Southern Hospitality burst onto the club scene in a big way last summer.
In its first year as a program, the team had an unblemished record in pre-Series tournament play. SoHo won HuckFest, MudBowl, Shawn Adams, and Sectionals before ever tasting defeat.
That build-up led SoHo to Southeast Regionals, where the team was seeded fourth overall in a three-bid conference. Whispers that Southern Hospitality could punch a ticket to Nationals became buzz and finally racket the week of the event.
But defeat finally came for SoHo, and it eliminated any chance of a bid to Nationals on Saturday at Regionals. The team that blazed through the regular season, won the Sectionals crown, and earned a high seed at Regionals wasn’t even the last Gulf Coast team standing when bids to Nationals were on the line.
The SoHo captains admitted the pre-tournament hype was a factor in the poor showing at Regionals, but that it did not tell the whole story.
“The hype of it wasn’t as bad as just our inexperience due to our tournament experience and average age/experience of our team,” they said. “And that is the fault of us captains. Because we started this team so late, we were cautious to demand them to travel far distances for more experienced and variable levels and styles of play at least for a first year team.”
So what did Southern Hospitality do about it? For starters, SoHo revamped its tournament schedule for this season.
“We won all of our tournaments last year but we don’t believe we ever tested ourselves, which did not propel us to want to get better,” the SoHo captains said in an email. “Our view of this schedule is that we would rather challenge ourselves by going to higher-level tournaments, potentially lose more games than win, and learn what is needed to constantly improve.”
While SoHo may have lost some key experience from last season’s Series roster (starting handler Chris Browning left for Ironmen), the captains said the lessons learned from Regionals last year will improve the product on the field this season.
“We never challenged ourselves (last regular season) and we don’t think we really grasped what it takes to take on such adversity and overcome it in a short time frame,” the captains said. “We have really calculated every step and collaborated much further in advance and hopefully we can reduce mistakes and increase our strengths given the amount of time and preparation.”
Freaks Uv Nature
You saw the Freaks’ Monkey Bowl roster. This is a team that retains its talent well from year-to-year.
I lived in Hunstville, Alabama, for a little more than a year after graduating from LSU in 2006. The Freaks Uv Nature were nearly non-existent during my time there, which made little sense to me. How could an ultimate community as good as Huntsville’s, with year-round pick-up, a burgeoning summer league, athletes and young people galore, and intelligent individuals throughout the organization not have an elite club team in the Gulf Coast?
Well it took a few years, but that finally happened. And now they consider themselves to be more than just a team.
“We view the Freaks less as a team from season to season, but rather as a program,” Freaks’ co-captain Andy Sieja said. “This is necessary since we don’t have a college team in town to feed us players every year. We have to refine the talent we have over multiple seasons.”
Last season, the Freaks lost the Section title to Southern Hospitality but were the last team standing at Southeast Regionals a couple weekends later. Although they didn’t win any games on Sunday morning, Sieja said the team learned some valuable lessons.
“It made us hungrier. It made us what to just get better,” he said. “Top to bottom on this team, we are seeing more dedicated players.”
The talent is being refined in Huntsville, and with most of the roster back this season the Freaks are hoping to challenge SoHo for the Section crown again.
“We had a great game with Southern Hospitality last year, but came up a bit short against an extremely talented opponent,” Sieja said. “We hope to get a chance to play for the Section again.”
THE NEXT TIER
Significant coup for Ironmen this offseason in landing the talent of Chris Browning.
Browning, who played for SoHo last season, a few college seasons with Alabama and is the Gulf Coast’s best spiker, moved to Birmingham and decided to eschew another go with SoHo in favor of the local club team.
Ironmen never lacked for players in the “experienced” category, so his addition only strengthens the old, wily veteran factor on this team.
Also of note on this year’s roster is Dane Jorgensen, who just might be the best player in this section you’ve never heard of, probably because he just has not played here yet. Jorgensen comes from the Illinois program, where he made a trip Nationals in 2011. Young-ish, tall, athletic, friendly, loves animals, and a ginger. Lethal.
Disclaimer: Jorgensen has been out of the game for a few (two? three?) seasons while he was living and working in New Orleans, so if he doesn’t pan out don’t hold it against me.
The Team Formerly Known As Jockamo?
Few teams had more fun last season than Jockamo, and no team generated as much interest and intrigue as these guys. Yet when the dust settled after Regionals, where Jockamo took a depleted squad and still won more games than they lost on Saturday, you could tell that changes were on the horizon.
Those changes have now taken effect in Baton Rouge. Jockamo as the “A” team’s name in BR may be a thing of the past. The team is potentially re-branding itself again (Turbodog > Jockamo > Purple Haze?) and taking a more serious approach to ultimate this summer.
And the kicker? Everyone seems to be on board for this culture change, even the die-hard DGAF’ers in Baton Rouge.
The end goal is to challenge SoHo and Freaks for the top spot at Sectionals, make a deeper run at Regionals, and still have a good bit of fun doing it.
Admittedly, we do not have many in-roads with the Memphis ultimate community, so previewing this team is challenging.
What I do know is that the P Squids took out a talented-but-inconsistent Jockamo team on Sunday at Sectionals last season, had a rough go of it at Regionals (good experience, nonetheless), and are definitely back this year. They are on the list for Monkey Bowl, so we should get a decent idea whether this team fell off any during the offseason by way of attrition or are still carrying momentum gained from last fall.
The “first team out” at Club Sectionals last fall, Hammer Bros. are undergoing a change in leadership this summer. Michael McNeil is no longer captaining/coaching the young squad. That burden has been left to Will Miller, who was voted Team MVP last season.
Most of the core still remains from a team that reached the game-to-go-to-Regionals in only its second season. McNeil and Blaine Clancy still are around despite bad knees and gravy legs, and the team added former LSU player Eric “Squirt” Melancon.
Notably absent from this year’s roster are Chris “Jesus” Melhado (Jurassic), Kenny Berthelot (Baton Rouge), and Gary Lee (Jurassic). But the Bros. did add a number of young athletes for future development that should help maintain a sustainable program for years to come.
The younger LSU guys that GAF created Lagniappe last summer in contrast to Jockamo and will exist again this summer despite Jockamo’s change in mentality.
I think we can expect to see the same thing out of Lagniappe this year as last: Talented but young, lots of chemistry, athletic and energetic, but depleted roster by the Series because LSU football games are more important social events than playing at Sectionals as a long-shot to earn a trip to Regionals.
Catholic High School assistant ultimate coach Gary Vicknair rebranded the team formerly known as Adrenalize as the Misfits for this season. This is a group of guys from outside Baton Rouge who have been playing together for several years — most of them played together in high school — and are still developing as ultimate players.
There are some decent long-term talents on this team who has been committing themselves to the game, so they should be more competitive this year than last.
NEW TEAMS THIS YEAR
Perennial POTY candidate Gary Lee took a lesser role with Hammer Bros. last summer to learn more about the club game, and he now has transitioned that knowledge to both Southern Miss and, also, Jurassic.
The Jurassic roster is full of experienced college players, with a few veterans sprinkled in for good measure. The fact that Gary has been able to get that many people to commit to a club team hailing from Hattiesburg says a lot about his personality. People want to play for him.
Gary Lee >>> Geography, apparently. I wish I would have known this in college, because then I could have just majored in Gary Lee and saved myself a whole lot of time.
Jurassic is the preseason favorite for jersey of the year. This team, behind Lee’s budding ultimate acumen, also hopes to be in contention for one of those coveted bids to Regionals as well.
Tulane’s preseason Freshman (?) Of The Year candidate Shamit Dua is spear-heading the effort to restore the Club Open scene in New Orleans, which has a robust and populous ultimate community.
Side note about Shamit: Super nice guy, super high ultimate ceiling. He came to one of the Hammer Bros. tryouts and I was impressed by his maturity and business-like approach to the game. He clearly deserved to be on the FOTY (ROTY? He may not be a freshman, according to “sources”. Regardless.) radar during the Gulf Coast spring college season, and I think he’ll start registering some more playing time for Tulane next season after a summer of club.
Back to this team. Shamit won’t have too much competition for talent from Party Posse, the mixed team hailing from New Orleans, because those players are pretty embedded already. But he does have a deep talent pool from which to draw, including several of the Tulane regulars we have come to love here on the blog.
Based on what I’ve seen/heard about the roster, they will be plenty talented. Solid choice in team name, too.
These guys just recently popped up on the club scene in the Gulf Coast, so I am not really sure what to expect from them. I did get this information from Francis: They are a bunch of Mississippi guys not playing for anyone else who wanted to have their own team.
That’s the kind of in-depth journalism you’ve come to expect from Bama Secs, right?
WILL THEY PLAY?
The club team from Jackson took a step back in 2013. Losses of some top players like John Clemmer to Southern Hospitality depleted last season’s talent pool and led, eventually, to a 7th/8th place finish at Club Sectionals.
This year, there are new challenges to add to the depleted talent pool for Deep Fried. The new mixed team in town, Turmoil, plans to scoop up all the best open and female players in the Jackson area for competition this summer.
As of right now, there are no plans to revive Deep Fried this summer. Rest in peace to some of the sickest jerseys in the conference.
There are no plans currently to revive Gunshine for the 2014 season. Brandon French is trying to make the Shrimp Boat roster. If he does, it is unlikely Gunshine will participate in the Series this year according to him.
But French said that, if he fails to make Shrimp Boat, he will revive a small, invite-only group of players to maintain the Gunshine program. So, it all hinges on French’s status right now.