The deepest high school tournament in the country!
June 14, 2023 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 0 comments
The High School National Invite is back for the fifth time and is set to make its western US debut in Salt Lake City! This is once again the largest and strongest field in the tournament’s history, featuring 16 top 10 teams across the two divisions and 31 teams ranked in the top 25. For the first time, the girls division will feature a full field of 16 teams.
This year, there will be more media than ever, with a huge increase in livestreaming. UltiPhotos will have multiple photographers capturing the excitement. Stay tuned to Ultiworld and our social media platforms for continuing coverage of the thrilling conclusion to the 2023 high school season!
- Location: Salt Lake City, UT
- Dates: June 16-17, 2023
- Weather: Warm and sunny both days, highs in the upper 70s to mid 80s
- Top 25 Teams: 31
- Tournament Schedule / What You Need To Know
- Ultiworld Live Page
Ultiworld will be streaming two games per round throughout pool play and the bracket, available for Ultiworld Full and Plus subscribers as well as those who purchase the HSNI Event Pack. This coverage includes all of the semifinals and finals on Saturday. All four semifinals will be streamed; one from each division will feature commentary. Pool play and early bracket games will be streamed without commentary, featuring only natural sound.
All times Mountain.
9 AM: Lone Peak v. Columbia (B) / Cleveland v. Four Rivers (G)
11 AM: Lincoln v. Jordan (B) / South Eugene v. Newton North (G)
1 PM: Cleveland v. Jackson-Reed (B) / Green Canyon v. Garfield (G)
3 PM: South Eugene v. Northwest (B) / Lincoln v. Lower Merion (G)
9 AM: Boys Prequarter / Girls Prequarter
11 AM: Boys Quarter / Girls Quarter
1 PM: Girls Semifinals
3 PM: Boys Semifinals
5 PM: Girls Final
7 PM: Boys Final
In addition to the official Ultiworld coverage, we have partnered with Apollo Streams to provide additional livestreaming coverage for free on the Apollo Streams YouTube channel! Select pool play fields and all bracket play fields will have an Apollo Streams system set up to enable someone from one of the teams in the game to livestream the game. This is not guaranteed coverage, but we will be creating access for every single non-consolation game at the tournament to be streamed!
First, let’s talk championship contenders.
#1 Eastside Prep (WA) has been sitting atop the rankings since the first preseason edition was unveiled. The team dominated a very strong Washington state field all fall season, including beating Cleveland to win the Seattle Invite and taking home the Washington state title. A semifinalist at last year’s HSNI, Eastside has raised their level this year through a combination of a very deep bench and some excellent top end players, including captain Axel Olson, who was a star in their tight semis battle with Nathan Hale last year. Olson, a talented disc golfer (1002 rated) and Emerald Sound Conference MVP, is the team’s primary offensive handler and will be one of the most dangerous throwers at the tournament. Alongside Olson, watch for Fil Icev in the deep space and Syon Rao leading the D-line.
Last year’s runner-up finisher Nathan Hale (WA) comes in as the #2 seed and #4 in the Power Rankings. They topped Lincoln in the Washington state semis before falling short to Eastside Prep. Their top player, Cedar Hines, made the honorable mentions for the All-Tournament line at last year’s HSNI and will be competing for Seattle Sockeye this summer in the men’s club division. He’s joined by the team’s captains — Milo Friedman, Gavin Leahy, and Amar Lang — as the biggest playmakers. Hale’s top end is superb: we saw that on display last year as well. But can their depth step up to match some of the other heavy hitters at the tournament?
#3 seed and #3 ranked South Eugene (OR) comes in as a bit of an enigma. The team made a great run at last year’s HSNI from the #16 seed all the way to quarters, where they fell to eventual champions Lone Peak in a blowout. They’ve been stronger in 2023. After hanging very tough at the Seattle Invite in the fall, they won the Spaghetti Westerns earlier this year and took home the Oregon state title over a strong Summit side. Theo Schaid Hefley will be one of the team’s key pieces. They’ll have their hands full with a dangerous Northwest team, the NJ state champs, and the MA state champs in their pool.
There are plenty of other worthy challengers in what feels like a wide open field this year. Utah state champs Green Canyon, North Carolina state champs Jordan, a healthy Cleveland (WA) team that was looking like a potential top seed before injuries bit them before states, last year’s champs Lone Peak, multiple other state champions: who’s going to step up?
Pool A Preview
Eastside Prep will be the clear favorite here, but Cleveland, Summit, and Jackson-Reed have all been excellent teams in 2023. Summit has been razor close to beating a top-strength South Eugene, Cleveland was the consensus #2 team in Washington before their injuries, and Jackson-Reed rolled DC and Virginia teams all season.
Just getting to prequarters out of this pool won’t be easy. Summit hung tough with Green Canyon earlier this year. Jackson-Reed made the finals of YULA (and, worth noting, has been the spirit winners at all four of their tournaments this year!). Can they out-compete some of the best from the west?
Pool B Preview
Who’s the favorite in this pool? Sure, it is probably Nathan Hale, they’re the #2 seed overall. But Lone Peak is the defending HSNI champions who only ended up seeded this low because they dropped their state championship game — a barn burner — to Green Canyon. But the level of Utah youth ultimate is very high, so don’t be shocked if Lone Peak ends up winning this pool. They’re a physically imposing team, with nine players at least 6’0″ tall. They went out east and got strong wins over Amherst and Lexington, the top two teams from Massachusetts.
Further down the pool, we’ve got a battle-tested Edina team that is coming off of another Minnesota state title run. They had to beat out an excellent St. Louis Park team to claim the victory. Charlie Teply and Max Heirigs will be the cogs for the team, but they are deep and emphasize their versatility. “We feel the only team that can beat us regularly is ourselves,” said coach Nate Wohl. “We want to challenge other teams to play a very clean game, near perfect game to beat us.”
Columbia may have lost in the NJ state title game, but they’ve showed elite ability, winning the Amherst Invite earlier this spring.
Pool C Preview
Things will not be easy for South Eugene at the top of this pool. Northwest, led by U20 National Team selection Cal Phinney, has an excellent top end, including multi-sport O-liners Miles Nelson and Wilson Taraday. The team played razor close with Lincoln throughout the season and gave rival Eastside Prep some of their toughest games of the season.
What a story Montclair is. The five-year-old program is completely player-run and just toppled the most historic program in the history of the sport to win the New Jersey title. It’s been a remarkable rise for the team, led by Griffin van Rhyn, a do-it-all star. Van Rhyn and D-line leader Mitchell O’Keefe won’t just be happy to be there. They’ve been preparing for the high altitude environment in Salt Lake with a training regimen at a local gym.
Rounding out the pool is another state champion, Amherst. One of the longest-running high school programs in the country, Amherst hasn’t been quite as dominant as in years past, but they still rallied to beat Lexington to win the Massachusetts state tournament. Taylor Hanson, a U20 tryout invitee, is a captain and the team’s on-field leader. They’ve been competitive in every game this season but their best win is over Columbia. Can they rise to the challenge of this pool?
Pool D Preview
Ah, the classic pool of death. And it certainly seems to fit the bill this year. Utah state champ that dethroned last year’s HSNI champion? Check. Senior-heavy team returning to HSNI after a great run last year? Check. North Carolina state champ with the top player on last year’s All-Tournament Line? Check. And a more than capable 16th seed that has some big wins already this year? Check.
Jordan‘s Tobias Brooks will be one of the biggest stars at the tournament, a U20 National Team player that dominated at the 2022 HSNI and plays big minutes for the AUDL’s Carolina Flyers. Jordan might be underseeded because they played shorthanded in the spring at YULA Invite after finishing their competitive fall season.
Green Canyon is very fundamentally sound and has showed out in their opportunities this spring. Captains Bracken Nielson, Sam Nichols, and Isaac Wilcox are the players to watch for — can they flash the same level they brought to the Utah title game?
Lincoln finished third in Washington states and won the Seattle Public School league over Nathan Hale. Max Debroux is a big playmaker on defense and look out for Jak Lin’s wheels. They are a very deep team that has shown the ability to play up against elite teams. They defeated Jordan last year in pool play in an exciting one-point game before bowing out to eventual champs Lone Peak in semis.
Pennsbury makes their HSNI debut. A long-time Pennsylvania powerhouse, Pennsbury got some key results, including a win over Amherst, during the regular season to qualify for the tournament, but then fell well short of their goals at the state championships, losing in quarterfinals to Lower Merion and not even getting a shot at other top teams like Wissahickon and Harriton. Nicky Railey is the team’s leader. Can they hang tough against the excellent teams in front of them?
Can anyone touch #1 Roosevelt? The Washington state champions thoroughly dominated the high school season in Seattle with a stacked roster that features U20 and U24 National Team player (and sophomore) Chloe Hakimi, fellow U20 player Chagall Gelfand, and enviable depth. They came into HSNI a year ago as the #2 seed but fell to in-state rival Lincoln in semis even though they beat them at Washington states. Their only major blemish this year is also a loss to Lincoln in the Seattle Public School finals before states. They avenged the loss, but it was a wake-up call for the team. “[It] really showed the girls that we are not invincible,” said the coaching staff. “We were having a really strong season leading up to that and needed a loss to show us that teams could play on our level if we let them.” They will be hard to topple again. The team has the best top-end firepower at the tournament — Hakimi is a generational talent — and enough depth to beat lower ranked teams without their stars.
#2 Lincoln, though, has the belief that they can beat them again. Although the team will miss Lauren Goddu on the field as she suffered an ACL injury last fall, they have plenty of playmakers. Junior Ella Widmyer (2022 HSNI All-Tournament), the team’s center handler, is suiting up for Seattle Riot this year. Madoka Uo will be one of the best defenders at the tournament, Milo Brown is a playmaker on both sides of the disc, and Anna Ammann (’22 HSNI All-Tournament) is a dangerous goal scorer. As noted above, Lincoln topped Roosevelt in the postseason, a stunning 13-7 upset, but lost the WA title game 15-11. Can Lincoln get them back in a potential HSNI finals rematch?
Let us not forget about the defending HSNI champs, #3 South Eugene. Although the team has gone through some significant changes, graduating stars like Ezra Weybright and Acacia Hahn, they are still a formidable group. Captain Eli Donohue is the team’s primary thrower, often looking to get it to top cutter Mara Hindery-Glasinovic. The team is not afraid to take shots and have some turnovers: they play excellent defense after the turn and will throw a lot of different looks at opponents. Their results so far this year show them to be a very strong team, though they have come up just short against the top teams from Washington. They lost by one to Roosevelt in the Seattle Invite semis. Can they rally to go back-to-back at HSNI?
Pool A Preview
Roosevelt will be the big favorite at the top of the pool, and the biggest questions may be about how Edina stacks up with strong west coast teams. The Minnesota powerhouse came up short at the state tournament this year for the first time in years: is that a testament to the depth of talent in Minnesota or a worrying sign for Edina? Junior captain Amelia Zdechlik, the top high school player in Minnesota, has played for Pop and is now a practice player for Drag’N Thrust and will be a tough matchup for any player at the tournament. Overall, Edina is young, with just three seniors, and so this will be a big growth opportunity for the team regardless of what happens in the pool.
“As the only girls team represented from the Midwest, we will do our best to showcase the Midwestern hospitality,” wrote the coaches. “‘Minnesota Nice’ is not just a saying, but rather something we take to heart. Come say hello and introduce yourself. We love meeting more frisbee friends.”
Green Canyon has emerged as the top girls team in Utah and one of the best teams in the West. Sharpened by years of chasing Lone Peak, they have started taking on more out-of-state competition. They went 37-1 this season, only dropping a pool play game to Lone Peak at Utah states before winning the tournament. They won all their games at Spaghetti Westerns and the Seattle Invite (notably beating Cleveland and Garfield in blowouts). Madi Seedall, a long-time leader and now captain, is the best all-around player on the team. Fellow senior captain Stella Anhder is a multi-sport athlete and real competitor. Green Canyon lacks a bit of polish in the throwing department, but they are extremely athletic and could make a deep push in the bracket.
Rounding out the pool is Garfield, who finished 6th in Washington states. The team is led on and off the field by Imogen Rich and Mia Andreeva. The coaches also called out Mira Schneeweis-LaRene as a solid leader despite being injured most of the season. While they may not have the firepower to compete for an HSNI title, they are very young (only 3 seniors) and could still be a bracket team, a sign of just how deep the Seattle scene is.
Pool B Preview
Pool B feels similar to Pool A: there’s a powerhouse Seattle program (Lincoln), an intriguing team traveling west to Salt Lake (Lower Merion), a depth team from Seattle (SAAS), and a western team that’s not from Washington (Summit).
Lincoln is the heavy favorite here; see more on them in the write-up above.
Lower Merion had a great season in Pennsylvania, defending their state title with a dominant run in the bracket. They did take a couple of early season losses to a good Paideia team, but they also showed resolve with a big comeback against Four Rivers, scoring five straight goals out of half to win the game 8-7. Senior captain Myra Woerdeman leads the team in scores; fellow captains Sam Merritt and Ava Terosky will also be involved a lot on offense. Watch for the defensive skill from Matilda Pro. The big question for LM is how they will stack up against the best of the west. Pool play should give us some quick answers!
SAAS is the second team out of the Emerald Sound Conference, coming up short against Northwest in two universe point losses during the season. It’s tricky to assess where SAAS fits in the greater context of Seattle, because the Emerald Sound teams only compete amongst themselves during the regular season. SAAS lost in quarters at WA states, falling 13-8 to Nathan Hale.
Although they’re quite a distance from South Eugene in Oregon, Summit had a good season, reaching the finals of Spaghetti Western after a big comeback against Discotech in semis. Summit is making their HSNI debut as a young team with just one senior, Iris Gritzner (a rookie and the team’s MVP!), on the roster. Keep your eyes peeled for Ei Bodo, an 8th grader who’s one of the team’s top contributors. Also, the team features triplets — Maya, Taylor, and Danika Melner — with nicknames Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3, respectively.
Pool C Preview
The only pool to feature teams from four different states, Pool C might be the pool of death.
South Eugene‘s title defense begins here; see above for more on their team.
The top Emerald Sound team, Northwest came up short in quarterfinals at Washington states, falling 13-10 to Franklin. Scout Noble and Melba Henley, both captains, are the team’s top contributors on both offense and defense. And keep an eye on Sasha Hanna in the back of the zone: she’s liable to put opponents on a poster.
Newton North was having a remarkable season, including an undefeated run to the Pioneer Valley Invite title, where they defeated multiple club teams, but they came up short at Massachusetts states, losing 13-8 to Four Rivers in their only loss of the season before dominating in the third place game. The big challenge for Newton may be to step up to the level of teams at the HSNI, given that they play a lot of lower level teams in their area. The team prides themselves on playing strong defense. Watch for Massachusetts All-Stars Willa Glass, Mia Diana, Eliza Dyett, and Ellie Lemburg.
So what should we expect from Lone Peak? The team made quarters at last year’s HSNI and ultimately finished tied for 5th, but they’ve focused more on development this year after a lot of turnover. Audrey Selfridge is the team’s biggest star: she helped lead Utah Swarm deep into the YCC bracket last summer. But the Lone Peak team has struggled this season: on a trip out east, they got thumped by Northampton and Amherst, and they lost early in the bracket at Utah states — after beating eventual champions Green Canyon the day prior. If they tighten their rotations, we could see Lone Peak play their best ultimate of the season this weekend, but with half the team comprised of freshmen, they might be a year or two away from competing near the top again.
Pool D Preview
A couple of state champions will tangle two strong Seattle teams in Pool D.
Nathan Hale had a great spring, finishing in semis at states, losing to eventual champions Roosevelt by just two goals, the champs’ closest game of the tournament (and they even beat them once during league play). They are a balanced and deep team, with perhaps less top-end takeover power than Roosevelt and Lincoln but an equal or superior bench. Alexa Jeantette-Coca, a transfer from Garfield that showed out at last year’s HSNI and got an honorable mention on the All-Tournament Team, will be one of their top players alongside captain Rowan Lymp, a practice player for Seattle Mixtape.
Hale got a tough game from Cleveland in the Seattle Public School playoffs. Cleveland ultimately lost 9-7, but they showed throughout the season that they’re at the top of the second tier of teams in Seattle. A few adjustments and a strong weekend from their O-line and they could surprise some teams.
Four Rivers was the top team from Massachusetts throughout the season. They took down the Amherst Invite title to clinch an HSNI bid, and despite dropping a couple games to Northampton on the year, they crushed them 15-2 in the state championship final. Eve Macek is the team’s top player, an all-around athlete who’s transitioned from handler to cutter this season. Eleanor Herbert has helped fill the shoes of Ashley Schlinger, the team’s star cutter at last year’s HSNI. Four Rivers finished T-7th last year: can they break seed again?
The last seed at the tournament and in Pool D is Madison, the Virginia state champions. It’s impressive that they were able to come out on top at states considering that the team has just 1 senior and a whopping 12 freshmen. Their upperclassmen captains — Emma Buckley, Tess Reynolds, and Gretchen Schmitt — are the team’s key players. Buckley is the primary thrower, with Reynolds and Schmitt serving in both handler and cutter roles as needed on the line. The team gritted out two consecutive universe point wins in the bracket at VA States: now, the pressure ramps up at HSNI!
Stay tuned to Ultiworld and UltiPhotos for ongoing coverage of the 2023 High School National Invite!