This year’s Chicago Invite features youth teams from all over the country—for reference, every single team in pools A and B represents a different state. The first and second seeded teams are all-star conglomerates from Seattle and New England, respectively, joined by Holy Family Catholic of Ohio, Hopkins of Minnesota, Neuqua Valley of Illinois, Lone Peak of Utah, South Eugene of Oregon, and Fayetteville of Arkansas. Such incredible geographical diversity confirms the Invite’s status as an early-season mecca for the country’s best high school ultimate, and no doubt, it’ll live up to expectations.
Pool A: Seattle Fryz, Hopkins HUrt, Neuqua Valley, South Eugene
Since the team’s inception a few years ago, the Seattle Fryz have dominated youth competition. The Fryz typically journey to one big youth tournament a season—Paideia Cup in 2011, Amherst Invite in 2012—and have yet to return to the Northwest empty-handed. Captains Natan Lee-Engel, Sam Lehman, and Mikey Sylvester lead the team, but one of the biggest strengths of the Fryz is its depth. Senior Jordon Lim will come up with huge plays this weekend, and the Fryz can depend on strong play from handler Tyler Monroe. Historically, Fryz have run disciplined, fundamental offense and tight man defense—a precious commodity at the youth level—that generated turnovers. However, this year’s Fryz is a self-proclaimed different team.
“This is a completely new Fryz team, way different from the past ones,” said Lee-Engel. “We’re super excited to see how we stack up against teams from around the country. We can’t wait to to get on the field and represent Fryz and Seattle.”
The Fryz will be without last year’s coach Pauline Lauterbach, who recently had a baby.
Hopkins hails from Minnetonka, Minnesota, and is a perennial powerhouse in youth ultimate. The team returns players with valuable experience from year’s dream season during which HUrt won both Paideia Cup and the inaugural High School Central Championships. Hopkins had early season success at St. John’s High School Indoor tournament, but has yet to play a close game. HUrt wins games with athleticism and physical defense, and will bring a wealth of cold-weather experience to Chicago.
The Chicago Invite will be the first tournament of the season for Neuqua, but the team’s showing at last year’s Paideia Cup proves that the boys from Illinois are elite youth players. The only team in power pools from Illinois, Neuqua is well coached and could easily make a run to semis or finals.
A storied program from Eugene, Oregon, South Eugene comes to Chicago seeded fourth in their pool. Senior standouts Braeden Emrick, who will be one of the best athletes at the tournament, and Connor Matthews, a lanky deep target, will make plays for the Axemen on both sides of the disc. Watch South Eugene for the upset.
Pool B: Black Ice, Holy Family Catholic, Lone Peak, Fayetteville
Black Ice is a team made up of players from several states in the Northeast. Black Ice only comes together for tournaments, but features some of the best talent in the region. Senior Emmett Blau will get open downfield and defensive specialist Nicholas Roberts will generate turns, while big man Vinny DeFelice will make huge plays in the air. It’s impossible to know what Black Ice is capable of, but the team is made up of all-stars and has the talent to beat anyone at the tournament.
Holy Family Catholic:
HFC Revolution has rolled teams so far this season with three wins in February and a point differential of +36. The team will depend on John Paul Bort, a dynamic cutter who can get open with ease and handler Dom Schuster, who will pace the offense.
Lone Peak hails from Utah, where it has been dominant on the high school circuit. Now competing against the nation’s best, the team will hope to break seed and prove itself on the national stage.
Fayetteville Darkside comes from Fayetteville, Arkansas, and has consistently been a strong team in its region. Fayetteville will try to build on last year’s semifinals run at the High School Southern Championships, playing the dark horse in Pool B.