Thanks to FOTB Randall Bugg for sending us his thoughts on the weekend. Sorry it took so long to get them posted.
In the fourth year of Hootenanny Showdown, I gravitated away from playing with the Auburn Alumni team as much and watching the guys play and found myself spending more time on the women’s fields this year due to the fact that my youngest daughter is a rookie on the Auburn Ares Team. Although the women had a smaller field than the guys and no split squads, the drama and entertainment was no less dramatic and entertaining. Some random observations…
The day started out with Auburn losing to Kennesaw State, who came into the tourney with a strong roster of tall, talented experienced players. The wind gave Ares difficulties very early on and the lady Owls used this advantage to run away to a 10-2 victory.
Auburn may struggled a bit early on Saturday, but will be a force to be reckoned with come spring. Kristen Fedorenko, Ares top returning player, was sidelined due to a recent shoulder surgery, so as soon as she steps back on the field, the team will get a boost. That being said, there is no lack of returning talent. Andrea Rocchi demonstrated her worth in the very next game against Vanderbilt VUDU with clutch grabs, especially on universe point to keep the team alive. Unfortunately, Ares lost to Vandy 6-5 during the windiest part of the day. The final point, according to VUDU’s Twitter feed, was 37 minutes long. It featured no less than 40 turns and could not be described as fundamentally sound Ultimate.
VUDU would make a habit of winning close games all tournament. After starting the day with a 7-5 win over Tulane and the universe point win against Auburn, they defeated UAB 9-6. Unfortunately, their Saturday ended with a 11-1 loss to the Auburn Alumni team before closing out pool play on Sunday with a 6-5 win over Kennesaw State. Vandy lost a solid senior class last year but has seen a large rookie class join the team this fall, including Caroline Hubbard, a solid handler from Paideia and Emily Layton, a speedy cutter out of Edina, Minnesota. Other key players for VUDU included Charlotte Duran, their senior captain, who was a nightmare for handlers with her marks. She recorded several handblocks throughout the tourney. She and Ashely Yao provided long hucks into the wind as Vandy used a huck and play defense during the windy conditions on Saturday. Two sophomores stepped up their game this year. Sofia Lima was solid as a handler, both offensively and as a handler defender and Lizzie Carsello has developed as a smart and talented cutter after spending the summer playing club with Hairy Otter.
Auburn turned the day around in the third round, defeating Tulane 10-2, who was coming off a shutout loss to the Alumni team. The Muses struggled all tournament long on offense and defense, only recording 5 points in a pool play game twice and only holding an opponent to less than 9 once. Their roster was not huge and they looked to be developing chemistry and skills, but never could quite pull it together enough in a game to record a victory. They would end Saturday losing to Kennesaw State by a score of 11-2 and then start off Sunday with a 9-5 loss to UAB Ember and then losing the 5th place game to Ember by a similar score. They did not have the large roster at Auburn that you have come to expect. I would think the results of the tournament might have been an anomaly and Tulane will make a rebound come spring.
Speaking of Ember, after going winless on Saturday, they rebounded nicely with the pair of wins on Sunday. The second year team has not experienced one of the banes of new programs, which is a lack of players. According to Coach Clair Burns, they consistently have 25 players at practice. They also benefit from the experience of Claire and Lizz Mastrandonas as coaches, a luxury for a burgeoning program. The team’s leader on and off the field has to be second year captain Mary Hulcher. The disc always flows through her. Her height, backhand hucks, and smarts make her a player to watch in the women’s division. The other two captains, Lana Hajazen and Darby Franklin are also keys to Ember’s quick Growth. Darby played with the men’s team before there was an Ember and as a lefty handler provides matchup issues for opponents on offense and defense. Lena, although not as tall as her co-captains, will beat much taller players in the air consistently. Two rookies were also key in the wins on Sunday. Cheyenne Shaughnessy aggressiveness, height and endurance allowed her to make numerous D’s and come out of the tournament as the team MVP. Jordan Stewart is another first year player that has worked hard to get her throws down over the fall. Also, if there is a disc in the air, she is going for it. Ember might not have recorded as many wins as they would have liked, but the results of players stepping up and contributing was encouraging for their coaches.
In Round 4, UAB lost to Auburn by a score of 10-2. Auburn continued their upward trend in this game, using their experience and big roster to wear down the opponent. With rookies and returners almost even in numbers. Auburn showed a vast improvement after struggling with the wind the first two rounds. Returners Keri Atchison and Dani Mangieri were strong contributors all day. Dani’s ability to get open against taller players by using her speed and then her vertical to make the catch is unmatched. Keri is a steady performer who can be counted on to make the tough catch and the right decision once she gets it. Second year handler Maddie Boyd was also a key to the success of the team over the weekend. Her throws have developed after a year of Club with Steel, as well as her confidence. Katie Good, Trish Feeney and Rachel Dawson all recorded significant playing time and contributions during the tournament and will be key in the success of the team going forward. Auburn closed out pool play with a loss to the Alumni team and prepared for a rematch with Kennesaw.
One thing that impressed me about the rookie class for Ares was the improvement in individual skills from the beginning of the semester until now. Players that were not confident in their flicks at the beginning of fall were now preferring them over their backhands. The continued development of these players, who scored at least twice on pure rookie points, will be key in the spring season.
Sunday’s bracket play was chalk, as Auburn Alumni beat Kennesaw and VUDU again bested Ares in a close semifinal game. The Alumni won the tournament against VUDU in the final and Auburn avenged their tournament opening loss to Kennesaw in the third place bracket.
Last thoughts on the weekend…
With K Fed back, Ares should be improved in the future, but VUDU will be strong as well. It will be interesting to see if these two build on their early success. With most teams experiencing significant losses, the picture will be muddled until we can determine what teams like Ole Miss and Alabama bring to the table. Tulane will improve and UAB may be a team to keep an eye on as they continue to grow.