With the 2012 USA Ultimate Club Open 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, it’s time to take a look at the tournament pools and offer predictions and commentary before games kick off Thursday, October 25th in Sarasota.
Ironside has been nigh-unbeatable all-season, and though Boston hasn’t won an open championship since the days of DoG in the 90’s, the core of this Ironside squad has
put together a streak of four straight semifinals appearances appeared in three of the last four finals. No one in this pool should be any match for them.
Rhino lost a nail-biter to Furious George in the 2-3 game of Northwest Regionals, but Rhino had just come off a double-game point near-upset over a powerful Sockeye squad, and they were physically and emotionally depleted. It’s unlikely they’ll falter again.
Boost Mobile is a newer team with little national-level pedigree. They’ve got heart, as evidenced by the way they kept it close in their Regionals final matchup against defending champs Revolver, but they’re simply overmatched.
Predicted finish: Ironside, Rhino, Furious George, Boost Mobile
10.Ring of Fire
Revolver continues to roll through ultimate Frisbee world, and with big wins at the 2010 and 2011 Club Championships as well as world title wins in 2010 and 2012, no one in their pool should present much trouble.
Machine seems to be a team on the rise, but they often seem to promise more than they deliver. For years, Machine has had trouble breaking out of the 9-12 bracket, and this doesn’t seem to be their year. Ring of Fire has been here before, and even with tough losses in personnel like the departure of former captain Jared Inselmann to Chain Lightning, Ring has regrouped and should take 2nd place in this pool, perhaps even on point differential on a three-way tie. Why should point diff matter? Because Madison Club, despite their low seed, is no joke. Look for them to sneak a win over either Machine or Ring of Fire in Sarasota, even if it doesn’t ultimately impact their fortunes.
Predicted finish: Revolver, Ring of Fire, Machine, Madison Club
This pool should present no surprises. Sockeye is just tougher than everyone else in this pool, and with one of their best squads in years, they have a real chance to take the title outright. Chain Lightning will be their only competition, but can even Chain’s notoriously tough D stop Sockeye’s fast-moving offense, led by handler Danny Karlinsky? Defensive standout Mark Poole will be needed downfield to cover Mike Caldwell, and few other players even seem capable of bottling Karlinsky’s quickness.
Though they should lose to Sockeye, Chain will roll the rest of their pool. Low-seeded GOAT has the same seeding issue as Rhino: they lost a tight one in their Regionals final matchup, leading to an unlikely loss in their 2-3 game and an artificially lower seed. Look for GOAT to take this frustration out on an overmatched Sub-Zero squad.
Predicted finish: Sockeye, Chain Lighting, GOAT, Sub-Zero
This is a pool of death if there ever was one. Truck Stop, the third seed, is capable of igniting and winning this pool outright. They’re also capable of imploding and getting knocked off by a surging PoNY squad returning to form, earning a spot in the cellar.
What makes this pool doubly tough to call is that both Doublewide and Johnny Bravo have been playing among the best ultimate in the nation this season. The Doublewide-Sockeye game at this year’s Emerald City Classic was arguably the greatest matchup of any tournament contest all year, and Bravo is undefeated this season against every other competitor at Club Championships save Doublewide and Sockeye. In fact, Johnny Bravo even boasts the good end of a 2-1 record against Doublewide this season – but Doublewide’s win was at the Regionals championship.
In the end, this pool will fall according to seed, but there’s sure to be a number of heart-attack moments along the way. And if any pool shakes out grandly differently from expected, it will be this one. The Doublewide-Johnny Bravo game will be the best match of Thursday’s play.
Predicted finish: Doublewide, Johnny Bravo, Truck Stop, PoNY
Pool E: Ironside, Sockeye, Chain Lightning and Rhino? Ouch. That reads like a roster of teams to send to the next World Club Championships.
The Ironside-Sockeye and Ironside-Chain games will be great to watch. Ironside’s patient offense pairs up excitingly against Sockeye’s rapid motion and Chain Lightning’s deep game – any one of these games could be as intense as the eventual tournament finals. And in fact, Chain Lightning vs. Ironside was the final in 2009 and the semi-final in 2011.
Pool F: Revolver, Ring of Fire, Doublewide, Johnny Bravo. This pool is more like an Oreo cookie: one team is clearly the top, one is clearly the bottom, and the other two are mushed together like sweet cream filling.
Revolver lucked out with their seeding at this tournament: they will coast through both Thursday and Friday play—at least as much as any team can hope to coast against powerhouses like Johnny Bravo and Doublewide. As for Ring, the just-happy-to-be-there boys will have a tough run of this pool and will be forced to fight for their tournament lives in a play-in game come the end of the day. Still, they’ll play with gusto and a deep fighting spirit—this is why everybody loves Ring.
In Pool G, the two Canadian teams, GOAT and Furious, will face off for the right to play their way to quarters against Ring of Fire. Whichever team wins will succeed in knocking the Carolina boys down and clawing their way back to the winner’s bracket, where they’ll face either Ironside or Sockeye on Saturday morning.
In Pool H, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Truck Stop or Machine coming out on top – the winner will be stuck trying to defeat an enraged bottom-finisher among Ironside, Sockeye, Chain Lightning, and Rhino, and that’s just too tall an order.
Making predictions about late tournament matchups is a tricky proposition. Like filling out an NCAA Final Four bracket, it’s impossible to really know who’ll even be playing the games. That said, the predicted matchups and victors are as follows:
Ironside over Furious George
Sockeye over Johnny Bravo, in a replay of the 2007 finals matchup.
Doublewide over Chain Lightning
Revolver over Rhino
If Johnny Bravo manages to beat Doublewide and takes second in their power pool, giving them the matchup against Chain Lightning instead of Sockeye, I’d give Bravo the edge.
Ironside over Doublewide
Sockeye over Revolver
It’s hard to call the 3-seed beating the 2-seed much of an upset, but after the run Revolver’s been on, this is. Even though Sockeye is indisputably a heck of a team, no one in the northwest has taken it to Revolver in a while. If Sockeye can get this win, it would give them huge amounts of momentum going into the Championships final.
In keeping with still further woulda-couldas, I think Johnny Bravo could beat Ironside. They have the athleticism to do it. But they’ve not had the chance to play each other this season, and unless someone breaks seed, they still won’t.
Sockeye over Ironside
Ironside has consistently been a great contender, but they seem to lack the ability to punch in the last victory Sunday. Certainly, the Daiquiri Deck isn’t to blame, but for the last four years, Ironside’s been losing in the finals. What’s changed?
This will be a rematch of the 2010 WUCC quarterfinal in Prague, in which Andrew Fleming made “the Catch”. Let’s just hope that whoever wins, this game is just as exciting.