It’s often said (joked?) that Mixed Club is like 4 on 4 with obstacles. I say sure, if you mean when you’re playing with four girls. The best teams are the ones that use their women. Period. Girls like An-Chi Tsou and Chelsea Putnam make the difference. Girls with throws often surprise opponents. Really tough girls get Ds on dudes. It’s surprising to see how many teams skate by on using their men primarily. Such teams get to Nationals, and all of a sudden, they find themselves in a sea of girls poaching everywhere. Not being used to doing give-and-gos with their ladies or relying on their hucks means turnovers. Just because the person standing in your open lane has boobs doesn’t mean she won’t stop your throw. Just because a girl is short doesn’t mean she won’t jump when you think you can just reach over her. Just because a girl is slower than you doesn’t mean she won’t slip out of your sight deep into the endzone for a score off a big huck.
Meet the Women of Mixed
In short, teams that rely solely on their men will fail this weekend. Teams that integrate their women, utilize each player for his or her individual talents as opposed to considering the player’s gender, and let their girls take over when appropriate due to mismatches will be successful. I can’t think of a team that exemplifies this better than the Bay Area Polar Bears.
When they’re beating you, you may notice the tall guy jumping around deep. You may notice some amazing throwers and a stifling defense. But if you’re honest with yourself, you truly notice a tall redhead skying some boys in the endzone. You look a little closer and notice it’s a little Asian girl throwing perfect breaks time and time again. Now I’m not saying the Bears don’t have talented guys. They do. But are those guys going to be the best of the best in the Open game? Probably not. Their girls are though. Lisa Pitcaithley (#26, the redhead) was an alternate for the Junior Worlds team. The girl is only 19, she scares many experienced women who have been playing competitive club for years, and she is only getting better, coming off of an absolutely dominant beach worlds mixed gold medal in which she was a key contributor and standout. An-Chi Tsou (#82) will be the one shredding your mark. A captain and ringer for Cal Pie Queens, this lady was a nominee for the 2011 Callahan award, not to mention a teammate of Lisa’s on the beach worlds championship team. Not only does she captain the Bears, but she has led them to one gold medal, and comes back ready to double her bling. The Bears have built a team of friends that have played so long together, they’re like family. A family that acts as a well oiled ultimate machine on the field. The big plus of PBR is having recognized the power of a woman on the field, as they employ defenses that vary what they give up and what they take away based on the gender of the thrower. Trust me — teams that rely on their men to throw in a zone will have a lot of trouble the second a girl touches the disc and the Bears clamp on the male dump forcing her to throw over the top.
But the Bears aren’t the only ones with strong women. A look at other teams shows some baller ladies out there.
This is a team that didn’t practice much. They don’t have complex strategy but they do have some amazing girls. For one, Chelsea Putnam (#2). Oh man, I’d love to say “no introduction necessary” but I should probably write a bit about her. Not only did she play on gold-winning Team USA in 2009 at the World Games in Taipei, but she played college on Oregon Fugue, earned herself a Callahan, and helped lead Portland’s Schwa. This girl is a beast, and one of those girls who will go up against a guy for a disc. Valerie Hamm (#9) is another huge talent for the Wolverine ladies. She’s amazing in the air, and the team even unconventionally has played her as a deep-deep in a zone.
I always look forward to watching the teams that seem to have been around for ages. CLX is one of these, with years of experience comes years of knowing how to best use their ladies. And they definitely have some serious firepower to work with. Sarah Pesch (#97) has got some of the best hucks for a woman in the game. She’s also a lefty, so is always a trick to defend. Expect lots of breaks out of this lady. Chelsea Twohig (#10) played with Uiowa last year, on the D line. She and Steph Jacobs (#49) are both very aggressive on D and have the good throws to run a solid offense after they get the turnover.
Though not ranked up top, this team’s women are some of the best. Tai Regnier (#4) can layout anyone, and after she hits the ground, she’ll pick the disc up and break you so fast you don’t even know the disc was tapped in. Not only is she one of the best female athletes in Mixed, but she’s probably smarter than you. As part of the recent Beach Mixed team, this girl knows how to play, and win, at the highest level of competition. Don’t discount Connie Wang (#23) just because she’s short and little and adorable. In my experience she seems pretty much undefendable. She’s so agile that she basically commands the field she is on. 7 Figures actually has a very strong female roster that I don’t want to get too into here, but I trust that they’ll represent the Southwest big time at Nationals.
Stellar Teams vs Teams of All Stars
Note, I’m not saying there aren’t awesome girls on other teams. If you’re playing at Club Nationals, it’s likely you have a lot of talent—chatter abounds about the studs returning from retirement on The Ghosts, the athleticism coming into Bucket from Ozone, the Michigan imports onto Slow White, and more. However, it all comes down to how you use it. A team like the Polar Bears uses it well. I honestly worry a bit about a team full of awesome Open and Women’s players like The Ghosts or Bucket. I think at the end of the day, solid individuals may get you into semis, but it’s the team that knows how to play the Mixed game the best that will win. Plus, it’s way cooler when a girl Ds a dude. Or puts up a perfect huck. Or makes breaks look so easy that no one, guy or girl, wants to guard her.