Following in the footsteps of Bryan Jones, I’m looking forward to my very own blast from the past on the beautiful UCSB campus in Isla Vista. Beautiful is definitely the operative word here, as opposed to previous years, we’re looking to see some clear and sunny skies – perfect ultimate weather. Santa Barbara has perennially been an early season version of what Southwest Regionals will look like, as we’ll be seeing the likes of Cal, UCLA, Stanford, San Diego, and of course, Santa Barbara, throw down. Add in the likes of South Central Colorado and So Cal Warmup winner San Diego State, and you’ve got yourself a tournament with some explosive ultimate to look forward to.
Santa Barbara back again
We have yet to see what the losses of Carolyn Finney and Shannon Bubb have really done to this team. While the Skirts didn’t perform exceptionally well in the fall, they are used to giving their rookies a lot of play time early on, and tightening up as the season continues. This will be the first time they’ve not only played a tighter roster this season, but also faced multiple other top tier teams. Still, I hesitate to a question a team who has been using the same strategy for years, and obviously knows how to win. Look for big plays from Marie Madaras (whose fashionable socks are a point of discussion on their own), Alina Warner, and Stephanie Karba.
I want to give a special shout-out to Kaila “Ginger Tiger” Pollart. This girl is only in her second year of college, but comes with a lot of high school experience. I watched her play at some club tournaments this summer, and I’m looking forward to see how the Skirts employ her dominant handling skills on the field this season. For those of you interested in star power, look for both Finney and Bubb on the sidelines this weekend; Finney has stuck around to help coach this year, and Bubb visits her team regularly to support, proving how close winning a few titles makes you.
My alma matter is looking pretty good this year, and though they lost Adrienne “Hawkins” Baker (and a few other studs) to the real world, they retain a solid roster of returners. Kelly “Sapphire” Weise is stepping up to fill the gap that Hawkins left behind, bringing down discs put up from Sabrina “Kodiak” Fong. Kodi comes off a leg injury which left her out of the series last season, a big reason why BLU struggled in their quest for a nationals bid. She’s back with a vengeance, looking to take her team all the way. BLU also boasts some great club experience this year, with a few of their top cutters having all played together on Southern California Mixed team Calamitous Intent. Any time playing together matters (yes, even if your team doesn’t qualify as top tier), and these girls definitely show the connections they’ve developed. Look to see some great flow from Q, Storm, Jade, and Cruz.
I am left wondering how their rookies are doing this year – BLU has always had large recruiting classes, making it hard to get all new players a fair amount of development early on. Trust me, sorting through 40+ rookies is a blessing and a curse. With new coach Caitlin Rugg, Stanford alumna, at the helm, we’re going to see a lot of the ho-stack and ferocity in the air. Needless to say, I can’t wait.
Stanford and Cal travel down this weekend to face their regional rivals. We’ve got Stanford, who is coming off the loss of a huge chunk of their roster, but retaining their amazing coaching staff. Honestly, it’s hard to tell what they’re going to bring.
Cal is ready to rock. We can talk about the loss of An-Chi Tsou for days, but I’m more excited to see who is going to step up and fill those shoes. For more than anyone, this is going to be a great tournament for the Pie Queens to gauge their Southern California opponents for the rest of the season.
Sonoma State is in a similar boat; after my interview with Maggie Ruden last week, I learned that they not only are sure they have a shot at Nationals this year, their goal was to make it LAST year! Unfortunately, the bids didn’t get allocated as expected, leaving D’Vine in the dust in fourth place. With a bigger roster size than ever before (they can now scrimmage at practice!) we’ll see what they bring. One can’t help but wonder at the subbing strategy for an early tournament like this one…
Long Beach will also be joining us at the Invite this weekend, and I’m excited for them to put up solid fights against other teams. I have been continuously impressed by this team in the past, as they have always had small numbers yet seem to be so intimidating. Maybe it was Patricia “Igloo” Anderson, one of the most athletic women I have ever seen play, or the handling prowess of Emily Harrington. Anyway, seeding them fourth in a pool with Davis is dangerous. I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes.
Also, I feel like one rarely gets to see Arizona in action until the Series. We’ll see how the loss of some key players will affect them, but place them in a pool under San Diego State? I’ll be surprised if they don’t upset there.
What to expect for coverage…
- As always, I’m stoked to be proven wrong. Find out if I’m full of it by following @EhmZiv on Twitter
- Video Recap of Saturday Play
- Audio Streaming Play by Play of the Semis and Finals
- Written Recap and Jersey Jumble next week
Feature photo by Andrew Davis