2015 National Championships: Men's Division Preview

Posted: September 29, 2015 03:48 PM

2015 National Championships (Event Page)

With the National Championships just a week away, chatter about Frisco is reaching a fever pitch. In conjunction with similar previews in the mixed and women’s divisions, USA Ultimate presents the reader’s guide to who’s been invited from each region – and what to watch for in the day one pools.

Great Lakes:

The question on everyone’s lips seems to be: who’s High Five? The answer is, they’re the team that has beaten more than half the National Championships field, including Madison Club, Florida United, Patrol, Machine, Ironside, Prairie Fire, Rhino, Truck Stop and Johnny Bravo. Not since the days of B.A.T. has a Michigan team looked this strong, and while the number one team from the Great Lakes hasn’t beaten either of the top two seeds at the National Championships (Revolver and Doublewide), the number two team from this region – Chicago Machine – has. Yowza.

Ironside, GOAT, PoNY. It feels like that’s the finish order of Northeast Regionals nearly every year. Unfortunately for PoNY, the Northeast only earned two bids to the National Championships this season, so they’ll have to watch from home.

Both Ironside and GOAT made semis last year, and though GOAT’s reputation as a team with occasionally unfavorable spirit has been only exacerbated of late, there’s no question that both of these teams will come into Frisco looking to make a run deep into bracket play.

Truck Stop has continued their dominance over the Mid-Atlantic with another regional victory, and the team looks only stronger this year with the addition of all-around stars like Nicky Spiva, Seth Wiggins and Nate Castine. The Truck will be good, no question, but the real team to watch here may be National Championships newcomer Patrol. Patrol has beaten three regional champions this year, including Madison Club, Florida United and the much-vaunted Doublewide. Generally speaking, first-year teams at the Big Show tend to falter in the face of experience, but given that Patrol can trace its roots as deep as the Pike semifinals team of a decade ago, they’ll be looking to prove that they’re immune to freshman jitters.

For the first time in 15 years, Chain Lightning will not be attending the National Championships! Florida United surprised the field by taking the Southeast regional crown over last year’s semifinal darlings (and newfound crowd favorites) Ring of Fire, while Chain Lightning found themselves in a distant fifth.

Florida had an up and down year, but they do look to be peaking at the right time. As for Ring, it’s never a smart move to count them out, but they’ve lost a fair number of pieces from last year’s Cinderella squad – they’ll have their work cut out for them if they hope to again find themselves playing under the lights on Saturday night.

South Central:
Doublewide and Johnny Bravo slugged their way out of the South Central Region – no surprise there. The surprise, however, may lay in the order they qualified. Bravo didn’t win their region despite being defending champs, and Doublewide has had far from an easy year.

It’s unlikely that anyone would look at a match up against either of these teams as an easy one. However, the shakeup may lull opponents into thinking that either or both of the South Central regional representatives – both of them former champions – might be a bit softer this year.

And that would be a mistake.

Revolver won the one-bid Southwest Region in a cakewalk, capping off a nearly undefeated season. With a host of teammates getting extra reps with one another early in the season, Revolver has got to be a presumptive favorite, and their one seed shows it.

Revolver has won three of the past five USA Ultimate National Championships. They’ll certainly be angling for another one in Frisco.


In a stunning upset, Rhino defeated three-time champions Sockeye to take this year’s top spot from the Northwest Region (Sockeye still managed second). Rhino hasn’t won their region since 1993, and they haven’t been seen as a national-level contender since the mid-2000s, when Jam became Justice League for a season and missed the National Championships altogether.

Of course, Rhino’s been hard at work for the past few seasons, and it seems clear they intend to prove that their regional victory was no fluke. What’s more, with a lineup like theirs – handler superstars Eli Janin and Dylan Freechild behind the disc, and a winner at all levels like Chase Sparling-Beckley to run the show downfield – they may be able to do just that.

North Central:
This is a region that’s long on depth but may be without one superstar team at the top. Madison Club, Sub Zero and Prairie Fire all qualified for the National Championships this season, and while it’s likely that there’s a quarterfinals-level team in this region, it would be tough to argue that there’s a semis-level one.

All three of these teams are on the rise; no question there. But it will take a big gust for the North Central winds to blow one of these teams to a top spot on the podium…will one of them be able to pull it off?

And now, on to the seedings.

Pool A: Revolver (SW1), Machine (GL2), Patrol (MA-2), Madison Club (NC1)

Revolver has had a strong, strong season, and their reward is a one seed in a pool designed to really support the one seed. Of course, one of the only two teams to beat them the whole season – Machine – waits right behind them.

Unless Machine can recapture that magic, the bottom three teams in this pool will likely duke it out for second place, and any one of them could reasonably emerge from the fray holding that spot. Of course, that’s not as coveted a result as it might otherwise be: The second place-finisher from Pool A will have to play the third-place finisher from Pool D, and that’s likely to be a team hungry and ready for bear.

Patrol coach Charlie Hoppes noted that on the right day, the Philadelphia squad "can play with and beat any team in the country. What the rest of the series will represent is a measuring stick, a way for us to find out the path for next year, based on our ability to perform consistently against top teams at the end of this season."

Machine and Madison Club likely feel the same way. Who will show up on Thursday and indeed perform remains to be determined on the field.

Pool B: Doublewide (SC1), Rhino (NW1), Ring of Fire (SE2), Sub Zero (NC2)

This is an interesting pool. Doublewide is the presumptive favorite, but they’ve had some odd losses this year and look far from invincible. Rhino just pulled off a big regional upset, but the team they beat is still seeded higher than they are. Ring of Fire is coming off a year where they made semis (and very nearly made finals – could have, in fact, if not for a rough double-game point), yet aren’t even seeded to make it to quarters this time around. And then there’s Sub Zero.

The game to watch out for here might be the first-round 1v3 matchup between Doublewide and Ring of Fire. It’s at 9:00 a.m., the first game of the tournament, and if Ring can pull off a win there, it will likely throw the whole pool into disarray – and leave the top spot up for grabs.

Pool C: Sockeye (NW2), Truck Stop (MA1), Florida United (SE1), GOAT (NE2)

Florida United has beaten Sockeye, which bodes well for them, and they’ve not lost a game all season to any team that didn’t qualify for the National Championships. However, they’ve played quite a bit against softer competition, so it’s hard to see just where they stand. Sockeye has also only lost to other National Championships qualifiers, and their record looks much stronger (and Truck Stop and GOAT only have one sub-Nationals level loss apiece.)

Sockeye appears to be the class of this pool, but not by a landslide, and the other teams in this pool could certainly give one another fits. GOAT has history on their side, but watch the 2v3 game in particular: If either team wins in a blowout, it’s a good sign that they’ll be well poised to make it through to the quarterfinals.

Pool D: High Five (GL1), Johnny Bravo (SC2), Ironside (NE1), Prairie Fire (NC3)

Every time, Pool D seems the roughest, and this year is no exception. Both the teams from last year’s finals are in it…and neither of them is even the one seed?

That’s a shame for everyone else involved. Prairie Fire is probably in over their heads, sad to say. High Five is 1-1 against both Johnny Bravo and Ironside, and both their wins were on double-game point, while the last loss was a 13-3 drubbing at the hands of the boys from Boston. That’s not to say High Five can’t win, but experience pays, and Ironside and Johnny Bravo have it in spades.

The game to watch here will likely be the 2v3 game, pitting huck-happy Johnny Bravo against ever-conservative Ironside in a rematch of last year’s final. Bravo captain Jesse Roehm said, "Last season we tasted the success we desperately wanted for so long. Now that we’ve reached the top, expectations change. Anything less than a title will be a disappointment. That's a new feeling for many of us."

Of course, it’s not new for Ironside, who’ve lusted after a crown for so long.

The winner of this game will likely make semis at least. Be sure to be there.

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