As the last weekend in the 2011 regular season, this was a big one. In One Nightstand, Huck Finn, and the Wahoo Challenge, you saw quality teams from around the country transition from tournaments based on national competition to ones that look a lot more like what they’ll be seeing at the conference championships and regionals.
I think this kind of transition is important for two reasons: For one, you’ve got to get out of conferences and regionals in order to get to Boulder, so seeing that competition before elimination play is an obvious way to prepare. For two, it’s important to play teams that aren’t as good as you. If you don’t, it’s easy to overlook them at regionals and wind up playing down to their level, which can lead to prolonged rounds or even a bad loss. If you do, you can work that stuff out before it really matters.
Here’s how the weekend went down:
- Tufts took down Harvard, 15-9, to win One Nightstand. The semis also included Middlebury, who is still looking to improve at the handler spot, and Vermont, a team that has a number of strong Amherst grads and one that a few people I’ve talked to are calling a darkhorse in New England. As far as how Harvard played, I was able to catch up with coach Josh McCarthy briefly this morning. Handler Andrew Vogt made his return from a wrist injury but was out after rolling his ankle on Saturday, handler Whitt Virgin-Downey returned from a foot injury and made a difference, and handler Adam Fagin was healthy enough to play, but the team was missing multiple other mid tier starters with minor health issues or academic conflicts. He also said that the tournament was pretty strong upwind/downwind.
- Wisconsin beat Minnesota, 11-6, to win Huck Finn. Semis included Ball State and Illinois. Illinois always seems to have a poor regular season and then turn it on at regionals, and I wonder if they’ll do the same this year. For more on Huck Finn, check out the awesome Ozark Ultimate blog.
- Virginia beat Virginia Tech, 10-8, to win their Wahoo Challenge. Virginia Tech had an up and down weekend, losing to William & Mary on Saturday and then going on a big run against Virginia in the finals. The teams had to be completely off of the fields by 11am on Sunday, so shortened rounds made comebacks harder.
One thing a number of my friends have mentioned is the possibility of teams tanking games in order to give their region’s second-best team a shot at moving up in the rankings and snagging another bid to Nationals. Virginia and Harvard are the specifics. In Virginia’s case, I know that his option wasn’t considered since it seemed like a loss to Virginia Tech probably wouldn’t put Tech above Virginia in the USAU Rankings. Even if it would, Virginia would risk falling out of contention for a team strength bid, so the Atlantic Coast would remain at one bid. Finally, Virginia Tech’s loss to William & Mary on Saturday took the idea completely off the table. In Harvard’s case, my guess is that this was not what McCarthy was focusing on. Instead, I assume he opened up lines a little bit against Tufts in order to continue addressing his team’s biggest weakness, which is depth.
April is a funny month for college ultimate. Competition hits a a lull for just about everyone, but it’s a good time for cold weather teams in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and North Central to catch up to those playing outside year-round. Peaking too early is a big problem for lots of teams, and I think staying inside for so long is what has allowed Carleton and Wisconsin to really bring their best game into the Series over the last five years or so.