2013 Elite-Select Challenge - Emerald City Classic Mixed Division Recap
Posted: August 14, 2013 01:16 PM
The Elite-Select Challenge at the Emerald City Classic was an important proving ground for several teams hoping to clinch a strength bid for their region. All eight regions were represented, and eight teams came in ranked in the top 16.
In Pool A, AMP continued to build on their impressive 2013 résumé. Boosted by several former Southpaw players and a great weekend from Matt Zumbrum, they won the pool with no game being closer than four points. Boulder's Love Tractor came into ECC ranked first in the USA Ultimate algorithm, but they suffered a scare early on and had to fight back from a 5-8 halftime deficit against the 16 seed, BW Ultimate. Love Tractor would lose in the next round on double-game point to Termite's Entourage, who themselves would lose to the upset-seeking BW.
In Pool B, San Francisco's Mischief and Asheville's Cahoots had a rematch of their meeting at the U.S. Open, which had resulted in a 15-9 Mischief victory. A few Cahoots were missing this weekend, including Worlds veteran Cate Foster-Yackey, but despite this, they still managed to show that their breakout performance at the U.S. Open was no fluke. In a hard fought but spirited game, Mischief and Cahoots were tied 10-10, but a break following an Eric Shaw D pulled Mischief ahead. That was the difference, and Mischief won a capped game 13-11 to take the pool and guarantee themselves a spot in the quarterfinals. Cahoots would go on to win their crossover game to earn their own spot in the quarters.
In 2012, three mixed teams finished the season ranked in the top 16 but failed to earn a bid to Nationals: D.C.'s Ambiguously Grey (now Ambiguous Grey), San Francisco's GrasSFace and Seattle's Bigfoot. GrasSFace rebranded this season as Groove, and many members of the now-defunct Bigfoot appear on the roster of The DOH Abides. Thus, elements from all three of these hard-luck 2012 teams were seen in Pool C. The billing did not disappoint – these three games were decided by a total of four points. Ambiguous Grey was the odd man out, falling on universe to both Groove and DOH. Groove pulled out a two-point win over DOH to take the pool, but all three strong and evenly matched teams would earn spots in the quarterfinals.
Oregon's Engine 45 opened Pool D by dominating regional rival and perennial Nationals team Mental Toss Flycoons with a convincing 15-7 victory. Boston's Wild Card defeated the Flycoons in a rematch from 2012 Nationals and won a contentious game with Engine 45 15-8. Wild Card came in ranked subjectively low at 23rd, and it was clear they had missed weapons like Ian Engler, Lee Farnsworth and Thomas Sayre-McCord in previous tournaments. With a fully-loaded roster, Wild Card took the pool with relative ease, winning their games by an average margin of seven points.
In top-seed crossovers, Wild Card met Mischief in another rematch from 2012 Nationals. Both teams looked fatigued in their fourth game of the day, and Mischief was able to capitalize on some early turns by Wild Card to run out to a 6-3 lead. The two teams traded most of the second half, and Mischief finished with a 15-11 victory in a low-energy game. The showcase game featured overall one seed AMP vs. Pool C winner Groove. Strong AMP D alongside some unforced Groove turnovers resulted in AMP taking a quick 8-2 halftime lead. Groove settled down in the second half but could not make up the difference, and AMP cruised to a 15-8 win.
The opening round of bracket play went to seed with pool winners AMP, Wild Card, Groove and Mischief advancing to the semifinals. The Wild Card v. AMP semifinal started with both teams opting for a 3:4 male:female ratio on offense for the first several points. AMP was unable to exploit their customary female advantage in this matchup, and they switched to a 4:3 gender ratio midway through the first half. The game was marked by several turnovers for both teams, but AMP struggled to convert on D while Wild Card capitalized on AMP's miscues and contested hucks, taking half 8-6. AMP's attempts to slow down Wild Card with junk and zone looks were unsuccessful, and Wild Card extended their lead in the second half, holding on for an impressive 14-9 upset over top-seeded AMP.
Sectional rivals Mischief and Groove met in the other semifinal. Groove had early success playing high-percentage offense, patiently working the open side and finding several open cutters deep for scores. Finding themselves down a break at 4-5, Mischief broke twice and took half 8-6. Groove would capitalize on a Mischief throwaway to tie the game at 8-8, but Mischief broke back after a sloppy 10-minute point that led to two more immediate breaks and Groove being forced to rest some of their starting O-line players. The late push was the difference, and Mischief went on to win 14-9.
In the finals, both Wild Card and Mischief played with much more energy and intensity than they had in their meeting the day before. Wild Card made several adjustments from their first game, including transitioning to four men on offense and pulling the quick Matt Mackey over from the D line. Mackey's ability to get open at will and move the disc quickly added a dynamic element to Wild Card’s downfield flow that they lacked in the teams’ first meeting. Additionally, Aly Heath was a force for Wild Card, using her combination of speed and height to pull down several discs in the end zone. While Wild Card's offense was far from clean, they were consistently able to win back the disc and prevent Mischief from opening a lead. In a parallel to the AMP game, Wild Card also capitalized effectively on their opponent's mistakes; Mischief had four end zone drops in the game that all resulted in Wild Card goals.
Mischief entered the second half up 8-6, and the O line turned it on. Wild Card was unable to contain Mischief cutters Tyler Grant and Lori Eich, and Kevin Smith was locked in, accurately finding receivers on all parts of the field. Wild Card attempted to slow the Mischief offense with a straight-up mark, but Mischief's cutters continued to get open and set up their throwers in power positions. Tyler Grant laid out for a score to put Mischief up 11-8, but he injured his knee on the impact and did not return to the game. Wild Card took advantage, getting a break on Mischief's first and only O-line turnover of the second half to pull to 10-11. But that was as close as Wild Card would get. The teams traded out, and Lori Eich pulled in a huck from Kevin Smith for a 14-12 Mischief victory and the ECC championship.
In the consolation rounds, AMP once again dispatched Groove with ease, winning 15-7 in the 3 v. 4 match up. Eleventh-seeded DOH continued an impressive tournament run by taking fifth place after their second universe win over AG in two days. Flycoons turned around a rough Saturday performance by going 3-0 on Sunday to finish ninth.
As we enter the final stages of the regular season, the bid picture continues to clarify. Wild Card and Engine 45 made a great push at ECC towards the coveted top 16, while Love Tractor and Flycoons will likely see their rankings fall. Ambiguous Grey took a risk in traveling west with a short roster, and while their 3-4 record doesn't look great, their tight point differential (three losses on universe point) should keep them in striking distance of a strength bid for a final push at Chesapeake Invite. A bright spot for AG was the spectacular play by team rookie Jess Grabowski, whose speed and athletic grabs made her hard to contain all weekend.
Once again it appears the Northeast and Southwest regions are in line to take multiple strength bids, leaving just a few for the other six regions. Sectionals is now less than a month away, so many of these squads will only get one more look at their competition before the series begins. Overall, ECC provided a great measuring stick for several teams vying to punch their tickets to Frisco in the coming months.
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