Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nationals: What to Watch For (Womens, Mixed, Masters)

First, sorry for the Southern focus of this post. It's easier to write about what you know.


While the odds on favorites for the finals are still Fury and Riot, I think for the first time since 2005 it's not inconceivable that we'll get a different match-up this year. These two titans of the decade and the top two seeds look significantly less invincible than in past years. Riot has won the season series between the two teams 3-2 and Fury-to-Riot transfer Gwen Ambler adds some significant firepower to the Seattle squad. I'll definitely be watching Riot to see how Gwen is fitting in to the Riot line-up. I'd expect adding Gwen would allow Miranda to have greater flexibility in her role and better match-ups generally.

For Fury, I'm most interested to see how Georgia Bosscher is fitting in. I've enjoyed watching Georgia's aggressive and confident play at the Youth and College level for years and am excited to see her take her game to one of the premier club teams. Despite being the 4th consecutive year a Riot-Fury final has a whole lot of great match-ups to watch - especially if we get a non-windy final with more man-to-man defense. And if we do get that final, we'll get to see if Gwen is able to change the balance of power or if Fury can still edge Riot out with a superior mental game.

Despite their low seed, I'm really hoping to see my hometown favorites Ozone make the finals and I believe they have the firepower to do it. They've been inconsistent this season with a good Labor Day, barely losing to Fury. They faltered against Showdown in the finals of Regionals - I was playing on the next field over and was not impressed by what Ozone was showing when I did look over. There was one point that lasted around 8 minutes with several turnovers by both teams in little wind. Ozone has a lot of big name players between Deb Cussen, Angela Lin, Shanye Crawford, and Katherine Wooten. Throw in some great young talent in Rare Air pick-up Heather Waugh and home grown future stars Sophie Darch and Haley Reese and if they are able to put the pieces together at the right times Ozone could make a run. The first opportunity is the first round Thursday morning when Ozone faces top-seeded Riot. This is probably the game of the tournament to watch this round. I have a hard time imagining Ozone winning consecutive games against Riot and Fury but if they can win against Riot on Thursday and put Riot and Fury on the same side of the Saturday bracket...

Capitals brings the only undefeated season to the table. That's not saying a whole lot since, beyond Brute Squad, they haven't seen any top tier talent. Beyond the gifted Anne Mercier I have no idea who these players are. So the question is, who are their playmakers and can they match those of Fury and Riots? We probably won't get an answer to that question until a likely Capitals/Ozone game in power pools on Friday morning. That game should shed some light on what will happen in the Riot/Capitals game which will likely be for the top seed at the tourney going in to Saturday.

Perhaps I'm putting too much weight on how good I think Ozone is and their Regional final win over Ozone, but I think Showdown is also better than seeded. Their season results are overall terrible, but my understanding is most of these were without Cara Crouch who is arguably the top player in the division currently. I'd love to watch them some to see where they fall. Unfortunately, they have a tough road. If they are unable to beat Riot or repeat their success against Ozone on Thursday they'll be trying to climb up from the power pools only to play Fury in quarters if they are able to do it. If they can pull of a repeat against Ozone, I could see Showdown possibly putting some pressure on the top seeds and making a run for semis. Ozone could be coming off of a disappointing loss to Riot which may make this easier for Showdown.

As for Brute Squad, Backhoe, Zeitgeist, and Traffic, frankly I expect them to be about as good as they are seeded. I am curious to see how good a coach Brutesquad's Matt Kromer is - currently he's dominating in today's game in our fantasy football league so that bodes well.


I think the mixed division is a little more clear cut than it's been in past years.

The big question in Mixed is how seriously is Chase taking it? If he takes it seriously he will dominate and you can pencil Axis into the finals. But frankly at Chesapeake he appeared to lack focus. And somehow Axis lost to a less talented AMP team at Regionals. Axis isn't all about Chase either - Tyler Conger and Kevin Kusy are formidable players themselves, Conger being particularly hungry to show that he's a great player. He was the most impressive player on the field for Axis at Cheapeake.

Of course the Flycoons look good, but I don't plan to watch them play until at least the semis. I'm guessing they won't be involved in much drama until at least that point. They are athletic and skilled. Last year at one point while watching them play from a distance I was impressed by the middle-schooler they had out there playing big points - had to get closer to realize it was Tim Murray.

Finally, the other big questions for me in this division are: Is everybody going to request observers for Jukebox games? And are teams going to psyche themselves out when they play them because of all the talk on the interwebs about their style of play?

And can Bucket hold on to half time leads this year? They certainly have more talent than last year. I'll definitely try to catch a little of their game against AMP. At Chesapeake they were up 8-3 before giving the game away in the second half.


Masters gets more interesting every year. Maybe that's because as I get older I actually know who these guys are and saw them when they were dominating in the open division. The strange thing about Masters is that the newest players are typically the best so looking at past years' results is often misleading. And then there are so few masters tournaments that current year results aren't really helpful. So beyond the rosters, you don't have much to go on.

OK, the big one, is there really any chance that the Beyondors won't win this thing? I mean that roster looks like a quarterfinal open division roster to me. This team is stacked with talent, young, and have dominated divisions since they were in college together. Who seeded this team fourth?

That said, defending champions Surly don't look too bad either. They don't have the wealth of championships in college and open that the Beyondors bring but they've got a lot of former top tier open players including Eric "Turtle" Lonsdorf and Dave Boardman. But as noted, in Masters past results are no indication of future performance.

Like with most Canadian teams, I have no idea who GLUM is. Same goes for Mileage even though they are in my region (although I do know that big Tom Etchison is a serious deep threat and that Rex loves throwing to him). Both teams could be great or they could be average. I'll definitely be watching them early on to familiarize myself with their games and who their big players are.

Can DoG field a grandmasters roster of 20+ players with their masters team? I think so. They used to win open championships when their average age was masters eligible though. But at some point the physical decline quickens. As as side note, I think this is the first year that a college teammate of mine is playing in Masters. Yeesh... Go Josh Blouwolff!

Finally, Troubled Past is a little intriguing. With the old North Carolinian Brians (Snyder and Linkfield) and the Monohan brothers they've got some recognizable talent. I'm certainly curious to learn more about what they are bringing as well.

Games to watch in Masters:
Round 1: GLUM vs. DoG - Regional finals rematch and the loser will have a very tough row to hoe. This was a one point game in pool play at Regionals.

Round 2: Beyondors vs. O.L.D. S.A.G - Are the Beyondors that much better than the field? This will be our first indication.

Round 3: Take your pick of the 1v2 match-ups. I think Surly vs. Troubled Past will be the more interesting one.

Round 4: Definitely Surly vs. GLUM. Pool A looks to be significantly harder. And winning it (to distance yourselves from the expected pool B winner Beyondors) is critical.

Round 5: Troubled Past vs. DoG. Same comments as round 4.

Friday Quarters: I am keeping my fingers crossed for a 4th place finish for DoG because I would love to see a DoG/Beyondors quarters on Friday afternoon (or a 2nd/3rd place finish would work as well - I just think it's less likely). While most players in the other divisions and fans will be watching the typically uninteresting open pre-quarters game - this would be a classic throwback game to the late '90s/early 2000s.


UBER_IHUC said...

Watch out for CLX in mixed. I think they have enough talent to make it to finals.

Martin said...

Yes, CLX is a good team, and despite Kyle calling them less talented, so is AMP. Then there is MTF, which Kyle did give props to. But still, I don't know if anyone in mixed has a player that can match Chase's versatility. I'm not saying that they are going to win it all, but I have them written into semis in my bracket.

Experience goes a long way, especially in mixed. AMP has been knocking for a while, MTF obviously knows what they are doing (do they still have the Red Rocket and Tim Murray?), and CLX has talent as well. Maybe that's my 4, but I don't want to neglect D'oh! either. It should be an interesting division as always.

E.die said...

Are you not playing with Bucket?

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Nope, not playing with Bucket. Since I moved to Atlanta I've been struggling with what part I want Ultimate to play in my life. I love the sport but have only rarely enjoyed playing club since '06. This is a combination of my expectations of myself as a player and not meeting those and my (almost) Frank-like standards of how teams can play the game and feeling frustrated when that doesn't happen. This should probably be a whole post unto itself.

So, for the time being, I'm staying involved through commentating and coaching.

parinella said...

The thing with Masters rosters is that you don't know what the players have been doing since they played Open, or how much they have trained for this compared to their Open years. So while the Beyondors should be the clear favorite, there are too many unknowns about how they are this year to bet your mortgage on it.

Knappy said...

"And somehow Axis lost to a less talented AMP team at Regionals"

You are absolutely high if you think that AMP has less talent than Axis. They beat Axis @ regional w/out their best O player, Sean (@ a wedding). AMP & Axis are both considerably more talented this year, and will both be tough outs.

Knappy said...

Follow-up....thanks for the previews. I enjoyed reading them.

Martin said...

This may come in as Anonymous. This is Martin.

Jim, I was curious about your feelings regarding the consistency of Masters v. Open. One thing I have found playing Mixed is that it is pretty tough for me to have any idea at the beginning of the year how we will do at the end because the playing field changes so much from year to year. Axis of C'Ville and Beyondors are good examples of teams that weren't at nationals (or didn't exist) last year but are strong competitors expected to go far.

Has the variable playing field in Masters affected the way you go about your season (goals, strategies, expectations, etc.)?

Mike said...

Yes, MTF still has Scott Conway and Tim Murray. And they looked awfully good at regionals. Did a great job of pulling away once they got leads.

I am curious about who they'll stick on Chase. MTF's younger guys (Nevin and Ken, both 6'2'' and athletic) were playing fantastic when I saw them, so they might get the assignment.

Martin, I *do* kind of feel free to neglect D'oh. Obviously a good team, but they didn't look like a threat to MTF when I watched them face off a couple times. Those games weren't especially close.

-- Mike Lommler

Martin said...

Thanks for the head's up, Mike. It's hard to get a feel all the way from the East coast.

Next question, do any of the other top Mixed teams seem like the strategy-mind sort to come up with a solid game plan to stop Chase? I doubt anyone can effectively shut him down one-on-one, especially with a larger effective field to work with in Mixed. A good strategic solution might be the key to eliminating Chase's impact.

Mike said...

I know with talking to players (and watching them in action) that the Flycoons have at least 6 different defenses. No idea what they'd use with Chase in mind (I've never seen him live), but they don't lack for options.

-- Mike Lommler

parinella said...

It seems that in my three years, the field is stronger if it's a Worlds qualifying year. I suspect this is the case with Mixed as well, but not for Open or Women (maybe the 10th best team will try to get a little stronger to climb to 6th place and get a bid to Club Worlds, but mostly they would just do it for its own sake). It didn't affect our planning at all beyond setting our expectations for Nationals directly before the tournament (and even then, I didn't realize it in years past, though perhaps it was already a well-known fact to longer-time Masters players). I gauge our team by how we do in Open play.