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The Top Spots
The SW takes the top 2 on our rankings here – Polar Bears and Mischief have not only both been strong all season but they have both improved. I have no doubt that these two teams will be unstoppable if a few things happen. First, the must sustain few injuries. Second, they have to shake off games that don’t go their way. I’ve seen both of these teams collapse under mental pressure and fighting on after an injury will be incredibly difficult. Last year, both Blackbird and Polar Bears each sustained two losses during regular and power pool play, and made it through to the finals. If Mischief and PBR can do the same this year, we might very likely see another Bay Area finals matchup. I have no doubt that Polar Bears would win that one. In fact, I’m unsure what any team can do at this point to take them down – if they lose a game, it’ll be more because of their own play than their opponents. Mischief, on the other hand, sometimes reminds me of watching Chain Lightning – you get the disc to a handler (usually captain Kevin Smith) and you’ve got multiple players streaking deep expecting the huck. Shut down the deep game and Mischief might find themselves scrambling for their playbook.
A Spooky Spooky Ghosts
The Ghosts came in as last year’s first seed and ended up losing quarters – that’s unlikely to happen again. Another season has helped them iron out the kinks, and their most recent 15-12 win over Slow White shows that The Ghosts can pull it together against one of the teams considered at the top all season. Spooky? I think so. Slow White comes in just behind – it’s interesting to see them lose to The Ghosts after a tough game against Odyssee at Regionals. While The Ghosts defeated their semis opponent 15-2, Slow fought to a 15-12 win. In previous tournaments they had looked tired after long days of play – this could serve as a serious disadvantage in the Florida heat. Still, they have many top notch wins under their belt over the season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in the Semis at the Championships.
At the start of the season, Chad Larson Experience seemed like a shell of season’s past. They lost some of last year’s key players but this allowed for new players to emerge from the shadows. Kurt Brorsen is a force on both sides of the disc, and Kevin Seiler is one of the smartest players in the Mixed game. They’ve got some athletic ladies from Iowa State University, absolute workhorses that will outrun opponents and make what seem like miraculous grabs look easy. Their Regional finals win over Drag’n Thrust shows they’ve figured out what it takes to be great, and they’ve earned this fifth place spot. Just behind CLX is Drag’n Thrust, a team that sat at the top of the USAU rankings and notched a few tournament wins under their belt this season. Still, I distinctly recall a mental breakdown at the US Open where they lost a 3 point lead to Slow White under quite odd conditions – that cannot happen again if they want to perform well at the Championships. Their loss is also uninspiring, but if they stick to what they do best – running harder and showing more patience than their opponents – they’ll do just fine in Sarasota.
Bird is the Word?
Last year’s champs take the next spot – a relatively inconsistent season and some key players gone makes Blackbird hard to rank. Still, they’ve reworked their strategy and picked up some new talent, but we have yet to see that translate into top tier wins one would expect to predict a repeat gold. At this point they’ve got quarters at best.
Best of the Rest
Overhaul has been running with the best since early season US Open, but still is lacking some of the raw talent to be considered truly top tier. They’ll likely have some tight games on the way to quarters but end up faltering against a dominant athletic force like Polar Bears. However, anyone who has seen Overhaul play knows they’ve got some really tall guys that do a great job of working their offense that will be really hard to stop. Looking forward to big plays in the air from Overhaul – get those cameras ready!
AMP was the only team last year to break from the bottom pools to quarters with a huge upset over Bucket in prequarters. This year they traveled far and wide, even making it out to Labor Day where they did well against most teams NOT from the west coast. However, their struggles with the Bay Area and NW teams indicate that seedings will be huge for AMP in Sarasota. If they have to face a pool full of West Coast teams they might struggle to make an impact. With 6 west coast teams to battle, they’ll be hard pressed to not hit a wall at some point on their way to quarters.
This year, we see 7 Figures and ABBQ mostly playing spoilers. 7 Figures is a shadow of their team last year – they’ve lost a lot of solid players and have struggled to prove that they have adjusted enough to make it to quarters this year. Expect games like last year’s first round win over 1 seed The Ghosts to make a difference for those other teams more than to get LA into quarters. BBQ showed a lot of potential earlier in the season with a strong showing at Labor Day, yet struggled at Regionals, fighting their way through the backdoor bracket to snag the fifth bid from the SW. It’s a testament to how strong the Bay Area teams are that BBQ still sits this high. Like 7 Figures, BBQ will make a lot of top teams struggle on their way to quarters, but will have to bring the strength of the team we saw at Labor Day if they want to break into the Championship bracket themselves.
The Flycoons fought through a mediocre season but had some intense games at Regionals to fight multiple other potential qualifiers to snag the one NW bid. Going into Regionals, MTF was seeded fifth, and they basically ran through the pools and the Championship bracket, not letting a team score more than 8 in any one game. Yet the only games against other Nationals attendees were at ECC where they lost to everyone except Blackbird and Great Northern Ultimate (who won’t be at the Championships). It’ll be tough for MTF to play up and bounce back if they sustain close losses – their key to winning is all mental. While they sit a bit lower in our rankings they still earn recognition as most likely to upset in Sarasota.
Our bottom four team are simply too hard to pick over the rest. Odyssee, Bucket, Cosa Nosta and Wild Card simply don’t have the wins to show that their strategies can work consistently across the season, let alone to bring them into the Championship bracket at the Big Show.