February 12, 2014 by Keith Raynor in Analysis, Recap with 9 comments
We knew Queen City Tune Up in Charlotte would set into motion shifts in the college women’s game for the season ahead. A stacked field of contenders for the title, for strength bids, and for nationals spots meant a number of meaningful games throughout the weekend. The dust is finally settling, so we have a moment to take stock.
Ohio State and Central Florida Are Very Real Threats
There isn’t much left for these two teams to prove through early season performances. Their only losses this season are to one another. Both have had runs of next level play, blowing out solid opponents and cruising through tournaments. It is no surprise that their top end duos, both of which return from last season, are driving their teams forward. However, they also have seen role players and depth develop in ways that are making waves in their games.
Right now, both teams look like they are in one bid regions without any discernible competition in sight.
The question moving forward will be how these two squads line up with the west coast powers. Central Florida will be headed to Stanford Invite next, while Ohio State walks into the belly of the beast at Northwest Challenge.
Northeastern Makes Their Mark
The Northeastern Valkyries surprised everyone with their bid to nationals last season, and then again when they showed that their presence was earned, not given, but outperforming outside expectations. Yet they were still considered by many to lack what it takes to compete at the top levels when this season began.
While Florida Winter Classic’s small field didn’t reveal everything, Queen City Tune Up certainly showed what the Valkyries are capable of.
First, they turned in a round two upset of a then-ranked #3 Carleton team, one of the weekend’s first impressive wins. They won the rest of their pool play games by comfortable margins, playing a much cleaner and more efficient game than in Gainesville a few weeks prior.
Their most impressive victory, however, was over regional rival Tufts in the quarterfinals; they barely challenged Tufts in either meeting between the two last season. Northeastern was able to outgrind an exhausted Virginia squad in the semifinals and find themselves in the final of one of the season’s most competitive tournaments. That’s how you defy expectations.
Tufts and Carleton With Rocky Starts But…
It is too early to write off two hyper talented teams. Both were getting in their first action and struggled against teams that had already gotten in good fall or spring games. They also will both need to make adjustments to fill in for stars that are gone this year.
For Tufts, they have a really strong group of returners and some new rookies, but their graduated players took on a lot of touches last season. It is no surprise to see them struggle a little out of the gates. They also were without Emily Shields – their only returning 1st team All-Region selection – on Saturday. It was a little surprising to see them fall to a Northeastern team on Sunday that they thumped multiple times last season.
Carleton Syzygy was also not at full capacity. Kirstie Barton, Emily Buckner, Bri Ricks, and Lucia Childs-Walker are a strong bunch, but Julia Snyder is really the engine for Syzygy’s go. She was a no show for Carleton on the weekend. That may help explain the lackluster results, including losses to Northeastern, Kansas, and Colorado; they also just edged Iowa State.
South Central Region Eyeing a Big Year
Colorado Kali’s resurgence has been the story out of the South Central for the months leading up to the season, but Kansas Betty decided to take some of that spotlight for themselves. Neither team set the world on fire with their weekends in Charlotte, but both give their region a shot at multiple bids.
The Boulder ladies busted in quarters at the hands of Tufts, but otherwise went 5-2 on the weekend. A 13-10 victory over Carleton really improves the outlook on the weekend. While seeing them give Ohio State a tougher game would have been nice, Kali is a developing squad that should grow a lot over the course of the season. Christina Mickle is a strong piece that this team was without last season.
Meanwhile, Kansas compiled an unassuming 3-5 record in Charlotte, but like Colorado, a key victory over Carleton changes the perspective of their performance. Betty was able to use that victory to make it to the quarterfinals. A strong game against Michigan also reflects well on them. Kansas can compete in the South Central, but looks like a team still trying to adjust to a much tougher level of competition.
Texas will make their spring debut at President’s Day next weekend. A strong performance for them would bode well for the South Central’s chance of earning strength bids this season.
North Carolina Standing Strong Without Lisa Couper
The ladies of Pleiades had every reason to turn in an awful weekend, after star Lisa Couper went down with what looks like a season ending injury a few days ago, and maybe even moreso after opening the weekend by getting upset by Florida State.
The team responded, winning their pool on the strength of hard fought victories against Michigan and Tufts. While they’d bow out in the quarterfinals on double game point against regional rival Virginia, that also means UNC was a point away from making semis yet again.
Shellie Cohen, Kendall Beadleson, and Meg Duffy all helped carry the load. Cohen’s Callahan candidacy could actually be helped, as she is forced to truly take over games. North Carolina will really have their mettle tested when they travel to California for President’s Day this coming weekend, joining Michigan in playing back to back tournaments.
The top 3 finishers were all the top 3 at Florida Winter Classic, perhaps indicating that getting in a competitive early season tournament gave them a huge edge…the Ohio Valley, lead by Ohio State’s 7-0, had the best overall record at 10-4; the Atlantic Coast went 15-21 and the Metro East 0-6…Maryland, Dartmouth, and Pittsburgh all broke seed, despite being seeded last in their respective pools…Michigan and Virginia are both on their way up with good weekends, while James Madison and Iowa State struggled and will need to rebound…Early Sunday gave some windy conditions that allowed teams to show off different zone looks…