Amherst Invitational 2012 Preview

by | February 18, 2012, 4:00am 0

The Amherst Invitational is one of the most prestigious and competitive tournaments in youth ultimate. While the bid window for the USAU Youth Regional Championships just opened, the bids for the 2012 Amherst Invitational were due at the end of January. Finally, the teams invited have been released. I had the opportunity to interview the tournament directors Tiina Booth, Joshua Nugent, and Jim Pistrang about the selection process as well as the history and evolution of the Amherst Invitational.


Pennsbury vs Amherst at AI 2010

The 2012 Amherst Invitational is going to be the 21st iteration of the tournament. When it was first organized by Tiina Booth, the tournament only had 8 teams participating, 4 of which were from Bronx Science, a high school in New York City. Amherst Invitational allowed teams to have different competition than just playing the same intraregional competition.  In the two decades since, the event has grown to include 30 teams in 3 different divisions. The tournament directors have been astounded by not only the growth of the tournament, but the growth in youth ultimate in general. Along with the growth in the quantity of teams, the quality of play in the tournament has also grown by leaps and bounds. Josh Nugent, coach of the Amherst Girls team, played in the tournament when he was in high school and he remarked that his teams back then wouldn’t hold a candle to the caliber of the teams that are competing now. Another great aspect of the Amherst Invitational is the community involvement. Jim Pistrang loves how the community really comes together to put on the event. The Amherst Ultimate community not only provides the customary food box, but they serve lunch and a pizza dinner to all of the teams participating. In addition to that, there are legions of parents helping out at the event providing food, reporting scores, as well as providing free housing for any team that needs it. As a participant and spectator for the past few years, I can honestly say that the feeling of being in a community that loves and cares about Ultimate is unmatched.


Amherst has long been a top-flight program in Youth and lead the charge to legitimize the sport, and this is reflected in not only varsity status conferred to the team from the high school, but also the caliber of athletes that the team attracts.  The Amherst Invitational is and has been one of the most competitive events in youth ultimate. In selecting the teams who make it to the Open A and Girls divisions, the tournament directors strive to make it as competitive as possible. In speaking to each of the TD’s they all remark on how hard it is to cull the list of applicants down to the finalists. All of them wish that they had the field space to accommodate all the applicants and provide the opportunity for all these teams to play. With the dissolution of Easterns and Westerns, the talent pool in the regional championships in youth ultimate will be diluted, and tournaments like the Amherst Invitational are going to be where the powerhouses of youth ultimate will go to be tested. Tiina Booth believes that this year with the inclusion of the Seattle Fryz and the return of Paideia, the Amherst Invitational will be “the most competitive youth tourney in the spring.”

Way Too Early Predictions:

The Seattle Fryz

Open A Finalists:

  • Amherst Varsity
  • Amherst JV A
  • Columbia High School (NJ)
  • Four Rivers (MA)
  • Longmeadow HS Varsity (MA)
  • Needham High School (MA)
  • Paideia School (GA)
  • Seattle Fryz (WA)
  • Sharon High School (MA)
  • Westfield High School (NJ)

Taking a quick and all too early look at the field, I’m predicting that Amherst Varsity, Paideia, and the Seattle Fryz all will take spots in the semifinals. The last spot open is going to ride on the seeding and the pool selection. Needham and Columbia both made it into the semifinals last year, with Columbia defeating Needham to go into the finals in 2011. With the field being much tougher this year, I believe that there will only be space for one of those teams to get in. With Columbia losing a number of talented seniors along with adapting to a new coach (Ben Haim, who formerly coached the CHS JV team), I’m giving the slight edge to Needham right now, but that all could change depending on how the spring goes.

Girls Finalists:

  • Amherst Varsity
  • Amherst JV A
  • Amherst JV B
  • Four Rivers (MA)
  • Lower Merion (PA)
  • Paideia School (GA)
  • PVPA (MA)
  • St Johnsbury (VT)
  • Seattle Fryz (WA)
  • Watchung Hills HS (NJ)

On the girls side, the picture is a bit clearer. It looks like the Seattle Fryz, Paideia, Amherst, and Watchung Hills will be the semi-finalists. However, the semi-final matchups will be exceedingly interesting to watch. As someone who’s seen Amherst, Paideia, and Watchung Hills last year, all of those teams graduated very talented seniors. We don’t know how these teams will perform will their new rosters and how they will match up against each other. The Seattle Fryz are the wildcard as their roster is a mystery to me, but from their previous tourney finishes, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Stay tuned to Skyd for continuing coverage of the 2012 Amherst Invitational.

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