The 2012 Southwest Women’s region proved to be not only the most competitive region in the nation but, ultimately, the most dramatic. Initially, those with an eye on the region were amazed and enthralled by Sonoma State’s early dominating presence. They quickly became the nation’s Cinderella story – a team of just nine players only four years prior, they had risen to beat the ranks of Cal, Stanford, UCLA and UCSB in tournament play throughout the season. Everywhere we looked people were talking about D’vine. Maggie Ruden was likened to the Mia Hamm of women’s ultimate and the community rooted for them to take down their huge competitors. There is no denying that what Sonoma did was amazing, but come Sectionals and Regionals they were upstaged. The Humboldt Hags went on to take second at Regionals and lose only to the Pie Queens in two hard fought battles, ripping that glass slipper right off D’vine’s foot. UC Santa Barbara, the reigning national champions, did not even make it to the finals at Regionals and San Diego State gave Stanford a scare, almost denying them the fifth place bid. Though none who advanced fared very well in the wispy winds of Colorado, they all gave the Southwest a season to remember and promise that 2013 is anyone’s game.
Top Teams to Watch:
UC Santa Barbara Burning Skirts
The Skirts are navigating the big losses of Marie Madras, Stephanie Karba and Kate Helvestine, but they have come out with a vengeance this pre-season, winning both the Sean Ryan Memorial Tournament in Santa Cruz and the SoCal Warmup in San Diego. Deceiving teams with Madras’ doppelgänger Katie Hawn is just one strategy the Skirts are imposing this year. They also have a solid core of returners consisting of captains Alicia Thompson, Kaila Pollart and Hawn herself. As if that were not enough, they came upon a huge pickup in junior transfer and Polar Bear star Lisa Pitcaithley. Pitcaithley has the ability to completely take over a game, and coming over from Las Positas College’s Open side, she is no stranger to huge air plays and aggressive offense. Though they are looking incredibly strong thus far, captain Kaila Pollart says that after last season they “now know not to underestimate any competition.”
UC Berkeley Pie Queens
Though the Pie Queens are another team facing tough roster losses (Claire Desmond, Abby “Snoop” VanMuijen and Emily “Pebbles” Prader) they also still have the small but mighty presences of Lily “Thud” Lin and Maya Gilliss-Chapman – arguably two of the best handlers in college ultimate. The Queens are now being coached by Fury’s Manisha “Slap” Daryani, who last season took UC Davis to a game-to-go for the first time in years. With a fresh coaching staff, a strong returner base, and a frequently successful feed from the B team, Cal looks to command a large presence again this season.
Again, I am hard pressed not to talk about losses here. However, without Maggie Ruden, D’Vine still has an almost completely returning roster. Ruden’s former partner in crime Hannah “Muffin” Steuckle is returning for a 5th year. A deceivingly quick player with huge hucks, Steuckle Pickle is a force to reckon with when she’s not off on the sideline with a box of muffins. Between her, the quick feet of Cindy “Dollar” Cruz, the pure athleticism of Candice “Chopper” Pacheco, and several other notable returners, Sonoma will again be vying for a top spot in the Southwest Region.
Other Teams of Note:
Superfly is still coached by Jamie Nuwer and Robin Davis, who has not only taken this team to the Big Show several times but now returns to this season with a summer of coaching the USA Junior Worlds Women’s team under her belt. Though they are looking like a younger team this year, Stanford is now captained by Michaela Meister, who reaches for nothing short of success.
Though Sabrina “Kodiak” Fong and Kelly “Sapphire” Wiese are no longer on the BLU roster, UCLA has several returners who all played a club season together this summer. With Coach of the Year Caitlin Rugg returning, after a tremendous first coaching season, to a group that is familiar with one another, it will be interesting to see how BLU fares this year. They went through preseason with a completely X/Y roster so it is difficult to see what lies ahead for them in 2013.
SDSU & UCSD
Both teams were looking fierce and feisty at Sean Ryan with each playing close games against top contenders Cal and Sonoma State, respectively. SDSU’s run at Regionals last year shows that it will not be out of the question for them to make a mark on the scene this year.
Humboldt, UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz
The Humboldt Hags did incredibly well last season, but unfortunately lost almost all of their returners – most notably Kristin “Charlie” Eide and Natalie Green. Green was coaching the Hags at Sean Ryan and may stick around to coach for the rest of the season. Perhaps she can perpetuate some of that Burly Hag fire from last year.
Davis had it rough losing Slap as a coach, but picked up new coach Brinn Langdale of former Sonoma State fame. If they can keep up the growth they had last year, they will definitely give the top contenders a run for their money.
UC Santa Cruz is another very young team this year. However, they are being captained by Emmy “Katniss” Kolanz and Kate “Fiddy” Pearson who are just coming off of an amazing club season with the Bay Area’s Nightlock. It will be a tough road for Sol this year, but selling them short could be a deadly mistake.
The 2012 pre-season should be telling for what is to come, but we cannot forget the emotional roller coaster of last year’s Regionals, so in conclusion I will quote Ellie Goulding on this one when I say, “anything could happen”.
2012 USA Ultimate College Championships Finishers
9 – California
12 – UCLA
13T – Stanford
15T – Sonoma State
17T – Humboldt State