With the 2012 USA Ultimate Club Mixed Championships just a week away, commentary and speculation about who will come home with the title have grown more and more pronounced. Now that the seedings have been released and similar conversations have begun investigating the open and women’s brackets, let’s take a look at the tournament pools and offer predictions and commentary before co-ed tournament games begin this Thursday, October 25th in Sarasota.
1. Polar Bears (San Francisco, CA)
8. Overhaul (Detroit, MI)
9. Bucket (Atlanta, GA)
16. Cosa Nostra (Austin, TX)
This pool is the Polar Bears’ the whole way, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll have any trouble winning it.
After a Cinderella championship in 2010 and a tough break in finals last season —they fell, in part, to a travel call on double-game point that was overturned but nonetheless cost the team a Championships win and a trip to Worlds in Japan —the Bears have roared back in 2012 with a vengeance. With outright victories in five of the six tournaments they’ve played and an overall season record of 36-4, the Polar Bears are a team on a mission, and no one in this pool will be able to stop them.
Cosa Nostra is a just-glad-to-be-here team, the latest iteration in a string Austin coed squads that, while featuring many strong individual players, have failed to mirror the success of that city’s open and women’s teams. That leaves Bucket and Overhaul. Overhaul is a newer but talented squad that hasn’t faced much competition this year; Bucket is a phoenix risen from the ashes of a near-collapse of the team after they coughed up the disc in a double-game point loss to the Mental Toss Flycoons in the 2009 Championships quarterfinal game.
Overhaul has the drive, but Bucket has the experience.
Predicted finish: Polar Bears, Bucket, Overhaul, Cosa Nostra
2. The Ghosts (Boston, MA)
7. Odyssée (Montreal, CAN)
10. 7 Figures (Los Angeles, CA)
15. AMP (Philadelphia, PA)
One of the two tougher opening pools at this tournament, Pool B presents a challenge both to play and to predict. It wouldn’t be a surprise if nobody finishes 3-0 or 0-3 in this pool—every team here brings upset potential to the table.
First, there are the Ghosts. Last year’s surprise team has caused quite a stir this year, rolling easily through a normally tough northeastern Regionals, even against quality competition. There’s no question that The Ghosts are for real. The Ghosts even went undefeated in four out of the five tournaments they played this year. However, they struggled at the Chesapeake Invite, the last strong multi-regional tournament the team attended. How will they handle the field at Sarasota?
Then there’s 7 Figures, an underseeded team that finished in ninth at last year’s Club Championships despite only losing to two teams: the ones that finished first and second. Despite their victory over even the powerful Ghosts, the tournament format hurt 7 Figures last year, and while many have argued that this year’s squad is somewhat weaker than its previous iteration, they should still finish higher than the 2011 team.
Next up comes AMP. AMP has qualified for the Club Championships every year since 2005, and even though the squad always seems from the outside to be on the brink of destruction, these Philadelphians consistently bounce back and over perform, having reached quarterfinals or better five times in their last seven Club Championships appearances. AMP is a team stronger than the sum of its parts: even when faced with the departure of star players like Sean Murray, Jeff Snader, and Eugene Yum, AMP has continued to thrive. Captain Patrick “Butter” Sherlock is a sideline presence, instilling a team-first, “We Say So” ethos that pushes the team to success, even when the chips are down. AMP will surely break seed at this Championships —he only question is by how much.
And that leaves Odyssée. The Canucks can play, no doubt about it —midseason victories over such juggernauts as #1 seed Polar Bears, #4 seed Drag n’ Thrust, and #5 seed Slow White prove as much. But Odyssée has also lost badly to Amp, and given the way Odyssée has struggled in tournaments that feature a sustained string of difficult games, this pool may be just too much for them.
Predicted finish: The Ghosts, 7 Figures, AMP, Odyssée
3.CLX (Ames, IA)
6.Mischief (San Francisco, CA)
11.Blackbird (San Francisco, CA)
14.Wild Card (Lexington, MA)
Despite their unexpected loss at sectionals, perennial contenders CLX have reloaded and are ready for bear. Mischief, for its part, has proved its worth by taking second in a tough northwest region, and while Blackbird appears to be a shell of its former self, having lost many contributors from the 2011 squad that won the Mixed Championships, they limped into last season’s tournament as well, and look how that turned out. Still, it’s hard to picture them suddenly cultivating the ability to bump off Mischief, a team that’s finished above them in every tournament they’ve played this season.
Wild Card, meanwhile, is just overmatched. This pool should play out according to seed.
Predicted finish: CLX, Mischief, Blackbird, Wildcard
4 .Drag'n Thrust (Minneapolis, MN)
5. Slow White (Boston, MA)
12. American BBQ (San Francisco, CA)
13. Flycoons (Missoula, MT)
Here it is: the Pool of Death. Any of the four teams in Pool D could legitimately make the quarterfinals or better, making Pool D a dangerous crapshoot for every team involved.
Drag’n Thrust comes from a line of dangerous Minnesota coed teams —Drag’n Thrust’s own 2010 semifinals run was predicated by a similar string of victories by Alpha Cobra Squadron in 2008. Drag’n Thrust also reeled off an impressive string of 22 straight tournament victories this summer —a string that was bookended on either side by losses to the #3 seed Chad Larson Experience.
Slow White, a team with two Club Championships second-place finishes and a Worlds bronze medal, is always dangerous. With a 1-2 record against Drag’n Thrust this season (and the more recent victory), they know they’ll have a shot to win. Field leader Mike Miller has long been a steadying presence on this team, and he knows how to get the job done.
American BBQ, seeded twelfth, is an underseeded team, forced down by an uneven season and seeding guidelines. One of the few teams to have beaten #1 seed Polar Bears all year, American BBQ is out-and-out strong. At Southwestern Regionals, field leader Mike “Prof” McGuirk proved himself capable of single-handedly destroying any zone defense, and with teams often relying on the gusty Sarasota climate as the tournament draws on, American BBQ will surely break seed.
Last comes the Flycoons. Club Championships winners in 2008, the Flycoons have had a slow season that only includes one victory over any of the other of this season’s Club Championships attendees. They have experience on their side and could certainly sneak a win or two here or there. However, it’s more likely they’ll peak later in the tournament.
Predicted finish: Drag’n Thrust, Slow White, American BBQ, Flycoons
Pool E: Polar Bears, Bucket, CLX, Mischief
This pool will be interesting. Bucket has beaten the Ghosts this year, but they otherwise seem overmatched. CLX beat Polar Bears the one time the two teams played each other —but that was a double-game point victory back in July, and it was the Polar Bears’ first game of the season. As for Mischief, they’re grinders —they don’t make many mistakes, and though they may not be the single most athletic team at the tournament, they punish weaknesses well.
This chips could fall in many different ways in this pool. My guess is the Polar Bears will come in a little arrogant and will stumble in their way toward Saturday play.
Predicted finish: CLX, Polar Bears, Mischief, Bucket.
Pool F: The Ghosts, 7 Figures, Drag’n Thrust, Slow White
Is Drag n’ Thrust for real? This is when the nation will find out.
It’s conceivable that the Minnesota squad could lose to both The Ghosts and 7 Figures, which might set up a three-way tie for second place that leaves Drag'n Thrust scrambling. In fact, with this pool, it looks likely.
Predicted finish: The Ghosts, Slow White, 7 Figures, Drag’n Thrust
Pool G: Overhaul, Cosa Nostra, Blackbird, Wildcard
By this point, defending champions Blackbird should be pissed, and they should win this consolation pool with ease. Unfortunately, that will run them smack into an equally pissed Drag’n Thrust, who will be just as surprised and angry at having to play a play-in game to reach the Saturday brackets —and given the nagging injuries attacking many of Blackbird’s star contributors, the young, athletic Minnesotans should be able to squeak by.
Pool H: AMP, Oddyssée, American BBQ, Flycoons
This pool is American BBQ’s to lose. Yes, Oddyssée has the highest seed, and yes, AMP has history on their side, and Flycoons have experience. But American BBQ is just a darn tough squad, and they’ve got the legs to gut out tough games in long tournaments —witness their convincing string of late, tight victories in Northern California Sectionals and Southwest Regionals last month.
American BBQ should win this pool, and they should be able to bump off Bucket to play their way back into the elimination brackets.
CLX over Drag’n Thrust
Polar Bears over 7 Figures
Slow White over Mischief
The Ghosts over American BBQ
If the pools shake out this way, the first quarterfinal game will be a rematch of the North Central Regionals final, a game CLX took 15-12. Slow White v. Mischief will be a rematch of the 2006 Club Championships final —lbut this year, with these teams, Slow White should win.
Polar Bears have played and beaten 7 Figures easily this year, and they should do so again. As for the Ghosts can and should beat surging American BBQ. McGuirk is good, but a Ghosts lineup that features Ryan Todd, Jeff Graham, Beth Nakamura and Megan Insco —to say nothing of the host of other strong athletes from the glory days of long-departed open teams Twisted Metal and Pike —is too much to bet against.
CLX over Slow White
Polar Bears over The Ghosts
Slow White vs. the Chad Larson Experience was one of the toughest games at this summer’s US Open. CLX lost that match
on double-game point by one point, but at Club Championships, they’ll look to avenge that loss —and they are likely to do just that.
As for the east coast-west coast battle between Polar Bears and the Ghosts, these two teams played a tight, meaningful game in pool play in the 2011 Club Championships, a game which the Ghosts won. Polar Bears are a bit hungrier this year, though, and this time, they should win.
Polar Bears over CLX
In the end, it comes down to a host of factors, most importantly: athleticism, conditioning, experience and the ability to win. In all of these spheres, Polar Bears seems to hold a slight edge over CLX. Come Sunday afternoon, the Polar Bears should be taking home gold.