With two weekends of Conferences in the books, many of the qualifiers for Nationals are already known, but there are still a handful of events left to complete before the final group is set. Let’s take a look at the teams who have already locked in their bids, and those still vying for spots:
Wake Forest Ruckus will, as predicted, join Elon’s Wild Rumpus at the National Championships this year. Earlier this April at the Atlantic Coast Conferences, Ruckus easily put away Mary Washington in the semifinals, 15-2, before another decisive victory in the finals, 15-4, over Davidson. In the second place game, Davidson fell to Wild Rumpus, 15-9. At Nationals, Elon will try to best last year’s ninth place finish, and Ruckus will doubtlessly be living up to their name.
In a one bid region, who else but Valpo? The Valparaiso Chicks Hucking Discs held off Knox College, Olivet Nazarene, Kalamazoo, and North Park at Conferences earlier this month, guaranteeing their fifth consecutive Nationals appearance. In their past four visits, CHD has been in the semifinals three times, only once finishing below third. This could be their year. As for the rest of the Great Lakes Region, Olivet Nazarene and North Park both put up results at the Chicago Invite suggesting that if they travelled outside of their region and played more varied competition, they might be able to earn another bid for themselves to finally make it to the show. It’s no stretch to say that with a commitment to more sanctioned spring tournaments, the Great Lakes could be the story to follow next year.
The Saint Benedict’s Bad Habits and Carleton Eclipse secured their bids to Nationals out of Conference Championships earlier this month. The Bad Habits showed that they must have developing some good ones too, with a 11-6 win over Eclipse in the first place game. Eclipse took the loss in stride, and handily won their spot to advance with a 13-7 victory over Saint Olaf. Much has already been said about the Bad Habit’s standout and Callahan nominee, Erynn Shroeder, a definite player to watch in Westerville. Can Eclipse fare better than their seventh place finish at Nationals last year? There’s a lot to be said for a team coming from such a strong program, not to mention the throwing prowess of captain Claire Leichter, but they’re contending with a much deeper Nationals field than last year.
University of Puget Sound Clearcut emerged victorious from Northwest Conferences last week. After a spring season full of wins against regional rivals, Clearcut asserted their Northwest dominance with a 14-8 victory over Pacific Lutheran University Women’s Reign in the finals. This is a disappointing end to the season for Women’s Reign, who had posted strong results earlier in the season. Count on Reign to bounce back for next year though, this seems to be an uncharacteristic season from an otherwise consistently strong program.
In a region without much DIII competition, Georgia College Lynx Rufus has once again qualified out of the Southeast. At Southerns, Lynx Rufus showed an ability to win tight games against small school opponents, with a 9-8 victory over the Oberlin College Preying Manti and an 11-10 win against St. Olaf. The closeness of these victories, along with mixed results in the early season, shows that Lynx Rufus needs to string together some runs and decisively pull ahead in games if they want to fare better than last year’s fifteenth place finish at Nationals.
Rice Torque, Truman State Tsunami, and the Harding Sky Bisons have all qualified for Nationals based on their regular season results. Torque went 26-2 in the regular season, effectively squashing any concerns that star players Monica Matsumoto and Erica Danckers would falter while doing the brunt of the teams’ work deep into the season. Tsunami showed similarly impressive results, holding their own in a 15-6 win against the Grinnell Sticky Tongue Frogs early in the season, while showing a little weakness with an 8-10 loss to the Bad Habits at the Chicago Invite. While the Sky Bisons come in on the last bid out of the region, they seem poised to make an impressive run at Nationals. They finished sixth in the final regular season rankings, and had an important 15-7 victory against the Claremont Greenshirts at Midwest Throwdown. This region has been the surprise story of the season. Don’t let them catch you off-guard in Westerville!
The Claremont Greenshirts also secured a ticket to Nationals based on the strength of their regular season play. Early in the season at D-III Warmup, the Greenshirts came away with big victories against fellow nationals qualifiers Carleton-Eclipse and Puget Sound Clearcut. Losses to Torque and the Sky Bisons (at Warmup and Midwest Throwdown, respectively) tell us that the Greenshirts will have to play a little tougher this year to make a repeat appearance in the semifinals at Nationals.
Metro East (1 bid):
Few teams from the Metro East competed in the regular season, so there’s no easy favorite coming into Regionals this weekend. SUNY-Oneonta Love$eat, who won last year’s bid to Nationals out of Conferences, could be poised to repeat their success. They showed resiliency at the Western NY Conferences, recovering from a 10-12 loss to Hamilton College in Pool Play by flipping the score and coming away with a 12-10 victory against that same team in the finals. Connecticut College Camel Throws advanced from Eastern Metro East Conferences with some nice wins, including an 11-5 victory over Vassar during Sunday bracket play. Camel Throws look like the best bet to upset the reigning Nationals qualifier, but Love$eat has proven that they know how to win when it counts. This Region may go to seed, but don’t expect it to be an easy fight.
New England (2 bids):
Bowdoin Chaos Theory comes into this weekend looking strong enough to pull off another Regional Championships win, but who will finish the weekend with that second bid to Nationals? Smith Lunadisc had a one-point upset over Williams La Wufa in the South New England Conference finals, earning Lunadisc the third seed and relegating last year’s National finalists to the fourth seed. Bates College Cold Front enters Regionals as a surprising second seed. While they certainly won a lot in the regular season, few of those victories came against established programs, and Cold Front suffered a 8-11 loss to Lunadisc at a tournament in late March. Expect the La Wufa- Cold Front matchup to be a contentious one on Saturday, and it would not be surprising to see Chaos Theory and La Wufa on a return trip to Nationals.
Ohio Valley (2 bids):
Last year the Ohio Valley finished the regular season with one bid to go to Nationals, but managed to snatch up two more bids when other regions opted not to send teams. As it turned out, the second and third place finishers at 2013 Ohio Valley Regionals, the Swarthmore Warmothers and Philadelphia University PhilaU, ended up tied for fifth at Nationals, and the Regional Champions, the Oberlin College Preying Manti, finished tied for eleventh. This shows the depth of talent in the Ohio Valley, and the quality of play has only improved this year. The Haverford Sneetches have made a strong case for themselves as the first seed going into the weekend, with a fifth place finish in the regular season rankings. Another Pennsylvania team, Lehigh Gravity was the other top rankings finisher, winning the Ohio Valley a strength bid, but Gravity seems to have faltered at Conference Championships with losses to Gettysburg and Messiah. This region has experienced little play between the Ohio and Pennsylvania Conferences, making the tournament seeding difficult and results unpredictable.
From Ohio, College of Wooster’s Betty Gone Wild has shown a great deal of polish this season, and will go into Regionals with a well-deserved second seed. Expect outstanding play from Abby Vanleuven, whose growth over her four years with Betty has brought her team to a new level of competition. One of Betty’s fellow Ohio teams, Kenyon College Ransom (led by 2009 YCC champ Emma Peaslee) played Betty tight in pool play at Conferences, and is certainly looking for an upset this weekend. As for last year’s Regional Champs? After losing a solid handful of seniors to graduation in 2013, it seems as though the Preying Manti has had a tough year rebuilding, and the excessively windy Conference conditions certainly didn’t help their performance there. The one guarantee to be made about Ohio Valley Regionals seems to be that at the end of the weekend two teams will have a well-deserved ticket to Westerville.
Congratulations to the qualifiers, and good luck to everyone competing at Regionals!