2013 Southeast College Regionals Preview (Women's)

Posted: May 3, 2013 01:07 PM

Women's Division

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Event preview by Emory coach Keith Raynor, as a part of our 2013 Regionals coverage.

This year has been quite a season for the Southeast Region, on both sides of the gender divide. The strength of the region is unquestionable right now, with the Southeast nearly taking three bids to the Women’s College Championships. However, with two bids up for grabs at Regionals in Tupelo, Miss., three teams have cemented themselves as the favorites, making for a very interesting weekend. Unfortunately, uncontrollable circumstances have reared their ugly heads. Weather projections called for too much lightning on the originally scheduled tournament date, forcing a postponement to this coming weekend. With finals, graduation and travel all playing factors, both divisions saw teams drop. Those that are attending have likely had their rosters shortened, and important seniors might miss one day or both for graduation. On top of that, this coming weekend calls for some light rain and notable winds, but all of the top teams have solid zone sets. Like I said, should make for a very interesting weekend.

In every notable ranking, there has been very little separation between the trio of Georgia Dawgma, Central Florida Sirens, and Florida State Seminole Ladies. Their results aren't particularly helpful: Georgia has beaten both, Florida State has beaten both, and Central Florida has beaten Florida State. Each has notable out of region wins against high level competition - although UCF's resume out of region is the strongest and FSU's is the weakest - that indicate they are ready to take their game to Madison. Just to make things messier, Florida FUEL has a win over Central Florida from early in the season and a win over Florida State from Florida Conference Championships. With all of the bloodshed among the Southeast's best, achieving predictive clarity is a challenge. In other words, this could potentially be one of the most exciting Regionals in the country.

The seeding is as follows:

  1. Georgia Dawgma (SAPP #1)
  2. Central Florida Sirens (FL #1)
  3. Florida State Seminole Ladies (FL #2)
  4. Florida FUEL (FL #3)
  5. Emory Luna (SAPP #2)
  6. Georgia Tech Wreck (SAPP #3)
  7. Vanderbilt VUDU (GC #1)


The first thing to note is that South Florida - a likely five seed - declined their bid to Regionals, sending it to Tulane (GC #2) on the wait list. Then the bottom three seeds – Tulane, Georgia State and Florida State-B – all dropped out after the postponement. The other quirk is Georgia College, who finished second at the Southern Appalachian (SAPP) Conference Championships and chose to compete at the D-III Championships.

The seven teams will play a round-robin format. The top two will make into the final, with the third and fourth teams making it to semifinals of the backdoor bracket. Nobody can lock up a bid in pool play (thankfully), but only four teams will be in the running afterwards.

Pool Play

Author’s Note: These team write-ups were done prior to the postponement and do not factor in any roster effects these teams may be feeling. Results may vary.

Georgia Dawgma sits atop the region coming into the weekend, but they will be avoiding complacency. Since the regional redraw three years ago, which split the Southeast from the Atlantic Coast and South Regions, the Southeast final has been a repeat: Florida beats Georgia. After upsetting a heavily favored Central Florida squad in the semifinals in 2012, Georgia's path to the College Championships finally looked open, but the dream died once more at Florida's hand. This senior-laden team hasn't forgotten any of it, instead using it as motivation to make sure this year is their year. They cruised through their Conference Championship without breaking a sweat, adding six more wins to a 14-5 regular season record that included wins over Ohio State, Texas and Michigan; all five of their losses came against teams expected to contend for tickets to Madison. Their primary rotation runs about 10-12 solid girls deep, but their star power comes from handler Lane Seidor, cutter Emily Lloyd and defensive dynamo Julia Fuster.

The Central Florida Sirens have an argument for the one seed, having notched wins over Stanford, Wisconsin, Northwestern, UNC-Wilmington and Florida State. They don't mind being at the top of Pool B, drawing a second seed in Florida whom they throttled 13-5 at the Florida Conference Championships. Famous for their high-energy mentality and stifling zone defense, the Siren program is hoping to finally see their hard work culminate in a trip to the College Championships. Last year's gut punch semifinal loss to Georgia was a shocking blowout that would give even seasoned veterans nightmares. Their toughest battle might be with that ghost. Talented cutter Mariel Hammond seems to be constantly open in their horizontal stack, often catching throws from the dependable hands of Sunny Harris, Katie Fox and Samantha Young. Coach Joe Tilley put a real focus on developing depth however, resulting in stronger play from players like Amy Price, which could pay dividends at the end of Saturday and on Sunday.

Florida State Seminole Ladies have been pushing and pushing to get this opportunity. In past seasons, when it came time to beat the then-big-three of Georgia, Florida and Central Florida, they just couldn't break through. Now, they've already got the wins. Coach Matt Childs has helped mold a program that is producing club players and a competitive culture. Poised for success, they don't want to miss their shot. They play a strong defensive game led by senior Lauren "LC" Collins and are proficient with their deep game, with hucks from seniors Meagan Reeves and SJ Campbell targeting Sarah Clark and Kari Tomarelli. Sophomore Kristin Lloyd provides a dynamic under cutting option for the Seminole Ladies offense. The word on the street is that they may have been the most hard-hit by the postponement.

Florida FUEL comes into Regionals recognizing their regular season didn't go as planned. The reigning Southeast champs remain unfazed, as Captain Jenna Dahl explained, "Our goal is and always has been to make Nationals this year. We've had a rocky season, but we planned from the start to peak at Regionals." Ups and downs characterized Florida’s year, with not-close losses to Michigan State and Michigan, but wins over Florida State and Central Florida and tight games against some other strong teams. Seniors Dahl and Jackie Fane provide the majority of FUEL's firepower from the handler position, and their best defense comes from a malleable zone that puts Dahl in position to make defensive plays. "We know teams will underestimate us and that's our biggest advantage this weekend," added Dahl with a smile. "We are fine being a Cinderella story. We love Disney."

Emory Luna may be a team hitting their stride in the Series. They had a brutal regular season, playing a lot of high-level competition and coming up short. They had a strong showing at the SAPP Conference Championships, playing disruptive man defense that forced punts and eating up yardage with hucks from under cutters. They throw a couple of different zone looks designed to slow down offenses and capitalize on mistakes. Former FUEL cutter Meg Harris joins senior Abbey Hewitt to form an athletic duo downfield and on defense, while sophomore Zina Stavitsky’s big-play ability jumpstarts their offense from behind the disc. Last year, Southeast Regionals was their strongest tournament of the season, so don't be surprised if they show up with a cleaner game than their regular season record indicates.

Georgia Tech Wreck will be looking to play spoiler from the three seed. Going into the SAPP Conference Championships, they had just three losses - two on double game point - and plenty of wins over decent competition. One of their only games against a reputably strong opponent was a 6-7 loss to Florida. When they are fully armed, they can be dangerous. Two time All-Region handler Leah Tsinajinnie is probably capable of doing more damage with a disc in her hand than anybody else in the Southeast, and she is surrounded by speedy receivers like Donnya Adjari, captain Xenia Strosnider, and Sandhya Srivatsan. They'll need their secondary handlers to provide effective resets, and they will have to capitalize on opponents' mistakes, but with Ozone's Madeleine Frey and Alison Douglas on their sideline, expect them to play a smart game.

Vanderbilt VUDU doesn't have many results to look back on, but they do have a Gulf Coast championship. Having beaten Tulane, it is safe to say those who dismiss Vanderbilt may pay for it. They have a polished zone defense they aren't afraid to employ, where their athleticism allows them to close windows and win battles in the air. On offense, that same speed and agility pushes their offense downfield in big chunks. The Dames will be looking to defend the honor of the underrepresented Gulf Coast, led by the play of Emily Dayton and Sophie Chen.


Pool Play

With only the top four staying in the running, the 3 vs. 4 game of Florida State vs. Florida that starts the day could prove very important. The third round pits Georgia against Central Florida, while the final Saturday round matches up Florida and Emory, perhaps the most important game of the weekend. I think Emory can push Florida, but at the end of Saturday, both teams will be tired, and that might favor FUEL. If rumors about Florida State’s postponement losses are true, Florida might be able to surprise them again, but the top four hold.

Predicted Finish: Georgia, Central Florida, Florida, Florida State, Emory, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech

Bracket Play

In the first place bracket, Georgia and Central Florida go shot for shot in the first half. As Georgia begins to pull away in the second half, Central Florida scales back in anticipation of the game to go. Georgia wins.

In the backdoor bracket, Florida State and rival Florida face off for the fourth time in two tournaments. The pattern holds, with Florida winning pool play and Florida State bringing it together when it matters. With reinforcements supposedly arriving, they are able to get past a scrappy and determined, but gassed, Florida team. Florida Sate moves on.

Neither Central Florida nor Florida State will be fresh going into the backdoor final, but I think they both expected this situation and are mentally prepared for it. Neither team gives an inch, with layouts a plenty, and the game getting chippy with physicality flaring. After cooler heads prevail, the Sirens tighten up their defensive play, taking advantage of some short field opportunities to defeat the Seminole Ladies and punch their ticket to Madison.

Final Thoughts

While the season so far has given us solid expectations for Regionals, it has ensured there are no certainties going into the weekend. That extends beyond on-the-field play to rosters, as academic finals, graduation and travel create challenges for many teams. In addition, the weather could have an effect, turning games into zone-heavy affairs with lots of turns. Despite these caveats, the competition level in the Southeast is a rising tide, meaning those who come out on top should be better prepared for success on a national scale.

Keith Raynor has been writing about Ultimate for four years, having worked with SkydMagazine and Ultiworld. Maintaining a blog entitled Full Field Hammer, he’s continued to produce content, including a detailed look at the Southeast Women’s Region, where you can find additional coverage of this Region and others. Keith has played for 13 years and coached for four, and is currently in his first year coaching with Emory Luna.

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