centex for their first tournament of the season, where they went 2-5 against pretty solid competition. Will the value of being battle-tested outweigh the challenges of playing back to back weekends, including logging some serious mileage? Amanda Senturia will be one of the best downfield threats at the tournament, with Dasha Smolina feeding the rock. Kiran Gomatam anchors their strong defensive possessions. They’ll also provide a compelling comparison between Middlebury — who they fell to 12-7 — and Wellesley should they cross paths, as well as Binghamton, UConn, and the Metro East teams they saw at No Sleep.
Connecticut Rise reached the final at Philly Special, but finished 3-3, with most rounds in intense wind that muted the differences in competition. Their team had just a handful of returners in 2022, but now last year’s big rookie class is a little more seasoned. The end result is a deeper, albeit still quite young, squad. Grad student Nadya Ponthempilly brings much needed veteran leadership, and was also a big block-getter at the team’s first foray, a good follow-up to a 2022 where she was second on the team in the category. She and standout sophomore Hyunah Boo were the throwers that keyed their attack. That pairing will be hoping to get them past a BU team that got the win when the teams faced one another at Lobster Pot in the fall.
Wellesley or Mount Holyoke are the front runners for a final berth against Big Bear, but will likely have to go through Connecticut or Boston University and then each other to get there. Can these two mid-tier D-I squads hand a loss to either of these top tier D-III teams to get to semis of the bracket? Can Banshee take down Rise or Uprising in pool play? UltiworldLive might have some results to help you keep up.
The Rest of the Field and What Lies Therein
In addition to the stalwart programs covered above, Harvard Quasar, Rhode Island Disky Business, and Bowdoin Chaos Theory are all looking to make a splash at NEO. Harvard finished tied for seventh at No Sleep Till Brooklyn and could definitely make a sneaky run past quarters. They narrowly defeated Rhode Island at Lobster Pot in the fall, making their potential matchup look like it could go to the wire.
Rhode Island and Bowdoin are both making their spring debuts in Rehoboth. Both teams did not make it out of their respective conferences last season, but a quiet start to this season could give these teams much needed time to build clean systems and chemistry. They may be in a prime position to catch teams underestimating them – don’t sleep on any team at this tournament!
Boston University is also bringing their B-team to NEO, a testament to an established program getting their B-team good reps against competition that will challenge them.