With the restructuring of 2011, the Metro East Women’s division lost former Nationals qualifiers Maryland and Pittsburgh as well as Penn State and Pennsylvania who placed 2nd and 3rd, respectively, at 2011 Ohio Valley Regionals. The departure of these teams left the Ottawa Lady GG’s and the Cornell Roses to battle for the chance to play in Boulder, which the former took in strong fashion.
2012 is a different story; as both programs graduated many members, including two-time Callahan Nominee Anne Mercier, leaving the ME Women’s division as wide open as its male counterpart. Now with something real to play for, the ten other teams join Ottawa and Cornell as they prepare for the fight of their lives with most likely only one bid to Nationals as the prize.
Ottawa Lady GG’s
Ottawa heads into the 2012 spring season sans star players Mercier and Sonia Komenda. With most players in only their second year on the team, the Lady GG’s youth is nothing but apparent. The last time that Ottawa was without Anne Mercier was in 2010, where they went from a 5th Place Nationals finish (Pool Winner, Quarterfinals Loss to Oregon) to 3rd at regionals. Though losing in the game to go is nothing to be ashamed of – especially when you lose by one to a team that beat you by 9 on the previous day – but it had to have left a sour taste in their mouths. Despite their missed trip to Madison in 2010, Ottawa showed that they could still compete, even with their star player on the bench. Because of this, I expect that they will be the unquestionable front-runner heading to Regionals in May.
Coach Ken Alexander said that key players Kathryn Pohran, Kaylee Sparks and Brianna Jaffray have returned this year. Also, with a few young players on the brink of becoming huge factors, Alexander is excited for his team to continue to grow past their extremely short Canadian University Season (1st at CEUCC, 8th at CUCC). Despite being a perennial nationals team, Ottawa’s mentality is to prove themselves through their preparation as well as their on-field play:
“Our team motto would be to work: work to get in shape, work to improve our skills, work to understand the game better, and most importantly to work to become a team.” – Alexander
As they plan on hitting up two Without Limits’ Tournaments, Music City Mash-Up and Keystone Classic, Ottawa will be facing off against some of the top women’s teams in the nation before heading back to Upstate New York for conference play. This experience against top-level talent will require that the young GG’s grow quickly, which should assure confident play and dominance when Ottawa returns to consume the Metro East.
Cornell Wild Roses
One of the few teams that stand in the path of the GG’s is the Cornell Wild Roses. As with Ottawa, Cornell has the advantage of being an experienced program. This means that while they may have some new faces, the Roses have a systematic offense in place and an understanding of defensive strategy. I spoke with Rebecca Velez, one of the two new captains of Cornell (the second being Anna Carroll), where she told me that they only have 7 returners, 3 of which are seniors for the 2012 season. Also, 8 of their players are brand new to ultimate, having never touched a disc before the fall season. However, having a solid program as well as a coach (Brian Carroll), allows a team to insert new people regardless of experience into a system where they can flourish. Velez and Carroll are not alone, as they were able to grab transfer students Lola Longe from Texas Melee and Michaela Dudley from UNC Pleiades, adding a high level of knowledge and skill in addition to a deep understanding of the game.
In terms of players to watch, Velez gave shout-outs to her underclassmen:
“…some freshmen to look out for will probably be Lisa Levine and Christine Georgakakos. The returning sophomores (Sarah Zhao, Dani Smulevich and Courtney Morris), are probably also going to have pretty good seasons. We’re looking to Sarah to be our principle, key handler this year, but she’s still a young player so it’ll be exciting to see how much she can do.”
There have been some early bumps in the road, with preseason losses to Rutgers and a UConn split squad on the way to an 11-9 record. Still, these growing pains are to be expected with a new team that is looking to find its identity, so don’t fret if you root for the Roses. In regard to their tournament schedule, Velez added that the only guaranteed trip for Cornell is the Keystone Classic in Manheim, PA. This tournament, which is the last stop for Michelle Ng’s Without Limits, showcases the upper level teams of the Ohio Valley and Metro East regions, which will provide an ample warm-up for the Roses before the series. Like all teams in one-bid regions, their tournament schedule should provide the best opportunity to build depth, with the hopes of peaking in early May.
The Rest of the Field (Pre-Season Rankings)
While Ottawa and Cornell are the one and two, respectively (in my opinion), the Metro East has seen a lot of shifting in the last year, which should shape up to make an awesome regional tournament. Below are my rankings for the region:
- Yale – Based on fall results, last year’s 4th place finisher seems to be keeping their current form. With a roster that appears to be upperclassmen heavy, this could be Ramona’s year to move up and challenge the top two.
- Connecticut – This is a team that is unquestionably on the up, looking to improve on their 7th place finish from last year. Connecticut did not graduate anyone from last year’s season and has picked up Cornell alumni and superstar Sterling Dumas (District 5), which has led to strong fall results. Don’t be surprised to see the Huskies in the semis this year.
- Rutgers – With David Hsuing as their coach, Night Shade has put up some good results these past few months. While they may be a little on the young side, Rutgers is in the process of building a program, and could be a household name in a couple of years.
- Hofstra – Coach Matt Auletta’s (District 5) M45 is ready for war after a solid 2011 season capped by a 6th place finish at Regionals. While their fall results have been slightly inconsistent, Hofstra is returning almost their entire roster. With monsters on the field like Gina Stees and Jillian Edwards combined with captain Tori Jackson returning from injury, it looks like M45 will be a tremendous hurdle for any team wishing to top the region.
- SUNY-Buffalo – After a last place finish, The Lorax have come back in force with a 22-5 fall season record. As Kelsey Scanlon, Amanda Wach and Jessie Cheillo lead a roster filled with veterans and athletic rookies; Buffalo should have no problem making it back to Regionals, and can definitely break into the top 8. Watch out for Casey Whitford and Sara Hilliard to be making plays all season long.
- NYU – Though the Violet Femmes have had a fall season to forget, you can’t discount the 3rd place finisher at 2011 Regionals. While, I expect their early spring results to be similar, NYU should be back at Regionals and ready to make some noise during a rebuilding year.
- Columbia – Columbia’s NYPD looks like they are ready to lay down the law after their 8th place 2011 finish. With an 8-5 fall record, this team looks like they are on the up and I would not be surprised at all if they shoved this preseason ranking in my face.
- College of New Jersey – Last year’s 5th place finisher has had an up and down fall, but Anarchy will be raising hell come May. Though their roster was filled with graduate students and seniors last year, TCNJ will still have plenty of upperclassmen to draw talent from.
- Rochester – Formally a perennial contender, Rochester made it back to regionals last year for the first time since 2007 (though they qualified in 2008). It looks like EZ (Erogenous Zones) is back in form, with a 17-7 fall record. With a deep roster and some height to boot, look out for the notorious zones and clam defenses of Rochester, NY. Keep an eye out for freshman Michelle Landis who has the speed and decision making to be an effective force all season long.
- Cornell-B – Being a B team and making D-1 Regionals is an amazing feat. Placing third at conferences while only losing to the top two teams in your region? Incredible. In their own right, the Thorny Roses have been just as successful as their A side, taking out conference and regional rivals time and time again. While Nationals is out of the question, pushing for the top 8 is not. Look for this team, with a roster filled by players of various experience, to surprise many come May.
With parity at its highest for both the women’s and open divisions, Regionals will be incredibly fun to watch!
God save the Metro East.
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