The Usual Suspects
Our first three seem obvious – Fury and Riot have been dominant as always, and Scandal has done nothing but impress us throughout the whole season. They’ve all faced tough competition and come out on top, and watching them duke it out in Sarasota is going to be awesome. Definitely do not miss any Scandal/Riot matchups. The two haven’t seen each other since the US Open where they traded wins, and it’ll be interesting to see what each team has improved on over the season.
Heist, though they haven’t faced any top tier competition for a while, is undefeated over the season. The Bosscher-Wade-Fennig leadership core has been working hard to fire up their team. Word on the street has it that they’ve got some tricks up their sleeve they’re saving for Sarasota. As if they needed anything to become more fearsome. We’ll see how some new plays pan out for them soon.
Traffic takes a solid second place out of the Northwest. A 15 – 14 loss to Fury at ECC and a 14 – 13 win against Underground at Regionals shows that when they play well they can play with any team, but when they don’t play well, they will struggle against anyone. They’re definitely one to keep an eye on at the Championships, especially if they can figure out what they need to do to stay fired up in each game they play.
Our SE teams come in next – both have played competitively over the season, most recently at Regionals where Phoenix defeated Ozone. But both have also yet to put up wins against top tier teams. Coach Tully Beatty and Lindsay Hack plus the rest of the Phoenix leaders will have the team ready to go in Sarasota and in position to improve on their semis performance last year. Coach Kate Leslie, Liz Duffy and the reset of the Ozone leadership will be looking to peak in Sarasota, too. With five one point losses this season, plus a two point loss to Phoenix at Regionals, they do not have far to go to be considered a favorite to be in the semis. But their performances at Virginia Fusion weren’t the most inspiring to bump them up. We’ll have to see how they face off against tough opponents with only a few games a day to fight hard for.
The Capitals are still mostly a mystery. We know the team has some of the strongest Canadian women (like Malissa Lundgren, Danielle Fortin, Martha Paterson, and Hadiya Roderique), and we know that they recently won Regionals, forcing Brute Squad into a tough battle to earn their spot to Nationals. Yet it’s difficult to judge how to place a team from just a few tournaments. Playing just a few tournaments might be incredibly detrimental in Sarasota, where every team they face has been fighting hard all season, reworking strategies after each matchup. Still, what they’re doing seems to be working – a 15-12 win in the finals of a competitive region isn’t THAT close. For now, they’re going to sit just over Brute, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see a revenge win for Boston at the Championships to get them into quarters over their Canadian rivals. We’re especially impressed by Brute Squad’s long hours training with Tim Morrill – you can bet by the end of the tournament they’ll be outrunning their opponents. The weather, if hot and muggy, might play a huge advantage as it could tire out their opponents enough for Brute to run them into the ground.
The South Central teams are split by Nemesis. The Chicago-based team has done well at low-stakes tournaments like the Winston Cup in June and Virginia Fusion in September, but the stakes don’t get much higher than the Club Championships. However, their one big win at a competitive tournament was over Showdown at ECC in August. Showdown showed early-season dominance over Molly Brown, winning at the US Open and Labor Day, but Cara Crouch’s squad fell to Molly Brown twice at Regionals to take the second bid out of the South Central. They were close to what would have been the biggest upset of the regular season – leading Fury in the semifinals of Labor Day behind the strength of their zone defense, before falling 13-15 and finishing tied for 3rd. Ahead of both Nemesis and Showdown is Molly Brown, who have bounced back well from a disastrous US Open performance to notch wins over Scandal, Traffic, Nemesis, and Showdown. The strikes against Molly Brown are two losses to Showdown and a loss to Bent, but Sally Lambert is huge for them and they definitely have the firepower to knock off a team looking up at semis instead of down at Molly Brown.
Nightlock is going to come in next – they played quite impressively against other Bay Area teams, defeating Rally after a loss to them at Sectionals and putting up solid games all season against Fury. But Nightlock is young. This could be an advantage athletically, but it might be too much to handle mentally. These girls all hail from top tier college teams but the Club Championships are a whole different story – they could break out and stomp all over the competition, but we’re betting that this first year team comes out of the weekend having had more fun than wins.
As Lou Burruss described in his NW Regionals Recap, Schwa and Underground fit into more of a second tier type of team. Both teams earned their way to the Championships over the season but have yet to perform exceptionally well against the best. They’re going to come in near the bottom.
Last, but not least, Hot Metal takes the second bit out of the Mid Atlantic. They lost every game at Virginia Fusion and lost to Scandal twice at Regionals by significant margins (6-14 and 3-15). Many actually believed that Green Means Go had a better shot at making it after they beat Hot Metal at Sectionals, but Hot Metal put in the work and switched up their strategy enough to earn their way to the Championships. While they could have some tight matchups with the second tier teams at the tournament, it’s unlikely they’ll have many wins to speak of.
With contributions from Ryan Thompson