Arguably, last year’s regional redraw made the Southwest the most competitive in the country. The combination of Southern California teams like UC Santa Barbara Burning Skirts, UCLA BLU, and UCSD Psycho with the Northern Californian perennial contenders Stanford Superfly and Cal Pie Queens is second-to-none. Last year, the region received three bids to Nationals, yet four teams had placed in quarterfinals the year before. The Southwest perennially boasts the best of the best teams in the country, and this year is no exception.
USCB Burning Skirts
Last year’s national champions, UCSB, will be a serious threat again this year even with the departure of graduating players Shannon Bubb and Callahan contender Carolyn Finney. However, with the loss of only two players and notable ladies Marie Madaras and Stephanie Karba still playing, the Skirts are poised to go far this year. Though they haven’t had the greatest fall tournament results, this is actually quite typical for Santa Barbara. They run on the motto of playing their rookies early in the season to let them get used to the team’s style, and without worrying as much about results. With this in mind, they still had just a few close losses at fall tournaments Sean Ryan Memorial and So Cal Warmup. Few would be surprised to see the Skirts win the region and go on far into elimination rounds at Nationals.
UC Berkeley Pie Queens
UC Berkeley Pie Queens are also not to be forgotten. A notable roster loss includes An-Chi Tsou, a huge piece of the 2011 Cal game, but they still have some serious skill to note. Claire Desmond spent the summer being a practice player for 2012 Club Women’s National Champs Fury before setting off to study abroad in the fall, and is stepping up to be one of the best receivers in college this season. Also stacking the roster are Maya Gillis-Chapman and Lily Lin, both coming off ACL injuries to help their team, with Zeitgeist’s Abby van Muijn adding valuable club experience to the mix. Finally, 2011 Club Mixed National Champion Corey Lee is back for another year of coaching the Pie Queens, ready to take them all the way.
Last year, Stanford placed third at Nationals. However, with only 8 returners, Superfly is going to have a hard time earning their spot in this region. Notable losses include Jen Schmerling, Caitlin Rugg, Sarah Maata, Elaine Hart, Jenny Wang and Yvette “Powski” Fischer. But enough bad news – Stanford’s amazing coaches, Robin Davis and Jamie Nuwer, are back at work! Nuwer is adding to her impressive resume of coaching at UCLA and Stanford, and being recently appointed to coach the U-20 women’s national team. Not only does she know how to win at a national level (she just was crowned 2011 Club Mixed National Champion with Bay Area Blackbird) but she’s got years of medical training to give these girls the well rounded instruction they need. Basically the only carry over from last year’s top line that is sophomore Michela Meister, who spent her last year shutting down some of the best players in the game, and had a solid season on Bay Area’s women’s team Zeitgeist. Stanford also had two freshmen last year that were injured for a lot of the season: Jenny Loomis and Hillary Vance, both poised to have breakout seasons, if they remain healthy. Led by captains Fannie Watkinson and Katie Stanley, it’ll be interesting to see what offense Superfly comes up with having lost the majority of handling skill apart from Watkinson.
Nowadays, Caitlin Rugg can be found following in Nuwer’s footsteps, going from playing on Superfly to Med school at UCLA and coaching BLU. While they haven’t had the most successful runs the past few years, UCLA could take advantage of this time to make it back to Nationals. With losses of Adrienne “Hawkins” Baker, Katie “Boba” Falk and Kyle “Rex” McBard, BLU’s game will have to be run by Sabrina “Kodiak” Fong and 2009 FOTY Kelly “Sapphire” Weise. With 13 returners and eight new ladies making up the roster, BLU’s goal is to play “the best D in the nation” and “make it to and win Nationals.” They’ll have all season to work to these goals at tournaments like Pres Day Classic, Women’s Centex, and Stanford Invite.
Other teams to note:
Sonoma State D’Vine
Not to be forgotten in any Series conversation is 2012 Sonoma State D’Vine. They may have lost team founder Brinn Langdale but they retain Maggie Ruden for a fifth year; many consider Ruden a frontrunner for this year’s Callahan award, especially after her solid play as a top receiver for Bay Area Zeitgeist. D’Vine won November’s Sean Ryan Memorial Tournament, a tournament that hosted many top teams like UCLA, Cal, Stanford, and UC San Diego.
SDSU Chicas, UCSD Psycho
SDSU Chicas’ win at So Cal Warmup is promising, but low roster numbers will prove challenging, and playing against split teams doesn’t always bode the best, as seen by their ninth place finish at Sean Ryan. Still, for a team that hasn’t made much noise at Regionals in the past, this could be the year to spoil someone else’s chance at Nationals. Though historically successful, UCSD Psycho will need a big boost to make it to Boulder. They retain Brittany “Agave” Cabriales, coming off a season on Club Women’s team Safari, who will be huge key handler for the Psychos. For USC, Kristine Brown serves as a vital piece to the offense with her dominant handling. Only a sophomore, she’s got all the time in the world to improve, and definitely a player to watch improve over the season.
Players to watch
- Marie Madaras: a huge key for the Burning Skirts game. Look for big plays and lots of Callahan votes.
- Sabrina “Kodiak” Fong: The main handler for UCLA BLU, this girl has been improving exponentially over her years. Coming off a leg injury, Kodiak is ready to dominate this season.
- Maggie Ruden: Another Callahan contender, Ruden is back for a fifth year to lead Sonoma State. If she can help maintain high numbers at practice, these girls are poised to take a third bid to Nationals.
- Michela Meister: This Stanford sophomore had an amazing first year playing against the top ladies in the game. It seems there’s no limit to how far she’ll go.
- Claire Desmond: A summer playing with the best in the nation won’t go to waste as this player leads the way for the UC Berkeley Pie Queens.
Feature photo of BLU’s Kodiak fiercely putting up the pull by Kyle McBard