Easterns 2012: The South East Rumble

by | March 23, 2012, 10:18am 0

The USAU College Regional Restructuring plan implemented in 2011 pushed Central Florida, Florida, Georgia and Georgia Tech into a fierce rivalry, fighting over only one bid in the Southeast. After multiple upsets during pool play at Southeast Regionals, Florida and Georgia advanced to the finals, with Central Florida and Georgia Tech going home early. During the finals, both teams traded points for the entirety of the game until a Georgia miscue near the goal line allowed Florida to break, winning 12-10. This win secured Florida’s trip to 2011 College Championships and snapped Georgia’s streak of seven straight appearances at Nationals. Now, in 2012, with the disappointment of Regionals still fresh in their minds and no clear front-runner in the Southeast, these rivals are desperate for strength bids.

This weekend’s College Easterns in Wilmington, N.C. will bring together powerhouses Pittsburgh and Tufts, as well as give the Southeast a chance for at least one strength bid. In this week’s college USAU rankings, Central Florida is ranked 13th, Georgia is 21st and Florida is 26th.  A good showing from Georgia or Florida could mean a breakthrough into the top 20, while a poor performance from any of these teams could put a desperately needed second bid out of reach. This late in the spring season every win, every loss and every point matters so expect these teams to be on top of their game in Wilmington.

So far this spring Georgia has proved they possess all the right tools to reassert dominance in the Southeast. UGA only graduated four players after 2011, leaving a deep team full of smart, athletic talent.  Led by Captain Caleb Edwards, Georgia cutters are open at will on the force side and have complete trust in their reset system. 2011 Southeast Freshman of the Year Elliot Erickson complements Georgia’s consistent handlers with incredible athleticism and amazing field sense. Erickson’s experience playing with Chain Lighting during the 2011-2012 club season make him Georgia’s flashiest player and will certainly give Georgia an edge in Wilmington.

Georgia and Florida have met up twice this season and neither team has come away unscathed. In the finals of Joint Summit in early January, Georgia broke Florida earlier and had momentum, but couldn’t keep composure, losing 10-15. At Warm-Up, Georgia dismantled a fatigued Florida squad in pool play 15-8 and eliminated them from bracket play. Florida and Georgia’s strong competitive nature make any matchup between these teams an exciting one to watch. If games go according to seed on Saturday at Easterns, these two teams will find themselves pitted together for a chance to make it into the championship bracket.

In contrast to Georgia’s strong core of experienced returners, Florida is a team struggling to create a new identity for itself. In the past, Florida has relied on just several playmakers to get the job done. In 2010 it was Brodie Smith and Cole Sullivan, while in 2011 it was Alex Hill, Cole Sullivan and Alton Gaines. Now, Florida consists of players with athleticism and potential, but lacks a player who can take over games. As captain Jason Silverman puts it, “There are no stars on this team. Hopefully there are no egos either.”

In 2010 and 2011, Florida’s team identity was defined by the confidence and swagger that playmakers Brodie and Cole brought to the game. Florida is now a team in transition, attempting to redefine and adapt its system due to a lack of dominating players. The Gators pride themselves on playing suffocating defense, but Florida needs players like Jeff Kale and Alan Baird to step up and become active playmakers on offense downfield. Early season losses to Pitt, Carleton and Georgia at Warm-Up confirm that Florida is still building, however playing Colorado and Minnesota tight (12-14, 8-11) at Stanford shows some promise. Florida has the work ethic and athleticism to succeed, but the question is if they can put all the pieces together come the Series.

Despite Florida and Georgia normally dominating the competition in the Southeast, Central Florida is the tentative front-runner after a strong showing at CCCs in the late fall and a surprise appearance in the finals of Warm-Up. Led by Kyle Bettis and Quint Wharton, the Dogs of War rely on their massive physical presence (see 6’8’’ Mischa Freystaetter) to dominate on both sides of the disc. So far this year, the big, fiery, well-coached athletes on UCF have beaten Georgia Tech three times, once at CCCs and twice at Warm-Up. Georgia beat Central Florida in the quarterfinals of CCCs, making them the only Southeast team to beat the Dogs so far this season. Despite the early season loss to Georgia and the loss to Pittsburg in the finals of Warm-Up, notable wins over Carleton and Wisconsin show that UCF can compete with and beat elite level programs.

This weekend’s Easterns will not only be the last major impact on these teams rankings, it will be a small sample of the fierce competition at Southeast Regionals. None of the Southeast teams are in the same pool but if seeds hold, Georgia and Florida will meet up in the pre-quarters, with the winner facing Central Florida in the quarters. The assumption that all these seeds will hold is a stretch, but the potential for a Southeast showdown on one side of the bracket is exciting nonetheless.

Comments Policy: At Skyd, we value all legitimate contributions to the discussion of ultimate. However, please ensure your input is respectful. Hateful, slanderous, or disrespectful comments will be deleted. For grammatical, factual, and typographic errors, instead of leaving a comment, please e-mail our editors directly at editors [at] skydmagazine.com.