2013 Pro Flight Finale - Mixed Division Preview
Posted: August 30, 2013 12:10 PM
Blackbird and Polar Bears have featured in back-to-back national finals, but they've allowed other teams to grab the headlines throughout most of the summer: Odyssée storming through bracket play to win the U.S. Open, stalwarts AMP and Chad Larson Experience battling for the Pro-Elite Challenge at Philly Invite, and perennial challenger Mischief twice taking down young and improving Wild Card in the Elite-Select Challenge at ECC. This weekend, the attention shifts back to the teams who finished last season on top as all four 2012 semifinalists are joined by Cosa Nostra, CLX, Slow White and American BBQ for the Pro Flight Finale.
Pool A features an intriguing matchup as Chad Larson and Mischief renew a rivalry familiar from Sarasota last October – there, the Iowa team won comfortably in pool play but was eliminated in the rematch on Saturday morning after Mischief played their way into the quarterfinals by defeating Slow White in the pre-quarters round. With Tyler Grant in red again this season, the San Francisco club has shown a return to the form that made them champions in 2006. CLX features a similar mix of veterans with championship pedigrees and athletic newcomers. Their disciplined offense and enthusiastic sideline has made the Iowans a tough match up for years – it's taken the team to the national finals and a World Club Championship but no National Club Championships...yet.
With two Club Championship semifinals appearances in the last three years, Minnesota's Drag'n Thrust has built a strong reputation to match regional rivals CLX. Their dynamic style, calling on both sides of the roster to make big plays, makes them contenders at every tournament in which they compete. Drag'n will be looking to improve on their U.S. Open performance and not end yet another weekend in the semifinal round. Rounding out Pool A, American BBQ has some improving to do as well after their one-win trip to Philly Invite, albeit with limited numbers due to the travel required. They played well close to home at Labor Day last year, relying on their veteran women to earn big yards downfield but will need to show roster depth and endurance to beat their seed this weekend.
Chad Larson Experience headlines this weekend's Pro Flight Finale after finishing second in July's Pro-Elite Challenge (Philly Invite)
PHOTO CREDIT: UltiPhotos
Slow White earned the top seed in Pool B with a strong summer that includes tournament championships at Easterns, Boston Invite and Chesapeake Invite. Their fifth place finish at Philly Invite is a little misleading, hiding the fact that their only losses were close games to the eventual finalists, and their margin of victory was substantial in other matchups. The Boston-based veterans have enjoyed dominant summers before though that didn’t lead to the success they were looking for come October. They will be more focused than ever now on gaining the experience needed to win the games that matter most. At the bottom of the pool, last year's surprise quarterfinalists Cosa Nostra used the shift in this season's master's division schedule to add more veterans to their squad. Similar to BBQ, they'll need that talent, as well as endurance, to avoid fading late in the weekend, as they did at Philly Invite.
Last, Polar Bears and Blackbird – the two Bay Area powers are hidden in the middle of this weekend’s seeding and are without tournament results since early July, but they have been able to make headlines with roster additions alone. Blackbird was still building familiarity and playing with comparatively small numbers at the U.S. Open, but two consecutive championships have certainly established the team’s ability to develop and peak when results count. Polar Bears had more success in North Carolina than their cross-town rivals, but were similarly adjusting to some changes on their roster having lost Elijah Kerns, Lisa Pitcaithley and Lucas Dallmann this year. But they have some additions of their own preparing to take the field this weekend, including former Sockeye and U.S. National Team great "mystery man" Alex Nord.
Results have spoken loudly so far this summer, and there will be plenty more to say after eight of the nation’s best teams face off this weekend. The regular season and second stage of the Triple Crown Tour
will be complete, and the top contenders will be confirmed. The club series road to Texas is about to begin.
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