September 25, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 17 comments
With this year’s departure of Philadelphia’s Southpaw, the Mid-Atlantic Region has become a suddenly different landscape. Washington DC Truck Stop may have the easiest path to the Club Championships that the team has had in years.
Truck came into the season hot at Terminus, going 4-2 with losses coming only to Toronto GOAT and Seattle Sockeye, who are ranked #3 and #6 in the Ultiworld Power Rankings, respectively. They were the only team to beat New York PoNY on the weekend.
They continued their success at Colorado Cup with five straight wins before a 14-13 loss to Austin Doublewide, the nation’s #1 ranked team and defending champion, in the semifinals. It was Truck’s best tournament in recent memory.
But close to home at the Chesapeake Invite, the wheels fell off. They went 0-4 on Saturday, including a loss to Michigan High Five, a team that failed to qualify for Nationals last weekend. They salvaged the weekend with a 3-0 performance on Sunday, but they beat a less talented Raleigh Cash Crop twice and nearly got upset by Columbus Madcow.
They struggled offensively all weekend as teams put heavy pressure on their handlers and made it difficult for their best player, Alan Kolick, to touch the disc. The breaks piled up to the point that the team’s very solid defense couldn’t make up the ground. Truck will need better play from its veterans like Sean Keegan and Jeff Wodatch on the offensive side of the disc.
The defense — led by Jonathan Neeley, David Cranston, and Daniel Kantor — has been one of the better units in the elite men’s game. They are confident after the turn and didn’t struggle to get breaks at Chesapeake. Like many teams, they rely on hard man-to-man defense as a way to generate turns.
Truck hasn’t played in a tournament since Chesapeake over a month ago. Will they refind their winning ways? It may not matter too much at Regionals, where they are likely to face only one or two challenging games.
Pittsburgh’s Oakland — largely based around the Pittsburgh college team that has won back-to-back National Championships — will be their biggest competition and the team they are likely to face in the finals.
Oakland has had a solid year, winning the Chesapeake Open with a 15-10 victory over Boston Garuda in the finals and going undefeated at Sectionals. They did take five losses at the Chesapeake Invite and only got wins over an injury-depleted Madcow, but the team has been steadily developing throughout the season.
Marcus Ranii-Dropcho, who is poised for a breakout year in the college division, leads the offense along with Pat Earles and Max Thorne. The defense is rooted by 2013 NexGen player Trent Dillon.
The big story about Oakland coming into the season was that they lost their two best players — Alex Thorne and Tyler Degirolamo — to Doublewide. No doubt they took a talent hit, but other players have stepped into larger roles.
They are good enough to trouble Truck Stop with a strong performance, but Truck is still a four point favorite. The two teams have not faced off yet this season.
Oakland will first have to contend with a challenging pool packed with strong Regionals-level teams, including Richmond Floodwall, Philadelphia Hypnotoad (who took Oakland to 11-9 at Sectionals), DC Medicine Men, and Lancaster (formerly Heva Havas). Although some of those teams underperformed at Sectionals, they will all be tough outs.
Truck has an easier pool, though they will still have potentially challenging games against Pittsburgh Dire Wolf and Princeton Garden State Ultimate.
With one bid and a long day of pool play followed by a quarterfinals elimination bracket on Sunday, things have the potential to get very interesting. Truck certainly has the highest ceiling at the tournament and is the big favorite, but, as Chesapeake showed us, they are vulnerable to long runs of poor play. They can’t afford that at Regionals.