North Central: 2012 Women’s Preview

by | January 20, 2012, 3:24pm 0

The North Central Region shocked the nation in 2011 by placing all of its national qualifying teams in the top 12. 2012 should prove that last season was anything but unusual as the North Central begins its quest to earn three or four bids to the Division 1 College Championships. Iowa, Iowa State, Carleton, and Wisconsin return extremely talented rosters. In 2012, it is anyone’s game.

Iowa Saucy Nancy

Iowa's Bekah Hickernell advances the disc. - Photo by Chris Sedgwick

2011 was Iowa’s Cinderella season, but the reigning North Central Regional Champs are working to redefine themselves by carving out a new identity in 2012. Though the pre-season has been full of ups and downs, the team’s younger players have started to fill their roles. Saucy heads into the indoor season coming after a strong Missouri Loves Company title, despite missing several impact players.

With huge losses in handler personnel (Robyn Fennig and Kelli Parsons), look for Bekah Hickernell, Justine Hart, and Andrea Uhl to make the plays from the backfield with hucks and patient zone offense. Though the team graduated Katie Johnson, the team’s go-to deep receiver in 2011, Jen Nowak, Liza Minor, Anna Prichard, and Chelsea Twohig, have the potential to control the game from the cutting position in any weather, with the ability to work under or deep with their wide range of throws. The team also uses speedsters Audrey Erickson and rookie Rachel Bradley to make plays.

Mikey Lun, 2011 North Central Coach of the Year, returns for another season. He challenges Saucy to improve, helping to develop new offensive and defensive strategies. The team will not only have new tricks up their sleeves, but will also be a tougher team, mentally and physically.

Iowa State Women Scorned

Iowa State's Maigon Lu looks upfield. - Photo by Chris Sedgwick

Though the team lost standout All-Region selections Jasmine Draper and Jessie Erickson, Iowa State has no shortage of play makers to step up. One of THE best players in the nation, Becca Miller, will no longer be a secret for Woman Scorned after what promises to be her break-out season in 2012. Nearly every team overlooked Miller’s contributions in 2011, as they focused on shutting down Draper. However, Miller is a baller in her own right and definitely one of the fastest, most athletic players in the Women’s College Game. Her impact will be huge.

Handling core Sarah Hoistad, Sarah Pesch and Lindsey Gapstur help manage the disc offensively. With some more patience, they have the potential to control the game in the backfield. All-Region utility players, Magon Liu and Cami Nelson (FOTY 2011), are huge assets in all aspects of the game.

Last year’s team philosophy to focus on building depth has poised Iowa State to be a strong competitor. Woman Scorned matches up great in man-to-man and zone, both offensively and defensively. Look for Iowa State to be scrappy in bad weather, with the ability to control the tempo under sunny skies as well. Their handlers and cutters will huck the disc with pinpoint accuracy. If the team is able to develop rookies as successfully as last year, this team rolls incredibly deep.

Carleton College Syzygy

Regional runner-up in 2011, Syzygy looks to reclaim its title. Even though the team graduated Anna Snyder, Zoe Harris, and seven other skilled veterans, Syzygy has no shortage of talent. To most teams, these losses would mean a rebuilding season and little hopes of qualifying. However, Syzygy’s philosophy to build depth in rookie players throughout the spring season has been one of the reasons that the team holds the longest active streaks of qualifying for the College Championships.

Co-captains Elise Rasmussen, Anna Reed, and Taylor Want, have great chemistry on and off the field—able to teach and implement strategy. These three with Junior World and All-Region player, Julia Snyder, bring more experience than most teams have collectively in their entire roster. Syzygy also returns the athleticism and height of Fannery McArdle and Marlena “Marley” Hartman-Filson, two of the tallest and most-skilled receivers in the sport. Carleton’s ability to recruit tall, athletic players allows their four-person cup defense to be incredibly difficult to beat.

Offensively, the team dominates using in-cuts, quick dumps to the handlers, and deep bombs to receivers who can read the disc well. This offensive system has been in place for years, and has allowed the team to play to its strengths year-in and year-out.

Wisconsin Bella Donna

Wisconsin's Rachael Westgate makes her move. - Photo by Anna Shanedling

Wisconsin did not qualify for the 2011 College Championships but expect them to be hungry for vengeance. Emelie McKain and Sara Scott (returning from a knee injury) will control the tempo on both sides of the disc. Expect these two to unleash a barrage of unstoppable hucks to talented receivers and get numerous layout Ds.

Additionally, several players are able to fill the role of All-Region utility player, Jenny Gaynor. Biz Cook, Sydney Dobkin, and Rachael Westgate (2008 FOTY) can excel as handlers and cutters, able to take advantage of mismatches in each position. Julie Chen, the team’s go-to receiver, is arguably one of the biggest impact players in the region. Her throws appear much improved in this season, allowing her to step out of her traditional deep receiver role, adding versatility to the Wisconsin offense.

Wisconsin, known for attracting high level coaching staff, has one of the best coaches in 2012. With Alex Snyder taking the reins, Bella gains the knowledge and experience from a Fury captain and Callahan Award Winner who knows what it takes to win a championship.

On-the-Cusp Teams

Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Minnesota enter the 2012 season with experienced veteran players who can make the plays when they count. Though Eau Claire must fill the roles of Jess Haller and Melissa Jordan, their leadership core has stepped up to build rookie talent in the absence of several study-abroad veterans in the pre-season. Whether or not Eau Claire and Minnesota can claw their way to the top will depend on how they are able to overcome the indoor season this winter and put up wins in crucial parts of the post season.

Players to Watch

This region is full of top players like Anna Reed (Carleton), Elise Rasmussen (Carleton), Chelsea Twohig (Iowa), Brit Gartner (Eau Claire), and Emelie McKain (Wisconsin). Be sure to watch out for some of the up-and-comers:

  • Liza Minor (Iowa) – Only a junior, but has the skill and poise of a decade veteran. Unstoppable offensive contributor.
  • Biz Cook (Wisconsin) – One of the best all-around players in the region. She’s tall and great with the disc. If you take away her deep look, she has the skillset to work it under and distribute the disc.
  • Becca Miller (Iowa State) – Scary athletic, huge layouts, great throws, intense defense: this girl is the total package. She has gained some high level experience giving her the knowledge to match her skills.
  • Cami Nelson (Iowa State) – This 2011 FOTY has been playing ultimate longer than practically everyone else. After playing a supporting role last season, she is ready to step up as a leader.
  • Jenna Heartle (Wisconsin-Whitewater) – Speedy senior from the Schist has improved her throwing repertoire. This girl makes some dirty plays with layout grabs and ridiculous Ds.

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