Presidents’ Day Invitational is one of the most highly anticipated women’s tournaments of the regular season. Held in mid February, it falls early enough so that teams are still working out some of their strategies, and the tournament offers a field of teams from all over the country to test out ideas. With teams typically hailing all the way from New England, this San Diego-located tournament provides valuable inter region matchups that are guaranteed to shake up the rankings. Some of these teams might never face each other again, while others are hoping to learn as much as possible in preparation for rematches at the Championships.
Here’s some of what we’re look forward to over the weekend.
Pool A: Oregon, California, San Diego State, UC Davis, Brown
This pool is Oregon’s to take. Without Claire Desmond, Cal is going to have to step up their deep defense in order to stop Sophie Darch’s shots to the rest of the talented Fugue receivers. However, if Cal can keep Oregon to the short game and tighten up the intensity, it could be a pretty close game. But Oregon is the least of the Pie Queen’s worries – they’re going to have to keep a pumped up San Diego State team at bay to prevent a repeat loss from the Santa Barbara Invite just a few weeks ago. However, the expected sunny skies in San Diego are a far cry from the wind and rain of that past tournament, setting up a great opportunity for Cal to exact their revenge. With a tenth place finish at the SB Invite, Davis has a lot to fight back from. Losing seniors Paige Kercher and Gina Schumacher hurt their lineup, but this tournament will offer them an opportunity to face off against some of the best in the country to see who will step up to fill those roles. Brown’s Disco Inferno is traveling far to hopefully rack up some wins against out of region opponents. However, they’ve got their work cut out for them in every game except potentially the one against Davis.
Pool B: Washington, UCLA, Humboldt State, Dartmouth, Arizona State
Last year’s champs are back with a vengeance, ready to face the ultimate scene for the first time since bringing home the gold. This pool should give Element little trouble, with so few opponents able to match the depth of their strong roster. UCLA will likely prove one of the most versatile teams of the weekend. In the past, BLU has excelled at changing game plans to fit opponents and practicing a variety of defenses to confuse and slow down play. Captain Ali “Q” Webster is stepping up downfield to fill the shoes of graduated Kelly Weise, but it’s still unclear if BLU has found someone to replace the consistent throws and dominant athleticism of Sabrina Fong. It’s hard to predict what Humboldt looks like without Natalie Green and Kristin Eides. They recently attended Colluvium where they lost to every team except Oregon State by at least 6 points. Not a promising start for last year’s Southwest Cinderella story team, and they’ll be looking to prove themselves at this tournament. Remember, even last year’s Pres Day showed that results aren’t totally indicative of who will make it to the Show come May. Because of the long travel distance, the Hags often come with a smaller roster than usual, saving up some of their main talent to surprise opponents during the series. Dartmouth Princess Layout gave us a look at their roster earlier in the season: “One of our now seniors, Laura McFeely, spent the summer and most of the fall season playing with Brute Squad, even going to Club Natties with them. Also, sophomore Eva Petzinger spent the summer training and playing with the Junior Worlds team, representing the USA and Dartmouth at the international level.” Later, they hope to challenge Tufts for the regional title. This weekend, their focus is all about doing well enough to put the team in a position to earn a strength bid down the road. Though ASU has grown over the years, they still struggle to make it out of the competitive Southwest. They travel to Pres Day to take advantage of one of their few opportunities to face top tier teams during the regular season.
Pool C: Sonoma State, Texas, UC San Diego, Colorado, UC Santa Cruz
Sonoma State is starting off the season strong, coming in second place to Victoria at the Santa Barbara Invite. Though they are a team sans-Ruden, it’s time to shed that descriptor – Stueckle, Cruz and Pacheco dominate the field with athleticism and some of the best throws in the game. What makes Sonoma State so fun to watch is that most of the time, they have very few unforced errors. However, if they get down on themselves, the unforced turnover rate spikes. Last year they won the Santa Barbara Invite but underperformed in San Diego. This year they’re looking to prove that even though they lost the powerhouse of Maggie Ruden they can still succeed. Texas has already notched a tournament win at Houston Antifreeze, and they now travel West to prove to teams across the nation that they are a force to be reckoned with. It’ll be exciting to watch Melee’s Sharon Tsao match up against the Sonoma State receivers. Tournament hosts UCSD Psycho are still recovering from a couple years of losing top tier senior players. New coaching staff Carlo Mosca and Alisha Stoun bring a fresh perspective to the Psycho program this year; both were captains of local club Mixed team On the Rocks, and Mosca also previously coached perennial national contenders Florida. UCSD is looking to capitalize on the home field advantage to rack up some good games against out of region opponents and help earn just one more bid that can get them to the Championships this year. Colorado and Santa Cruz are hard to predict; it wouldn’t be surprising to see the bottom three teams in this pool end up in a three way tie.
Pool D: British Columbia, UC Santa Barbara, Arizona, USC, Cal Poly SLO
UBC is looking to grow from last year’s finish at the Championships and are investing in travel to try out their talent against some of the country’s best early in the season. UC Santa Barbara gets Alicia Thompson and Lisa Pitcaithley back from U23 tryouts to prove a lackluster performance at the Santa Barbara Invite was a fluke. Their matchup against UBC will likely be the best game on Saturday, with deep shots from UCSB fighting against the short consistent throws that characterize the Thunderbird offense. Arizona won the January qualifier for the Santa Barbara Invite, earning the right to play with the best. Unfortunately they didn’t play at the Invite, so this will be their first time matching up against top talent. USC had a close win over UC Santa Barbara at the Santa Barbara Invite before going on to lose the rest of their games. This record embodies the fact that any given game, a team like USC can unexpectedly take a win from a higher ranked team, and could potentially throw the middle of this pool into a three way tie. Cal Poly SLO is the winner of the Presidents’ Day Qualifier, taking down teams like Long Beach and Claremont to make it to San Diego this weekend. They did have a notable win against Santa Cruz at the Santa Barbara Invite, indicating that it’s likely they will break seed though not to the championship bracket.
Games to Watch
- 11:30 AM: Dartmouth vs. UCLA
- 12:45 PM: UCSD vs. Texas
- 2:00 PM: Oregon vs. Cal
- 2:00 PM: UBC vs. UCSB
Very early predictions:
- Semi 1: Oregon vs. UBC
- Semi 2: Washington vs. UCSB
- Finals: Oregon over Washington 15-9
Feature photo of La Jolla Cove by Alex Fraser – UltiPhotos.com