Predictions: The 2012 USA Ultimate Club Women's Championships

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Predictions: The 2012 USA Ultimate Club Women's Championships
Photo by Mark Berndt. Photo source: UCLA magazine, 2007

With the 2012 USA Ultimate Club Women’s Championships just a week away, commentary and speculation about who will come home with the title have grown more pronounced. Yesterday's article predicted finishes in the open draw. Now that the women's seedings have been released, it’s time to take a look at the tournament pools and offer predictions and commentary before games kick off on Thursday, October 25 in Sarasota, FL. 

 

Pool A

No. 1 Fury (San Francisco, CA)

No. 8 Brute Squad (Cambridge, MA)

No. 9 Heist (Madison, WA)

No. 16 Hot Metal (Pittsburgh, PA)

I’m going to go ahead and say it right now: Heist is underseeded.

Despite winning not only their region but every game they’ve played this year, Heist enter this year’s Club Championships seeded ninth.

The argument against seeding them higher is that they lack games against many other quality teams.

But they’ve destroyed every other team they’ve faced. Shouldn’t that count for something? Shouldn’t that say something?

Heist's Bosscher makes a big bid at 2012 Worlds. Photo by Henrik Meng.

When I went to college, it was still rare for teams to fly to tournaments. Everyone drove everywhere, and thus, almost every game any team played was against a team hailing from its own region or an adjacent one.

Admittedly, this made seeding tricky—remember when NC State was the No. 1 seed at the 2003 Open College Nationals? But at least back then, no one made the mistake of underestimating undefeated teams for lack of big games.

Robyn Fennig is one of the best pure throwers in the women’s game. Recent additions Georgia Bosscher and Becky LeDonne have resumes that prove they could walk onto any team and make it instantly better.

Heist is tough.

Admittedly, Fury won’t care.

Probably.

Undefeated themselves this year, they’re favorites to continue their run in Sarasota and win their seventh straight Club Championships.

But Heist is no joke, and they’re well poised to turn some heads in the weekend ahead.

Predicted finish, in order: Fury, Heist, Brute Squad, Hot Metal

 

Highlights from Molly Brown playing against Riot earlier this year.

Pool B

No. 2 Riot (Seattle, WA)

No. 7 Ozone (Atlanta, GA)

No. 10 Molly Brown (Boulder, CO)

No. 15 Underground (Seattle, WA)

Just as Fury will roll their pool, Riot will roll theirs as well. Underground will present no problem for their big sisters.

Ozone vs. Molly Brown will be an interesting matchup. Ozone’s star may be fading in the South, giving the up-and-down Molly Brown a real chance to play their way into the power pools in this game.

However, the Boulder women have had trouble getting big wins when it really counts, despite their talent; though they will make it close, Ozone should be just too much for them.

Predicted finish, in order: Riot, Ozone, Molly Brown, Underground

 

Pool C

No. 3 Scandal (Washington, D.C.)

Scandal's Jenny Fey makes a big grab. Photo by Brandon Wu.

No. 6 Capitals (Ottawa, CAN)

No. 11 Nemesis (Chicago, IL)

No. 14 Schwa (Portland, OR)

Washington D.C.’s Scandal are a team on the rise.

It wasn’t so long ago that the previous incarnation of D.C.’s women’s team, Bnogo, was relegated to the lower ranks of the Championships tournament. Somehow, Scandal studs like Octavia “Opi” Payne have transformed that city on a hill into a national powerhouse.

The only team in Pool C likely to give Scandal any trouble is the Capitals.

Like Heist, they are an undefeated team with few results.

Unlike Heist, they have some history: Their semifinal finishes in 2009 and 2011 and their second-place finish in 2010 indicate that this team packs a punch.

Scandal are strong, but multiple losses to a competent but not overpowering Ozone squad prove that they are not invincible.

If Scandal overlook this Ottawa team, the Capitals could sneak by with a win and top seed coming out of the pool.

Nemesis are a bit of a mystery. With recent gold medal winner Lori Eich running the center of the field and a roster full of athletic thoroughbreds like Margalit Gould, Katie Dolara and Emilia Garcia—any of whom could make most men’s teams—Nemesis should have finished the regular season with a better record.

Showdown's Cara Crouch throws around Nemesis' Lori Eich at the 2010 Club Championships. Photo by Bjorn Schey.

They’ve been up and down all year, however. Faced with little time left to gel and a tough Day 1 pool, Nemesis may find themselves having trouble breaking seed at this tournament.

Predicted finish, in order: Capitals, Scandal, Nemesis, Schwa

 

Pool D

No. 4 Traffic (Vancouver, CAN)

No. 5 Phoenix (Raleigh, NC)

No. 12 Showdown (Austin, TX)

No. 13 Nightlock (San Francisco, CA)

The Traffic-Phoenix matchup will be great to see, partly because the two teams are so different.

Traffic are from the Northwest, and they’ll be traveling farther than any other team to reach this tournament.

Phoenix are from the Southeast; they could almost drive to Sarasota if they wanted to.

Vancouver women’s ultimate lacks any real history of performing well at Club Championships. The North Carolina women have been quarterfinal finishers year after year.

Fury took home the 2011 Pan-American Cup with ease.

Has Lindsey Hack beaten her Southern women’s squad into the form they need to win their pool?

Maybe.

But it’s just as likely that, after years matching up against the likes of Fury and Riot, Traffic have built up the athleticism, thick skin and mental toughness they need to compete. More likely than not, they’ll pull past Phoenix in a squeaker. After all, though Traffic have had an up-and-down season, they’re one of only two teams this year to have defeated Riot—and they’ve done that twice.

As for the bottom of this pool, Nightlock have the youthful energy that can sometimes carry a team far into a tournament like this. But Showdown, for all their troubles this season, have Cara Crouch.

Why would anybody bet against a player like that?

Predicted finish, in order: Traffic, Phoenix, Showdown, Nightlock

 

Power Pools

Pool E: Fury, Heist, Capitals, Scandal.

This will be a fun pool to watch, as three of these teams come into the tournament undefeated, and two—Heist and Capitals—have been largely untested.

Riot's Rohre Titcomb lays out against Fury's Manisha Slap" Darayani. Photo by Del Clark.

Now, they’ll all have the chance to attack one another.

Fury should continue their dominant run and take this pool handily, but any permutation of finishes for the three other teams is a reasonable outcome.

If Scandal come in with a win but lose to Heist, and if Capitals hold seed over the girls from Madison, there will be a three-way tie for second place.

Regardless of which team slips to fourth, any of these teams should be able to play their way into the quarterfinals.

Predicted finish, in order: Fury, Capitals, Scandal, Heist

 

Pool F: Riot, Ozone, Traffic, Phoenix

It’s never a good idea to write off a Championships game before it happens, but this power pool should feature two Regionals rematches.

Riot just finished ahead of Traffic in the Northwest not weeks ago, and Phoenix ended Ozone’s string of Southeast Regionals wins this fall, thanks to the geographic redraw. 

If this is the way the pool lines, Phoenix will beat Ozone again, and Traffic will still lose to Riot.

The upset potential is simply higher in the other power pool.

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Predicted finish, in order: Riot, Traffic, Phoenix, Ozone

 

Play-In Pools

Pool G: Brute Squad, Hot Metal, Nemesis, Schwa

Brute Squad will probably be peeved about falling below seed on Thursday. Come Friday, they’ll be out for blood.

Nemesis will be hot on their heels, but Brute Squad have already proven capable of defeating the ladies from Chicago. Even though Nemesis may still finish this tournament above seed it ninth or 10th place, they’ll probably miss their chance to play their way into the quarterfinals.

That quarterfinal between Brute Squad and Ozone should tilt Brute Squad’s way. Nemesis, too has a winning record over Ozone this year, so if even if Chicago can knock off the Boston, Ozone won’t be easily out of the weeds.

 

Pool H: Molly Brown, Underground, Showdown, Nightlock

Molly Brown should run away with this pool. Austin’s Showdown just fell to Molly Brown at Regionals in September. Even though Showdown have the Texas toughness, Molly Brown have their number.

Riot's Rohre Titcomb with a big grab in the end zone.

Unlike the other play-in pool, however, Molly Brown should lose their play-in game. Despite Anna Schott’s solid handling skills, Molly Brown just don’t seem to have the horses this year to run with truly top-flight teams like the Capitals, Heist or Scandal.

 

Quarterfinals

Riot over Heist

Scandal over Traffic

Capitals over Phoenix

Fury over Brute Squad

Given Traffic’s freshness to the Club Championships, I think they’re at a disadvantage come Saturday. Scandal match up well against them, too, and despite predicted early-round falters from Scandal, they should be able to regroup and qualify for a semifinal spot.

Heist, too, are a new team. They have a lot of top-flight experience among their members, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to beat a longstanding squad like Capitals, Fury or Riot. If they get a lucky draw, they could turn heads, but their inexperience playing with one another will likely hurt them in the end.

It’s tempting to write off the Capitals due to their relatively short regular season. But, given the success they’ve had year in and year out at this tournament, it’s tough to do so.

Even if they were to be matched up against surging Traffic, it would be difficult not to pick the eastern Canadians to defeat their western sisters.

 

Semifinals

Riot over Capitals

Fury over Scandal

It’s the Club Championships, which means it’s always Fury and Riot.

The last time any other team won the Women’s Championships was a decade ago at the end of Lady Godiva’s run.

The last time any other team even made the finals came when Fury and Riot had to play each other in the semifinals.

 

Finals

Fury over Riot

Riot have plenty of good players, but Fury look just too good.

Even with the loss of former Callahan winner Georgia Bosscher, Fury’s deep bench, stocked with all stars, like Manisha “Slap” Darayani, Alex Snyder, Kaela Jorgenson and Carolyn Finney, will likely prove too much for other teams to handle.

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