A look back at the 2014 Youth Club Championships in the U19 Open Division.
August 15, 2014 by Tanner Jurek in News, Recap with 25 comments
The Open division of the 2014 Youth Club Championships was a great showing of youth ultimate in the United States. 23 teams from all over the country came together in Blaine, Minnesota, to compete for a national championship. Many of these young players already have experience playing on the international level and will be future college stars. This tournament was littered with great talent, skill, and spirit and it’s great to see how the tournament grows and teams improve on a yearly basis.
In this review I will talk about some of the great teams and players I saw as well as some interesting things I noticed during my time in Blaine.
USA Ultimate needs to find a way to change up the way the tournament is seeded. Seeding based solely on last year’s placement is not the best way to seed a national championship tournament. With so much year to year roster turnover in the youth division a team could have a roster of mostly new players yet still keep the seed that last year’s team earned them.
Some weird things happened because of the current seeding system. Connecticut was seeded 22nd just because they were a new team to the tournament, but it was obvious they deserved a much better seed. They dominated their pool, easily beat Chicago (who lost to eventual champion TriForce on double game point), and took last year’s champion Atlanta to double game point in a game they could have easily won.
Another oddity was Chicago’s Neuqua Valley. Their roster was made up of mostly Neuqua Valley High School’s B Team players. I’m not sure why they were seeded so high in the first place (it was their first year). I assume it was because the idea was that Chicago was splitting into two teams, and they were going to split evenly talent wise. I don’t think the people seeding the tournament knew that Neuqua Valley was basically Chicago’s B Team. It was obvious after ten minutes of watching this team that they weren’t on the same level as the rest of the teams at this tournament.
There is no perfect way to seed a tournament with so many new players and new teams each year. I can understand how it could be difficult, but USA Ultimate can do better. Things that should be looked at for next year’s seeding are returning players, age of players, time spent practicing together, results at warm-up tournaments, team input, and last year’s result. These factors should all be used to seed better for next year.
Connecticut Insomnia was the surprise of the open division of the Youth Club Championships. Entering the tournament as a low seed, nobody really knew what to expect from them. This relatively small team wearing reversible pinnies surprised a lot of people with how well they performed. They’ll be back next year with another strong, well-coached team.
Connecticut came out fast, dominating in there pool to start the tournament. It was clear that a lot of teams underestimated how good this team was.
I talked to Connecticut head coach Karl Schwoerke about his team. He talked about not having any “filler” players. He explained that all the players on his team are “interchangeable parts.” He said that he can sub any player in and they will all play well and know exactly what they are doing. Schwoerke is very confident in his team. He talked about how he selected a team with only high school seniors and college freshmen, giving his team a big advantage on the experience front. This was Connecticut’s first tournament as a team and they had only been practicing since June.
Connecticut ran a 2-3-2 zone taught by Schwoerke. He was constantly giving players information on what the offense was doing. In the three games I saw, this zone was run exclusively. They ran it goal line to goal line; most of the time it worked. If the opponent was on the goal line, it could still take 10-15 throws to get the score.
What impressed me so much about this defense was that every single player knew what to do in every position, in every situation. This zone was beatable, but it required near perfection by the offensive team. This zone forced a huge amount of short passes, while also giving opportunities for Connecticut’s athletes to make plays and cause turnovers. It was by far the most impressive defensive strategy I saw all weekend. If there had there been more than just a slight breeze, Connecticut’s defense would have been even more dominant.
Mike Rice, the team’s star player, was one of the best athletes I saw all weekend. He showed off great hucks, and played shut down defense as the deep man in the 2-3-2 zone. The first thing the coaches commented on when I asked about Rice was his jumping ability. Other players that impressed me on the Connecticut Insomnia team were Mark Blomberg, Alex Kenworthy, and AJ Vasquez.
Despite finishing tied for seventh, this team could have easily contended for the championship. They couldn’t capitalize on Atlanta’s turnovers in the quarterfinals and needed one more break to win. Had they won the flip, this could’ve been a totally different result for them. This team lost on double game point to Atlanta who lost on double game point to a (better rested) eventual national champion North Carolina team.
Atlanta A Very Close Second
After going up 3-0 on TriForce in the semifinals, it seemed like the ATLiens might have locked up a finals berth. But TriForce never quit, led by Sol Yanuck and Terrence Mitchell, storming back and winning the game on double game point. Atlanta and TriForce were neck and neck throughout the game. Atlanta had opportunities to win in the semifinals, but couldn’t capitalize. It was clear that the winner of this game was headed home with gold.
Atlanta has an all around great team and great program. Players like Sebastian Di Francesco, Nathan Haskell, and Anders Olson will be instant contributors at the college level. Atlanta was one point away from beating TriForce and probably winning back-to-back national titles.
Atlanta will continue to excel thanks to the team’s depth. The U16 team also took bronze. That younger talent will fill right in to the U19 division. Some ATLiens parents talked about how Atlanta needed a B team because top players on Atlanta’s U16 team weren’t going to make the U19 team in the next year or two and thus will have no YCC team to play on.
North Carolina Takes Home Gold
North Carolina TriForce played a great tournament and deserved the championship. The thing that put them over the top was there ability to win close games. They won two games on double game point and their wins came by an average of 2.67 points.
Parity at The Top
The top teams this year were a lot more equal in skill and talent compared to last year when Atlanta dominated and easily took home the championship in the open division. I think Atlanta, Connecticut, Boston, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh all had legitimate shots at winning the championship. Had a few close games swung one or two points in the other direction, the outcome would have been entirely different. There was no truly dominant team in this tournament.
Aside from those mentioned above, here are a few top players that stood out as during the weekend:
Sol Yanuck – North Carolina
Yanuck is one of the best players on the best team; he has great throws and is all over the field on offense. Asked to do a lot, he doesn’t always make the best decision with the disc, but he makes his teammates better while also being the most important player on offense. He is a top 10 recruit this year and will be an immediate contributor at Carleton College.
Terrence Mitchell – North Carolina
Mitchell is a superior athlete, though a little shorter than average. He has great speed and quickness. Mitchell usually guards the most athletic player on the opposing team.
As a handler he uses his short burst ability to get easy resets and strike cuts and can huck with the best players at the youth level. As a cutter, Mitchell is always a deep threat, and can get open often. When he’s cutting and Sol Yanuck is handling, it’s a dangerous combination. Terrence threw massive flick pulls, pinning Cincinnati in the back of the end zone throughout the entire championship game.
Mike Rice – Connecticut
Mike Rice is insanely athletic and would be a top player on any team in this tournament. Rice was an unknown player coming into the tournament, but definitely turned some heads. He will be a player to build around at UConn in the coming years.
Dominic Schuster – Cincinnati
Schuster made a name for himself during the high school season and was the obvious standout on Cincinnati’s roster. He and Sol Yanuck guarded each other for most of the championship game. He stopped Yanuck often. Schuster has a well-rounded game and a high motor on defense. At the DIII level (he is attending Franciscan), he will be dominant and could take that team deep into the DIII National Championships within a couple of years.
Jack Shanahan – Chicago
Jack Shanahan was the best player for Chicago. Shanahan, a U19 National team player, is very athletic and a fiery leader. He is attending Illinois State.