This preview and the 2012 College Tour are presented by Spin Ultimate
Thanks to James Leppert and Bryan Jones for contributions to this article.
Pool C features the defending National Champion, the northeast upstart, the hometown heroes, the sweets-slayers and the consistent qualifier. With 4 teams certainly capable of doing damage in the championship bracket, I give you my pool of death:
CUT has been one of college ultimate’s dynasties, rivaling the UCSB’s of old with 3 consecutive appearances in finals and two college championships (UCSB had two three-peats of National titles). Every year we talk about how CUT won’t be a contender because of all the talent they lost, and every year we are wrong. 2012 Carleton is certainly not as dominant as 2011 counterpart, with no regular season tournament victories: 5th at Warm-Up, T-3rd at the Stanford Invite and 11th at Centex. However, CUT was able to put the pieces together and reclaim the iron throne as the North Central Regional Champion.
Carleton is known for how well coached and how systematic they can be. With handlers like Justin Norden and Jonah Herscu as well as cutters like Julian Childs-Walker and Mike Clark, Carleton has the poise to tear through any defensive line. Adding coach Phil Bowen to the mix along with CUT’s mechanical style of play and you have one of the strongest offensive lines in college ultimate. Becoming somewhat the face of CUT is the athletic and creative thrower Simon Montague, who often picks up the hardest assignment on the defensive line. Montague’s lankiness and incredible body control allows him to frequently make game changing throws. Big man Nick Stuart is one of the fastest guys in the division and when his throws are clicking he is incredibly dangerous underneath. Legendary for the ability to groom incoming talent, Carleton has always focused on building depth with the goal of peaking when it truly matters. With the regional title and an overall three seed at Nationals, CUT is poised to make a run at their 4th consecutive finals appearance.
CUT’s Road to the Championship:
Carleton has one of the toughest 2 seeds in their pool in Tufts, who they face at 2:30 PM MST for their first game of the tournament. Tufts will be coming off of a game against Washington from two rounds before, but will most certainly have the legs to take on the third seed of the tournament. Carleton may run into a trap game early Saturday against Colorado in the wind. No doubt that Colorado will attempt to use their athletic advantage in a shoot-out scenario, but CUT definitely has the edge when it comes to throws. 2011 National Finals should serve as a reminder to doubters as Carleton is one of the best at scoring upwind. Don’t expect CUT to look past anyone, even Cornell, as they take every opponent seriously. One of the strongest teams when it comes to mental toughness, Carleton should be able to hold on in Pool C and earn the very important bye to quarterfinals.
If things play out to seed, Carleton will run into Central Florida which would make for a very interesting game. Less reliant on Mischa Freystaetter, UCF plays more like a complete unit now, which could spell extra trouble for CUT, who is down 0-1 in the season series (14-15 at Warm-Up). Getting past the new and improved Dogs of War is one thing, but with Pittsburgh looming in the semifinals, we may get a look a rivalry that has been growing since 2009. Semifinals and farther is very hard to call, as the top four teams could probably beat one another on any given day.
Tufts: Cooper, Hatchett & Co.
Intense defense, exciting offense and freshman superstars? Tufts certainly has the recipe for one of the top teams in college ultimate. Boasting an impressive 16-4 regular season record (4-2 against Nationals Qualifiers), the E-Men have been building in strength since returning to Nationals in 2011 and are ready to strike this Memorial Day Weekend. Sam K-S finally showed what he could do at regionals, coming back from injury and dominating. Adrian Banerji also recovered from PCL surgery, getting healthy around College Easterns. With Jack Hatchett being a standout defender and Tufts back to full strength, they could be a very dangerous team this weekend.
Tufts has shown the ability to win in adverse weather conditions against teams of varying strengths. However, Tufts has made a habit of playing close games throughout the season. College Easterns showed at E-Men team that was unable to attain victories by large margins as they won all of their games by a margin of 4 total points. This could spell trouble as the thin air at elevation does more to the lungs than it does to the disc. Tufts made semifinals at Centex after beating Texas on universe, only to lose on DGP to Oregon. Late in games, the E-Men have been able to turn it on, but this finally caught up with them at Wilmington.
Specifically, Tufts plays a Boston styled vertical stack. Possession offense centered around the breaks of Alex Cooper. With a deep roster, there are many players filling designated roles. Piers Macnaughton is a very fast and quick cutter who is dangerous in the endzone. Freshman Carter Thallon and Tyler Chan are two athletic talents that promise to make big plays. Rounding out the roster are handlers Will Wong and Eric Wilburn who keep the disc moving early in the stall count.
E-Men’s Road to the Championship:
The E-Men will need to be dominant off the bat, taking on Washington first thing Friday afternoon. Lucky for the Northeast Regional champs, the Sundodgers will be coming off of a game against Cornell. Though maybe not incredibly talented, the Buds will arrive in shape and could serve UW up on a platter for Tufts. With a win over Carleton certainly not out of the question, I would be more worried about Colorado if I was an E-Men fan.
Taking second in Pool C will land Tufts a matchup against Texas, while taking third will produce Luther. In a windy scenario, as this is the last game on Saturday, I would definitely take the E-Men over Texas, but LUFDA does have the athleticism and to possibly upset. Tufts definitely has what it takes to play with the big boys, but if they do not take care of business, pre-quarters could be the end of their season.
Colorado: Rebuilding and the Home Field Advantage
With strong finishes at the three major tournaments (Warm-Up, the Stanford Invite and College Easterns) and a super-powered roster, 2011 certainly looked like Mamabird’s year. However, Colorado ran into a Wisconsin Hodags team that was peaking at the right time, who knocked them out of contention in the semifinals (the same thing happened in 2008). 2012 saw the losses of McShane, Padget, Zemmel, Freeman, Hylke Snieder and many more leaving Mamabird bare to the bone in terms of talent. Left in the wake was NexGen star Jimmy Mickle, along with experienced players like Gabe Stump, James Mitchell, Chris Bubernak and Jackson Kloor.
Bird’s youth was very apparent at the Stanford Invite, as they tended to lean on Mickle, especially because of the experimental rule where you could make a substitution during a timeout. Despite relying mostly on athleticism and raw talent, Colorado was able to hang tough at Stanford, playing tight games with Wisconsin and Pittsburgh while taking down Florida and Whitman. Coach Jim Schoettler was patient, continuously improving their strategy little by little and by Centex, Mamabird began to look more like a team. Mitchell emerged as a big playmaker and helped to spread the load for Mickle and Kloor. By the end of the season, Colorado was the favorite to take the South Central, despite Texas owning their only regular season match-up. Bird took care of business, avenging their loss and successfully defending their regional title.
Mamabird’s Road to the Championship:
Ranked 10th out of 20, I believe that Colorado is the strongest three seed in any pool. However, Tufts and Carleton are difficult opponents to take on. Mamabird, like Texas, should be able to hold seed in this pool, as they face both Cornell and Washington on Friday. With high winds predicted for Sunday, games will be equalized and Colorado may be able to play Mickle more often. If Mamabird can force teams into a game reliant on athleticism, they may be able to come up with an upset.
For Prequarters, Colorado will probably be matched up with Texas or Luther depending on if they get 2nd or 3rd respectively. While Luther has had the better of this matchup so far this year, this game would be an incredible rematch as the fifth elite game in two days will begin to take its toll on both rosters and the NexGen teammates would certainly put on a show. Evaluating these matchups by who you would face in the subsequent quarterfinals, beating Luther would mean Oregon and Wisconsin would follow a win over Texas. Both of these are dangerous prospects, but Colorado vs. Wisconsin has been the best game of the tournament the last two times Nationals was in Boulder…so I’ll be rooting for that as a spectator.
Personally, I like how Colorado looked at Centex, so quarterfinals seems reasonable. While semifinals would be incredible, I do not think it is impossible.
Washington: Dodging Consolation
Despite the loss of Phil Murray, the Sundodgers were able to pickup some veteran talent and make a return trip back to Boulder, Colorado. Though most people assumed Whitman would be taking the second bid out of the Northwest, Washington used their experiences from the regular season (3rd at Santa Barbara Invite, 2nd at the President’s Day Classic, T-13th at Centex) in order to strike when it truly mattered. A weak showing at Centex gave the Sundodgers perspective and mental toughness, which paid dividends at Regionals…especially when Whitman took the of the two meetings. Early results display Washington’s ability to play a greater role than just that of a spoiler, but getting to prequarters is going to be a large task.
If Washington wants to best Carleton or Colorado this weekend, they will need strong defense before all else. Jesse Macadangdang (ex-Virginia Night-Train) will be the reason they get the breaks; especially with shutdown defense on the opposition’s handlers. Duncan Linn may be small, but don’t underestimate his impact on either side of the disc. Finally on offense, Michael Capoleto leads a handling crew that has 6’4” David Benkeser to throw to.
Sundodgers’ Road to the Championship:
Cornell should be easy to take care of for Washington – expect Macadangdang and the rest of the d-line to shut down the Buds handler movement completely. For the other 4 games, it depends on which Sundodgers team takes the field. Knocking down Carleton will be a stretch, but Tufts and Colorado could be beatable teams. Don’t be surprised if one of those two teams find themselves sitting on the sidelines watching Washington on take Field 6 for the pre-quarters against whoever finishes second in pool B.
“And we have some problems here” – Illya Bryzgalov & the Cornell Buds
It’s that time of the year again. That time of the year when you ask yourself “Why does the Metro East get an automatic bid to Nationals?” Look at the schedule of Cornell, and ask yourself if they are a team that can hang with the other four teams in their pool. They played two Nationals teams, UNC at Queen City Tune-Up (a 6-10 loss) and Minnesota-Duluth at College Southerns (a 15-4 win). Other than that, their schedule suggests a team game-planned their season to develop depth and win when it mattered.
But, they still made Nationals. They’re still the same Cornell Buds. Neil Butler is still Neil Butler, and his leadership and on-field talent helped bring the Buds back from being down against Princeton in the finals of Regionals. At the handler position, veterans Adam “Frank” Salwen and Bo-Li use their slick movement to help the Buds navigate through any defensive look. The deep-cutting of Nick Thompson opens up space underneath for Butler, Adam Goldberg and Matt “Match” Chun. Thompson is also one of Cornell’s best throwers and with a 6’2″ frame, he is more than capable of having if needed.
Buds’ Road to the Championship:
Their stars could certainly be well rested to provide a challenge to both Colorado and Carleton College on Friday, with a humongous big break in between the two games. But on Saturday, they play two back to back games against Washington and Tufts with the complete opposite dilemma facing them. Furthermore, windy conditions could spell trouble for the young and inexperienced Buds roster, who will not be getting easy games from their opposition. It will be a hard run to the championship bracket, fighting for that opportunity instantly. A pre-quarters berth is most-likely out of their reach, with possible spoiler being the more likely role. Last year, Cornell was able to get some wins on Sunday as broke seed. I’ll bet that they do the same this year, casually flying under the radar in the process.
1. Carleton College
Long live the home team!
Feature photo courtesy of Kyle McBard of Ultiphotos.