By: Jimmy Leppert
The 2015 Triple Crown Tour from USA Ultimate kicks off soon for the Men’s, Mixed, and Women’s divisions. We are less than a month away from the first event of the Tour, the U.S. Open, which is taking place in West Chester, Ohio from July 2nd to the 5th and is one of the most prominent tournaments due to its international additions in all three divisions – including teams from Germany, Colombia, the UK, and Australia. With five USAU-hosted events in total, and other USAU-sanctioned events (some that have already taken place), it’s going to be another exciting season. Teams across all three divisions have started to release their main rosters, while others are still in the tryout phase. No matter! I still have some questions before the real fun begins in all three divisions.
- Who are the favorites in men’s? Women’s?
Saving the best question for first! The reigning champions from each division, Denver Johnny Bravo and DC Scandal, should of course be mentioned. While each are going to experience some roster turnover, by nature of their finish last year they are set-up for a prime USAU ranking and are still the club-home for many of the nation’s top players. Starting in the men’s division, teams like Raleigh Ring of Fire, San Francisco Revolver (of course), and Texas Doublewide should round out the next three favorites. Ring is bringing back much of their 2014 roster, which narrowly missed a championship game appearance, and with a lot of key players (and coaches) contributing to the success of UNC Darkside in college, and the Raleigh Flyers in the AUDL, that success should carry-over to club. Revolver, much like Ring, returns a lot of their 2014 roster and added several players that could step-up right away and make key contributions (like former UNC and Ring player Christian Johnson). Doublewide may be losing Will Driscoll, for as of yet unknown reasons, but they do pick up many players returning to the team – such as Kurt Gibson, Kiran Thomas, and Skip Sewell. The addition of Brandon ‘Muffin’ Malacek, formerly of Boston Ironside, is going to be an interesting fit, but certainly helps to elevate the team that finished tied for 9th last season into title contention. In the women’s division, the old favorites of San Francisco Fury and Seattle Riot should sit atop the pack yet again. Fury has picked up some more talent from the Stanford Superfly team that finished second in Milwaukee a few weekends ago as they look to return to the championship podium. While Riot picks up Callahan-nominee Qxhna Titcomb, Paige Soper, and Julia Synder to an already loaded team that’s looking to get over the hump, and win the championship.
- How will the new-look Boston Ironside fair?
Take a good long look at the Boston Ironside roster announcement for 2015. 13 departures on the team that finished second just a season ago. Included in the departures list is George Stubbs and Russell Wallack, along with other players including Jeff Babbitt (who is coming off of that ridiculous college season with UMass). Not a good sign for Boston, especially with some of their talent going to other Boston-area Men’s teams like Dark or Light and Big Wrench. But they also have finishing second in 2014 on their side, which means they get to compete in the U.S. Open, the Pro-Elite Challenge, and the Pro-Flight Finale. Questions of inexperience at this level for some of their roster will soon be erased, as their thrown directly into the fire of the club division, playing some of the other top teams. And while they did lose a lot of big name players, if they add the face of Mark Twain (“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”) to their jerseys it wouldn’t be all that surprising.
- How will the new-look Colorado Molly Brown fair?
While Ironside has lost some players, Colorado Molly Brown has added a whole bunch of players. One of those players is Team USA stand-out, and key part in DC Scandal’s title runs, Octavia ‘Opi’ Payne. While the word on the street is that these additions aren’t like what the Denver Men’s team, Johnny Bravo, did last season by bringing in players from out of town, it’s still exciting when Google tells me your city last got snow in May. Molly Brown, who finished last season tied for 9th, instantly – I think at least – skyrockets to the top of the division. Add in the fact that they’ll be playing at the Triple Crown Tour’s Elite-Select Challenge in July, the Pro-Elite Challenge in early August, and the Pro-Flight Finale. We’ll get to see this much stronger version of Molly Brown compete right away (more on the streaming of games in a minute), against all levels within the Women’s division. How exciting.
- What non-TCT event is looking to be the most exciting?
Look no further than the Bro-Flight Finale, hosted by Chicago Machine and Madison Club, in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. The tournament is going to feature the best of the teams who cannot attend (by nature of 2014 finish and/or 2015 results) the Pro Flight Finale in the Men’s division, and Japan’s Buzz Bullets team is coming over as well. As the last regular season event for this ‘tier’ of teams, it should be no surprise that it’s looking to be the most exciting. The always exciting Chesapeake Open and Chicago Heavyweights tournaments should be considered as well, also due to their late-season spots on the calendar. While the Open hasn’t announced teams in attendance yet, Heavyweights is featuring some of the Chicago-area’s top Women’s division teams, including Madison Heist and Chicago Nemesis.
- Can Michigan High Five piece their roster into TCT-success?
The 2015 Michigan High Five roster is making a lot of noise for a select flight team in the Triple Crown Tour. That continues the plan that was laid out in early February on Ultiworld. Some of the best players from Michigan and Ohio have now come together, and the team’s leaders feel that now is the time for them to shine – by piecing together a trip to the Club Championships and out-performing their expectations. In order to do this, their best bet is to gain a second bid for their Great Lakes region, a region typically dominated by Chicago Machine. Machine may have done poorly in Frisco last season, but they’ve had several extremely strong regular seasons in a row. Two Triple Crown Tour events (Elite-Select Challenge in July, Pro-Elite Challenge in August), and a position at the Bro-Flight Finale, can go a long way into achieving their goals, and attaining that success. Their competition at these tournaments will certainly be steep, and they’ll have to use their now deeper roster to take down teams like Sub Zero or Florida United that they’ve lost to in the past, and improve their results against teams like Truck Stop, Madison Club, and yes, even Machine, to get there. Another bid for the Great Lakes region is not out of the question. A strong performance once they qualify for the Club Championships in Frisco, Texas is without seeing how the team comes together on the field.
- Should we be mad at Ultiworld for their filming decisions? (No)
(tl;dr – no). No, we should not be mad at Ultiworld for their filming decisions this season. In case you missed it, Ultiworld will have exclusive video coverage of the 2015 Triple Crown Tour events [be on the lookout soon for links to actually purchase their coverage! Support this!]. They also plan on going to some Regionals events, and some non-TCT events across the country where they can. An issue that has been raised is that their coverage is a 50/50 split between the Men’s and Women’s divisions, with no video coverage of the Mixed division. If you look to the comment section of the post announcing this, editor’s Charlie Eisenhood and Keith Raynor have taken to the defensive to justify this decision, and it all makes perfect sense. They point to less interest from readers historically, the usually high roster turnover in the division (and sometimes team turnover), and their economic model by which they run their business. One ultimate streaming company already ceased operations. Some of what is argued in this recent Atlantic article may apply here, but ultimate media does not have the same dollar-power as soccer has right now, let alone one of the four major American sports. While I would like to see some of the mixed games from the major TCT-events, I certainly understand the decision Ultiworld made, and don’t think we should be mad at them. Helping to support Ultiworld now may enable them to offer more substantial coverage of the Mixed division in the future. So support them now.
- Speaking of Mixed… Can 2014 Mixed division champion Minneapolis Drag’N Thrust follow up their last two impressive seasons (2 USAU Club championships, gold in Lecco, Italy at WUCC) with another championship?
The sub-question to this would be, “and who the hell will challenge them?” In two USAU title runs, they’ve faced the San Francisco Polar Bears in 2013 and Seattle Mixed in 2014 – the Polar Bears finished 11th in 2014, while Seattle Mixed was not in existence in 2013. As mentioned in the last answer, the Mixed division sees some of the largest roster turnover, and as such predicting who will be on top of the division is a little bit… difficult. Even the champions have some major roster turnover this season, losing some of their founding team members. The question remains… who will challenge the team from Minneapolis? Roster details for other teams have been few and far between, but two usually strong regions may hold the answer – the Northeast and Southwest. The Northeast has featured teams like Wild Card, Slow White, 7Express, and Union in the past to challenge other teams on the national stage, along with a random assortment of other Canadian or Boston-based teams. The Southwest has the bevy of teams from San Francisco, including the Polar Bears, Mischief, Blackbird, and American BBQ, but also a strong 7 Figures team from Los Angeles, and other challengers that fell short of grabbing one of the regions bids last season. If Drag’N is challenged, the safe bet is a team from one of those regions; picking, though, is a little tough right now.
Look for more club posts throughout the season.