This preview and the 2012 College Tour are presented by Spin Ultimate.
The second year of the new Southwest region has seen the power shift from upstart teams back to the traditional powerhouse programs. At this time last year, UC Santa Cruz and San Diego State were the favorites to take the southwest’s two bids. SDSU lost a heartbreaker to UCSC in the finals and then dropped the backdoor game to fresh-legged Stanford. This year, Stanford and Cal have risen to the top, earning the southwest the second bid with the USAU end of year rankings of #8 and #18, respectively. Stanford and Cal are the clear favorites to take the two bids that they earned. After those two schools, though, there is a ton of parity and inconsistency from the next ten or so teams. There is a lot of depth in the region, and every team has shown themselves to be vulnerable. It should be a bloodbath.
There is one thing that the fourteen California schools traveling to Scottsdale can count on though – it will be hot and dry. Although forecasts are calling for rain midweek, temperatures should rise back into the 90s by this weekend. This means that teams that run deeper rosters will have a big advantage later in the day, and the backdoor games are going to be brutal.
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
# of Bids: 2
Stanford typically starts the season season slowly as they play their rookies heavily at Santa Barbara Invite and then blow off Prez Day in favor of Kaimana (I can’t blame them). They understand that the goal of the season is to peak during the series. Their program has a long history of success, and you can count them to be mentally tough and fundamentally sound. They have some big wins this year, including wins over Minnesota, Tufts, Georgia, Ohio.
However, they’re not invulnerable, as they had to battle back from a 3-8 halftime deficit against Davis at sectionals and are currently 1-2 against Cal on the season, with the only win coming on universe in sectional finals. Bloodthirsty’s two best players are the two big men Jordan Jeffery and Ben Funk (both play Boost Mobile) who will make big plays both as throwers and receivers. Other standout players are O-line handler Tyler Boyd-Meridith and squirrelly cutter Kellen Asercion.
UC Berkeley UGMO
Cal has had a very successful season, with a narrow finals loss at Prez Day and wins over Carleton, SLO, and a 2-1 record against Stanford. Ugmo is typically very handler focused and will rely on skilled throwers James Pollard and Brendan Bulik-Sullivan (both play for San Francisco Wolves) to drive their O-line. Andrew Hagen (Mischief) is their top athlete and will probably play both offense and defense in big games. Also, look for defensive stars Carson Schultz and Zane Rankin to make a difference on the field. Word is that Schultz and Hagen were both injured at sectionals. If they’re healthy, don’t be surprised if Ugmo upsets Stanford this weekend. However, that’s a big “if” because there’s only one week between Norcal Sectionals and Regionals.
UCSB Black Tide
UCSB has had a relatively disappointing year considering that they have more than a full line of guys that played on Condors at club nationals this year. Like Stanford, though, you should never bet against UCSB in the series. Despite recent convincing losses to SLO, they took them down 15-11 in sectionals semis and beat SDSU to take the section (after losing to SDSU on Saturday). Evan Brydon is their top two-way athlete and should be making exciting plays all weekend. Collin Gall and Curtis Worden run their offense, and Adam Bolenbaugh is a defensive stud. Tide’s offense is often not very pretty, but they will use their depth to grind on offense and defense and put pressure on their opponents in the desert heat.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo SLOCORE
SLOCORE has had a great year, winning a bid to the Stanford Invite and taking some of the top teams in the country down to the wire. However, their roster is very top heavy and they rely on their top few guys to work tirelessly and efficiently. SLO is led by dominant club talent in big-man Jake Juszak (Jonny Bravo) and handler/defender Peter Raines (Condors). Mike Founds and Kevin Yamauchi provide nice complimentary play, but they are mostly raw, tall athletes. SLO is the team that would probably benefit the most from a lack of wind as they can get a lot of easy huck-scores to their tall, athletic receivers. They went into Socal Sectionals as the clear favorites, but inexplicably struggled, losing to SDSU, UCSB and UCSD and setting themselves up for a tough path at regionals. Still, in most games they will have the two best players on the field, so anything can happen. Their best chance at snagging a bid is to take down Cal in pool play.
The Darkhorse Candidates
San Diego State Federalis
This year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Feds after being a top 10 team for most of last season. However, the team seems to have gelled at sectionals and they look dangerous. Dom Leggio (Streetgang) is their best player and all around threat, and co-captain Dave Ritchie will play tons of points as well. Much of their success will depend on the health of big receiver and defender Steve Milardovich (Streetgang) who suffered a groin injury in semis of sectionals. SDSU played in two games-to-go last year, so most of the team still has big game experience and that will make them dangerous.
The Squids are in rebuilding mode after losing the crop of giants that their team was built around for the last few years. However, they’re traditionally one of the most successful teams in the Southwest, and they’ve played against the best competition at the top tournaments this year. Their top players to watch are handler Murphy Hitchcock, two-way athlete James Lai, and Junior Worlds freshman Killian Marsh. The Squids have improved a great deal this season, and should be in the hunt late Sunday.
UC Davis Dogs
Davis has lost all of its match-ups to Cal, Stanford, and SLO (and hasn’t faced UCSB), but they nearly upset Stanford at sectionals. Their star player is Eli Kerns (Polar Bears), who can takeover the game. They have a favorable pool thanks to strange results at Socal sectionals. They could get hot and find themselves in the game-to-go if match-ups break the right way.
The Possible Heartbreakers
Arizona is a long way removed from the teams led by Joe Kershner that were at the top of college ultimate for a couple years. They haven’t attended many tournaments this year, so it’s hard to know what to expect. They played Central Florida tight at Vegas, and they usually have some very good athletes.
UCLA really struggled at sectionals after unexpectedly losing their captain Alec Surmani (Condors) to ineligibility the week before. Still, they have some high level talent and might be seriously under-seeded now that they’ve had time to adjust to playing without one of their dominant handlers. Eric Lissner (Renegade) is the main cutter that will drive their offense, with solid handling and all around play from Jimmy Schmidt on the O-line. Simon Evans (Renegade) is their top defender and deep cutter.
Cal State Long Beach Stalkers
Long Beach won Socal Sectionals only two years ago. Most of that team has graduated, but they are still a solid team and tough to put away. Their roster is really small, though, so look for them to upset teams early, if at all. Kyle Brown and Ryan Smith are their players to watch.
Not to Be Overlooked
Las Positas College is a community college and are often surprisingly good. Some of their players are online students, so they usually have some experienced older players. Sonoma State started the season hot but failed to keep up as the bigger schools improved over the season. Arizona State, Chico State, Humboldt and UC Santa Cruz are all decent teams and are likely to make life difficult for their pool play opponents.
In pool play, Cal/ SLO, UCSB/SDSU, and UCSD/Davis could all go either way. Still, I think Stanford and Cal will meet in the finals, with Cal taking the region in a tight game. Stanford will drop down to meet UCSB in the backdoor game that will be a barnburner, with Stanford squeaking out the win. A lot of it will depend on wind conditions and who can keep their star players healthy.