Without a doubt, every team in this region considers Madison their season goal. But unless something crazy happens, only two of these teams are getting bids on the D1 side. D3 could be a little more tricky to predict, depending on how teams approach their seasons and their choice between D1 vs D3.
After Ego’s semi-final loss in Boulder last season, their best finish since 2003, the team is looking to come back and “win every game we play.” Captain Tyler Cable has made it clear that Oregon cannot take last year’s success for granted, and the loss of top players from that squad, including Callahan-nominee John Bloch, ex-captain Collin Smith, and Sam Brickwedde, will be challenging. “The amount of points those 3 played,” Tyler told me, “big throws and big D’s they came up with can’t be understated.”
However, the team spent the fall finding out which of their young-guns and freshmen were ready to step up and fill those gaps. They will look to rising stars Dylan Freechild (have we gotten over this or this yet? If only. I hope never.). USA junior leader Aaron Honn, and Camden Allison-Hall – the breakout player with the Bus this past summer. Cable suspects he’s going to miss “partner in crime John Bloch”, but if he has someone to put the disc deep, he’s going to get it. He also expects to encounter a bit more ‘respect’ from opposing defenses, but as he points out, it “should allow him to get easy unders, and allow more space for our other ‘unknown’ stars to shine.”
Cable is quick to point out that Coach Jay Janin, two time Northwest coach of the year, deserves a lot of credit for Ego’s success, especially his eye for mid-game adjustments. Three big returners, a strong freshman class, and Janin mean Ego has all the pieces to make it past semi-finals, and possibly bring the championship to Eugene later this year.
Once again, Ego will be attending Stanford Invite and Easterns, but the important question is where the season ends for them. Barring catastrophic injuries, it seems a given that they will make it to Madison. Even if Coach Jay Janin cannot find the same stability that last year’s offense and defense provided, it is hard to see them finishing outside of quarterfinals, but a championship will demand their lesser-known players to step up big.
Taking it one pass at a time. That is what the Sundodger captains told me their team would be doing this year, but it is clear that the real goal is to make it back to Nationals. They lost some key players from last year’s run, including Jesse Macadangdang, Eric Wallig, Dave Benkenser, and Michael Capleto, so a strong rookie class, including Seattle area high school breakouts Tianchuan Yen and Khalif El-Salaam, has a lot to live up to. The former high school rivals will be major contributors to their new team’s push for another Nationals berth.
Calling Seattle home comes with distinct advantages beyond homegrown talent: Sockeye players are set to join the Sundodgers in practice as opponents and coaches, providing valuable experience to the team. Gabe Pedersen is still the team’s head coach, but he has brought in former Sockeye player Ray Illian to help develop the team’s offense. Check out the RISE UP videos, and you will see Sundodgers participating. The team has even added the videos as part of their training regimen. Now the question is: can increased athleticism and the energy from a strong rookie class help Washington get past losing key contributors to their 2012 trip to Nationals? They certainly think so.
From what they told me, they’re headed down to California a lot. Having so far participated in the Santa Barbara Invite, and notching only two wins, the team will certainly look to improve upon that performance as the season continues. Can they make it back to Nationals? Yes. Will it take a lot of work? Definite yes. Last year, the Sundodgers relied on strong defense, but if they are not able to keep up with the high-powered offense of regional rival Oregon and other national caliber teams, they will be hard pressed to find a way to Madison come May.
The big question facing Whitman is this: do they stay D1 or go D3? Last year, we saw some of the D3 favorites come out of the Northwest, but with Oregon and Washington as the top two D1 teams, any route this team takes is going to be a difficult one. Without hesitation though, captain Ethan Parrish told me the Sweets will be staying D1. Graduating seven seniors last year, including Jeremy Norden, Ben McGinn, and Peter Osseward, the team worked hard to build chemistry in the fall and use that success as a base for a deep spring season. The team felt, after their game-to-go loss at Regionals last year, that they were too goal oriented. This year the Sweets are trying a new approach, focusing on “the beauty of the game as we strive to perform at the highest possible level.” While their goal remains Nationals, rediscovering a joy for the game and playing loose will be what takes them there. The team has added a few promising rookies to compliment returners, such as Jacob Janin, Nick Cross, Ethan Parrish and Nathan Sany. With a refreshed outlook and growing team cohesion, Whitman looks to ride through the spring schedule and into the series.
Parrish confided that without the depth of bigger schools, the Sweets have to stay healthy in order to even think of seeing success this season. They will be attending the Stanford Open, looking to make it to the bigger tournament before crunch time. If they cannot stay healthy, making it past Regionals may elude them again. However, with a little luck, the Sweets should challenge the Sundodgers for a place in Madison.
One of the few Canadian teams which regularly participates in the series, UBC did not do much across the border this past fall. But they did take home the Canadian University Ultimate Championship in Kelowna, BC, beating out Victoria and Manitoba on the way to the championship. They know that Oregon is top dog in the region, but the rest are fair game on the way to Madison.
The Thunderbirds lost the experience of Graham Landon and Aaron Liu to graduation, so it has added Furious’s Marc Seragila as coach for the season. Even with a strong rookie class, captain Keane Knapp thinks the club star will be the biggest addition for the Thunderbirds. Having Furious in Vancouver certainly helps, either in providing an extra body for scrimmaging, or helping instill new strategy at the college or junior levels of the game, but they have to make it out of the city and past the University of Victoria before they can challenge for a bid to Madison.
UBC has already played in one tournament this spring, finishing tenth at the Santa Barbara Invite, right behind Victoria. They plan on attending Stanford Open, hoping to qualify for the Invite, then the Douglas Bowl and the series. UBC has a tough road ahead of them. They need to slug it out with local rivals before upsetting Washington and Whitman to make it to Nationals. Even with new coach Marc Seraglia at the helm, getting past the other teams may be too hard of a task for these boys.
The Postmen lost to Carleton GOP in Appleton, WI in the D3 finals last year in an exciting windy matchup. Perhaps the biggest surprise from the Postmen this year is that there is a chance of them jumping to D1. Captain Spencer Sheridan told me that no decision has been made yet, but D3 Nationals falls on UPS graduation weekend, and for the senior-heavy team, logistics is their main motivator for a potential move to D1.
If UPS makes the move, it means a huge shakeup to the region, and definitely gives the non-Oregon teams of the region reason to worry. While the Postmen graduated seven seniors, including Ky Lewis and Luke Jesperson–two players who were very big on the field in Appleton–they’ve brought in a few freshman with high school experience and a varsity soccer convert. Adam Lerman also returns as coach after a winter of Muay Thai fights in Thailand as the brains behind their game. On offense, Sheridan described their game as “boring” but wants excitement to drive the defense. That boring offense centers around being 100% on throws and working to not turn the disc over. Success this season means improving on last year, and if they stay in D3, that means taking home a championship, and they would like that to include a rematch with Carleton GOP.
The Postmen took down the DIII Warmup, showing they are the force to be reckoned with in the division. They are preparing for the Stanford Open, and PLU BBQ before the series begins, and they should get a good look at whether they have what it takes to cross over successfully to D1. If they stay D3, even with the loss of their seven seniors, they will certainly make noise and challenge for a championship again. But if they go D1, they’ll add to a crowded bunch of teams looking to follow Oregon. Coming out of that fight will certainly be tougher than jumping in, and I think they should stick to D3 if logistics allow it. Facing Washington, Whitman or UBC individually may be a task the Postmen can face, facing all three in a single day may be too tall an order.