This weekend is the last stop of the regular season for many teams, including my own, and it’s in Boston, Massachusetts for the New England Open. Yes, all the way up in Boston. That may be surprising for anyone who lives in the Northeast, or that watches Al Roker talk about the weather before that guy talks about jelly and 100+ year birthdays being celebrated. Still, there’s a tournament going on – even with the forecast calling for rain and wind (and possibly some falling ice pellets), CapeAnn Ultimate, who run the New England Open, have insisted the tournament will play on. Largely in part to volunteers who have spent the past few days literally breaking ice off of the fields.
The Weather Factor
Are you one of those lucky ultimate players that gets to play in the sun and warmth for most of the year? Lucky you. This year, a large part of the US has seen lower than average temperatures according to NASA (even though it’s still not the coldest on record) and a whole bunch of weird cold weather things, like thunder snow (which is just as terrifyingly awful as it sounds), have been happening from the Midwest over to the New England area. If you live anywhere within those areas, you know the (seemingly) never-ending hell I’m talking about. If not, just try not to brag about it too much, okay?
This unusually long winter has had some ramifications for college ultimate teams in these areas. Locally, I know the SUNY-Buffalo teams have had a very hard time being able to get outside because on those few days of warm weather, the ground has been too saturated from all of the melting snow to use any fields. I’ve heard similar stories of teams escaping to turf options, where they usually have to fight for time with groups of other club sports looking to finally step outdoors, because time outside is so desperate as the calendar inches closer to the series. So for this tournament to actually happen, rain or shine, is huge for all of these teams; finally they’ll have meaningful playing time outside, and for many that could be the first time since last fall.
Yes, last fall. If not last fall, then a weather-effected tournament this spring is the norm for most all teams in attendance. This is the last chance for a lot of teams to get in those few final games to reach 10 sanctioned events for bids and ranking purposes. A lot of tournaments north of the Mason-Dixon line have been cancelled – just take a look down Score Report if you don’t believe me – and even some south, due to the insane weather. Here’s hoping the last few tournaments going on this weekend don’t suffer the same fate.
Bids and Rankings Impact
Up in the New England region, Tufts comes in as the top-seeded team of the tournament, and eyes on another bid for Nationals for their region. Sitting 20th in the USAU rankings as of right now, they’re eyeing to jump a few spots and give themselves a little bit more of a cushion as the series begins. For one, they’ll be hoping that Northern Iowa (who sit 19th) slip up a bit at the Old Capitol Open in Iowa this weekend. If they slip up, and Tufts advances to the semifinals at least, jumping ahead of them is a realistic possibility. They’ll also be hoping though that they’ve improved upon their play when the weather is a factor. I wrote on Saturday of the Stanford Invite that weather helped limit the damage Tufts could do in pool play, and for that they were left out of bracket play. The teams they’ll be facing this weekend aren’t at the same level as Oregon or Florida State, but an inability to play in the weather could hurt them dearly this weekend. Meanwhile, Dartmouth enters the tournament that started their upwards path to Nationals last season. They would win the New England Open last season with a dramatic win over Harvard in the finals. Spencer Diamond will need to lead his team on a similar run this season if they’d like to repeat their tied for fifth at the College Championships results from last year. It’d require quite a jump to get the team into bid-watch situation, and won’t happen this weekend, but they can gain some believers going into the series. Outside of hoping for strong results of their own, they should be cheering on Tufts in case the E-Men can move into another strength bid position for the New England region.
Meanwhile, the Metro East is the Metro Least once again this season. As of the March 27th USAU rankings, the highest team is the region’s top dog, Cornell, who come in at #46 for the automatic bid to Nationals. In the power pools though, the Buds are only joined by one rival from the region UConn. Grind is coming off a season where they lost a lot of their top-talent. Previous results from this season at QCTU and Easterns Qualifier suggest they haven’t been able to settle into a comfortable position without them. The two other Metro Least teams in attendance, my alma-matter SUNY-Buffalo and Princeton, unfortunately have to duke it out in pool play for the second time this season and will have to break seed if they’d like to qualify for the championship bracket. Improving upon their ranking looks to be the only achievable goal for the teams in this region.
It’s probably much too late for San Diego State, the furthest traveling team for this weekend’s tournament, to have any impact on their standing in the rankings. Though they performed well at Trouble in Vegas, early season hiccups at the Santa Barbara Invitational and Pres Day has them helpless in earning the Southwest region a strength bid. But a strong showing here, led by Coach Clif Smith who consistently has the Federali’s competing at a high level in their strong region.
The other major teams in attendance, see Penn State and Georgetown, are most likely just fighting for better positioning in the rankings. Penn State does have an outside chance to perform very well this weekend, and steal the bid out from Northern Iowa if they were to perform poorly at the Old Capitol Open this weekend. But they would also need to ensure that Tufts performs poorly this weekend as well or else it could be the E-Men that steal that spot.
What you see on Score Report, seeding and pool wise at least, is what you’re going to get this weekend in New England. The biggest change is the length of rounds and number of games each day. According to the TD’s, this too is due to weather coming into the tournament and weather concerns for the rest of the weekend. If weather becomes a factor over the course of the weekend, unless it is ultra-extreme (like maybe a thundersnow sighting?!), they’ve communicated to teams that the tournament will go on; but teams do have the option to stop playing games (specifically Sunday) if the weather is bad enough.
The switch to power pools at the New England Open is a change in format from what has usually been a straight-forwarded seeded tournament for the past three years of its existence. This should give the top teams, like Tufts, better results for this weekend as well on a whole.
All in all though, can we just say see ya later to this winter-y weather? It’s time for spring mother nature, if you haven’t heard.
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