The undisputed favorite for the regional crown this year is Tufts Ewo, third-place finishers at the 2012 College Championships and New England D-I Regionals champions the last two years. Despite missing out on a medal last year by the narrowest of margins, Tufts has put that behind them and Ewo is out for gold this season. Returning talismanic captain Claudia Tajima for her senior season, along with Brute Squad teammate and fellow captain Hailey Alm and almost everyone else who played meaningful minutes during their semifinal run, anything less than a repeat would be a disappointment.
Also returning for Tufts are senior captain and cutter Margot Lieblich, key junior cutter Emily Shields (Wildcard, 2012 All-Region, 2011 FOTY), junior handlers Hannah Garfield and Michaela Fallon, Tufts varsity swimmer Mia Greenwald, and standout sophomore Qxhna Titcomb (2012 2nd Team FOTY). Not only is this an experienced college team, most players have been playing since high school – or even earlier. Shields and Greenwald are second-generation ultimate players.
Not to be outdone by returners, Tufts’ newcomers are also vastly experienced. Joining Ewo this year are two upperclassmen promoted from the B team, a sophomore transfer who played at Amherst HS, and three freshman with juniors experience. Among them? Jojo Emerson, from HB Woodlawn in Virginia, who spent part of this summer in Dublin playing with the USA U-20 silver medal-winning team.
Tufts also returns coaches Sangwha Hong and Meriden D’Arcy. This year Ewo will travel to Queen City Tuneup in February and Centex in March to get in some competition against championship-caliber teams. With this roster and another year of experience under their belts, it’s hard to bet against Tufts – in New England, or for a College Championship.
Who can challenge Tufts? Middlebury has finished second to Tufts at Regionals the previous two years, and in 2010 the Lady Pranksters won the region. Middlebury graduated nine seniors in 2012, including 2012 All-Region player Lexi Zalk. But picking up the slack in 2013 will be 2nd Team All-Region player Carllee James, captains Hilary Crew, Maren Granstrom, Aly Fassett-Carman, and senior Hannah Newman. Middlebury also welcomes a talented and deep freshman class, including Erin Rea (Boise Mixed YCC) and Sarah Hemphill (Falmouth, ME).
Fairly unique among teams contending for bids to the College Championships, the Lady Pranksters are all-inclusive and do not make cuts or have a B-team, nor do they have a coach. The team’s senior leadership takes on all of that responsibility and fosters a fun, competitive atmosphere among their players of all skills levels. This year, Middlebury is setting its sights on another Regional Championship – a tall task for the Lady Pranksters.
Looking to upset the Tufts-Middlebury stranglehold on the top two spots in the region is Dartmouth Princess Layout. Dartmouth split their two games against Middlebury at their Conference Championships in 2012, then lost to Tufts in the semifinals of Regionals, finishing 3rd last year. Despite graduating 2012 All-Region player Emma Frankel, the team led by captains Katie De La Rosa and Hazel Shapiro is experienced and poised to make waves this year. Senior Laura McFeely played with Brute Squad, and sophomore Eva Petzinger was a teammate of Tufts’ Jojo Emerson on the USA U-20 WUJC team.
Princess Layout only picked up three freshmen, but they also promoted several players from their B team. The team, coached by second-year coach Eugene Yum, maintains a commitment to developing both their A and B teams to strengthen the program as a whole. Based on their fall results, including a tournament victory at Stonehill Get Sky’d and a second place finish at Huck-a-Hunk, Dartmouth is poised to break through into the top tier of teams in New England. Dartmouth will get a chance to prove themselves on the national stage in February, when they make the cross-country trip to Pres Day in San Diego, CA.
Northeastern and Vermont have both been in the mix at the top of the region in recent years, with Northeastern making a trip to the 2009 College Championships. Harvard may also be looking to take a leap forward behind India Stubbs, the 2012 Freshman of the Year, much like Tufts did after 2010 when Tajima was Freshman of the Year.
The New England region definitely has the capability to earn wildcards behind Tufts, especially if Dartmouth plays well at Pres Day or Middlebury travels south and wins a tournament like Terminus again. Playing a lot of close games among intraregional competition will hurt the region’s wildcard chances, but given the nature of the New England winter, most teams will travel south to disparate tournaments and give the region its best shot at strength bids.
Only one bid to the College Championships, with Tufts defeating Dartmouth in the finals of Regionals to take it.