In 2011, the Northwest secured four bids to the big dance, taken by Oregon, Washington, Whitman and UBC, dominating competition on their way there. Now in 2012 the region has secured only two bids to Boulder through disappointing seasons from three of the four teams from last year. One of the bids at regionals seems locked up already – Spikezilla has helped Ego dominate everyone once again – but the other is wide open. Who out of Washington, Whitman, and UBC will return to the College Championships?
Location: Corvallis, OR
# of Bids: 2
For the regional preview to kick-start the season, Bryan Jones wrote that Cody Bjorklund would be a major loss for Ego. Looking at their season results, it looks like Ego hasn’t missed a beat. Early in the season Oregon traveled to Oregon State to play in Trouble in Corvegas, and a win there surprised no one with the most points being scored against them standing at 6. Stanford Invite was the breakout performance for Ego just a month later. On their way to a tournament victory Oregon knocked down a struggling Florida squad with ease and AC-region favorite North Carolina on Saturday and on Sunday defeated regional-rival Whitman and beat Wisconsin & Pittsburgh by two. The finals matchup was huge, as Pittsburgh came in as the Nationals favorite after their play at A Warm Up Affair, but after the Oregon win propelled Ego into the conversation for the championship. While the one loss to Michigan State at Centex was surprising, especially since starters were not rested, Oregon still won the tournament and cemented their spot at #2 in the nation.
Coming out of Regionals with a bid to Nationals should be an easy task for Oregon. Seeing how they’ve played all year, it’s a more a question of if coming out on top here should earn them the 1 seed at Nationals. They’ve pieced together a lot of impressive wins leading up to the series with standout play from sophomore Dylan Freechild as expected and surprising play by freshman Aaron Honn as anyone who watched Oregon at Stanford Invite will tell you – he played huge in front of the cameras of NGN. Their biggest threat to the top spot in Boulder this year is Pittsburgh who enters the series #1 in the USAU rankings. But in Ego’s favor is the Stanford Invite win over Pitt, which should be the difference maker when the seeding comes out. So long as Oregon takes the Northwest this weekend, they should be looking as the favorites for Nationals as the one seed.
Whitman needed to play to their potential throughout the spring if they wanted to repeat their trip to Nationals but leave Boulder by making their mark in the championship bracket. Entering Regionals, it doesn’t look like Whitman has played to their potential just yet. Looking at their score reporter page gives you an eyeful of red losses – especially after their disappointing performance at Centex, with only one win the entire weekend and a last place finish. In pool play, they lost early to Illinois in what became a common theme for the weekend and on Sunday failed to make it out of round 1 of the consolation bracket alive. Centex was a horrible outing in comparison to Stanford Invite, which included a close loss to Carleton and a win over Minnesota. Four wins headed into the series is still nothing to be proud of, yet still gave them #17 in the nation and another bid to Nationals for the region. Had there been a rankings penalty for forfeiting games, as has been discussed, Whitman may not have found themselves looking at a chance to get to Boulder again.
With the bid secured despite their lackluster play all season long, does it belong to Whitman? They’ll certainly have to play to their potential. If the Sweets from Centex shows up at Regionals, then don’t expect them to join Oregon at Nationals repping the Northwest. But if captain Ben McGinn, and standouts Jeremy Norden and Jacob Janin, are able to use their talent and experience to their advantage and punch their ticket to Boulder then the Sweets will be a team to reckon with at Nationals. Nick Cross and Peter Osseward’s grabs help add to the already top heavy roster. They’ve already shown they can hang tough with the top squads if they show up to play and making it Nationals would show that they’ve gotten past that issue.
The Washington Sundodgers have hung tough all season, but not tough enough to secure a third bid to Nationals for the Northwest. Their play before Conferences was great at times, including a 2nd place finish at Pres Day and a 3rd place finish at Santa Barbara Invitational, but at Centex they too fell short. Still they bested the only team to beat Oregon, Michigan State, took revenge on Dartmouth and played close to Carleton there as well while in Texas. The Sundodgers should be worried though, as their play against regional opponents hasn’t been strong – with a crushing defeat to Ego to close out Saturday at Centex and a loss to one of the few teams that the Sweets have defeated, and handedly, against California. But Washington has been a consistent team all year, building off of the additions of two veteran standouts, and should they meet a Whitman squad who isn’t playing to their full potential could capture the 2nd bid to Nationals.
Michael Capoleto is the leader of the offensive handling crew and has 6’4” David Benkeser to help sure things up. The acquisition of Jesse Macadangdang from Virginia cannot be talked about enough. He has a nose for the disc, a master of the hand block, and an ability to shutdown handlers in tight spaces. Duncan Linn is another small but explosive punch that will make a big difference for Washington should they make it back to Boulder.
Out of Whitman and Washington, whoever goes to the finals against Oregon will likely find themselves with an extra game of rest before heading into the 2nd place game. And whoever doesn’t get the extra rest will likely have to go through a British Columbia squad that has been all over the place this spring. They too may be suffering from the same disease that infects Whitman, showing that in some games they can hang with some equal-footed teams but in others failing to quickly close out lesser opponents. UBC, and fellow Canadian squad Victoria, may not have a shot at taking the 2nd bid to Nationals but could play spoiler to whichever of Washington or Whitman falls to the backdoor bracket.