Here is a quick preview of the Masters division Regionals, which begin this weekend, with the Mid-Atlantic, Northwest and South Regionals occurring.
There are 3 Regionals I think are of note, the Northeast, Central and Northwest, coincidentally the reasons are all Canada related.
Just a quick overview of the Masters bid process for the USUA for those not familiar: each region gets 2 bids for Nationals (6 regions total), but each Regional must have a minimum of 6 teams for that region to hold onto the 2nd bid. If a region fails to hold onto that 2nd bid, there are 2 ways of dispersing them: if your region has held a Masters tournament during the season, that has a minimum of 4 teams, 3 of which are from the host region, you put yourself 1st in line for any wildcard bids/guarantee a 2nd bid no matter how many teams appear at Regionals. This is why DoG runs their Masters Easterns tournament every year: it ensures that their region will hold onto its 2nd bid. If any wildcard bids remain, they are distributed based on results from the previous year’s Nationals, determined by how each region’s 2nd place team fared. This year Northeast would be 1st in line for a strength bid (thanks to GLUM’s 5th place finish), followed by the Central region. No region can have more than 3 bids.
Early word was that the Mid-Atlantic was having difficulty attracting enough teams to get their 2nd bid, due to O.L.D.S.A.G’s retirement, which lead to a lot of what if speculating on where potential wildcard bids may end up. Once the final deadline for registration had passed, the Mid-Atlantic (along with the Southwest) found enough teams to hold onto their 2nd bid, but the Northwest region did not, giving the Northeast a 3rd bid.
With perennial National contender O.L.D.S.A.G. (One Last Ditch Shot at Glory) now out of the picture, the Mid-Atlantic Regional (this weekend in Upperville, Virginia) really is a 2 team race. Both Boneyard (Cary, North Carolina) and Chesapeaked (Washington, D.C.) have played in the UPA Championships in the past, and would appear to be near locks to grab the 2 MA bids this year.
That said, the Championship bracket on Sunday should be an intense matchup, as Chesapeaked lost to O.L.D.S.A.G. 12-11, and then had to face Boneyard in the game to go after the crushing defeat, going down again 13-10, allowing Boneyard to advance to Sarasota, where they finished 10th and took home the Spirit Award.
If there is a team that is capable of taking out one of these 2 teams this weekend, it is likely Natty Brothers (Washington, D.C.), who beat Boneyard in pool play at MA Regionals last year, before falling to Boneyard in a rematch in bracket play, 15-7. Boneyard, Chesapeaked and Natty Brothers come into the tournament seeded 1, 2 and 3, respectively, with T-Rex, Old N Busted, Bros Backwash and Bald Spot (all from parts unknown) rounding out the field.
In what is likely going to be the most exciting Masters Regional championship, the Northwest region is taking place in Ripon, California (90 minutes east of San Francisco). This region only receives 1 bid this year, due to only 5 teams in attendance, primarily because of Throwback’s (2006 UPA Masters Champion) decision to not attend this year. This region features reigning World and UPA Champion Troubled Past (Arcata, California), who are shockingly seeded 5th at this tournament. I grant you, seeding means very little in the Masters division, as all Masters Regionals have full pool play, but I am curious as to who will be absent, thus warranting the low seed. The top seed in the tournament is FIGJAM (Calgary). Coming off an impressive showing at Canadian Nationals (3rd straight silver medal), giving GLUM their 1st real challenge since Tombstone in 2007. FIGJAM was able to do that thanks to some pickups from Invictus, and with Invictus not participating in the USUA series this year, those pickups would be available for FIGJAM at this tournament as well.
Gauntlet (Vancouver) comes into this tournament seeded 4th, despite a very strong showing at the World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC) this summer, finishing 10th, which was the highest finish of the 3 Canadian teams in attendance. Gauntlet did not attend the 2010 Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC), so it will be interesting to see if they can continue their WUCC momentum with such a long layoff (as a team). If Gauntlet is able to bring their WUCC roster with them, they will battle with FIGJAM and Troubled Past for the lone Northwest bid.
Burnside (Portland, OR) and, in what has to be the best team name in Club Ultimate, Thirst’N’Howl (Fremont, CA) are the 2 and 3 seeds in this tournament. Historically they have finished at the bottom of Northwest Regionals, so that makes Gauntlet’s and Troubled Past’s seeding even more curious. The TD is a Troubled Past player, so I’m sure they are seeded where they are for a valid reason. Therefore, I’ve got to think that this bid is FIGJAM’s to lose, especially if they want to make a run at GLUM next year, and become the Canadian representative at the 2012 World Ultimate and Guts Championships (WUGC).
The South region (Austin, TX) rounds out the opening weekend of Regional play, and is very difficult to handicap, for many reasons. First of all, I only know the hometown of 2 of the 6 teams, and with the winner of the South region last year not in attendance (Mileage), it’s difficult to know if Mileage folded, or just changed names, as there are 3 teams in attendance this year that were not in 2009 (JACK, WD-40 and Early Bird Special).
This region’s seeding has not been put into Score Reporter yet either, so that doesn’t help me to lean in any particular direction, but it is safe to say that Ball and Chain (Atlanta), who qualified for the UPA’s last year, is a very safe bet for one of the 2 bids. If one of the unknown teams is Mileage rebranded, then look for that team to take the other bid (as Mileage beat Ball and Chain 13-3 in the Regional final last year), otherwise, Ozark Hillbillys (Arkansas) may be in line as the 3rd place finisher last year, after a close win over Slow Country Broil in bracket play.
If the Central region had earned a 3rd bid (as had been surmised), this may have been the most competitive Masters Regional of the 6.
The region features Surly (Minneapolis, MN), who finished 2nd at both WUCC this year, and UPA’s last year (and 2007), and won UPA’s in 2008, as well as Real Huck, a Chicago/Michigan combo team, featuring many former Machine and Big Ass Truck players, who made a splash at the UPA’s last year . They came into the tournament seeded 11th, and wound up making the quarterfinals, and finishing 7th.
Old Style (Milwaukee, WI) and Age Against the Machine (Cincinnati) both have made appearances at the UPA championships in the past, with Old Style narrowly losing to Real Huck in the game to go last year. Word on the street has it that due to the region having a chance at a 3rd bid, which, unfortunately, did not come to fruition, these 2 teams rallied the troops and are bringing their top rosters to Regionals this year.
The dark horse of this tournament (and I completely admit that I am biased, seeing how it is my team) is Rust, a team that is based out of Michigan, but is pulling players from every part of the region it can and beyond. I met them at Motown Throwdown this year, and they were kind enough to invite me to play with them (I live 30 minutes from Michigan), and I was able to return their kindness by utilizing the regional exemptions to its fullest, and invited along some current and former Fossil teammates from Toronto. We certainly have the handlers and the speed to hang with anyone outside of Surly; depth on the roster may be our Achilles heel.
Surly Cynics, the Minneapolis ‘B’ team, rounds out the field, and likely provide fodder (and a 2nd bid for the region) for the rest of the teams.
Had this region gotten a 3rd bid, Sunday’s bracket play would have been fantastic; instead Surly is a mortal lock for 1 bid, but Real Huck and Old Style should have a fantastic game to go.
The Northeast region (Devens, MA), the recipient of the extra bid this year, is also the largest region this year, with 9 teams in attendance. The tournament seeding and schedule has not been released publicly yet, but region mainstays GLUM (Ottawa) and DoG (Boston) figure to grab the top 2 spots, with DoG looking to regain the regional championship that they lost to GLUM last year.
Seeing how the 3rd bid plays out will be a lot of fun, the game to go likely coming down to Quantum (Quebec City) and WSL All Stars (formerly Above and Beyond of New York City). With Quantum’s strong showing at Masters Easterns in June (playing DoG close twice) and at CUC (6th place after losing tiebreaker for a semi-final berth), I’m hopeful that another Canadian team makes it to Sarasota (Toronto, where are you?). WSL, with their Above and Beyond heritage, certainly have UPA championship experience, and will need to utilize that to get back there this year.
Crepitus (4th place at Masters Easterns), Flashback (Portsmouth, NH), Mt. Crushmore (Nashua, NH), Rumble (qualified for Open regionals out of the Western New England sectional) and Slowhand (Astoria, NY) round out the tournament.
The final region is the Southwest (Camarillo, CA), and this one certainly is going to be a crapshoot. Originally only having 4 teams listed in attendance (which is what started all the commotion in the Central region), they did wind up with 6 teams (I recklessly, and without merit, call shenanigans! Just so I can use the word shenanigans in this preview).
The Beyondors (Santa Barbara, CA), are head and shoulders, and any other body part you can think of above everyone else in the field. The team is made up of Condors/JAM alumni, who are only 2 seasons removed from an Open division UPA championship.
What really muddles this region is that last year’s 2nd qualifier, Double Black, is not in attendance this year. Le Tigre (Arizona), Nice Guys (San Diego) and Depends (Los Angeles), seeded in that order, will battle it out for the 2nd bid. Cannon Fodder and SLOUCH (parts unknown) are the 2 late additions to the region. Of these teams, Le Tigre is the only team to appear at last year’s regionals, finishing 3rd.
Masters play this year should be of great interest to the Canadian Ultimate fan, with upwards of 3 teams making it to Sarasota. I’m not sure how many upsets are in the offering, but the games to go should be fantastic. I’m very excited to participate in my 1st UPA/USUA series, and can’t wait to provide you with the post-tournament analysis from Central Regionals. I will do my best to report on the other divisions in Maple Plain (Minnesota), however our schedule has no byes, and I fly out Sunday night, so my opportunities to watch the other divisions are going to be limited.
Best of luck to everyone participating in Regionals the next 2 weeks,