University of Virginia Night Train rolled through the Atlantic Coast region on their way to a second trip to nationals, beating UNC Wilmington handily in the finals on the opposition’s turf. Over the last few seasons we’ve seen UVA and UNCW book trips to Nationals, as the winner of that match-up reigns supreme over North Carolina and Virginia. However, this year looks to be a different story with UNC looking to regain mid 2000’s form. Most one bid regions don’t have much drama brewing until the finals, but the Atlantic Coast is filled with traditional powers and new up and comers that look to make Sunday a day of great games.
The Early Front Runner – UNC Darkside
Normally, the front runner of a region has made regionals the previous year. Even though they were not broken once on Saturday of sectionals, Darkside lost two pool play games and was eventually eliminated. Noah Saul never returned from unrelated ultimate injury, leaving Thomas Sayre-Mccord and cast to handle the winds in Greenville, NC. Despite having the talent needed to get out of the region, with only three bids out of a stout section, things did not lean Darkside’s way.
At points during games last year, North Carolina would be plagued with series of drops that would take them out of games. A young and inexperienced squad featured play makers, but couldn’t put together a full game against the top tier squads. What a difference summer has made for the remaining underclassmen. Two undefeated tournaments puts them at the top of the Region, and coming in 4th at CCC pushed them onto the national stage.
If you haven’t heard the name Thomas Sayre-Mccord yet, you will plenty this season. He made the all region team despite his team not making regionals. He did take this summer off, but did play for Ring of Fire the previous summer. Standing at 6’3’’ Sayre-Mccord operates the offense from all angles, using his height to break the mark and also to sky defenders.
He’s complemented by now Sophomore, Christian Johnson, another Ring of Fire player. Spend any time watching Darkside, and the chemistry between him and Sayre-Mccord is readily apparent. Near the end zone, he’ll often find his captain streaking up the line. Johnson is still looking to become the 5 tool player, but will continue to progress throughout the season. The rest of the squad is deep, allowing Sayre-Mccord to play mostly offense until late in tournaments. Marshall Ward and Max Shepard play large handling roles and Jon Nethercutt’s flick pulls is something to take note of. Adam Carr, Ernest Thompson, Adam Bostion aren’t star players, but get regular playing time on the deep UNC squad. Handler Tristan Green should be returning in the spring, adding some more spark to the offense and you just might find a FOTY in Justin Foster.
With Greg Vassar at the coaching helm, you can’t doubt Wilmington’s ability to improve over the course of a season. Despite mixed results in the fall, UNCW looks poised to regain form from the previous year. Led by Captains Tommy Lamar and Alan Gruntz, this physical squad also sports a lot of youth. You’ll hear more about some of the younger guys as the season continues. Gruntz knows that it’s not just who has the best star players , “We have a good team this year with a lot of talent; we have to find a way to utilize talent so we see success and growth from everyone. We’re focused on building a program. Star players can only take you so far, you need role players; we need to have everyone buy into our system and grow into their roles on the team. Our end goal is to play with absolute trust in one another.” UNCW always benefits from playing top competition at Easterns and at that point we’ll start to see the Seamen really come together.
UVA Night Train
Night Train established itself as more than a one hit wonder by winning the region last year. Lead by Ring of Fire player Roy Matthews and Aaron Mullins, Virginia got off to a rocky start at Fall Easterns when a young roster was not able to adjust to the wind. Brian Kiernan is likely Night Train’s best all around player and Tom Licitra is back after taking the fall off to focus on graduate school. Ian Toner and Adam Pelleg will be stepping up to play big minutes this year the void left by the losses of the Matt King, Andrew Wilkes, and the Neov Brothers. UVA played competition tougher at CCC’s, but what’s really important is their history as being able to outwork their opponents over the course of the season. Just like UNCW, this team will be better, but how much better is the question.
South Carolina Game Cocks
Chris Van Thiel leads a Gamecocks squad that loves to approach the game with a loose and shooting from the hip attitude. They have an assortment of upper classman in Woody Pascoe, Marshall Walker, Jacob Evans, Robert Locke and getting back Chuck Turner come spring there are high hopes for this squad. They’ll spread you out and try to beat you deep. These guys are definitely up to giving teams in the region a game, but question their ability to grind through games when they’ll be forced to execute on their weaknesses.
Virginia Tech Burn
This semifinalist from last year looks poised to be near the top of the region once again. Key losses being Evan Klein and Scott Forrester, but Burn has retained the majority of their roster. These guys have always been known for their athleticism and an aerial attack rather than strategically work the disc underneath. While their results at Dave Baldwin tournament isn’t indicative of a team to watch, I have received word that a sizable chunk of the roster was missing. Led by captains Josh Andrukonis, Josh Reynolds and notable returners Josh Smith, Alex Brown and Gunnar Stahl Olgren will be looking to take the next step in making VT a national contender.
Best of the rest
Should growth continue, the Atlantic Coast will be trending up compared to last year. Out of the 2011 one bid regions remaining, there appears to be the most depth here. Old vestiges of the Metro East Delaware and Maryland are looking to return to past form. Maryland has had an impressive fall season led by Freddie Tsai, going 27-0. Delaware’s Matt Jerry leads Sideshow’s well timed and spaced offense that made semi-finals in 2011. App. State did not make regionals last year, but with three Cash Crop players Spencer Olmsted, Micah Hood and Justin Allen, this might be the year they break through. Wins over Georgia and Virginia Tech are impressive early, but the jury is still out until you pick up Spring wins. Georgetown has picked up former Stanford leader Ryan Thompson as a coach and will look to refine their offensive look come spring time.
This region is going to be a fun one to keep tabs on. With minimal bids and a lot of teams kind of up in the air I expect UNC to be the favorite for most of the season. I wouldn’t take my eyes off of UVA or UNCW because of past history. That being said, we’ve got a lot of teams that have talent and athleticism spread across this region. There are tons of story lines with teams looking to make a move, so if you weren’t mentioned here, please let us know who else we should be paying attention to!
AC Region Preseason Rankings
- UNC – Favorite for now will be playing in QCTU, Centex and Easterns lots of competition
- UNCW – They know how to work and win, that usually comes out on top
- USC – The three spot for now, lots of talent, but can they put it together?
- VT – Athletic, Athletic, Athletic, love the huck, but will need to do more to win the region
- App State – We know they have talent, but will they continue to improve like the other teams will?
- Maryland – 27-0 Fall, but need more wins against good competition
- Delaware – Solid bunch of handlers that can break the mark well
- William and Mary – Solid squad made quarters last year
- UVA – This far down? For now, but these guys will be better in the spring
- NCSU – Scrappy Scrappy, This Brandon Jones squad doesn’t give up
Players to Watch
- Thomas Sayre-Mccord (UNC)
- Christian Johnson (UNC)
- Roy Matthews (UVA)
- Tommy Lamar (UNCW)
- Chris Van Thiel (USC)
- Jacob Evans (USC)
- Andrew Fickley (W&M)
- Freddie Tsai (Maryland)
- Matt Jerry (Delaware)
This is by no means a definitive list on players. If you have someone you think we’re missing, give them a shout out. I try to keep the list down to players I have good information on or I’ve seen play.