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Welcome back to our 2013 Women’s Division Power Rankings! As the regular season comes to an end and we approach the Series, we’ve revised our Midseason Rankings to reflect our current views on the relative strengths of the country’s top women’s teams. Each week we will include some teams we want to call out as noteworthy and look forward to the ensuing discussion.
Northwest Benefits from Off Weekend
Oregon (#1) and British Columbia (#2) stayed at the top, while Washington (#3) rose two spots after Iowa (#7) and Wisconsin (#12) came back down to earth during Women’s Centex. Despite not playing a tournament since Stanford Invite on March 9-10, these three teams have been training hard in the Pacific Northwest for their tough Conference and Regional Championships, where they may face each other twice at each event. Playing May-level competition early in April can only help these teams. British Columbia did beat Victoria (unranked) 15-5 in an exhibition game on March 23rd, showing that the Northwest’s fourth bid is definitely up for grabs.
Centex Finalists Move Up
Iowa State (#4) moved up two spots after winning Centex in a breakless upwind-downwind game against Ohio State (#5), who beat Iowa State in pool play and moved up five spots. Iowa State has an incredibly strong top four players – Callahan nominee Becca Miller, Spin Ultimate Centex MVP Cami Nelson, explosive cutter Magon Liu, and confident lefty handler Sarah Pesch – but their entire downwind line played great all day Sunday at Centex. Their upwind line looked much less experienced and struggled to score, but their clam did force a lot of turnovers, giving them lots of practice driving upwind. Ohio State looked the most comfortable going upwind of any team, with Cassie Swafford, Skyd Five Callahan candidate Paige Soper, and freshman Nina Finley doing the majority of the work. But they have a more than capable supporting cast of players who are comfortable moving the disc in any conditions. Soper was battling the flu at Centex, but their loss to UNC-Wilmington (#19) is still worrisome.
Tufts is Back
After a disappointing Queen City Tune-Up, Tufts (#6) bounced back at Centex with a trip to the semifinals, losing to Iowa State 13-12 in a game where each team only scored upwind once in each half. Comfortable victories over Wisconsin (#12) and Santa Barbara (#9) in pool play showed that Tufts is back and ready to contend for the College Championship this year. After playing tight with Central Florida (#16) in the their windy prequarter game, Tufts pulled it out, regrouped strategically, and then took half 8-0 on Virginia (#13) in the same wind in quarterfinals. Skyd Five Callahan candidate Claudia Tajima and her Brute Squad teammate Hailey Alm run the vert-stack offense effortlessly, but they’ve also been giving their younger players a chance to shine. Freshman Laura Fradin (of North Carolina) had a breakout tournament and was very comfortable breaking the mark and resetting the disc, while sophomore Qxhna Titcomb (of Five Ultimate) is taking on a bigger role this year on both sides of the disc. Also of note: Josh McCarthy joined Sangwha Hong and Meriden D’Arcy on the sidelines at Centex.
Deep, Unpredictable North Central
The middle of our rankings feature four North Central teams capable of finishing anywhere from first to fifth in the region. Fortunately, they should comfortably pick up five bids, taking much of the drama out of the tournament and allowing teams to keep their focus on finishing as high as possible at the College Championships. Iowa (#7) leads the way for these teams, winning Midwest Throwdown over Minnesota (#10) but falling to the Ninjas in the quarterfinals of Centex. Chelsea Twohig did not appear to be playing for Saucy Nancy, which might partially explain their difficulty beating Minnesota’s zone and fast break.
Carleton (#8) has strong handlers and tall, athletic receivers, but they showed vulnerabilities in pool play games against Stanford (#11) and Minnesota. Wisconsin (#12) tumbled the farthest in the rankings – after finishing a close second to Oregon at Stanford Invite, they stumbled in calm conditions in pool play and windy conditions on Sunday. Bella Donna is a solid, deep team but a little too free with the disc, and their best players are not superstars like some other teams’. They really struggled against Stanford’s huck and zone offense – Wisconsin’s first downwind point on Sunday lasted nearly 30 minutes.
Southwest Slips to Two Bids
Despite placing four teams in our top 20, the Southwest will only get two bids to the College Championships this year, expected to go to Santa Barbara (#9) and Stanford (#11). UCSB lost Alicia Thompson towards the end of their comeback win against Wisconsin in the first game at Centex, so their results afterwards should be taken with a grain of salt. She will likely be back for Conferences and definitely playing at Regionals. Stanford looked much stronger at Centex than at Stanford Invite, with their handler motion really helping jump-start their offense. They let an 11-7 lead over Carleton slip away and lost 12-13, then fell to Central Florida (#16) after that letdown. But they did secure their strength bid with strong wins over North Central teams Minnesota (15-5) and Wisconsin (10-4).
Sonoma State (#17) and California (#20) fell in both our rankings and the USA Ultimate rankings, and UCLA started to rebound from their difficult early season tournament losses. An injury to a player like Lisa Pitcaithley, Alicia Thompson, or Michela Meister could open the door wide open for one of Sonoma, Cal, or UCLA to sneak in and steal that second bid to the College Championships.
Atlantic Coast and Southeast Prepare for Exciting Regionals
Towards the bottom of the rankings, the Southeast and Atlantic Coast teams battle for bids. Both regions would end up with two in an ideal world, but they have three teams capable of taking those bids. In the Atlantic Coast, Virginia (#13), North Carolina (#14), and UNC-Wilmington (#19) will battle for just one bid (barring big changes to the rankings). Virginia will be the favorite, but any of the teams could win it. Claire Chastain of UNCW is the best player in the region, and her Phoenix teammates Shellie Cohen and Lisa Couper of UNC and Mary Kelly of Virginia lead their respective teams. Theresa Hackett of Virginia had a breakout tournament at Centex, routinely scoring deep and getting great D’s for Hydra.
In the Southeast, Georgia, Central Florida, and Florida State will fight over what appears to be two bids (although a third is possible, pending the rankings). Central Florida looked strong at Centex – athletic, moving the disc well, and sticking with a strong zone in any conditions. They were trounced by Carleton and Minnesota, but they nearly upset semifinalist Tufts in prequarters. Georgia’s tournament weekend at Terminus was cancelled, but they are the favorite in the region behind Ozone’s Lane Siedor. Florida State tried to break into the Centex D-I bracket but lost to UCLA in D-II pool play, but they’ve shown that they are capable of beating their in-region rivals.
Feature photo by UltiPhotos.com