Breaking down every region and all your contenders.
September 22, 2023 by Alex Rubin, Jenna Weiner, Laura Osterlund and Scott Dunham in Preview with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s 2023 coverage of the club division 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.
The club 2023 postseason is here! After teams battled all summer to earn bids for their regions, it’s time to figure who gets to go to the Big Show and try to win it all. We’ve got you covered with the favorites, challengers, and top storylines of every region.
Dates: September 23-24
Location: Westfield, IN
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Favorites: #10 Ann Arbor Hybrid, #13 Cleveland Crocs
Challengers: #24 Chicago RAMP, Chicago Parlay, Cincinnati Steamboat
Nope, it’s not your eyes deceiving you! It’s official that the Great Lakes region has actually earned a second bid for the first time in its history.
For the past two seasons, Ann Arbor Hybrid have taken the region’s only bid to Nationals with pretty fat margins. Hybrid are once again favored to win their region. After all, they have the experience of making it to Nationals and playing in TCT tournaments behind them that others in the region don’t. Plus, after losing the Great Lakes strength bid, they gained it right back at Pro Champs with a 15-12 win against Polar Bears in their last game of the tournament. We also know they have several notable players, such as Maddy Simko, Nathan Champoux, and Kat McGuire, who have experience in big spots that they’ll bring to bear on any sticky situation the team might find themselves in this weekend.
However, a somewhat inconsistent record this season precedes them. They’ve had their fair share of losses against other Nationals-level teams and landed themselves in the middle of the pack in terms of ranked teams. Most notably, they have a loss to #13 Cleveland Crocs, the team most likely to pull the upset. The dip that Hybrid took this season may not be enough to stop them from punching their spot to Nationals, but it definitely will be one to keep an eye on.
Speaking of Crocs, they have the inside track on being the other to clinch a Nationals ticket, especially as the other bid-earner in the region. Believe it or not, this team was sitting at the second spot at one point this season with the rankings. They’ve since dropped, but still sit higher than any other team in their region. In their third year as a team, they’ve started to make a name for themselves, winning Select Flight Invite-East and East Plains Sectionals, both with flying colors. They have held their own in other tournaments too, and have wins over higher-caliber teams such as Toro, Slow, and the aforementioned Hybrid. The roster has a lot of power with veteran Crocs Iris Javersak and Mitch Cihon, as well as Croc-lings Axel Agami Contreras and Graham Cunningham.
Getting out of the region is not guaranteed to either of these teams. What if I told you there are more teams with the chance to snag a Nationals bid? Because twice the bids mean double the chances of an upset1. The third team from the Great Lakes region that’s on our radar is #24 Chicago RAMP. In only their second season, they’ve made waves in the mixed division, with wins over Toro, Loco, and Space Force. They’ve breezed past other Midwest teams and are possibly ready to compete at the next level, if they can get past the regional favorites.
Dates: September 30 – October 12
Location: Frederica, DE
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥
Favorites: #2 Philadelphia AMP, #14 Washington DC Rally
Challengers: New Jersey Jughandle, West Chester Loco, Pittsburgh Port Authority
Should the Mid-Atlantic’s double-elimination bracket format return when the event is rescheduled,
the regional champion Philadelphia AMP will only need to win four games to earn a trip to San Diego. AMP have been the class of the division this season, winning the US Open before falling in a heartbreaker of a semifinal to Seattle BFG at Pro Champs. With the player of the year frontrunner in Henry Ing and a summer league team’s worth of veterans like Lindsay McKenna, Linda Morse, Raha Mozaffari, Liz Hart, Jordan Rhyne, and Paul Owens, there simply is not another team in the region that can match either AMP’s top end nor their depth of talent.
Washington DC Rally earned a second bid for the region, taking the mantle as the top team in the talent-rich DC area. With the addition of the well-traveled Jin-Mi Matsunaga (Dirty Bird, Grit, ‘Shine, Ozone) and Truck Stop-Space Heater3 veterans Zach Norrbom and Alan Kolick, Rally have rolled this season. They won Capital Sectionals without giving up more than five goals in any game they played. Wins over Space Force, Lexington, ‘Shine, Toro, and Crocs show the potential not just to make it to their first club championships, but to earn some wins once there.
Lurking elsewhere in the bracket would be a handful of challengers who could spoil Rally’s best season to date. West Chester Loco already have a win over Rally (though it was back in July) and more recently traveled to Northwest Fruit Bowl where they nearly took down Mixtape. They were lined up to see Rally in the first place semifinal if everything goes to seed. New Jersey Jughandle (wins over ‘Shine and Wild Card) and Pittsburgh Port Authority (Philly Invite tournament victory) are the other challengers. Each have the talent and skill necessary to complete a historic upset, but they haven’t played with the consistency this season to expect it.
Dates: September 30 – October 1
Location: Des Moines, IA
Number of Bids: 2
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥
Favorites:#3 Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust, #5 Madison NOISE
Challengers: Wichita Impact, Kansas City United, Ames Chad Larson Experience
Ah, the North Central! Perhaps one of the most unchanging regions in the mixed division at the moment. In fact, I could just copy and paste previews from the last two years and it would be the same. One of the biggest sources of drama for this region was whether or not they would get two bids to Nationals. But, when two teams from the region played against each other in the semifinal at Pro Champs4, it became evident that both would have bids. Now, the biggest drama surrounding the event is the annual pay-per-view bout for North Central royalty status.
It’s a tale as old as time for Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust. For the past 12 years, they’ve qualified for Nationals, winning their region outright for the last seven. They show no signs of breaking that streak. Not only have they blown out all of their regional-level competition in the few in-region games they’ve played this season5. Despite the hiccup of ending US Open in the ninth place round robin, they flexed their competitive muscles by winning Pro Champs for the second year in a row. This is also not to mention the top-to-bottom depth with too many heavy hitters to list. Drag’n is poised to win the North Central region and may even have already bought their plane tickets to San Diego.
The other team in the region that’s been dominant is #5 Madison NOISE. Even though they lost Dylan DeClerck, they’ve proven to be one of the more consistent teams in the mixed division this season. With the additions of super-veterans Austin Prucha and Nasser Mbae Vogel, and fresh-faced Hodag Pieran Robert6 to their already solid roster, they’ve put themselves in a good spot. At the two tournaments they’ve played in, both a part of the TCT circuit, they played well enough to make it to the semifinals. After facing Drag’n Thrust in the semifinals at Nationals last year and winning on universe7, it’s clear that both teams are capable of winning the region and deserve a spot at Nationals.
Because there are only two bids in the region instead of three, the margin for error is slightly slimmer than it was last year. In the unlikely event that there’s a choke in the game-to-go, several teams are champing at the bit to take their place. Wichita Impact turned some heads, especially at the beginning of the season with success at Colorado Summer Solstice and even made their way onto our club rankings but quickly blended back into the ranks of mid-level regionals teams. Kansas City United has had their eyes set on the Nationals stage since their 2021 inception, but they’ve never made it to San Diego – and it seems like they’ve also lost some steam this year. The surprise bid-takers from last season, Chad Larson Experience, could also once again pull off some interesting upsets but may lack the strength to go all the way up the bracket. It is pretty unlikely that any of these teams will be able to beat the two top dogs of the region, however, and if I were a betting person, I would place a tall pile of greenbacks on Drag’n and NOISE making it to Nationals.
If you’re looking for even more excitement from this region, though, will depend on where in the regionals bracket the three challenging teams will place. Because despite the low odds that they will make it to Nationals, the three teams seem almost even in level of play. The drama this raises is flight status. The question becomes: how will these teams duke it out for the top select spots in the region? It’s probable that KCU will once again try to become the third best team in the region but will have to get past Impact, the team that beat them in the semifinals of the game-to-go last season. Impact will once again try to make waves like they did at last year’s regionals (by beating KCU). And CLX, well, they’ll once again be the wild cards that may or may not foil some third-place plans.
Dates: September 23-24
Location: Devens, MA
Number of Bids: 3
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥
Favorites: #6 New York XIST, #8 Boston Sprocket, #17 Boston Slow
Challengers: Toronto UNION, Portland The Buoy Association, Boston Wild Card
It’s atypical not to expect too much drama at Devens, but with three Nationals-level teams and three bids to the Club Championships this might be a ho-hum weekend in the mixed division. New York XIST are the favorites to take the region. With just four losses (twice each to Seattle BFG and San Francisco Polar Bears) across two TCT tournaments, XIST – not to mention an appearance in semis in San Diego last season – have risen to the level of legitimate title contenders. Owning a win over Sprocket this season should give the New Yorkers an extra shot of confidence, not that they need it with wins already over Seattle Mixtape and Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust more recently.
Boston Sprocket earned their bid with wins over multiple Nationals-level teams8 at TCT events this year. After missing out on a chance to go to San Diego in 2022, Bretton Tan, Clara Stewart, Tannor Johnson-Go and company have stepped up their game this season. A sweep through East New England Sectionals – perhaps the toughest section in the country – has Sprocket peaking at the right time to challenge for the regional title.
Boston Slow did just enough at Pro Champs to hold on to a third bid for the region, eking out a clutch consolation win over Durham Toro. With a veteran-heavy team, Slow rely on steady play and the occasional burst of brilliance to earn their wins. In a New England region stacked with talent, the experience of competing at the Club Championships every year since 2005 is a significant competitive advantage.
But don’t sleep on the Mainers! With names like Emily Pozzy and Will Neff on the roster, Portland The Buoy Association deserve at least a mention. Under the right conditions, they could take down a team like Wild Card or Slow to sneak their way into a winnable game-to-go. Wild Card likewise have an impressive roster with the likes of Tamar Austin and Maxwell Rick suiting up, but they would need to play their absolute best game to match the depth of talent on the top teams and score an unlikely upset.
Dates: September 23-24
Location: Lacey, WA
Number of Bids: 3
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Favorites: #4 Seattle BFG, #9 Seattle Mixtape, #19 Vancouver Red Flag
Challengers: #20 Montana MOONDOG, #25 Oregon Scorch
Northwest looks like the strongest region in the mixed division with five teams in the top 25 of both USA Ultimate’s official rankings and Ultiworld’s Power Rankings. On top of that, they have a couple of favorites to win it all in 2022 National and World Champion Mixtape and BFG who preceded their crosstown rival as both National (2021) and World (2018) champions. Rounding out the top contenders are Vancouver Red Flag, Montana MOONDOG, and Oregon Scorch.
BFG get the top seed based on their usual consistent excellence, making the final at the top two tournaments of the year, Pro Champs and US Open, and winning PEC-West. Jeff Pape has returned to replace Mario O’Brien (who defected to Mixtape) as primary O-Line handler along with Cheryl Hsu. Tommy Li, meanwhile, has exceeded previous heights in the midfield targeting Jason Yun and Leah Bar-On Simmons downfield. On defense Conor Belfield has had another standout season shutting down the deep space; he is ably supported by a host of defenders such as Alissa Soo and Mo Tilmo. The return of Sam Rodenberg to the roster could make BFG an even tougher out at Regionals.
Also as usual, Mixtape stumbled through the regular season, missing the bracket altogether at PEC-West, then going 0-4 after winning their pool at the US Open. They did manage to win out at the Northwest Fruitbowl (taking advantage of BFG’s absence), and mixed results in the early season proved to be the winning formula for them in 2022, as they managed the elusive double peak. While BFG is marked by their dedication to system and consistency, Mixtape is all about riding the highs (and lows) of emotion. Khalif El-Salaam is making another case for himself at POTY, while the twin targets of Frances Gellert and Lexi Garrity downfield have been too much for any other team to handle.
The third 2023 bid earners are 2022 WUCC finalist Vancouver Red Flag, with a roster familiar from dominant UBC, Furious, and Traffic teams of the past. Mika Kurahashi is another POTY candidate, with Gagan Chatha and Collefas Mot playing key roles on offense and defense, respectively. Red Flag came into 2022 Northwest Regionals in the opposite position, narrowly beating Scorch and then bid-earner MOONDOG to clinch the program’s first trip to Nationals.
It is tough to choose between the two top contenders. Despite being the lower seed, Scorch may have the stronger resume, with regular season wins over Mixtape, Red Flag, and MOONDOG. They’ve clearly shown the ability to play up with any team in the division, led by Jon Snyder (former Rhino, shame.), Kevin Christian (former Public Enemy), Lillian Weaver (former Schwa, Revolution), Ben Whitenack (former Rhino), and Jackie Matonis (former Crocs). The question mark is their depth later in the tournament.
MOONDOG have the advantage of experience over both Scorch and Red Flag, having been in this position multiple times over the past several years. Like Scorch, MOONDOG have wins over other top teams in their region, including Mixtape and Scorch. They struggled early in the season, but made the final at the Northwest Fruitbowl (above Red Flag and Scorch) and swept the Big Sky section to enter Regionals on an upnote. They’ve been the Team of Destiny before – can it happen again?
Dates: September 23-24
Location: Austin, TX
Number of Bids: 1
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Favorites: #1 Fort Collins shame.
Challengers: #15 Dallas Public Enemy, #16 Denver Love Tractor, Denver Flight Club, Denver Mile High Trash, Austin Waterloo
A single bid region with the #1 ranked team by both the USAU algorithm and Ultiworld’s Power ranking would seem to be a no-drama recipe, but lurking just below the bid cutoff, South Central has five teams in the top 31. All of these teams have been in discussion for top-25 and have beaten up on Nationals contenders over the course of the year. With the overarching theme of the 2023 mixed division being competitive parity, it seems that any of these teams could take the region.
Nevertheless, shame. remain the overwhelming favorite to win the bid to Nationals, having compiled a 17-1 regular season record, with their only loss coming to eventual champion AMP in US Open quarters. Jade McLaughlin has been a particular standout this season on a deep experienced team.
Denver Love Tractor have the edge as #1 contender due to their huge upset of BFG at Pro Champs which helped them squeeze out Public Enemy in the algorithm to grab the critical second seed. It seems odd to think about a Love Tractor team without Jack McShane, but 2022 Johnny Bravo standout Cole Wallin has filled in admirably alongside Henry Konker and Jesse Roehm. And they’ll come in without much scouting. Despite playing in some of the same tournaments, Love Tractor have managed to avoid playing any of the other top South Central mixed teams.
Another perennial Nationals contender, Dallas Public Enemy, pull the no.3 seed and thus will have to face Denver Mile High Trash in pool play – not the ideal path. But they have plenty of veteran experience – Jenna Bigbie, Megan Tormey, Griffin Miller – and have a 2-1 record over fellow Texas team Waterloo. More importantly, wins over Slow, ‘Shine, and RAMP are solid bona fides for their Nationals potential.
The chances become a little murkier after that. Flight Club have been in and out of the top-25 over the course of the season and have a 2-1 record in close games versus Mile High Trash, as well as a dominant win over their top pool competition Waterloo. Austin Waterloo upset Public Enemy at sectionals in pool play, but fell to them in the final at both sectionals as well as Texas 2 Finger (although they are tied on point diff over the three games). No.6 Mile High Trash will look to take advantage of a deep set of strong female matching players led by the explosive Abby Thorpe (WUL MVP finalist). Trash gave shame. their toughest test at CO Summer Solstice and will press any and all comers.
Looking at the tournament format, shame. and Love Tractor have the easier routes the final. They seem likely to win their pools easily, then get easier quarterfinals. In contrast, the next four seeds (Public Enemy, Flight Club, Waterloo and Mile High Trash) will likely have to face off against each other in a quarterfinal elimination round. The survivors meet the top seeds in semis to determine who will have a chance to play for the lone bid in the final. Start prepping a comfy chair and some Mike-and-Ikes for what is sure to be a sensational Sunday.
Dates: September 23-24
Location: Advance, NC
Number of Bids: 1
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Favorites: #7 Huntsville Space Force
Challengers: #18 Nashville Shine, #21 Atlanta Dirty Bird, Durham Toro
‘Shine have wins over Sprocket, Crocs, AMP, Dirty Bird, and they bageled a team at Sectionals. Space Force beat Mischief, Love Tractor, and Crocs. Toro have not scored many wins this season but might roster the most skilled player in the region9. Dirty Bird likewise boasts a talented roster, made the Club Championships in 2022, and always seems to save their best game for when it matters most. In short, four teams, one bid, good luck everyone! I’ll get my Junior Mints.
Space Force are the highest ranked team – which makes sense, because they loaded up on talent after their run to the Club Championships in 2022. Eric Sjostrom, Anh and Trenton Spinks, Molly Robbins, and Utah’s Jacob Miller (through the Elijah Jaime/Salt Lake Shred connection) have all joined the roster. Space Force spent time as high as #2 in the USA Ultimate rankings this season and will have some schedule advantages as the top seed at regionals.
‘Shine won PEC East with a legit win over AMP, but also suffered a handful of close losses at their next TCT event, Elite-Select Challenge. It’s fair to wonder if they can string together enough top end wins to win this region, but with Jesse Shofner and Justin Burnett on board, ‘Shine are one of the most exciting teams in the country to watch. Their quick pace of play and ability to apply defensive pressure and win back turnovers should come in handy this weekend. The bottom fell out of their quest to make Nationals last year, but even with less margin for error they will be ready to compete to the end.
Atlanta Dirty Bird are the mixed pick-up-for-the-Series team du jour…though they did actually compete at two regular season tournaments this season and put together a 9-3 record. A Sectionals loss to ‘Shine sets an initial regional pecking order, but with a who’s-who of (older) Atlanta-area talent (Kelvin Williams, Caroline Taylor) on the roster, Dirty Bird could step up their play just enough to end up back at the Club Championships.
Rounding out the contender tier are Durham Toro. They might be the best 4-12 team in the history of ultimate. Matthew McKnight and Claire Revere are plug-and-play additions that have carried the O-line this season. Terrence Mitchell and Maya Powell are two other high-usage additions who have made a major impact this season. Perhaps with so many new pieces, this team just needed time to gel before hitting their peak. If they’re going to gel before the season is over, though, the time is now. One X-Factor: Grayson Sanner played a few points at Pro Champs, his first time on the field since an ACL tear. If he is anything close to full strength, he could be a difference maker for a team in need of a spark.
With four Nationals-quality teams – not to mention as many as a half-dozen legitimate season spoilers – and only one chance to advance beyond regionals, Southeast mixed is on the short list for the the most exciting regional tournament in the country. Good luck to all who are competing, and have fun to all who get to spectate, because it is sure to be a spectacle.
Dates: September 23-24
Location: Norco, CA
Number of Bids:2
Excitement Level: 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Favorites: #11 San Francisco Polar Bears, #12 San Francisco Mischief
Challengers: #21 Bay Area Sunshine, #22 Arizona Lawless
After last year’s unprecedented strength bid drought, normal service has once again resumed in the Southwest region in 202310. There’s the pair of bids earned by Polar Bears and Mischief, the pair of next-up contenders in Lawless and Sunshine, and the messy rest that are bound to pull off a surprise upset or two this weekend out in Norco. So will the long-standing bid earners hold off the upstarts, or will the Southwest send a first-time team back to Nationals for the second time in three seasons?
Despite finishing as the top-ranked team in the region and getting a bye through Sectionals courtesy of their sixth-place finish at last year’s Nationals, Polar Bears didn’t actually start the season as the top squad out of the Southwest. Rather, they were third in the pecking order behind Mischief and Lawless after taking losses at PEC-West to both of their regional rivals. While they did rebound with solid, albeit not especially spectacular, showings at the US Open and Pro Champs, Mac Taylor, Amanda Meroux, and company won’t rest easy even as the top seeds. This experienced Polar Bears roster know as well as anyone that Southwest regionals brings its fair share of pitfalls11, and they’ll be on their guard to not get added to the pile of Southwest teams in the great-but-didn’t-make-Nationals club.
Doing just enough to ensure that the Southwest didn’t make it back-to-back years with one bid, Mischief come into Regionals looking to make a return to Nationals for the first time since their 2019 run to the national final. One of the longest-standing teams in the division12 Mischief’s roster is replete with veteran talent — Vivian Chu, Lily Steponaitis, and Matthew Crawford among them — though that didn’t keep Mischief from being upset in the Sectional final by upstarts Sunshine. The upside is still there, though, as Mischief demonstrated earlier this season when they made the PEC-West final, and they’ll need to rediscover that form in order to fend off the likes of Sunshine and Lawless.
Speaking of Sunshine, they let it in at Sectionals with an undefeated weekend and the NorCal crown. That performance earned them the no.2 seed at Regionals, and capped off a strong opening season that saw Sunshine take down the Revolution title as they only fell short to Northwest powerhouses Mixtape, MOONDOG, and Red Flag at Fruit Bowl. Sunshine’s roster, largely assembled and led by Lili Gu and Markham Shofner, has an impressive assortment of talent, with Walker Frankenberg, Nathan Kwon, and Margo Urheim some of the more eye-catching names. However, they’ll need to be back on their A-game this weekend if they’re to join Lawless on the list of recent first-year National attendees and not fall short to the experience of Polar Bears and Mischief.
Lawless return as the SoCal champs, but didn’t have their best of seasons to say the least. Arizona’s best win of the season arguably came back at PEC-West in the aforementioned game against Polar Bears, and a one-win outing at ESC wasn’t going to win over any doubters. Cynthia Thomas, Kody Lippincott, and Audrey Brown lead a cohort of WUL standouts for Lawless, and their 13-10 win over Lotus in the SoCal final, while expected, is still heartening. With the NorCal trio leading the way, making the leap back to Nationals will be a tough ask for Arizona, but the potential is certainly there for Lawless to make it two trips in three to Nationals.
As for the rest, per usual the remainder of the Southwest field is a crowded jumble of teams. The fifth ranked team coming into Sectionals was perennial thorn-in-the-side Classy, but they now are the second-to-last seed after having to win back-to-back games to even make Regionals after suffering a surprise universe point loss to American Barbecue. Lotus’ close loss to Lawless also portends some possibility for topsy-turviness, while Tower and LIT were the next up finishers in NorCal after Sunshine and Mischief. While none of these next four are the most likely to be in that final game-to-go, each could pull off a key upset that might open the door to that classic Southwest chaos.
or something like that, it’s proven Girl Math™ ↩
Mid-Atlantic Regionals has been moved back a week due to projected inclement weather. ↩
and one of them won the whole thing ↩
well, almost all, thanks to NOISE ↩
a player who the team says is their next up-and-comer ↩
their first postseason victory against their northern rivals ↩
Dirty Bird, Hybrid, Mischief, ‘Shine, AMP, and Team Canada U24 ↩
I’ll make y’all wait until our annual Top 25 Players comes out to figure out who that might be ↩
Seriously, 2022 was the first year in the history of the mixed division with a one-bid Southwest. ↩
see: Lawless winning the region in 2021 as the third seed, PBR’s scintillating 2019 GTG upset over Blackbird, or Mischief winning the region in 2018 after going 1-2 in pool play ↩
it’s now been two whole decades since their first season in 2003 ↩