Mixed Easterns was the last big Northeast tournament before the USAU rostering deadline and new “This Time It Counts!®” regular season.
As such, a bit of a grab bag. There were strong, tightly rostered squads already geared-up like The Ghosts. Bell Crack winners Slow White evenly divided tryout players and returnees onto split squads Cinnamon Buns and Cotton Balls, so named after a Demetri Martin gag. The Lions (semis Bell Crack) called themselves Lionside featuring a core of four from the AUDL’s Rhode Island Rampage.
This year the usual swarm of marauding teams from Quebec was noticeably absent, replaced only by a combo team called UNight from Montreal. Anglophiles from Ottawa (Bytown Flatball Club) and New Brunswick (SPAWN) also made the trip down—but I’ve seen seven Canadian teams at this tournament before so it was definitely a different feeling. Add the missing Canadians (typically contenders at Regionals like Onyx, Odysseé) to the list of defunct contenders like last year’s Mixed Easterns Champions Smang and former Nationals finalists District 5 and it looks like a wide-open year for teams below Slow and Ghosts.
Seedings, with so many unknowns, surprisingly held up. Top four were all New England/Boston/Amherst area: Ghosts, Slow X & Y, Lions. Next group was Bell Crack finalists DeBron James (Washington DC’s Death by Jubilee’s pre-season name), Wild Card, a new moniker for a group put together of players from former Regionals regulars Mogwai/Ballometrics/Red Tide/others, 7 Express, the Long Island/New York City squad and Rodney Jacobsen’s longstanding New Hampshire team Enough Monkeys (trivia: Jacobsen is the creator and maintainer of USAU’s Score Reporter system).
Saturday started with drizzle, evolved into a steady rain, devolved into a sputtering showerhead of precipitation and ended in a steady rain and/or heavy drizzle, depending on where you were standing. In other words: it rained all day. The fields held up well although thick mud claimed my left cleat and took down my ankle ligament with a spasm of pain. Other than my badly sprained ankle, not much damage to teams or fields. The steady rain didn’t bring much wind so zones were off and on. Pool A
went to seed although notably the heavily-stacked (at least on Sunday that I saw), saw the Ghosts withstand the new-look Enough Monkeys to win 17-16 in the 9am opener.
Spoiler Alert: The Ghosts eventually cruised through all teams to win the finals 15-11. Enough Monkeys, on the other hand, fought valiantly but faded down the stretch and finished 14th.
Pool B went as expected, Cinnamon Buns emerging over 7 Express. Pool C got all tangled up, however, as UNight beat Cotton Balls, Cotton Balls beat Wild Card and Wild Card beat UNight. Point differential left Cotton Balls on top, Montreal in second and Wild Card in third.
Pool D saw a leapfrog as the bottom seed NYC Mixed, alternately called Flight, Gigante or Sabado Gigante, (disclaimer: this is the team I played for) avenged a Bell Crack loss to DeBron James, defeated Lionside, and victimized Bytown Flatball Club to win out the pool. Lionside followed with DBJ third and Bytown to 4th.
In crossover games most of the deserving teams from upper and lower pools found their proper spots in two 16-team super-brackets for Sunday. In the relegation matches, upper pool teams Desperado, Mixed Nuts, Destructors and Bytown were sent down while lower pool and crossover winners Rut (Vermont), Tea Party (DoG with lady friends), SS Arg (BUDA summer league veteran squad spelled backwards) and SPAWN moved up.
Sunday, it did not rain. In short fashion, the upper superbracket carried one notable surprise contender and a new dark horse favorite for a shot at Nationals: Wild Card.
This team looked good when I saw them play Ghosts in a tight first half during the finals. They moved the disc crisply, displayed a strong but silent confidence befitting New England and carried enough youth (reportedly from Dartmouth, Tufts and Williams) for a deep tournament run. Their women looked solid and they had speed and height on the men’s side. No team on Sunday could come close to cracking Ghosts’ 1-3-2-1 zone/three-women cup with a male rabbit, played in both directions, but Wild Card traded downwinders to 7-6 before Ghosts finally broke their O and got an upwinder—it should be noted that the day was windier.
The final, as noted above, was 15-11 and to be sure, this long-limbed, big game Ghosts team with veteran leadership from Nationals notables of the recent Western Massachusetts past (Twisted Metal, Quiet Coyote for instance) was as solid as could be. Which meant to me that Wild Card is for real and should be among those in the super six on Sunday come NE Regionals. You’ve been warned.
Other results from the Sweet 16 came in as follows: semis losers Slow White Cinnamon Buns (8-15 to The Ghosts) and UNight (8-12 to Wild Card) finished 3 and 4. Lionside rebounded from a tough DGP loss to Wild Card in quarters to claim 5th over Slow’s Cotton Balls. The Lions may be a top 8 seed at Regionals as well. NYC Mixed/Gigante took 7th over NYC rival 7 Express and moved up six seeds in the process. Both teams will be fighting to restore some luster to New York mixed ultimate this season but the road is uphill against the always-tough New Englanders. DBJ responded with a one-loss Sunday to claim Ninals over SS Arg (who appeared to gain the most by moving up 12 spots from their original 22 seed) while SPAWN, Pleasure Town, Darkwing, Enough Monkeys, Rut and Tea Party rounded out the upper slots. Desperado claimed the undefeated Sunday in the B Pool over Destructors.
All in all, the ultimate this year looked decidedly like… Easterns.
Split squads, lots of tryout rosters ballooned to 30+ players, new team names and new teammates, lots of turnovers, no beer at the fields for the 13th season in a row and a crisply structured and well-run tournament.
Feature photo by Burt Granofsky (UltiPhotos.com)