Before I head off to USA Finals a brief recap of finals day and thoughts on the future of Ultimate in Canada is in order.
As others have written the weekend was shaped by the weather and I believe it was typical of the season. On finals day, though, sunshine greeted us in the morning and lasted into the afternoon. However, there was no respite from the wind and it played a major part in the quarters, semis, and finals for both divisions.
The top four teams: Ottawa, Guelph, Western, and Montreal have many strong players on each squad but this being University Finals and quite windy it was evident that Ottawa and Guelph brought the best talent. Both of the semis, Ottawa vs Western and Guelph vs Montreal, were favorable to those that had handlers that played at CUC or at U23. Both Ottawa and Guelph cruised into finals where Ottawa continued to shine and dominate. While Ottawa was scoring both upwind and downwind with hucks Guelph was able to score upwind with short passes as Ottawa got turns through errant passes. Guelph kept things close for a while and never gave up by putting their bodies on the line with layout Ds but the firepower on the Ottawa side was too great. Ottawa finished 1st while Western took 3rd.
Going into quarters on Sunday it was anybody’s game with six of the top eight teams considered contenders and each having lost at least one game to each other. Carleton, Western, Guelph, Toronto, Dalhousie, and McGill were all considered to be on equal footing and predictions were simply impossible. D-Cut had brought big men that were inconsistent only some of the time but otherwise balanced. Western were considered heavy favourites coming in but lost one of their primary handlers, Andy Siy, on Saturday morning to a pulled hamstring while Mark Lloyd was catching and throwing with his left as his primary hand was in a cast. Guelph was the dark horse with plenty of firepower. Toronto had a strong handling core as well as a strong D-line but lacked enough confident strikers. Carleton was calm, cool, and collected with a strong set of returning players as well as phenomenal new recruits. McGill was strong with a shorter set of cutters and handlers but weakened by the loss of superstar Tim Tsang to an ankle injury.
No team had any more trouble with the wind than any other and it was purely a matter of decision making. Carleton, Western, Guelph, and Toronto made it to semis after tough games in the quarters.
In a rematch of Saturday’s power pool match Carleton faced Guelph while Western faced Toronto. Carleton had a particularly shaky Saturday after winning on Universe to UQO and losing on Universe to Guelph. Unlike Saturday, though, Carleton didn’t have to come back from a 5-0 deficit and was in control of the game right up until both teams faced each other, once again, on Universe. Guelph pulled into the wind and Carleton turned it over on their own line. Guelph punched it in and the dark horse made it to the finals.
Western didn’t have as close a game against Toronto and as I didn’t see it I can’t embellish what I saw. Western won their semi and moved on to face Guelph.
With Guelph riding a high and injuries catching up to Western the finals started with both teams neck and neck. It was a natural start with both teams showing plenty of confidence and perhaps a bit too much by Andrew Higgins who had an uncharacteristically rough start by throwing a few turns. Fortunately both teams managed to avoid breaks until 6 or 7 points had been played.
With the flow of the game established Guelph turned it up a few notches and put some breaks on the board. Western attempted to stack the line but Guelph’s zone play forced mistimed passes down the side and Guelph capitalized on the turns. In the end the game got away from Western quickly and Guelph won by four or five breaks.
While Open Ultimate is strong I feel that Women’s Ultimate needs more development by introducing the game at a younger age. The Women that played well were athletic and had quite a bit of support through leagues and touring while many ladies appeared to be newer to the sport. By getting girls to play earlier (even if it’s league in high school) they can benefit even more greatly from tournament experience.
The balance of the top six teams in Open was refreshing and it was great to see the number of second and third year students that will be returning and keeping the balance of power across the top schools. Waterloo and Ottawa are just a few points away from breaking into the top four while UQO is full of future talent.