1. Oregon (NW): Their decisive win at Pres Day indicates that the ladies of Fugue have what it takes to win in 2012. With consistent, talented and experienced players like Darch, Weatherhead, Schuler, and Bishop, Fugue has plenty of disc skills spread throughout their entire roster. The indefinite loss of Bailey Zahniser to an ACL injury is big, but it’s time to take note of the rest of the roster who are going to carry Oregon, and step up in big ways the rest of the season.
2. Washington (NW): Element surprised a lot of people, including Oregon, at Pres Day. Though they lost a close one to UCSB in semis, they got a W over the ladies of Fugue on Sunday. That kind of win proves that they can step it up against their favorite intra-regional rival. They’ve only lost three games this season, and as Lou Burruss says, “they’re legit.”
3. Michigan (GL): A tiny roster (10) seems to be benefitting Flywheel at the moment, as lots of play time means lots of improvement together. The experienced gained last year in big games by Flywheel’s younger returning players is showing dividends in the way that they are playing. The addition of UCLA alumna Marisa Mead didn’t hurt either. The handlers have numerous options to go to – the question about “recovering” from the loss of Becky Malinowski has also been answered. Michigan knows how to build a team.
4. UNC (AC): The Pleiades’ handlers are too dominant for the rest of teams east of the Rocky Mountains, as indicated by their performance at QCTU. Shellie Cohen’s offense poise and ability to make plays that pump up her teammates are just two qualities that are testimony to her big game experience with Phoenix in the club season. She and Lindsay Lang have uncanny field chemistry even without the likes of Leila Tunnel and Kaitlin Baiden. This tournament proves that they are ready to lead this team up the ranks of the Division 1 competition this spring, and carve out a name for themselves, out of the shadows of last year’s big leaders.
5. Santa Barbara (SW): Alright, so now these ladies bring in the silver in San Diego. But their inconsistent play (amazing game in semis vs UW, 15-2 loss to Oregon in the finals) can’t have them ranked higher at the moment. Though they proved they can win without Marie Madaras – she was in Hawaii this past weekend – they miss her skills and legs when it counts, like in a huge matchup against Oregon.
6. Sonoma State (SW): Even though they did not perform as highly as we expected at Pres Day, D’Vine showed that they can make adjustments and give teams like Michigan a tough game (i.e. quarters of Pres Day). I don’t think that they’ve peaked yet: Pres Day just showed them what they need to work on.
7. Iowa (NC): Iowa looked good at the Iowa Indoor tournament, trying multiple different O and D looks. They have too many forces to be reckoned with. If you put your stud defender on who ever is hot at the time, someone else is looking to step it up. Defensively, they have all sorts of tricks up their sleeves. The ladies of Saucy Nancy have indicated that they too can spread the disc throughout their entire roster. Even though they aren’t as “handler heavy” as they were in 2011, many players have gained more confidence with the disc. In addition to having a powerful deep game, they can work it under quite patiently.
8. Cal (SW): They sustained some serious injuries at Pres Day, especially to playmaker Claire Desmond (sprained ankle – hopefully back by Stanford). Even without her, the Pie Queens didn’t give up, coming back impressively from deficits to win a game against regional rival UCLA. If they are able to recover from these injuries suffered at Pres Day, they are still a top-10 team.
9. UCLA (SW): The ladies of BLU drop a few spots here. Their fifth place finish at Pres Day probably would have been sixth if Sonoma had been playing all their top team. They get the seat just below Cal due to letting their lead in a power pool game slip away, and an almost loss to them at Santa Barbara Invite.
10. UNCW (AC): They outplayed nearly everyone at QCTU, except for North Carolina. Seaweed showed that when the weather gets gross, they can still control the game defensively with tenacious man-to-man defense. They also showed that there are more than plenty players with capable disc skills to work it in the wind and the cold.
19) Delaware (AC): Impressive finish at QCTU; they went into the weekend seeded second-to last and finished 6th. Sideshow has some up and coming talent that could make a run to earn the AC an extra bid if they keep improving and peak at the right time.
20) Rice (SC): Won Mardi Gras over intra-regional rival Missouri State. They are on the up-and-up in their region. Watch out, Texas…they’re coming out hard.