CUC 2011 Mixed Preview

 Unfortunately, my predictions will be rather tame. A missed upset on Thursday could have consequences for an entire bracket. This coupled with the even distribution of talent in various “seed groups” has led to a somewhat unpredictable tournament. Sounds like a cop out. It probably is. I am quite lazy. However, I will offer a few guesses, offer some analysis, and leave you with a brief summary of the teams attending.

Odyssee will win nationals. They will do well in the USA series. And they will be in contention at worlds. As I note a few paragraphs down, this team dominates through, talent, work ethic, and a positive attitude.  After them, however, things get interesting. The second through fifth seeds are all close with the only real wildcard being Team Fischer Price from Vancouver. Onyx, Union, and Trainwreck have played each other in close competitive games and factors outside the purview of my psychic abilities will likely influence each match. On the other hand, Team Fischer Price enters as an unknown. Without any recent comparable matchups, it is hard to place the western powerhouse. If you are a betting (wo)man and can find a bookie who actually takes bets on Ultimate, smart money would put them in the top 3.

A similar pattern emerges with seeds six, seven, eight, and nine. While anyone of No Clue?, SPAWN, HARD, or MuD, possess the ability to challenge the top five, it is more likely that they will be battling it out for placements in the top eight. All four teams should be wary of challengers from the lower seeds as BFC and Zen have shown a propensity for upset in the past. I am hesitant to predict how this group will pan out and I assume that there will be at least some jockeying of position. SPAWN’s strong finish last year gives them an advantage, but I do not think it is enough of one to justify any outright prediction.

The remaining teams, tenth to sixteenth, offer an intriguing mix. On one hand, Zen, BFC, Prodigy, and Havoc offer many potential upsets, on the other a rebuilding Rip squad and inexperienced Skysharks team will undoubtedly gain a wealth of experience from CUC. Predicting teams to hold seed in the bottom six seems cruel; however, the talent pool of the mixed division is so deep that it is hard to imagine many teams falling out of the top-8.

Pool A

Game To Watch: Havoc versus Hard. Good upset potential.

Odyssee: This team is going to win the pool, the tournament, and compete for top spot at Worlds. A bold prediction, I know. Still, I would like to write something about Canada’s top mixed team, so I might as well examine why they have been so successful this season. Of course, people will contribute their dominance to a large talent pool.  A valid claim considering the Odyssee roster features some of the best players from Mephisto, Storm, RIP, and Onyx; however, there is more to the Quebec-based team then talent.  I would attribute the early season savaging of the East Canadian mixed scene (see playing themselves as a split squad in the finals of Comedy of Errors) to hard work. Odyssee’s season began during the winter months as the team encouraged players to hit the weight room. They also spent 16 weeks together as a team working with a personal trainer. During the season, practices have focused on the skills developed in the off-season through a variety of agility and fitness drills. Odyssee will win nationals through individual talent and team-oriented work-effort.

**Hard: **Hard played mixed-up as a party tournament until their Captain realized on Sunday morning that the results would affect nationals seeding. I like that attitude. Unfortunately, I do not think that the team will hold on to their 8th place seed. Whereas Odyssee practices like team traditionally found in “the more competitive divisions” HARD’s practice is conducted through local leagues. I do not think HARD has the individual talent to overcome many of the teams focused on individual fitness. However, their focus of team chemistry and pronounced camaraderie has given the team a positive attitude heading into CUC that will likely work to their advantage. They have the ability to upset, especially if they can pull of an early break or two, but this year’s mixed division talent level will not make things easy.

**MuD: **MuD has had a season of mixed results with loses to Zen, close games against Union, and picking up the third seed in the regional qualifier. I expect the up and down to continue at CUC with the team holding seed. While Tushar has received his share of criticism for what he has written regarding the Ontario teams, I tend to agree with his assessment of MuD. If they are able to overcome slow morning starts they have the chance to improve their initial seed; however, the teams ranked above them are strong and a repeat of last year’s seventh place finish is likely not in the cards.

**HAVOC: **I will personally guarantee that the team formerly known as F-Bomb will, at the very least, hold seed. And if they don’t, I will let Tushar punch me in the mouth. Now for a braver prediction: Havoc will improve their seed and cause a handful of upsets. Of course, any game they actually win is technically an upset, but that is beside the point. In their own pool, the potential exists to beat both Hard and MuD as long the visibly athletic team (I played in a beach tournament with some of these guys, and it is pretty obvious they don’t fuck around in the weight room) is able to close out games. The second team from New Brunswick has had a traditionally hard time closing tournaments out; however, Sunday at their regional qualifier may have been a turning point. By winning back-to-back elimination games, Havoc booked their ticket to Ottawa and successfully implemented new game management strategies. A new mental approach to ultimate, combined with their traditionally strong commitment to fitness off the field will definitely work in the team’s favour. While their goal of top 8 may be just outside their reach, I expect hard work on and off the field to pay off in Ottawa.

Pool B

Game to Watch: Spawn versus Onyx. See how the New Brunswickers stack up.

**OYNX: **I expect last year’s champion to be in the final again this year. With 12 returning players, ONYX will certainly hold an advantage over most teams in terms of experience. While early season injuries have led to poor results (2-5 record at the Boston Invite), the team managed to recover and take second in their regional qualifier, losing only to powerhouse Odyssee in the finals. Second is almost a forgone conclusion; however, I expect tough games from the top Ontario teams, as well as wildcard Team Fischer Price.

SPAWN: As last year’s Cinderella story, SPAWN heads to Ottawa without the element of surprise. While the roster has not experienced a large amount of turnover, loses in key areas may hinder their 2011 Nationals campaign and the departure of key female handlers will put rookies in prominent roles. However, roster turnover is common for the Fredericton-based team and the strong leadership core has had success in the past with inexperienced players. This year’s SPAWN team is also more athletic than the 2010 version and their seed is a result of the division’s talent, a relatively poor performance at Comedy of Errors, and bias towards Atlantic Canada. Spawn has the ability to upset teams in the top 5, but I realistically predict that they will hold seed.  PS: Jamie Fitzgerald, you owe me five successful handler strikes.

**Skysharks: **Not much is known about this team from Victoria British Columbia who have yet to play as a complete roster this season.  The regional consisted of a game against division stalwart TFP and resulted in a 15-1 loss. While the team hopes to finish in the top 8, they will be lucky to hold seed. However, nationals will be a good experience for the team as half the team’s members are losing their natty’s cherry.T he team does feature Blair Underhill, a member of Canada’s U23 gold medal winning team and a mix of experienced and youth on the ladies side.  I feel they are over seeded; however, my opinion could be shaped by ignorance.

**RIP: **This is not the same RIP team that finished 2nd last year. With only four members returning from last year’s silver medal winning squad, RIP will be hard pressed to improve their seeding. However, nationals will be a positive experience for the team who are looking forward to rebuilding through an influx of youth. With a strong side-line and a focus on the strong play of young members, RIP will gain valuable experience for future years.

Pool C

Game to Watch:** ** Zen versus BFC. A really important game for both teams.

**TFP: **CUC’s wildcard team will likely fall to both Quebec powerhouse teams and give Union and Trainwreck close games. A World’s team in 2008, “Team Forgot to Practice” will draw on an experienced roster, giving them an advantage over the youth of Trainwreck and the sometimes-hotheaded play of Union.  The strength of their girls will give them a distinct advantage over the 5-10 seeds.

No Clue: No clue is a brand new team for the 2011 season that features 7 players from RIP guiding a solid stable of younger athletic players, including junior aged players. As the third ranked team in the strongest Mixed region, it would be foolish to write this team off. However, bringing only 20 players to CUC (whereas teams such as Odyssee bring 26+) could  hold them back if the injury bug bites. The team hopes to finish top-8, a goal that is definitely achievable with savvy management their limited bench. They are also in the hardest pool of day-1 with 3 teams capable of placing second behind TFP.

**BFC: **BFC is looking forward to playing at home in Ottawa. Early season losses to ZEN and lackluster results at Comedy of Errors were erased through a strong showing Sunday at Ontraio’s regionals. Like most teams, they have increased their focus on fitness and have encountered early season injury woes. While their season is on the upswing, they will struggle to break the top 10 at CUC.

**ZEN: **Zen has held or beaten seed at every tournament they have attended this year. While consistency has been a problem, the team found their grove at Mixed Up and I expect them to better their seed at CUC. I played Zen at Gender Blender and what stuck out to me about their roster was a lack of big name game changing players. However, as the season has progressed stars have emerged. Strong play from Aaron Louis at regionals and solid handling from Ron Siu at Mixed-Up have complemented the veteran leadership of Steve Canning and Melissa Dunseith. They have the ability to beat both NO CLUE and BFC and their ‘low’ seeding adds intrigue to an already interesting pool.

Pool D

Game to Watch: Union versus Trainwreck. Obvious choice.

**Union:  **Union ended up seeded 4th heading into CUC due to a loss in the finals of Mixed-Up to ONYX. An unfortunate turn of events for them, but spectators will be treated to a regional’s final rematch in pool play. I agree with what Tushar has written on the team and am thankful he said it so I didn’t have to. With that in mind, this team has the potential to finish anywhere from 1 to outside the top 5. I predict that they will take the pool game against Trainwreck if they abuse matchups and take advantage of having a stronger set of ladies.

**Trainwreck: **While not considered an Ottawa team by the city’s ultimate governing body, the team hopes to represent the nation’s capital to “the fullest extent as ottawas top coed team[sic].” Due to a universe point loss to Union at regionals and an absence at Mixed-Up, Trainwreck heads into CUC as the fifth seed. While I ultimately predicted Union to beat them in pool play, I came to the conclusion via coin flip. Trainwreck definitely has the ability to finish in the top 3 and while I do not think anyone is going to beat Odyssee, Tushar correctly highlighted the importance of sleeping in your own bed. With the extended length of nationals, any advantage in sleep is likely to pay dividends.

**ARH: **Made the decision to go to Ottawa in late June but have been practicing three times a week. They admittedly do not expect to contend for a top finish but do hope to have some good games with the middle-seeds and, like most teams, hope to improve their seed. Without prior results, it is hard to realistically rank the team. Of all the provinces, I am also the least familiar with the Alberta touring scene.

**Prodigy: **The team is basically Mayhem. ** **Their disappointing results at regionals makes this team another wildcard. They obviously have the potential to do much better than their seed indicates; however, the teams ranked above them are ranked above them for a reason.

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