2010 Club Championships Preview - Mixed Division

Posted: October 24, 2010 12:44 PM

The 2010 USA Ultimate Club Championships in Sarasota, Fla. are just around the corner. Leading into the championships, usaultimate.org will feature previews for each division, courtesy of our team of contributors who will be on the scene in Florida to cover the event for the website and USAUltimate magazine.
Throughout the event, October 28-31, be sure to visit usaultimate.org for complete coverage of the tournament, including daily reports from each division – Masters, Mixed, Open and Women’s –
round-by-round highlight videos produced by UltiVillage, multiple daily photo galleries from USAU photographers Matt Lane and Scott Roeder, and a daily wrap-up webcast of highlights, commentary and reaction from the day’s competition. Also, be sure to check out live video streaming of all championship games!
Be sure to follow all the action at usaultimate.org and discuss the tournament on our
message boards.

2010 USA Ultimate Club Championships
Mixed Division Preview

By: Matt Spillum, special to usaultimate.org
The 2010 Mixed Club field sits decided, seeded and ready to play. Looking over the 16 seeds, we have a few surprises, a few stalwarts and a whole lot of ultimate left to play. Many big names are missing from this year’s event, not least of them the defending champs, Axis of C’ville. The Northwest getting only two bids kept Mental Toss Flycoons home, and Quiet Coyote’s loss(es) to Snowbirds at regionals means only one of last year’s semifinalists are with us this season. With that barn door left wide open, we’ll see who else might wander in. Let’s walk through, pool by pool, and look at the tournament as it will play out on Thursday.

Pool A

2010logo SlowWhite 2010logo Overhaul 2010logo AMP 2010logo ScientificMethod


In pool A, our number one overall seed, Slow White of Boston, is the closest thing in Mixed ultimate to a given. 2010 makes six Club Championship appearances in a row, and, with two silvers to show for it, you know they will look to ride their experience to gold. This year’s model looks to improve on the disappointment of 2009 with suffocating D and smooth, disciplined O. Familiar faces Mike Miller, the Patisteas brothers and Jasper Hoitsma (back after a run with Ironside) are joined by Rusty Ingold-Smith (poached from Ring of Fire), Cody Rebholz, and Lauren Gloede. Much like last year’s champion, Axis of C’ville, dedication to defense is the engine that drives this veteran team. Especially telling will be the contributions of Liz Hand and Adrienne Altobelli; locking down an opponent’s women can be a telling trait of a champion. From top to bottom, this roster is without real weaknesses, and the top overall seed looks set to make a deep run.
Overhaul, from Michigan, is a first-year team with obvious ambition. Along with wins at smaller regional tournaments, they tested themselves at Philly Invite and Chesapeake Open against some of the best, and their results indicate that they belong in the top eight here. Though their male lineup is flush with tall defenders and lanky athletes, a lot of their drive comes from the modest-statured Colin McIntyre and Ryan Purcell. On the women’s side, one name that kept coming up in talking to the other championship teams was Becky Malinowski; in the words of one opponent, a "match-up nightmare." Opening the day against familiar regional opponent Scientific Method might be just the thing to let them settle and focus at their first Club Championships.
Philadelphia’s AMP makes their fifth straight Championships appearance with relatively muted buzz for a team that won the often intense Mid-Atlantic Region and placed ninth at Club Worlds in Prague. Still, their post-Worlds season has been somewhat spotty, with an uneven showing at Philly followed by a very difficult Chesapeake Open. Still, experience has shown its worth in Sarasota, and AMP would not be a surprise in the power pools. Behind the play of Petter Abrahamsson, Raza Mozaffari and Jesse Gormley, AMP will be in every game to the end.
Iowa City’s Scientific Method rounds out the field as the last overall seed and the fourth team representing the Central. While they would definitely fall under the category of "just happy to be here," it would be a mistake to write them off. Alex Versackis, Jake Bradley and Sean Parker lead a group of athletic men who aren’t afraid of the huck, while Katie Johnson’s athleticism and Tara Olds’ leadership anchor a solid women’s side. As another flatland team that loves the wind, expect them to make effective use of the zone if Sarasota shows its windy side.

Pool B

2010logo District5 2010logo PolarBears 2010logo LAMetro 2010logo DirtyBirds

Pool B is headed by the Northeast’s other powerhouse, first-time team District 5 of New Haven, Connecticut. All season long, the Connecticutians (yeah, I just coined that) have thrived against top competition, winning the Boston Invite, Philly Invite, Emerald City and Chesapeake Open in turn. Only Slow White’s convincing victory over them in the regional finals kept them from the overall number one seed. Time and again, the other teams in the field mentioned paying close attention to Kendra Fredrick and John Korber, both of whom would make anyone’s short list of top five women or men in the division. Like many teams with talent but less championship experience, their worst enemy over the course of the season has been themselves, and Club Championships are one of the least forgiving venues for unforced errors. Still, their phenomenal record against the elite indicates that they will go far.
Polar Bears, of the Bay Area in California, enter the list as the second team from the always-dangerous Northwest Region. This team, too, has benefitted from competing against elite squads, and has shown that it has the game to hang with most of them. Wins over Barrio, Mischief and Dirty Birds were counteracted by a close loss to Mischief in the Northwest Regional finals, keeping them from taking the region and a higher seed here. Michael Liu comes up often as a quick downfield force, An Chi Tsou is always dangerous and Adam Raty is a constant concern for other teams. One thing that the Polar Bears seem to be lacking is a lot of height, and it remains to be seen how that will play out if the wind hangs discs up down in Sarasota.
Los Angeles’ L.A. Metro arrives at their second Club Championships looking to improve on their 11th place finish in 2009. That year was an up and down affair, which saw them play close in most games, but never really able to find the rhythm to pull off victories. Metro worked hard to build an elite resume this season, and decent showings at Emerald City and Labor Day set them up for a solid sectionals and even better regionals, where wins over Barrio and 7 Figures gave them the Southwest Region. On the field, Barrs Lang, Keegan Uhl, Angie Sanan and Anne Ohliger are huge weapons that command extra attention. It remains to be seen if another year’s seasoning can push this team into the quarters.
Texas’ Dirty Birds round out pool B, and their relatively short resume gives only scarce clues as to how they will finish. Certainly, they have the core to do great things, built as they are from some of the parts of Chewbacca Defense. A win over L.A. Metro at Labor Day gives them something to build on in pool play, as does their success against former qualifiers Rival and Jukebox Hero at regionals. Conspiracy Theory’s three wins over them, however, and Polar Bear’s thrashing of them at Labor Day, have to be weighed as well. Will the strong play of Charlie Stavno and Meg Hofner push a squad that has nothing to lose over the hump, or will championship pressure claim another victim that wasn’t quite ready for the big stage?

Pool C

2010logo Bucket 2010logo Mischief 2010logo Barrio 2010logo wHagenweel

Pool C is where things start to get truly interesting. Atlanta’s Bucket was one of the toughest outs of the 2009 tournament, with game after game going to the cap or to universe point. While their close loss to eventual champs Axis in the quarters was a classic, it was no doubt a disappointment to the squad. This season, they focused on keeping a balanced, deep squad (built, no doubt, for those long games in the Florida heat), while making a few key additions to push them to the next level. Victor Wu, Chelsea Murphy and Sam Gainer remain, while new (or returning) additions Michael Arenson and Adrienne Tecza add power to the offense. Much like Slow White, Bucket seemed to place a lot of emphasis this season on defense, and if they can add that tool to last year’s grit, this is a team with a shot to win it all.
Northern California’s Mischief is no stranger to Club Championships, with last year’s absence ending a string of four straight appearances, including a win in 2006. Coming into the season, you would have been hard-pressed to claim that the top finisher from the Northwest region would be sixth overall in Sarasota, but that is the world we live in. Still, this is not a team to be counted out. Solid showings at Boston, Emerald City and Labor Day set them up nicely for the series. The loss to Polar Bears at Sectionals was duly avenged at Regionals, and now the core of the team (Quinn "Chucky" Kennett, Sunya Ojure, the Smith brothers and Andi "gizmo" Coleman) has added Justin Safdie and Sarah Carnahan. With depth, experience and athleticism, Mischief is a strong candidate to make a long run in Sarasota.
Tucson’s Barrio is another experienced side, with three straight trips to the quarters in Sarasota. This season, they look to get past a disappointing second-place finish at regionals to keep their run of playing deep at the Championships alive. Though they may tire of hearing about it, this team still flows first and foremost out of the talent of Jeff Grobe. One of the most dynamic players in Mixed, he, in the words of one of his competitors, "flat-out shrinks the field." Still, this team is not merely a one-person show, and the efforts of Jodi McCloskey and Simrit Khalsa especially put pressure on the women’s side of things. Barrio’s low seeding and difficult pool make this a challenging road, but they certainly have the pedigree to challenge for a spot in the power pools.
North Carolina’s wHagonweel rounds out the pool. While having good results against some of their regional competition, a rather up-and-down Chesapeake Open leaves legitimate question as to how far this team can go in Sarasota. Evan Bowles and Julie Morris, formerly of Olio, set out to renew North Carolina’s presence at Club Nationals, and, in knocking off last year’s representative, TAU, they have succeeded. Whether they can bring back the legacy of former Champions Spear and Raleigh Llama remains to be determined.

Pool D

2010logo DragnThrust 2010logo ChadLarsonExperience 2010logo ConspiracyTheory 2010logo Snowbirds

Unsurprisingly, it is in Pool D that we see the most potential for shakeup. Leading us off, Minnesota’s Drag’n Thrust finally returns the core of 2008 semis team Alpha Cobra Squadron to the big stage in Sarasota. Always filled with athletes and big throwers, this year’s model seems to have added consistency and a renewed commitment to defense. A solid Philly Invite, where they lost only to Slow White and District 5, was followed by a loss to Chad Larson Experience in the finals at Cooler Classic. The team took both Chicago Heavyweights and Central Regionals without a loss, though people would be forgiven for noting they were spared playing Chad Larson at either tournament. Still, this team can justly stand on its own, with outstanding athleticism up and down the roster. Robin Fennig, Alex Delegard and James Hron anchor a tough, physical defense, while Dave Klink and super-quick Jaime Glader shine on a deep offense that can beat you deep or short.
It has to be said that reigning World Champion Iowa’s Chad Larson Experience at fifth seed overall came as a bit of a surprise. The oft-discussed Worlds hangover aside, CLX seemed to struggle with injuries and smoothly integrating some new faces. Two losses to Overhaul on the season kept them from having a shot at the finals at both Heavyweights and Central Regionals, while the one-point win over Drag’n Thrust for the Cooler Classic title was possibly cause for concern as well. Still, there is no substitute for big-game experience, and last year’s runner-up has that in spades. Veterans like Kevin Seiler, Kurt Brorsen, Kyle Gill, Ben Lyons, Rachel Sheldahl and Amy Sheldahl still drive the team. With the disbanding of regional rival One Trick Pony, Chad Larson Experience has been able to add newcomers like Doug and Steph Jacobs, while finding the talented Chelsea Twohig of the University of Iowa. This experienced team looks to make a long run if it can keep from getting broken on offense and can use its strong defenders to dictate terms to other teams.
Texas’ Conspiracy Theory arises from the core of Hang Time, Mixed Club Championship runner-up in 2002 and 2003. Coming together in time for the series, they were able to leap from the sixth seed in the South to take second overall, losing out only to Bucket on their way to Sarasota. Brian Huard, Tom Atchison, Christina and Kelly Robinson and Pam McLemore head up the Hang Time vets that have returned to the Championships. It is less certain that veteran savvy will be enough in such a strong pool of teams, but this team certainly won’t go quietly.
Montreal’s Snowbirds finish the field in pool D, and might be as dangerous as any team above them. Formed from the best of Worlds runners-up Onyx and tenth-place RIP, Snowbirds roster is peopled entirely with players who made an impact in Prague; some names to watch are Yan Bouchard, Julie Tremble, Audrey St-Arnaud and Hugo Lefrançois. While Onyx seemed to struggle in Prague with Chad Larson Experience, and Snowbirds had their hands full with District 5 at regionals, this is a team no one should be overlooking.
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