Let’s face it: the Northwest Region is getting deeper and deeper. This season the region boasts both 2012 women’s division finalists. While Oregon and Washington stand out for this reason, the region is rich in teams making an impact.
Oregon is returning many of their star rookies from last season, with finals experience already under their belt. Last season head coach Lou Burruss told Skyd Magazine that Fugue had, “lots of young players in big roles.” This season these players return as veterans in roles they are only growing more comfortable in. All-stars Jesse Shofner, Bethany Kaylor, and captain Sophie Dartch are back on the field for another year in green and yellow. Add to this a (hopefully) healthy captain Bailey Zahniser and it’s hard to find a better starting line in the Northwest region. Talking about big names is fun, but it’s important to remember that Fugue’s roster has always run deep and this ability to play to deep into their bench will continue bolster them as a top team, especially late in tournaments.
The mastermind of Oregon’s strategy, Burruss returns for a 6th year of coaching Fugue, this year with assistant coach alumna Katie “Nij” Weatherhead. Oregon’s hallmark is a defense and offense that are constantly changing and adapting to the players running it. With versatile defensive looks and disciplined pull-plays run through fabulous players, Oregon is strategically poised to remain dominant. After feeling like they blinked the first time, Oregon is hunting for the 2013 title with the passion that only losing in the finals of the Championships can give you. If Oregon makes it to finals, they won’t blink a second time.
Washington knows what it takes to bring home the title once. This season will show if they know how to make 2013 a repeat performance. The question is the same for every team looking for a repeat championship: can they stay disciplined and focused this year without resting on their laurels. Washington certainly met their goal last season of making quick adjustments in game time situations. If they can keep that goal this season they will be on track for a second gold medal. After being led to victory by Danny Karlinsky in 2012, this year Element will be coached by Kyle Weisbrod and Sockeye’s Moses Rifkin (both Brown Alumni, for you trivia nerds out there). While the coaching staff is changing, Element returns some familiar faces (with sure hands and deft hucks) on the field will be Captain Alysia Letourneau, Barbara Hoover, and Sarah Davis.
The UBC Thunderbirds have 15 players returning from the previous season including the intimidating Catherine Hui. UBC is also bringing on rookie Mira Donaldson who already has experience playing club with Traffic and Juniors with Team Canada. Coach Tasia Balding will be returning for a third year with the Thunderbirds, as well as Jenn Kwok from Traffic. I have not seen UBC play in the pre-season but I am sure they will uphold their reputation for nasty break throws, wicked speed, and great resolve.
This year, Whitman looks strong out of the gate leading their offense with tricky inside breaks and confident cutters. At the Oregon Fall Ultimate Disc Games they beat Fugue and Element for the first time in program history. While Oregon and Washington had not yet finalized their rosters, these victories should not be taken lightly. Whitman is being coached this year by Jeremy Norden and 2012 ‘NexGen’er Jacob Janin. The Lady Sweets graduated very few players and are returning a solid senior class led by Lillian Bailey and Rachel Reiter. These veteran cutters combined with the handling skills of sophomore Julia Bladin could tear up the field and break some hearts in DI or DIII this season. With these experienced athletes and skilled coaches, Whitman is due for a breakout season, and has already started on the path.
Portland, Western, OSU
University of Portland’s Chimera will also make a splash on the DIII scene lead by Caitlin Forinash, Corey Hubbard and senior Victoria Li.
Western Washington and Oregon State University fall into the category of mystery box: teams I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing this season. WWU Chaos put up 7 points against Fugue at the one-day tournament Bellingham Invite and will continue to be on the cusp and fighting for a breakthrough.
Many teams on this list have put up impressive wins in the pre-season. UBC won Sundodger. Whitman essentially won the Oregon Fall Ultimate Disc Games. In Bellingham both Oregon and UBC had comfortable victories over UW. While Element is still making final cuts, a later start on finalizing their roster means less time to gel together before Regionals rolls around.
The bottom line is: with so many highly ranked regional rivals, the Northwest will continue to be one of the most exciting college regions to watch in 2013.