I was recruited by Michelle Ng and Without Limits to write about my experiences in my final season of College Ultimate. 2011 has many possibilities...let's see how they pan out. E-mail me (robyn-fennig@uiowa.edu)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Iowa Indoor Scrimmage: North Central Top-5 Division I Preview

So the Indoor Turf Practice Facility, aka "The Bubble," played host to a little round-robin style tourney January 22-23. With arguably the top five teams in the North Central Region there, it was an early season opportunity to get some extra practice in before major College Season participation. Here's a little breakdown of the teams...according to Robyn (hey, that's me!) Really, there is no rhyme or reason to the way I wrote. Just whatever team was there I thought of, in no particular order.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, SOL (Eau Claire, WI)

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SOL Blog
My undergraduate alma mater. *Sigh* It sure was weird finally playing against them. The team is rebuilding. Coming back from the huge personnel and leadership losses from the 2009-2010 College Season, SOL is fighting the good fight. Offensively, SOL is anchored by the handling core of captain Brit Gartner (#11), captain Iansa Zaldarriaga (#5), and transfer from Loyola-Chicago Meredith Bray. These three clearly keep the offense going; however, running an offense with three experienced handlers can be difficult. Melissa "George" Jordan (#23) got some experience with Drag'n Thrust. Cutters like Estelle Taquet (#24), Tracie Anderson (#45), and captain Heather Wroten (#41) are much improved, but they need to assert themselves more to really have the same offensive impact they had in previous seasons, especially with the shift to a side-stack offense. Right now, the cutters are marked by inexperience, and seem like they need to know where to go for continues as they explore the side-stack and isos offensively. Jess Haller (#1) and Melissa "Brownie" Brown (#7), in my opinion are the two most underrated, and under utilized players in the SOL roster. Both are splitting time between handling and cutting. It would be great to see them busting deep more...utilizing height, air skills, and their uncanny ability to read the disc. Granted, it was SOL's first time playing since before winter break, I am interested to see what is coming from this young, budding team. Coach Pat Niles has some work to do fixing his chest hair...Ryan Cabrara isn't a good look for him. However bad his chest hair may be, he brings much needed experience to the young team. As he continues to be integrated into the program, he can use some of his world championship (with CLX 2010) knowledge and help get rookies up to speed. I'd like to see him implement the same systems he did for SOL in the past...I would say we were successful with it.

Iowa State University, Women Scorned (Ames, IA)
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Women Scorned Blog
Jasmine "Jazz" Draper (#12; 2010 Callahan Top-10) returns for her controversial fifth year of eligibility. That's a huge story in and of itself. I don't think her field presence can be over-emphasized. The point of this post is not to go on and on about how good she is. I mean, we all get that. But she brings a ton of experience and some leadership to the team. Personally, I like seeing that Magon Liu (#08) and Jessie Erickson (#14) have finally come into their own and have asserted their field presence. Magon's backhand huck is practically unstoppable. Even though she's short, her high-release backhand huck is phenomenal. She's quick. Stopping her strike cuts and keeping her momentum to a minimum is key to getting other handlers to step up. Lindsay Gapstur's (#02) much improved forehand brings added versatility to a solid handler core, combined with Sarah Pesch's (#97) sick lefty break throws. They got some pretty good rookies, like high school stud Cami Nelson. In my opinion, you're going to concentrate on the people I've mentioned. But guess what, the real underdogs here are Becca Miller (#47) and Caitlin "Bosco" (#03). Watch these two. They are fast, have ridiculous hands, and are the pinnacle of the horizontal/split-stack offense. Becca, Jessie, and Bosco tend to get the big gains under, utilizing their speed and read on the disc, looking for continues (not necessarily the big throws). The big throws are left to Liu, Jazz, and Gapstur, who like to put the big ones in the endzone.

Carleton College, Syzygy (Northfield, MN)
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Syzygy Site
Their roster is stacked. That's all there is to it. Anna Snyder (#23) and her little sister, Julia, have some ridiculous throws. Elise Rasmussen (#25) is sick. Personally, my favorite player on their team is soccer player, Marlena  "Marley" Hartman-Filson. Though they have taller players (i.e. Flannery McArdle), Marley is the most athletic tall player in the region, if not in the country. Dead serious. Put her up there with former Bella Donna Sandy Jorgenson. But what makes Marley so freaking good: she has phenomenal disc skills to match her athleticism and ability to read the disc as a defender. Oh yeah, she can run you into the ground. I was disappointed that Merritt Swain (#17) wasn't playing. She had ankle surgery in fall, which is sad. I hope she recovers soon and is back on the field. She's another one of those girls I love playing against. This team is stacked from top to bottom with more experience than any other team I know (most of these ladies have been playing forever...well, they have lots of youth and junior worlds experience to boot). They look deep a lot offensively, using their height for isos underneath. They don't do anything snazzy. They play good hard D, and smart O using their height and athleticism.

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bella Donna (Madison, WI)
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Bella Donna Blog
I'll be honest. I thought the Bellas would be hurting more than they were. The roster I saw in fall is significantly different than the one they brought last weekend. I was wondering: where did all the vets go? But rest assured, like half of the semi-finalist team from last season is back again. Emelie McKain (#17, FOTY '08, All-Region Selection), Al Ellis (#16, Central FOTY '10) and Rebecca "Reebs" Enders (#12) anchor the handlers. Without the cutters from last season, it's giving long-time players like Becca Ludford and Rachael Westgate (#26, Central FOTY '09) the chance to shine. And shine they will. Both have great hands, great throws, and make great decisions. Sarah Scott (#31). Get used to hearing that name. She was a noob on Bella last year. Mikey and I call her "Torpedo Girl." She's so explosive in her layouts, she gets picks up trash like you wouldn't believe. I like her playing style a lot. Coach Courtney Kiesow (Multiple All-Region selection, Callahan Winner '08) brings more experience and knowledge of the program. Defensively, the Bellas are bringing back the poachy zone look that they introduced last spring. Though it gave them some troubles in the semi-finals at nationals last year vs. UC-Santa Barbara, the look proved particularly useful against the more inexperienced teams/players. Offensively, McKain and Reebs are looking for the hucks, while Sara Scott and Becca Ludford look for the cuts.

University of Iowa, Saucy Nancy (Iowa City, IA)
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Saucy Nancy Blog
Where to start with our team. I feel like I talk about us enough. I mean I could do a breakdown of our whole roster, but what fun would that be? I feel like it would ruin this whole blog thing right now. I'll be writing more about us as the season goes. But here's a taste, I guess. Me...well, I like throwing and wearing skirts. No shocker there. Preferably to Chelsea Twohig (#10), she's good...she was super sick this weekend and actually didn't play on Saturday (which saddend me). Katie Johnson (#7), you can read all about her athleticism and stats HERE. Liza Minor (#3), good. Jen Nowak (#49), good, wears neon, and doesn't like basketball jerseys. Audrey Erickson (#6), underrated and fast. Good hands. Kristen "Apple" Appelson (#1), fast. Bekah Hickernell (#13)=chill, jack of all trades. Head Coach Mikey Lun (Multiple All-Region selection, CLX standout) brings experience and fundamentals to the team. While assistant coaches Steve "Birdman" Hanson and Dan "FBO" "PDA" "DK" Kresowik are able to add even more one-on-one time and expertise to the team. Our team is young, lacking some high level experience that the players on Bella and Syzygy have, but we are eager to learn and thirsty for success. The Saucy O is about taking advantage of mismatches, especially from the pull.  There's not a ton to do against it but play good D. As the season goes on, look for us to be more conservative with the disc, and our young core of handlers to keep improving the chemistry. Though we lack the swing looks now, it's definitely a point of emphasis. Defensively, I would predict us to play lots of man, as we continue to work on the fundamentals, and take advantage of the raw athleticism our players have.

I mean, I'll do a thourough D-III and Conference Previews for D-I closer to tourney time. Much season left to go!

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