2015 National Championships: Mixed Division Preview

Posted: September 29, 2015 03:35 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 men’s 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 cheekily-named UPA defeated Cincinnati Steamboat on double-game point to take this year’s lone spot from the Great Lakes Region. With heaps of semi-retired Chicago talent (most of whom actually did start playing ultimate before the USAU name change), UPA is indicative of how players crossing over from single-gender regions can surprise in the mixed division. (Anyone remember Axis of C’Ville?) Look for a big weekend out of this team’s experienced women – names like Katie Dolara, Kelly Bolt and Lindsey Hack come with do-or-die mentality and plenty of victories under their belts.

Wild Card and Slow White continue to present match-up problems for every team that faces them, and Metro North and 7Express proudly claimed the third and fourth spots from the talent-rich Northeast Region this time around.

Watch for at least two teams here to make quarters (or better) again this year; this region is always tough.

Ambiguous Grey surprised many by bumping perennial qualifier AMP off their Mid-Atlantic championship run. AMP survived, though, by defeating a strong Pittsburgh contingent in the game to go.

Although AMP has lost many of the familiar folks that have served as the face of the team for a number of years, the squad always seems to come together thanks to their strong focus on "we" rather than "I."

The Southeast mixed division sends Bucket, who are just as good as last year – maybe even better, with the addition of speedster Asa Wilson. Though Bucket has only been to one tournament this year that showed much competition – the TCT Pro-Elite Challenge at Colorado Cup – Bucket performed well, earning convincing wins over both Blackbird and Polar Bears. The question for Bucket this year will be: are they battle-tested enough to stand tall in Texas?

South Central:
Love Tractor knocked off rising stars RUA to take the South Central’s lone bid to this year’s National Championships. Though new to the Nationals scene, the Boulder squad has taken some talent from former regional stalwarts La Cosa Nostra, including Joe Iannacone and Stephanie Redfern.

Teams new to the National Championships often face unexpected challenges…how will Love Tractor fare as they bring their new talent back to their own home state?

Blackbird and Polar Bears: welcome back.

Thanks to hosting the whole state of California, the Southwest Region frequently boasts some of the strongest mixed teams in the nation. Tough regular seasons this year limited the region to just two bids, however, which meant that strong squads like Mischief, 7 Figures and Dorado (losers of two tough games to go at regionals) were forced to stay home.

Cream rises to the crop, however, and any team that made it out of this rough region is sure to be ready to compete. Blackbird won two championships in back-to-back years, in ‘11 and ‘12, and last year marked the first time since 2009 that the Polar Bears didn’t find themselves in the finals.

Going into the National Championships, both teams from this region seem poised for success.

Unsurprisingly, Mixtape – finalists from last year – and BirdFruit claimed the two bids from the Northwest to this year’s National Championships, leaving old-time standbys the Mental Toss Flycoons on the outside looking in.

BirdFruit looks to be another team in the Mixtape mold: young Seattle talent hoping to sneak in under the radar and make some noise. Mixtape, for their part, is likely to be as dangerous as they were last year.

North Central:
National powerhouses Drag’n Thrust and CLX earned bids to the National Championships, as everyone expected…but does newcomer NOISE really belong? That’s the question they’ll have to answer on the fields in Frisco, and they’ll certainly have the chance! Without further ado, let’s head on to the seedings:

Pool A: Drag’n Thrust (NC1), Mixtape (NW1), NOISE (NC3), 7Express (NE4)

This is a top-heavy pool, as A pools in the snake format tend to be. There’s more than likely only one really big game to watch here: the rematch of the 2014 finals!

Mixtape and Drag’n Thrust rematched once this year already: in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Championship, which Mixtape won in dramatic fashion in overtime this July 4th. Surely, this will be the game that all the fans go to watch at the end of the day on Thursday, and whoever wins this game will almost certainly go into bracket play with the easiest path to the finals and momentum at their backs.

As for the rest of the bracket, 7Express captain Jesse Moskowitz noted, "We go out there and just try to have a good time and play for each other. It's worked so far, I guess, and it's made for a really, really fun season." They’ll hope to use those good vibes to carry them over newcomers NOISE and try to break seed… but then, NOISE is known for having high spirit and unity as well.

Pool B: CLX (NC2), Bucket (SE1), Metro North (NE3), Ambiguous Grey (MA1)

As with Pool A, Pool B boasts a lot of talent at the top, and the winner of the CLX v. Bucket match up at the end of day one will likely find themselves very well positioned to make a run deep into the elimination brackets. Both teams boast deep wells of talent *and* experience at the National Championships, which should serve them well.

In the bottom half, Metro North bears a new name but old faces; the core has been playing together since the days of past powerhouses Teddy Bears and District 5. "The core of players has spent so much time playing with one another and stepping up to the plate to re-cleat year after year," they noted, and that kind of familiarity with teammates does always seem to make a difference come October. Ambiguous Grey, for their part, has been kicking around for years as well. Look for them to try to make some noise, even from the bottom of their pool.

Pool C: Wild Card (NE1), Polar Bears (SW2), Love Tractor (NC1), BirdFruit (NW2)

Wild Card and the Polar Bears are both perennial contenders, while Love Tractor and BirdFruit are both new to the tournament. That’s going to make this pool something of an uphill climb for the teams on the bottom half.

That said, everyone has to be new sometime, and the Polar Bears won it all their first time around. True, Wild Card boasts back-to-back semis appearances, and the Polar Bears made four finals in a row, a streak that was only stopped last season. Perhaps one of the new boots in Pool C has what it takes to advance?

Pool D: Slow White (NE2), Blackbird (SW1), AMP (MA2), UPA (GL1)

Ahh, Pool D. The Pool of Death. Thanks to the snake style of pool formatting, Pool D always hosts the four, five and nine seeds, meaning the chance for a shakeup at the top is high. Plus, the 16 seed this year, while a new team, is hardly new at all – it is comprised entirely of players who’ve known one another for years.

As long-time Slow White star (and former captain) Mike Miller noted, "Slow White returns 23 of 27 from last year’s regional championship roster, a big number in mixed." That may give Slow White a psychological edge. Additionally, Slow White as a team is in the midst of an 11-year streak of qualifying for the National Championships, tied for the longest ever in the mixed division…with AMP.

*Every* game in this pool will be one to watch.

Congratulations to all the qualifying teams, and good luck in Frisco!


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