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This year’s Tarheel Tuneup (formerly known as Queen City Tune-up Open) is hosted on UNC’s campus this weekend, February 1st and 2nd, and will showcase some talent from the currently snowy North Carolina and Virginia area.
Also present this year are skills clinics led by some of the local Phoenix and Cash Crop players in the area–a resource the attending teams are really looking forward to utilizing. Many captains and coaches have expressed excitement about the potential growth the clinics offer for the newer players on their rosters. One captain explained that exposure to female role models and “athletes who are willing to teach others” in the women’s world of ultimate is very important, and the early spring season at THTU is a great place to start setting big goals for the season.
The #6 UNC Pleiades’ A team comes in as the number one seed overall, looking to get some early season experience for their newest players under their belt after a cancelled tournament the previous weekend. This Pleiades squad will be missing a significant chunk of both returners and rookies from their roster, but under the experienced handling of senior Emma Johnson and unstoppable speed of grad-student Diana Lam, Pleiades should remain the top team in Pool A and the tournament.
Virginia Tech Burnettes were also scheduled to attend the cancelled tournament in Virginia this past weekend, and are likely looking to see how they stack up against some of their regional rivals. A formidable two seed, VT’s quick defenders and solid returner handlers should make some short work of some of their opponents this weekend.
The fifth seed overall, Liberty, has had a few setbacks this season–losing one of their most-skilled players this semester in addition to one captain getting a concussion at their latest tournament, Liberty is hoping to get a healthy, full tournament under their belts. After losing a significant amount of experience this past year Liberty is going into THTU with the goal of revamping their strategy in a manner that best fits their new squad.
So far this season NC State has only faced off against teams in Pool B, so they will have a whole new set of teams to compete with this weekend. With a small roster last year that has carried over into an equally small roster this year, the tight knit group has good chemistry, flowing well both offensively and defensively–which will hopefully prove to be enough to give teams some close games.
UNC-B lost a bit of talent last year due to some people advancing up to A team and others graduating, but still have a very talented base of cutters and handlers with excellent field vision and cutting ability. Look for returner handlers Michelle Gay and Emma Boyd to hit some of their more skilled returner cutters: Claire Rosemund and Liz Fussell. Like many of the teams at THTU, UNC’s coaches are looking to discover their areas of strength and weakness as well as play competitively against teams that they have seen earlier this season at the Wolfpack Invite.
Saga, a local high school team, rounds out the entire field of teams, but should not be overlooked. With U-20 National Team tryouts Domenica Sutherland, Katie Cubrilovic, and Ashley Powell on their roster, they definitely have the skill to keep up with some of the top players this weekend. Feisty and young, Saga is always excited to match up against some of their potential future teammates, and THTU is the perfect tournament for them to do so.
Wake Forest takes the top spot in pool B, and under the calm leadership of captain Lindsay Soo and new coach Shelley Sizemore, the rest of the pool may struggle to keep up with their crop of fit new players and skilled returners. They faced a large number of these teams earlier this season, and they’re looking to see how their team handles the weather. This tournament should help Wake Forest determine their standing in the North Carolina section; they’ve had good results this year, and they’re hoping to achieve the ambitious goals they’ve set for the upcoming season.
Third overall, Davidson Duff finds THTU falling at a perfect time in their schedule: early enough to allow them time to work through any potential kinks that develop in their offensive strategies, but not so early that they have not had adequate time to prepare for the competition. With a few returners just coming back from studying abroad, as well as a slew of newer players, Davidson is looking to figure out the best positions for new additions to the team. Historically, Duff has played close games with the three seed in their pool-App State–and beaten the teams ranked below them, but they aren’t taking any past results for granted this weekend.
Appalachian State Nonads put up an impressive showing at both Wolfpack Invite and Joint Summit earlier this season, beating everyone ranked below them this weekend by a significant amount, and taking a few close losses to top-ranked teams in the region such as #5 Virginia and JMU. With an impressive zone that may cause some unexpected turnovers in the cold, App State will likely prove to be a formidable third seed in this pool–and is the most likely team to generate upsets all weekend.
Fourth in Pool B is Duke–a young team that lost a half-dozen seniors last year and is under the tutelage of coach Alan Hoyle and multi-talented captain Laura Mistretta. Look for sophomores Julia Dunn and Elise Bruguera to make plays on both sides of the disc. Although they have a good number of rookies, Duke’s team this season is athletic and eager to learn–THTU could prove to be the perfect level of competition for the young team to figure out how to smooth out some of their imperfections.
Coming in ranked 10th overall, UNC-Greensboro is looking to their captain Maggie Parker to lead them this weekend in their first tournament of the semester. After losing a talented handler and cutter last year, UNC-G is looking to fill in the gaps left behind. With a skilled set of twins on the team and a few months practicing together, hopefully they have figured out how to work through the issues that led to their losses at the Wolfpack Invite and can turn them into wins. A good tournament to help their newer players learn from challenging other teams, THTU should assist UNC-G in coming together and hopefully garnering a few wins this weekend.
Rounding out pool B is UNC-Asheville, who recently acquired the coaching skills of Cahoots players Amy Allen and Jill Simmerman. Captain handlers Sarah Westendorf and Sarah Grace Jobsis are tireless and impressive leaders both on and off the field, and often look downfield to hit their standout player, senior Alex Taylor. Taylor, along with sophomore Andrea Langfield, may prove difficult matchups for other teams in their pool. In the past few months UNC-A has already seen growth in many of their rookies and are excited to see what the spring semester holds for the team. Despite matching up well with many of the teams in attendance, Asheville is looking forward to facing each game without considering the history of the matchup and working hard to break seed–something they have quite the potential to do this weekend.
The tl;dr preview recap!
With the cold weather coming to a place that isn’t used to having cold weather, this weekend should help weed out which teams have the ability to fight through mildly adverse conditions. UNC Pleiades’ A team will likely take the tournament, but may find themselves in a few closer matches than they anticipate as they are missing more than half of their roster, and other teams are willing to try out new defenses to see what fits each opponent best. However, as the first tournament of spring semester, there are new additions to rosters everywhere, likely resulting in long points and close games, making the battle for the other top spots hard fought and anyone’s game. Look for some spirited matches to take place this weekend at UNC–and stay tuned for the results!
Feature photo of Michelle Gay of UNC-B by Emma Boyd.
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