Women’s Hootenanny Review

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.

Until CCC…

 

2016 GC All-Section Results presented by Spin Ultimate

Sorry for the delay, life gets in the way sometimes. Congrats to everyone who won. We may be in contact for some sweet spin swag for first teamers, FOTY, and POTY.

Men

First Team
Ben Lamport (Tulane)
Blake Galloway (Auburn)
Danny On (Vandy)
Eric Sjostrom (Auburn)
Nathan Oaks (Bama)
Ryan Landry (Auburn)
Tom Echols (LSU)

Second Team
Chance Cochran (Tulane)
Ethan Downs (UAB)
Evan Boecking (Auburn)
Evan Walter (Tulane)
Michael Burke (UAB)
Tanner Robinson (MSU)
Travis Vermaelen (LSU)

FOTY
Johnny Sims (LSU)

POTY
Ryan Landry (Auburn)

Women

First Team
Charlotte Doran (Vandy)
Emelia Marshall (LSU)
Hayley Djuric (Bama)
Jin-Mi Matsunaga (Vandy)
Kristine Fedorenko (Auburn)
Marypat Henry (Tulane)
Tara Massouleh (Bama)

Second Team
Alex Jones (Bama)
Brooke Holloway (Ole Miss)
Courtney Foster (Tulane)
Dana Bramlitt (MSU)
Gina Guillory (LSU)
Inah Hong (LSU)
Kellie Ellis (MSU)
Meredith Johnson (Auburn)
**Tie for last spot**

FOTY
Julia Becker (Bama)
Sofia Lima (Vandy)
**Tie for FOTY**

POTY
Charlotte Doran (Vandy)

 

GC Fan Predictions (Results)

Time for fun with charts! A few notes first:

  1. I deleted some obvious troll ballots, or any that were actually impossible. That left about 70 valid submissions.
  2. Ole Miss received more first place votes (4) than 2/3/4/5 votes combined (3). Homers.
  3. I didn’t generate charts for the women because there ended up being 6 good submissions. Everyone is confident that Auburn, Alabama, and Tulane will advance. 4th place was all over the place.

To the charts!

pool a

Overwhelming support for Auburn to win the pool. UAB/MSU is a tossup in everyone’s eyes. Ole Miss/USM hold seed.

pool b

Tulane is the favorite to win the pool over LSU, but not by an overwhelming margin. Alabama and Vandy are expected to battle it out for 3/4.

bid winners

Auburn is the favorite to win the title with 65% of the first place votes. Tulane has at least 20% of the vote for first, second, and third. LSU is all over the place with their most common being 56% of the third place votes. Every team got at least 1 fourth place vote with UAB leading the pack at 39% and MSU behind them with 29%. Fifth place had a fairly large distribution of picks with MSU leading at 35%, and both UAB and Alabama with 22%.

advance

Everyone is pretty positive that Auburn, Tulane, and LSU are all going to advance. After that, things get a bit murky. It’s a bit of a surprise to see the 5 seed MSU have a slight 2% lead over the 4 seed UAB, an it also surprises me ow much of a separation their is between UAB/MSU and Bama/Vandy. Those 4 teams are going to be in a dog fight on Sunday.

Sectionals Week Thoughts

As someone recently pointed out to me, does anyone really care about winning the section anymore? Ever since USAU expanded the number of regions from 8 to 10, split D3/Dev from D1, and created new conferences, sectionals/conferences has been boring. Sure, it was cool that Bama continued their winning streak, and then it was cool that Auburn broke that streak to win their first title since Rob White’s heyday with the Hare Jordans. But did it actually matter?

Making regionals used to mean something significant because it really was the best of the best. The last year of the 8 region setup, 462 men’s teams competed for 128 spots at regionals. The South region alone had 54 teams, meaning 29.7% advanced. Compare that to this year’s SE region- 32 teams fighting for the same 16 spots, so 50% of teams advance. Considering 7 of those teams are fighting for 1 spot, we have 25 teams fighting over 15 spots, or a 60% advancement rate. The top teams no longer have to worry about making regionals anymore and this is a great thing for competition.

Non-elite teams used to have to peak at sectionals just in order to have a chance at advancing. What they did after sectionals was never given much thought because no one was really sure they were going to make it. Since the expansion from 8->10 regions, a team from the GC has at least made a game to go to a game to go every year except one. The last time that happened prior to 2011 was probably LSU sometime around 2000 (didn’t look it up because time), but we have now done it 4 out of 5 years and that streak will likely continue in 2016.

Teams now view regular season events with more importance than sectionals. A coach told me he doesn’t care if his star players win POTY or the section title, he only cares if they dominate games that determine nationals’ bids during the season and Sunday games at regionals. When USAU got rid of size/region strength bids and went to auto/team strength bids only, it became obvious that elite teams should put more energy into the regular season since it could make their postseason paths much easier. Teams quit playing lots of local tournaments and started to figure out how to maximize the return on their game-play.

Gone are the days where Ttown Throwdown was essentially Sectionals Part 1, Mardi Gras Part 2, and Music City Tuneup Part 3. Instead of playing essentially everyone in your section at least once (and sometimes 2-3 times) before the end of the regular season, teams are going to California, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and everywhere in between to find the best path for themselves. That means you may see 2 or 3 teams from your conference in the regular season total.

Sectionals used to matter not only because it was so much harder to qualify for regionals, but because we all played each other so often in the regular season. Teams knew everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and they knew how to exploit them. Games were so intense because you were playing the known enemy, the ones you had shared the field with so often. People cared because you knew you could beat each other, and there were real consequences to losing games. A 3rd backdoor safety net didn’t exist.

The same issues exist with All-Section voting these days. Because teams hardly see each other anymore, they really don’t know who the best players are. A guy like Stephen Rhea at Samford got tons of respect from his fellow players back his era because every team from the section that played them knew how good he was as an individual even if Samford wasn’t that great as a whole. It is almost impossible to separate the skill of the individual from the skill of the team unless you’ve had to mark someone for 30 points across the season.

Of course, if someone other than Auburn/Tulane (and I suppose LSU) wins this year, then it WILL matter. It would not only be a huge upset to see UAB/MSU win their first title or Bama/Vandy reclaim their former glory, but it would also throw a wrench in the regionals seeding. That is what makes sectionals matter in the end.

End rambling thoughts. Predictions to come when weather forecast is clearer. Feel free to use this post as the sectionals hype/trash talk thread.

Men’s SE Bid Picture With 2 Weeks To Go

D1 bid picture

As it stands now, both both #9 Florida and #15 Georgia have bids to nationals for the SE. Florida’s spot is all but secure, and UGA is sitting pretty after a good Eastern’s performance. Based on who has games left where, I just don’t see 3 teams overtaking UGA. Rumor on the street is LSU and Tulane have both decided not to attend the smaller Centex this year in favor of Huck Finn. If that is the case, #3 Minnesota will be there along with 13 teams ranked between 18-41. Considering the average power ranking of the top 15 teams attending is around 1775, gaining a third bid is not out of the question. While a fourth bid could also happen, it is unlikely due to the increased chance of intra-SE games at Huck Finn. It is unclear at this time if FSU will play Centex or any other events before the season ends.

For bids to regionals we currently stand at 4 for Florida, 6 for SAPP, 5 for Gulf Coast, and 1 for SE Dev. The only 2 moving parts left are UGA-B and Vandy. UGA-B is sitting at 12-0 against mostly other B teams, and if you look at their results, only 5 of those 12 games are actually being used to calculate their ranking. They have 7 blowout wins that actually hurt their ranking. The question is this- how far will they fall when teams’ results get dropped at the end of the year? This happens every year with B teams since a bunch of them only play 1 sanctioned tournament. Someone will be elevated because they crushed a bunch of B teams, and then will drop like a rock once teams without 10 games are dropped.

Vandy is the only team that I know of outside the teams at the top that has games left. Vandy’s current ranking is based on only 7 games, so it should be easy for them to rise with a decent performance in their only other tournament. I was told they were playing an event in Kentucky, and since Cardinal Classic is the only one that fits that description, that is the assumption I am going with.

One note before my predictions- UTC is only listed as having played 14 games even though you will find 21 on their team page. They had a player rostered at Ttown that was ineligible (unbeknownst to them), so that entire event was thrown out.

Predictions- 3 bids to nationals, GC gets 6 to regionals, FL gets 4, and SAPP gets 6. Dev gets left out.

D3 bid picture

Currently, SE D3M have 1 bid to nationals with Georgia College sitting at #15 (although the actual cutoff is between 13 and 14 because OV and ME also don’t have teams in the top 16. Union is really the only team within striking distance of a second bid at #23. They have a chance to improve their ranking a ton at D3 Easterns, and considering how wildly D3 Rankings can swing week to week, I have no clue what to expect.

As for bids to regionals, it will probably just end up an even 4/4 split because not enough teams will have 10 games to allocate them all via strength bids. This may be the first year that Georgia College is really challenged for the spot to nationals with Union, UNG, and UAH all looking like solid D3 teams. Should be a fun way to start a real D3 regionals.

Bama Secs Select- A Retrospective

I’ve been thinking about the event as a whole since Saturday and talking with lots of people, and it is time to put pen to paper. First, I want to thank everyone who contributed in making the event a success- the college players who spent their free time to come to Atlanta, the Hustle people for wanting to do this kind of thing, the tech guys for being willing to do a live stream, Spin for getting us some good swag, and countless others that I have forgotten.  To the fans, thank you for coming to the game and being rowdy. Thank you for watching us online and giving us great feedback via twitter. You’ve shown us that there is a market for this kind of event, and we hope to be able to deliver more in the future.

On Commentating
Both Hardman and I were excited to try out commentating for the first time, and we both felt a little nervous going into the game. I went back and watched the game, and the first quarter was a little rough from our end. It is tough to find a balance of giving the viewer enough and too much information. I think we sounded the best in the 2nd/3rd/4th quarters after we had run out of pre-thought out jokes, and just talked about the game when we had something decent to say. It was interesting to see how we developed our commentary handoffs from one to the other over the course of the game- we talked over each other a lot at the beginning, and then seemed more smooth towards the end.

I’ve always been critical of professional commentators on the major sports networks who can’t keep players’ names straight during the games, but I think I have a new appreciation for how tough it is. I will give both us some slack since we were working with a Hustle squad with mismatched uniforms and a BSS squad that had multiple of the same numbers. We were offered some binoculars in the press box before the game started, and I didn’t think we would need them since we knew almost all the guys playing. I was wrong. When everyone has similar builds and wears hats, it is really hard to differentiate from 30 rows up.

Given how everything went, I would definitely like to try my hand at commentary again. There are lots of things I would fix- have better notes ready for the game, have rosters and stat sheets printed out instead of on a laptop, binoculars, limit usage of the adjectives “little” and “nice” when describing throws, and have a monitor so we can see what the stream looks like. We didn’t know the public couldn’t see the time until someone told us in the second quarter.

The Stream
Streaming ultimate is hard even when you have a good internet setup. With all the different pieces of equipment involved, you never know what is going to go wrong. Before the game, we tried to fix the issue of the commentary only coming through one speaker, but we couldn’t based on how the audio was being routed. When the stream went down, our internet connection via ethernet was still working just fine. For some reason, though, we could no longer connect to the youtube server hosting the stream. We suspect it had something to do with the internet being on a school network, and pushing large amounts of data across it for multiple hours. We got everything back up on some public wifi, but the connection was so up and down we have no clue what people were actually seeing at home.

If you are looking to get into the streaming game, OBS is a must (https://obsproject.com/). It allowed us to fairly easily overlay a scoreboard and sponsor graphic. There are other products out there that can do this, but OBS is free!

Next Year
We asked our players for feedback on the event, and the guys that aren’t graduating unanimously said they would come back next year if asked. There was some discussion by the players about how we could expand the event to include other SE teams, but I’m honestly not sure it makes sense. Of the 3 teams in our footprint (Nashville, Jacksonville, ATL), Atlanta is pretty much a perfect storm of factors that led to success-

  1. Large youth scene that will attend a college all star game
  2. Large local ultimate scene
  3. Good stadium setup/location
  4. Short-Mid Range drive for most of the region

I would be interested in seeing how this could possibly work in Nashville or Jacksonville, but I can’t get the thought out of my head that maybe Atlanta just has the best setup for this. If we tried to play a game in each city across multiple weekends, the college players would have to commit a lot more time/energy/money to travel, and potentially miss a college tournament. We hit a sweet spot of schools on spring break, and between the Stanford/Tally and Easterns weekends. There are very few weekends in the spring that all the best players are going to be available. If we had only been able to draw in 50% of the perceived best SE talent and the game wasn’t nearly as competitive or interesting, I think we would have a very different outlook for next year.

I’ve had a few people ask about a women’s version of this event, and we touched on it a bit when we interviewed Hannah during the game. I would love to be able to partner with a group to put together a SE women’s college all star team, but we are going to have to find that partner first. The Hustle were the ones who approached us with the idea, and without them, we probably wouldn’t have tried something like it. We just don’t have the manpower or contacts to run events on this scale without partners.

Leave us a comment and let us know what you thought of the event, and what we should change in the future.

(Video links- first half, second half, highlights)

Moving the Club Season Part 2

USAUltimateLogo435x290

See Part 1 here

First, I want to thank everyone for the great response to Part 1. We had huge readership numbers and lots of comments on here, twitter, and r/ultimate. I’m glad people feel like our thoughts are a good representation of the issues at hand.

The 2 big reasons USA Ultimate has stated as their driving force behind moving the season (and more importantly Nationals) earlier in the year are:

  1. Get ultimate on TV, specifically ESPN.
  2. Open up more large cities to host Club Nationals, specifically more northern ones.

 

I mentioned the issues ESPN is having in terms of viewership in part 1. We have to consider that cable TV, especially sports cable TV, is changing very rapidly. The almighty Disney stock is down (despite the huge uptick Star Wars has brought) because of the financial problems ESPN are having. As many in the industry. I believe in the near future we will begin to see sports sold through season passes on different streaming platforms similar to NBA League Pass or MLS Direct Kick. These may be delivered through a set top box, but the mechanisms for choosing sports is going to change.

ESPN Subscribers

Why then should we expect ESPN to make good on the promise to show ultimate if it isn’t during football season? We already have major events not in football season that aren’t being shown on TV. ESPN could easily show the college finals live on ESPNU instead of airing cut down games a week after, but they don’t. Nexgen and Ultiworld do a way better job filming ultimate with far fewer resources than ESPN, and yet we as an ultimate community still don’t pay for their services. Why should we expect the general public to care enough that ESPN will be willing to put their already dwindling resources into a currently niche sport.

“But guys, esports are a niche sport and ESPN is starting to show them!” Have you seen how huge of a following esports have? Twitch already broadcasts games with hundreds of thousands of spectators, and certain game tournaments have 10+ million people following the finals. The most I can remember ever seeing on a free youtube broadcast was maybe 10k. When people had to pay for a weekend pass for a tournament being streamed by NexGen, their total viewer numbers including VOD were, sorry NGN, awful.

USAU has somewhere around 50k members, and while we like to talk about how fast the sport is growing, we are tiny compared to soccer, basketball, baseball, and football. Even US Lacrosse has 450k members! It’s ok to admit that we are a small, niche, but growing sport.

As for opening up more cities, especially in the northern part of the US, to host nationals, the biggest roadblock to hosting isn’t weather. How many large cities have not only the volunteer structure, but a facility big enough to host 3 16 team divisions with all the correct buffer zones USAU wants at their championship events? I currently live in Atlanta, and while we have a huge local ultimate scene that would likely be willing to help staff a national event, we don’t have anywhere even close to big enough to host.

Let’s say NYC ultimate was able to secure the fields on Randall’s Island in Manhattan (assuming it worked for nationals). What do the temperatures look like for late October compared to the end of August? What would they look like the 4 other major ultimate cities?

nyc boston

seattle portlanddenver

In reality, the only thing keeping USAU from sending nationals to not Sarasota/Frisco is the lack of suitable site or lack of support from the local community. If any of the above cities had put in a viable bid prior to the reup with Frisco, I can guarantee nationals would be headed there. I have asked USAU to release the list of bids they get for TCT/Nationals that don’t get picked, but they said it is against their procedure. I would love to discuss the transparency of this process, but that is a topic for another day.

While I would love to return to the days of a permanent home in Sarasota, I understand that it isn’t the cheapest place in the world to get to for everyone. I believe we should have a 3 city rotation including Sarasota, Frisco, and some west coast location. Let’s try that for 2 cycles and see how it works.

College Challenges

With the club season potentially moving into May, we now have a huge conflict with the college division.

  1. College stars will forgo college seasons to focus on the new March/April club preseason. (We’ve already seen some players do this for pro/club)
  2. College players will have skip tournaments to attend club tryouts.
  3. Elite club teams will be less likely to take college players as they have to set their rosters in May.
  4. There will be more injuries and burnout among talented college players as they now have almost no breaks in the calendar (Jan-May college season, May-Aug club season, Sept-Nov fall college/college mixed season)
  5. Club players are less likely to coach local college teams when their respective playing seasons now overlap.

 

Behind just the logistics of shrinking the season down, the college-club problems created are the biggest reason this shouldn’t happen. Let’s be honest, for the most part, the college game is still pretty ugly to watch. It is advancing in skill and watchability because so many players have access to solid club teams during the summer that they can develop their game at an accelerated rate. Moving the season up only complicates the college-club connection. We are now going to be asking college players to somehow fit a club tryout into their end of semester schedule including exams, college series events, graduation, and moving. What do you think will be the first activity dropped? A tryout in a potentially different city that will eat up a lot of time.

In my opinion, the thing that really drives interest in the college game is how the stars are able to put a team on their back and drag them to glory. How many times have we seen a team come out of nowhere solely because they have 1 superstar player. Now how much more boring would the college division be if a dozen of these guys opted out of their last few years of college eligibility to focus on club ultimate? We will be left with a bunch of above average players duking it out instead of things like this

 

I’ll wrap up part 2 with this- no matter how you look at things, the club season move creates way more problems than it solves. That should be a big red flag to everyone at HQ.

Moving the Club Season Part 1

USAUltimateLogo435x290

Yesterday, USA Ultimate sent out a survey to everyone who participated in the 2015 club season to gauge the player’s opinions on moving the club season up in the year. Below is a summary of the historical ultimate schedule, where we stand this year, and what the proposed move would look like.

season graph

The 2013-2016 era has seen a gradual shift in the post season dates by around a week/year.

moving dates

Having a three week window for sectionals was a little overkill, but the movement to only 1 week has squeezed the season down. We can already see that nationals has moved an entire month, and both sectionals and regionals 3ish weeks. Considering most club teams play a tournament every 3 weeks or so, that means everyone has already lost one tournament from their calendar.

For many in the SE, that meant dropping a fun pre-sectionals event like Shawn Adams. We no longer have the luxury to play a fun event in the middle of our club season because it would mean playing 3 straight weekends (sectionals>SA>regionals). Not only are you risking injury prior to regionals, but most of us just don’t have that kind of free time. We used to be able to use events like SA as a last practice weekend to get everyone back focused for the post season while also reconnecting with the ultimate community, but now the tournament hardly exists solely because of the season movement.

From a logistics perspective, limiting the weekends that sectionals/regionals to 1 instead of the previous 2 is effectively halving the amount of potential hosts. In the past, coordinators could approach host sites with 2 date options and work through the preferred date and field availability. In general, everyone did their best to schedule on the first weekend and left the second as a rain backup. Both 2015 and 2016 have essentially held all of our long Labor Day weekends hostage in case sectionals was rained out the weekend before. All it takes now is a couple of well timed storm systems (Texas on Thurs-MS/AL/GA on Fri-up the coast on Sat) and there would be a massive scramble to get everything done in time. Our weather margin for error is so much smaller than it used to be.

Now, let’s move our focus to the issues that come up with the beginning of the season. While USAU may say that the regular season starts the first weekend in June, in reality very few sanctioned tournaments happen prior to the weekend after Poultry Days (usually around June 20). For example, there were a grand total of 2 sanctioned events prior to June 20th across the entire country. What is causing the delay in starting the regular season?

  1. Most top teams don’t finish up their tryouts until after college nationals, and want to practice before playing a tournament.
  2. Mid level teams have to wait to see who is cut from the upper level teams to finalize their rosters, and then want to practice before playing a tournament.
  3. Lots of college kids move in May, so it just takes a bit to get everyone settled.
  4. Poultry Days is a staple among the crowd that tends to be team/event organizers in this part of the country, and they schedule around it.

USAU included questions in their survey about “how would your team be able to move up it’s processes.” Unless the top teams commit to starting earlier, no one else will. How can a select flight team set their roster on May 1st when they know they have 8 guys going to a couple of elite tryouts? The survey mentions pro/elite teams setting their rosters in early May, but how are they supposed to look at guys who are moving post-college season? Most of the teams in the select flight are made up of 20-25 year olds, and I know my team is in a state of flux until right before the season as people graduate, find new jobs, and move.

This leads us down another path, if the club season ends up getting shifted into May, what changes are in store for the college division? This year, we have regionals scheduled for May 1 or May 8, and nationals May 27-30. So much overlap is going to make club teams just wait for their college guys to be available before they do anything meaningful. Would USAU try to move the college season up? It’s basically impossible.

  1. College Nationals on Memorial Day makes sense as it is guaranteed to avoid almost everyone’s graduation. Schools with early graduation already run into this problem at regionals, but at least they can make part of the tournament since things are closer. Can you imagine a team making college nationals and then losing all of their stars due to it being the second weekend in May?
  2. Half of the country has snow/weather issues until mid March (or later).

I honestly don’t see how the college season can move. Has USAU ever had 2 different divisions overlap? I guess technically Master’s now overlaps with club, but we all know how that change was received. YCC is more a one off event in the middle of the club season instead of a real overlap, so that doesn’t really count. Older ultimate players, have we ever had overlapping seasons in the past?

So what are we left with after the schedule change? A month (May) where the top teams are very unlikely to play any events due to the top college studs still being in season (or at school in general), a month (June) where people are finalizing rosters/practicing/playing Poultry Days before getting in 1 sanctioned event, and a month (July) to play another sanctioned event or two prior to the series starting.

Remember, we are creating all of the above conflict for TV.

It seems like this move only benefits people that want to see us on ESPN, and it is especially harmful to the players who make up mid-lower level teams aka the majority of the players. They are the ones having their season continually shortened, not the players who consistently make regionals/nationals. Let us not forget that the network we are trying to hitch our wagon to isn’t infallible- they’ve lost 7 million subscribers over the last 2 years wiping out 7 years worth of growth.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss the pro leagues, college mixed, new nationals locations, and more!

Announcing the Hustle Futures Game- Bama Secs Select vs Atlanta Hustle

Futures-Facebook-Cover

This year we are partnering with the Atlanta Hustle to put on a college all star game. Here are the quick facts:

  • March 12th at 6PM in Atlanta, GA at Grady Stadium.
  • Team is a combination of invites and applications (which can be found here).
  • Players will come from programs all across the SE region.
  • Spin will be providing jerseys for Bama Secs Select.

See http://www.atlantahustle.com/futures/ for all the details and ticket information.

Here is the facebook event link to stay up to date on everything.

Ttown Throwdown Predictions

Below are the results of the fan voting. Pool A is expected to go to seed (minus Vandy no longer attending). Pool B is a runaway by Auburn with UTC, Indiana, and UAB all receiving some 2/3/4 votes. Pool C had the closest 1/2 vote with Georgia Tech and LSU, and the biggest upset consensus with 4 seed UAH dropping to 5th. Pool D has some weird things going on at 3/4 with Clemson being the leading vote getter in both spots.

ttown pool a

ttown pool b

ttown pool c

ttown pool d

As for who would win the entire tournament, #2 Auburn and #1 Florida dominated the picks at a combined 86%.

ttown champ

We did poll 4 “experts,” and these were their opinions. The biggest differences were GS jumping IW for 4th in A, UAB jumping Indiana for 3rd in B, Emory jumping both Purdue and UAH for 3rd in C, and no one having confidence in UK to break or even hold their seed.

ttown A ex

ttown b ex

ttown C ex

ttown D ex

Auburn, Florida, and Georgia Tech made everyone’s semis with 2 picking Notre Dame, 1 picking Arkansas, and 1 picking Indiana to take the other spot. Considering 53% of the public voted Auburn as champ, 3/4 “experts” picked Florida to win with 1 picking Auburn.

Spring 2016 Tournament Calendar

Tournament dates are scattered out across twitter, r/ultimate, USAU’s tournament page, ultimate central, and our inboxes, and can sometimes be hard to keep up to date. Don’t worry, we’ve put everything together in one place.

spring 2016 2

We pulled all the tournaments that we know teams from the SE usually attend, and added most of the major “national” tournaments. If we missed something obvious, let us know!

USA Ultimate App Review

USAU App

USAU recently released their official mobile apps for iOS and Android. The apps are pretty simple and provide some of the basic information from the website. However, this is a much better alternative to the the mobile version of their website, if you can really call that a “mobile website.”

In our opinion, the app has 2 things that are off to a good start- Events and Rules.

The events section is a nice tool to see what is happening in weeks surrounding the current date. Clicking on an actual event to look at schedules/results is ok as long as you kind of already know what you are looking for. Otherwise, it takes a while to sort through all the different tabs and bracket options to find specific teams or games. The ability to to search or filter events needs to be added soon.

The lack of full integration with the new score reporter system was a disappointment, though. Being able to update scores and schedules from an app is the best thing USAU could implement in the short term that would improve the player/TD experience, so a separate score reporter app might be the way to go. Our app developer friend said it would be a pretty simple app from a technical standpoint as long as you had access to the USAU servers where they host the score reporting system.

The rules section is pretty straightforward, but not as user friendly as the rules are presented on the full website. The rules in the app are essentially just a PDF with a hyperlinked table of contents while the rules on the website have word definitions and notes if you hover your mouse in certain places. That is harder to translate to an app, but not impossible.

The other sections (News, Magazine, and Videos) all have their own separate problems. USAU doesn’t post a ton of “news” articles, so that section is quickly covered after you have read them all. Incorporating other sources (ultiworld, skyd, us, etc) would beef it up some.

The Videos section has some of the USAU youtube offerings on it, but they aren’t in a logical order (ie chronological). The current order is 2015 US Open, 2015 College Championships, GUM Commercial, and 2015 Club Nationals. Again, there aren’t a ton of offerings in this section, so a user would cover them fairly quickly.

The Magazine section is the most useless to me. It is very hard to read due to size/scaling issues, and I have one of the larger smart phones on the market. I can’t imagine someone on something the size of an iPhone 4S trying to maneuver through it. I like that USAU puts out this kind of information, but the magazine format doesn’t translate well to the app. Revamping the News and Magazines sections into one overall tab is probably the way to go to make them more robust and readable.

Overall, I would give this app 1.5 out of 4 stars. It doesn’t do anything glaringly bad, but there just isn’t much to it. Along with what we mentioned above, some of the navigation is a little weird, and there are places where it feels like you have to click/swipe too many times to find what you are looking for.

What do you think about the app? Which parts do you think should be expounded upon, and which parts need to get the ax? What crucial thing do you think is missing? Fill out the polls below and leave us a comment with your thoughts!

Have you downloaded the USAU app?

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If you have downloaded it, how would you describe your opinion of it?

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Which of the current parts of the app would you use the most?

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Uncle Kringle’s Christmas Classic 2015

Uncle Kringle

It’s almost time for one of our favorite small, fun tournaments! The fields are nice, we’ve never had a problem with discretionary beverages, and the Saturday dinner has always hit the spot. If you are looking for a way to relax after finals, this is it.

Montgomery’s 7th Annual Capital City Ultimate Tournament

December 1213, 2015
14 Open teams
$250 per team
Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex
300 Brown Springs Rd, Montgomery, AL 36117
Info, bids and PayPal capitalcityultimate@gmail.com

Word on the street is ITT Deck the Halls will be back in full swing again.

Women’s Gulf Coast Warmup Roundup

Ole Miss Coach Brian Sherry sent over his observations from this past weekend’s women’s edition of GCW. 

Ole Miss                3-1 (Bama X 4-9, State 10-6, Bama Y 10-5, Tennessee 8-7)

Miss State             3-1 (Alabama Y 10-7, Ole Miss 5-9, Tennessee 10-5, Bama X 9-7)

Alabama X            2-1 (Tennessee 8-7, Ole Miss 9-4, State 7-9)

Tennessee              1-3 (Bama X 7-8, Bama Y (win), State 5-10, Ole Miss 7-8)

Alabama Y            0-3 (State 7-10, Tennessee (loss), Ole Miss 5-10)

Disclaimer: I coach the Ole Miss Women’s team.

Here’s a quick review of the Gulf Coast Warmup Round Robin that Alabama hosted on Saturday. The weather was beautiful, but there was a pretty consistent 9-12 mph wind that was giving teams some trouble. The way fields were lined up worked out for true upwind/downwind games. Each team had a number of rookies: Alabama had 16 show up, split between two squads. Mississippi State had around 8, Tennessee had maybe 7, and Ole Miss had 7 “first years,” plus a grad student transfer with college ultimate experience.

Mississippi State:  “We played our best games against the Alabama split squads,” said Caroline Barrett, which was encouraging for State because of not many successes in recent years against Alabama. Dana Bramlitt and Keri Camp led the team in touches. I’ve always liked the way both of those players carry themselves through games, and Camp talked afterward about how they were trying to make sure everyone stayed involved on the field as much as possible.

Rookies Jessica Comer and Ashley Prather helped tremendously in zone defense packages and their performance stood out throughout the day. Amy Hoover and Lilly Montalvo were the most active/effective cutters and goal scorers. Everyone at the tournament is eligible for the spring series. Mississippi State played aggressively (not in physical way, but the mental “I want the frisbee” way that you want your team to be exhibiting). I encouraged my own team to adopt that kind of intensity moving forward in the afternoon.

Alabama: On X, captain Tara Massouleh (#17), grad student /5th year player Hayley Djuric (#99), and senior Sarah Williams (#4) had a majority of the maintenance of possession (I’d say almost 85-90% of the Ole Miss game), but in a positive way that afforded looks to the first years under from the stack or on downfield cuts. Bama X’s field stack (vertical mostly) looked good, and rookies generally caught the disc when it was thrown to them. Not many threw downfield after catching it- they were either in goal or dumped it.

It was easy to see how merging the split squads back to the regular team will create a nice core of 5 extremely dangerous, athletic handler/cutters (including captain Alex Jones, who led Bama Y team in touches) with an athletic and fast receiver corps. I know one of the players on Y isn’t playing in the spring, and I couldn’t tell much about the Y squad across the board. Alabama has 20 plus rookies this year. Julia Becker from Bama X played on a school mixed team in St. Louis, but no one else has any organized experience. Both Alabama teams caught a lot of good offensive clean goals from good cuts and throws into space. Very athletic, fast bunch that will be even more difficult to defend as they gain needed experience on fundamentals, timing, and game situations.

Tennessee: Led by Machen Picard (grad student from Alabama), Sierra Rimmer, and Melanie Lindsey, Tennessee had a gang of new recruits that looked like their leaders, and they were easily the tallest team across the board. The future looks encouraging as they have no seniors and a talented cast of rookies that is buying in to coaching and team leadership. Sierra Rimmer was in particular one of a couple players I was hoping our rookies watched closely and might emulate in the future (the other one would be the aforementioned #17 Tara Massouleh from Alabama). Rimmer was always throwing and going, purposefully reorienting herself to where she needed to be to help her team out on each possession, on offense and defense.

Ole Miss: The Landsharks were without their captain Brooke Holloway and a few spring series players, so Rachel Shaw, Amanda Baker, and Maggie Spear helped hold the system down as 15 total players made the trip, with 8 of them being new. The 3 previously named are either graduated, out of eligibility, or not around in the spring, but are dues paying Fall members of the club.

That being said, returners were in some newer roles and rookies were getting their first true experience of tourney ultimate. It was a solid day of play across the board. I don’t feel it’s too appropriate to say much else, but our goal was to get the rookies hooked on ultimate and the club, and the team dinner seemed to be a reflection on the joy of sport.

Notes

Generally, across the fields, teams’ players were using down times to get reps in throwing in the wind in all directions. All of the teams were athletic, competitive, sporting, and inspiring for our rookie cast (which is sometimes how I try and view the first tourneys—what are the first years looking at and talking about?).

As a certified observer, there was only one instance of a rules interpretation mishap. And much to everyone’s credit, after it was discovered, both captains talked about it so the teams’ members would learn from it. Excellent diplomacy to eavesdrop on. It involved an old interpretation of a foul in the endzone on the defender against a receiver the disc was thrown to.

The 4 person Cup: Alabama X ran it, as did Y a few times, and so did Tennessee occasionally. When enough offensive players can react quicker to the spacing opportunities and movement needed to free up the spacing, I’d love for teams to run it against us. We didn’t do so well first thing in the morning versus X, but anytime we saw it afterward, players started to understand the experienced club thrower thoughts on zones (or, let’s be honest—a masters player’s thoughts on zone): Yes, please.

I love the way veterans talk to rookies, both about ultimate, and life. The hints of flabbergastation, the creeping of disappointment or incredulity, but with enough tone of encouragement for future excellence building. For example: A clump of rookies huddled together waiting for the one pen that they are all using to sign the field waivers. Veteran approaches, “What are you all doing? Did anyone not think to ask the one person anywhere near you that might have a bunch of pens? (silence) Your coach that is standing 15 yards away!”

We brought a spike ball kit this tourney. Last year we had a soccer ball to defuse from over-ultimating ultimate. I thought that spike ball kept us loose and allowed the focus to come back on when it was needed.

My All-Tourney from the Opposition Team

Massouleh

Djuric

Williams

Rimmer

Picard

Lindsey

Bramlitt

 

 

Anon’s take on Gulf Coast Warmup

We have sources everywhere. The eye of Bama Secs is all seeing. Here is one of our more traveled source’s thoughts on what he saw on Sunday in Tuscaloosa.

During the fall season when everything is made up and the points don’t matter, there is precious little that can be extrapolated from a tournament that is played during the first weekend of October.  However, Gulf Coast Warmup in Tuscaloosa this past weekend at least gives us a glimpse of the things and players to look for in the Bama Secs universe the rest of the fall and into the spring.  These are some quick hit observations from watching parts and pieces of games on Sunday only…

Spoiler alert, Auburn is deep and talented and will be the team to beat until further notice.  That being said, no one has stepped up and filled Ryan Landry’s shoes yet and probably won’t.  The split squads finished 1st and 5th this weekend, but unlike some of the other teams that sent multiple teams to the field over the weekend, this one was not split along O and D lines and certainly not between A and B teams.  Captains and senior members were split evenly between the teams and it showed.  Aetos brought a workmanlike attitude to Tuscaloosa, even in games that really meant nothing except opportunities to get better as individuals and as a team.  The usual suspects showed they are hungry to get back to where they ended the season last year and there are rookies that showed potential to step into prominent roles with the team.  Notable absences were Blake Galloway and rookie Jack Smith.  2015 FOTY Eric Sjostrom was also limited in his points this weekend.  Just the sheer numbers and talent on this team will make them a force with which to be reckoned for the next nine months.  The fact that probably half of them played club in some capacity over the summer is an added bonus.

Tulane also went split squad, but with Lamp, Mooney and Chance all on one team, they had a definite edge over their other squad led by Evan Walter.  By finishing 2nd, they also served notice that they are not quite ready to hand over the crown to Auburn yet despite the huge losses of PDo, Greg Cousins and others from last year’s squad that qualified for Nationals.  As usual, they were spirited, loud and Rexnoxious on the sidelines.  There numbers were not as big as Auburn’s, but they still managed to field two squads with talent that finished in the top eight of the tournament.

There is no way to quantify what having a coach means to a program, but it is evident that it is an advantage.  UAB has gone from no team to 17th to having a split squad playing for 3rd in this tournament over the past three years.  A huge part of that has to be the leadership that Travis Midkiff brings to the team.  Having someone calling lines and managing personnel that is not worrying about how they are playing and having to make throws on the fields is essential in game time decision making.  UAB did split teams along offense and defense and that showed as only one of them made quarterfinals play, but that also shows the depth of the program.  One notable non-player this weekend was Michael Burke, who will be a huge target for Ethan Downs and Taylor Brown later in the season.  I really like this team to make some noise deep into the spring.

Miss State also put one team in the semi-finals with a win over a surprising Samford team.  Unfortunately, that is where they ran up against Auburn Y and bowed out.  That being said, there is talent on this team with Tanner Robinson really stepping up and showing that playing club makes a difference.  They didn’t have huge numbers and they also benefited at times from having Cody Smith on the field for limited points, but having a coach on the field will pay dividends later on when he won’t be able to play.  I did not see their other team play and I am really not sure how they split squads, but the signs are there that they are not going anywhere but up.

Samford took a page from the UAB playbook and brought a coach along with them.  After a 4-0 Saturday, they held a lead against Miss State and lost in the quarters on universe.  They have limited numbers and play a funky style of offense that is looser than some summer league sets I have seen, but they do everything in an effort to save legs.  They hung tight with Auburn X in the 5th place game for a while until depth, organization and talent won out.

Alabama sent three teams up against the rest of the field and only sent one to the quarters, where they lost to UAB’s O line.  Massive amount of players, but it was evident that they will miss Austin Taylor, Preston, Wick, etc.  Once they were eliminated from championship contention, they placed their emphasis on rookie playing time.  I did not see enough of their vets play to form an opinion on how they will stack up against the rest of the section this season, but knowing them, they will be in the conversation when the chips are down.

Ole Miss and Southern Miss were playing on fields so far away from where I was located, I didn’t even see them on Sunday, so there’s that.

All that to say, in my obviously biased opinion, Auburn will still be the team to beat, but Tulane will not go quietly into that good night.  UAB is a program on the rise and everyone else is still a bit of a question mark.  On to Hootenanny, where we will get more useless info and a look at some other teams like UAH.  Bonus biased prediction, the Hare Jordans will remain undefeated on the Auburn intramural fields.

Until then, happy hucking…

If you watch a tournament, send us your thoughts and we’ll publish them (anonymously if you want).

New Bama Secs Tanks From Spin Ultimate!

Bama-Secs-Tank-2015_photo-mock-up_front_1024x1024

The 2016 Bama Secs tanks from our friends over at Spin Ultimate are now for sale online! Head on over to http://www.spinultimate.com/collections/bama-secs-leisure-wear/products/bama-secs-limited-edition-bro-tank-ii to place your order. There is also a link to the entire Bama Secs store on Spin’s website in the menu above. Along with the new tank, this past winter’s long sleeve is still available.

Not only will you look great, you’ll be supporting us. A portion of each sale comes back to us so we can pay our web hosting fees and hopefully a few extras this year.

I hear tanks are great to wear at beach tournaments, especially Beach Parties!

An Answer to the Incorrect North Carolina Sectionals Bid Question

We finally got an answer on why USAU skipped over BaNC in the original bid distribution only to later change it the Thursday before the event. Here is the background:

The NC section had 3 teams with 10+ games played in the top 16 of the SE (and Ring with a bye straight to regionals). When the bid distributions came out, however, it only listed NC with 2 bids plus Ring’s bye. The bid that should have been their third was counted as the EC’s 5th.

We (along with many of you) tweeted/emailed USAU HQ, the RD, and SC, but could never get a straight answer to what was going on. We finally heard something after it was changed- Ring didn’t have 10 games at the sectionals cutoff (Pro Flight Finale was the next weekend), so instead of having 2 auto-bids (Turbine and Cash Crop) +1 strength bid (BaNC) +1 bye (Ring), USAU had decided to attribute the bye to Turbine, and allocate the 2 strength bids to Cash Crop and BaNC.

However, the only team that could claim the bye was Ring, so this made absolutely no sense AND robbed the section of a bid. A quick glance through the season guidelines made no mention of Pro/Elite teams needing 10 games prior to the sectionals cutoff for their byes to regionals to be correctly attributed to their team. The only requirement to claim the bye was for Pro/Elite teams to play their 2 USAU TCT events which Ring couldn’t have done by the deadline since the PFF was after it.

Thankfully, someone at HQ used some common sense and pointed out the ridiculousness of it all. The delay in the change was because it actually affected other regions as well. I can’t tell you which ones changed since I didn’t look at other regions’ sectionals bid distributions, but we were told 2 others had the same issue. If only there were other Bama Secs groups for other parts of the country, we might have known what changed…