As the Ohio Valley Region enters its second year of existence, it showcases a powerhouse, up and coming teams, and some teams a bit on the goofy side. In this region, there is a chance for intrigue, a chance for the underdog, and a chance to add serious stakes to long seeded rivalries. However, all of this relies upon the Ohio Valley Region earning a strength bid to nationals.
Ohio University is a team that knows where they came from and more importantly where they wish to go. In 2009 they suffered three consecutive games to go losses at sectionals, and had the good fortune to attend nationals anyway. They got to see the caliber of elite college ultimate in Columbus that year, and have been building towards it ever since. This year, the task to earn a bid for the region will fall firmly in their laps. Last year Ohio had a solid regular season, however they lacked the ability to beat top teams. This year their schedule should be comparable, so they will have to consistently play close to elite teams and get a couple of statement wins. If they are fortunate enough to earn a bid, they will still face the challenge of reaching the Regional finals. The biggest obstacle will likely be rival Ohio State, who faced Ohio five times last year. Ohio won three of the match-ups, however Ohio State had the last laugh as they defeated Ohio in the quarterfinals of Regionals. This year their play in the regular season will almost be as important as their play in the Series.
As Ohio goes this year, so will the play of Mitch Cihon. He’s often the first cut from the horizontal stack and has the throws to put it deep. Fellow Madcow player Connor Haley also plays a big role in the offense, and one can’t forget the contributions on and off the field that Nick Wetzel brings to the table. With a run to the final at Fall Easterns, Ohio should be well put together for early tournaments in 2012.
The off-season story for Ohio State Leadbelly was the departure of Phil Cherosky, however they also lost quite a bit of all-around depth . It would be easy to imagine Ohio State having early season troubles thanks to the change in team dynamic and a long tryout in the fall, however they have the intention of winning every game they play, in part by focusing on their development of their underclassmen. With such drastic change, it’s hard to imagine Ohio State earning a strength bid, but they are one of the teams Ohio will have to be wary of at both Regionals and Sectionals.
Penn State Spank made a rather surprising run to the Regional finals last year, and is intend on ensuring that doesn’t happen again. To clarify, they’re planning on making it to the finals, but have no intention of it being a surprise. Last year they racked up plenty of wins, but didn’t face the same caliber of teams as their competition. They beat Ohio State, who oddly enough was seeded below them due to an inexplicable loss at Sectionals, in the semis of Regionals. This year they are planning on facing better competition, and look to be even stronger this year. They bring back most of their talent including Tom Allen and Southpaw’s Stephen Thor. They have had a strong fall,making it to the finals at Hucks Off Hilltops, and look to build on that in the spring. They also have an eye on Nationals, though it will be an uphill battle for them to earn a bid.
Looking throughout Penn State’s roster you’ll find an assortment of quality handlers. Tom Bassett, Tom Allen, Jeff Kiel, and others. Despite their disappointing results at Fall Easterns, they showed glimpses of being one of the most impressive teams at the tournament. With multiple throwers having the ability to break the mark, Spank will look to use the width of the field effectively. If they can build on that skill and put together a full game, Penn State will be back in the hunt in 2012.
Millersville will be a dangerous team for any team that looks past them as a result of their fall. While their demeanor seems to be rather easy going, on the field they play remarkably disciplined ultimate. Their offense is handler based and tries to reduce risk by relying on resets. The defense runs a tight zone, both starting on D and transition from O, that they will not break from up or down wind. If they continue to play this way throughout the spring, they will be a tough out for any team at Regionals.
Other squads that deserve mention are Carnegie Mellon Mr. Yuk and Cincinnati. Both teams have grown in the past few years, and have had impressive results. Cincinnati won the Dave Baldwin Memorial tournament, and Carnegie Mellon lost to the eventual Fall Easterns champions in UNC. Yuck sports YCC Impulse player Alec Assaad, as well as Ben Clark and Chris Chang. Cincinnati came from a program that was almost competing as a mixed squad as recently as 2009 and continues to build on their momentum.
Now to address the elephant in the room: the region’s reining champs. Pitt is the reason the extra bid is so vital for every other team in the region; they are simply that good. A tremendous regular season and regionals win last year was followed by a a lackluster performance by their standards at Nationals. This helped lead to the creation of a club team – Oakland – which made nationals and racked up a few wins there. This squad has a group of guys that have played together against some of the best teams in the world. They are also a group that is not only resistant to dislike, but one that seems to revel in being “hated”. The biggest names coming back are Max (oops, I mean Alex) Thorne and Tyler Degirolamo. Look for Isaac Saul to continue to play a big role, and of course the additions of Joe Bender and Max Thorne from YCC Pittsburgh Impulse means that Pitt continues to attract young talent. The question is not if Pitt can make nationals, but if they can win it.