2013 Northwest College Regionals Preview (Women's)
Posted: April 26, 2013 12:04 PM
Event preview by Washington coach Kyle Weisbrod, as a part of our 2013 Regionals coverage.
While past performance is no indication of future results, history points to the 2013 USA Ultimate women’s college champions emerging from the Northwest Region. The west coast has captured 11 consecutive championships in the division. Three of the last five have come from the NW Region with the region’s powerhouse programs Oregon (USA Ultimate rank #1), British Columbia (#5) and Washington (#7) earning one each. Almost every regular season tournament in which a Northwest team attended, the title was brought back to the Northwest, including Colluvium, President’s Day and Stanford Invite for Oregon; Santa Barbara Invite for Victoria; Stanford Open for Western Washington; and Trouble in Vegas for Pacific Lutheran. At the two biggest tournaments, President’s Day and Stanford Invite, the Northwest captured three of four semifinal spots.
But before any team from the Northwest Region gets the opportunity to earn a title, they will have to earn a bid to Wisconsin. This year’s Northwest Region is the strongest ever with six teams battling for four bids. The usual suspects, Oregon, UBC and Washington, are in the mix, but 2013 has also seen the rise of Whitman, Victoria and Western Washington – all teams eager to challenge the historic NW power structure and make names for themselves on a national stage. The rise of these programs and key injuries to the top teams will make NW regionals one of the most exciting tournaments of the year.
Western Washington (#36) – Don’t let the low ranking fool you. Western was a borderline top 20 team before Centex, where they competed with less than a full squad. At Centex, they lost team leader Callie Mah to injury for the tournament. Chaos’ offense is led by a few big playmakers, most notably the explosive Mah, Lindsey Miller, and FOTY candidate Abbie Abramovich. Their road to Wisconsin is an uphill one as they were stumped repeatedly by Victoria at the Conference Championships. They did play relatively close games with both Washington and UBC, however. They’ll enter as either the five or six seed, having split games with Whitman early in the season at Colluvium. While strong, Western is also young and building; a trip to the College Championships would be a huge stepping stone for 2014.
Whitman (#26) – The Sweets are the unknown factor in the region. While the other five contenders saw each other at the Division I Conference Championships, Whitman started in Division III and has chosen the D-I route. Coached by recent Whitman Open Callahan nominee, Jeremy Norden, Whitman hasn’t faced any team attending Regionals since February. But Whitman has consistently beaten Washington in the fall and winter.
Victoria (#9) – The Victoria Vixens were the subject of much internet chatter after securing the fourth bid for the Northwest Region on the minimum 10 sanctioned games and primarily off of the strength of their performance at Santa Barbara Invite, a weekend when many of the Southwest teams’ best players were at the U.S. U23 try-outs. However, UVic is not a team to be taken lightly. In placement play at the D-I Conference Championships, they led Washington 11-10 before falling 13-11. They play a fundamentally sound, conservative, horizontal offense, making good use of the width of the field with swings and have athletic receivers that utilize downfield space well. After two wins against Western Washington at Conferences, UVic is in the driver’s seat to take one of the bids they helped earn for the region.
Washington (#7) – The defending college champions have been building all year. With only eight returners, only five of whom were healthy at conferences, Element is a very different looking team from 2012. The loss of Callahan nominee and heart of the team Sarah "CO" Davis to a potentially season-ending knee injury could certainly have significant repercussions. And, while the Element O-line often looked out-of-sync at conferences, the D-line, behind Lucy Williams and Alysia Letourneau, piled on breaks including building an early lead against Oregon and a late lead against UBC. Defensive specialist Sarah Edwards should be healthy for Regionals as UW hopes to challenge for a top seed at Nationals.
British Columbia (#5) – In a season filled with significant injuries for the region, UBC has taken the worst of it. At conferences, Canadian National team member and Callahan nominee Cat Hui was slowed by a quad injury while speedy receiver Rena Kawabata was on the sideline with a knee injury. FOTY candidate Mira Donaldson and key role player Amira Maddison were absent from both Stanford Invite and the Conference Championships. Despite their apparent "no [A]mira" policy, UBC, behind Crystal Koo, still finished a strong second, only losing to Oregon by two. A healthy UBC is something every contender should fear considering that, when healthy, UBC notched Oregon’s only loss of the season at Presidents’ Day. That said, outside of Koo, UBC’s top players are most comfortable downfield. Teams that are able to take advantage of that can find success against the Thunderbirds.
Oregon (#1) – With a regional championship, Fugue will find themselves as the top seed at the USA Ultimate Championships. Sophomore Bethany Kaylor has stepped up this season and is doing heavy lifting for the Fugue O-line as a downfield cutter and thrower. The junk Ds are still Fugue’s hallmark. Teams consistently walk away from Fugue losses after facing a combination of force middle and F** S*** Up saying, "we just couldn’t figure out Oregon’s junk." Most importantly, Fugue is relatively healthy. While junior Dre Fontenot is out with injury, Kaylor and Callahan nominee and big-time playmaker Bailey Zahniser are both healthy after missing the 2012 finals with injury. Fugue has a lot of weapons, including big throwers and speedy receivers, and they aren’t afraid of making mistakes. This lack of qualms is Oregon’s strength as well as their weakness.
The eight team, four advance format is a compelling one that makes every pool play game meaningful, particularly for a tourney that is six deep. Pool winners earn bids, so the presumptive Washington/UBC and Victoria/Oregon games on day one will be games-to-go to Nationals, should the teams be undefeated to that point. That said, finishing top two in the pool is critical to avoid the long, must-win road for the fourth bid. So the two-three and one-two games cannot be overlooked for the higher seeds.
Day two will be a showdown for the probable top seed at Nationals. Oregon, or whoever beats them, will have a strong case to make for the pole position in Wisconsin. Sunday may also force some interesting decisions as the loser of the A2 vs. B2 game-to-go will face a competitive and hungry team on a roll in the fourth place game-to-go bracket. There is no shortage of teams in the Northwest with the desire to prove that they belong among the division’s elite.
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