CUC 2011 Juniors Preview

Last year, in Sherbrooke, there were a number of teams that invited players from outside of their region to join them.  Those out of region players have gone back to their home regions and, along with their coaches, have returned to CUC with their own teams.  The Juniors division this year is truly reflective of the amount of work put in around the country to develop the game.

In the remainder of this post we’ll take a look at the starting pools, evaluate teams, and make a few predictions.

Pool A

(1)Shock – BC, (8)ResurreXion – Ontario/Ottawa, (9)CUJO – Alberta/Calgary, and (16)bEAST – Atlantic/Halifax.

Reigning from BC Shock is undeniably the favourite at this tournament.  The Juniors program from the VUL region has been run exceptionally well with the assistance of top touring talent (Furious, Traffic, etc.) and exceptional local support.  I’ve watched players from their program play on the best teams in the world and win on the biggest stages; I except this year’s crop to be no different.  Four years ago at Sunnybrook Park I watched BC crawl their way back in the finals before capping an incredibly energetic game.  Expect this team to easily take first out of their pool.

Coming out of the OCUA program ResurreXion should field many of the best Juniors in the country but with many Mixed, Open, and Women’s teams out of the region it’s hard to keep them around.  With second spot in the pool ResurreXion will face a serious challenge from CUJO and will have to rely upon hometown support to maintain focus.

Returning after a 9th place finish in Sherbrooke (going in seeded 13th) CUJO comes in seeded 9th with aims to move up.  Last year they were a motley crew with pickups from the Atlantic and BC regions as well as a few players from Edmonton.  This year they’ve continued to develop their young squad as most of the players are returning and are intent in showing off the experience gained since last year.  CUJO’s three pickups this year are from Alma, QC and Kamloops, BC whom will no doubt return to their hometowns and help build their own programs.

Rounding out the pool is bEAST which is based in Halifax but draws from many Atlantic provinces.  Due to the relatively sparse small populations of individual Atlantic populations it is difficult for a single province or city to field a Juniors team.  Like other teams bEAST has drawn upon players from New Brunswick and PEI in addition to Nova Scotia.  The large distances between training centers means that most of the players will not have played as a group until CUC.  Fortunately the players practice three times a week at both league as well as with local touring teams (Red Circus, Spawn, Salt, and Scotch).  Given the challenges inherent in large distances between population centers CUC should be great experience for bEAST.

Projected pool finish:  Shock, CUJO, ResurreXion, and bEAST.  CUJO upsets ResurreXion.

Pool B

(2)OverDrive – Ontario/GTA, (7)MOFO – Prairies/Winnipeg, (10)DOAP – Prairies/Winnipeg, and (15)Kerozen – Québec/Sherbrooke.

Taking top seed from Ontario and the East OverDrive is a highly skilled and very cocky Juniors team from the GTA but also drawing from Barrie and Cobourg.  Indeed the best Juniors players in the region they are equally coached by the best in the Region.  With Carla Difilippo and Evan Phillips working to ensure touring players were involved in training Juniors the program continues to be one of the best in Canada.  The players practice often and play against GOAT and Capitals players who school them regularly.  After their loss last year in the finals the team redoubled their efforts and practiced through the fall with the assistance of Warren Tang (Union Captain).  Indeed, with the number of players that have assisted the team I have no doubt that OverDrive will be one of the four teams in the semis.

Taking second in the pool is MOFO from Winnipeg and while a talented program they have lost a few players to their adult counterparts.  Nevertheless, if MOFO can demonstrate the skill that Winnipeg did at Canadian High School Championships then they are likely to give OverDrive a run.  This team has the capability to go hard and exploit mistakes but it has lost talent recently that will prevent it from having a good shot at the B1 spot.

DOAP, on the other hand, may be in a position to upset MOFO.  In the notoriously volatile Juniors division crazier things have happened and DOAP has the experience and knowledge to face MOFO.  A win is possible, but unlikely.

Finally, Kerozen from Sherbrooke is a team well supported by Montreal.  I am continuously fascinated by Québec Ultimate culture and Kerozen is a prime example.  AUM appears to assist teams within a vast geographic region and has a special relationship with Sherbrooke (I must investigate this further).  Regardless, coached by Guyliane Girard and Etienne Mathieu Kerozen is basically a new team with 14 out of 19 members playing their first year of competitive Ultimate.  Québecois Ultimate seems to have a particular emphasis on conditioning and this team is no different with two to three practices a week for two to three hours with quite a bit of time spent performing coordination/speed/agility and plyometric/endurance exercises.  Like CUJO of last year the team is almost fresh and CUC will be used to continue to develop their skills.  They aim to finish in the top 12 and given how hard they worked at Regionals (3/3 on day 2) it’s likely they can achieve their goal.

Projected pool finish:  OverDrive, MOFO, DOAP, and Kerozen.  No upsets.

Pool C

(3)Vortex – BC, (6)Fringants – Québec/Sherbrooke, (11)T-Q – Québec/Québec, (14)X2 – Ontario/Ottawa.

At the top of Pool C is Vortex who battled through a pack of 8 to finish 2nd behind Shock.  Featuring some of the best talent from the West Coast it is unlikely that they will lose a game in this pool.

However, if there’s one team that could do it then Fringants would be that team.  Fringants are used to driving hard and coming up from behind.  At Regionals this year they started in the same pool as Conspiracy (first seed out of Québec, fourth at CUC) but finished second after defeating T-Q in a placement match.

T-Q, on the other hand, is well placed to upset Fringants.  T-Q went 3-0 on Saturday at Regionals with a 45-2 +43 score differential.  They lost to Conspiracy on Sunday morning and their defeat at the hands of Fringants could be related to mental and physical fatigue (Fringants played an easier game preceding the final placement match).  I suspect that in this rematch situation there is a good chance that T-Q will win.

Finally, X2 rounds out the pool with a good group of development players from Ottawa.  Last year X2 contributed to the All Star Juniors pool and should do well to produce future All Stars.  They are in an unenviable position in a very strong pool with little chance of them moving up.  Fortunately, strong play in the first day can inspire players and forces them to adapt.  Day two should be much better for X2 if they bring fire.

Projected pool finish:  Vortex, T-Q, Fringants, and X-2.  Fringants upsets T-Q.

Pool D

(4)Conspiracy – Québec/Trois-Rivières, (5)Misfits – BC/Vancouver, (12)Rolling Thunder – BC/Vancouver, (13)Escape – Ontario/North Bay.

The last pool is one ripe for upsets with a 4/5 game as well as a 12/13.

With first seed out of Québec is Conspiracy.  Going 3-0 on Day 1 and then eventually defeating their pool partner again in the finals Conspiracy had a very good Regionals.  However, I think they’ll have their hands full with Misfits from BC.  I also think that Rolling Thunder will test them early and may take quite a bit out of them ahead of their Misfits matchup.  Day 1 will be a major test for them but they should maintain good position going into Day 2.

Misfits is one of two BC teams in this pool and also one of the most likely to upset Conspiracy.  The West coast doesn’t send weak teams seeded this highly and they especially don’t go easy when they’re in an n/n+1 game.  They’ll be gunning from the start of the day and set an early tempo to take top seed in this pool.

Rolling Thunder is the fourth and final BC team in the Juniors division.  They beat a very strong team to make it to CUC and their low seeding indicates the relative inexperience but not their ability.  Teams should take care when playing any BC team and they will get a chance to grind down Conspiracy.

Finally, Escape from North Bay (impossible) makes an appearance.  From one of the strongest leagues in the world and a program that is known for producing players that are on GOAT and Furious these punks are going to be making a right royal mess of Pool D.  Hugely unknown they are well placed to upset Rolling Thunder and depending upon how much they mimic the NADS style of play they could pull it off.  Expect an upset.

Projected pool finish:  Conspiracy, Misfits, Escape, and Rolling Thunder.  Escape upsets Rolling Thunder.

Post Pool Play

As this is the Juniors division it would be foolhardy to make any hard and fast predictions.  As this is a much more serious post than my previous ones I’ll refrain from making rash decisions.  One prediction I’ll gladly make is a BC vs Toronto finals.  Shock, OverDrive, and Vortex as incredibly well placed to crush any competition and the seedings will likely pit Shock and Vortex in a semifinal.  OverDrive will likely face Conspiracy or Misfits in the semifinals.

Regardless of who wins the large and competitive Juniors division is a testament to the hard work of coaches and players across Canada.  Ultimate Canada has put in significant effort alongside specific people in each region that continue to produce superstars.  If you’re an adult player at CUC then be sure to head over to the Juniors games and cheer them on and thank the coaches and parents for getting the kids there; it’s the least you can do.

If you want to do a bit more than the least then check with your local league as to how you can help.

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