By: Jimmy Leppert
Starting on July 27th, the All-Star Ultimate Tour kicks off for its inaugural season, after an extremely successful fundraising campaign. Before they hit the road, get a bit more familiar with their players and games along the way.
It finally happened, there’s a NexGen-type tour with women’s ultimate players. And to think that funding only launched about a month ago, June 23rd, and now this group of 17 women will be traveling across the country for two and half weeks to face some of the top women’s club teams in the nation. These teams include reigning WUCC champion Seattle Riot and 2013 & 2014 USAU Club Champion D.C. Scandal in what is going to be a challenging road-trip. While many of the players have competed at the highest levels of high school, college, and club, this is still going to be a new experience. Good thing a chunk of the players are coming off of successful runs at the U-23 Ultimate Championships in London just a week ago – a total of three nations are represented on the squad.
With the help of E.R.I.C., Early Recognition is Critical, and NexGen founder Kevin Minderhout, each of the tours games are going to be brought to the world via livestream, and available for watching for free. And UltiPhotos is helping to bring images of these games to the masses as well.
- Jesse Shofner
Playing for Oregon Fugue this past spring, Shofner took home the D-I College Championship title, and a silver medal in London with the Team USA U23 Women.
- Qxhna Titcomb
Besides leading this whole tour, Qxhna has been tearing it up this year on the ultimate field – gold at WCBU in the spring, a Callahan Award finalist for her time with Tufts Ewo, a spot on Seattle Riot, and gold with USA Mixed at U-23’s in London.
- Alika Johnston
Johnston won the Callahan Award this past season, and helped Virginia Hydra during their run at the D-I College Championships; plus 2 Club Championships with Washington DC’s Scandal, and silver with USA Women at U-23’s in London.
- Jaclyn Verzuh
Jaclyn is the youngest player ever to make Seattle Riot, and comes in with Team USA U-19 gold, and a U-23 silver with the women’s team.
- Hannah Leathers
A 2015 Callahan Award finalist, Leathers has been a standout with the University of Georgia’s Dawgma, and Atlanta’s Ozone.
- Hayley Wahlroos
As a sophomore this past season with Oregon Fugue, Wahlroos lit up the competition en route to a championship at the D-I College Championships with her play-making ability and deep throwing arsenal.
- Stevie Miller
One of the standouts in Ohio State Fever’s 2014 D-I College Championship, Miller was huge in London with the USA U23 Women’s team as they earned silver.
- Caitlin Fitzgerald
If you watched Kansas Betty at the 2015 D-I College Championships, than you no doubt saw Caitlin Fitzgerald leading the team on and off the field.
- Lisa Pitcaithley
Everything that can be said about Lisa P, can be done through this video. Or some of these.
- Dori Franklin
One of the captains of Colorado Kali, Franklin helped lead the team at the D-I College Championships, and is also a member of Denver’s Molly Brown.
- Megan Cousins
Also one of the captains of Colorado Kali and a member of Denver Molly Brown, Cousins has been on the 2013 USA Women’s team that won gold, and the 2015 Women’s team that just won silver in London.
- Erynn Schroeder
Schroeder is a standout player with D-III College of Saint Benedict, a member of the 2012 USA Women’s team at WJUC, and just won silver with the 2015 Women’s team in London.
- Kate Scarth
Scarth has had a long career already in Canada, with a spot on the 2012 Canadian WJUC Women’s team, a member of Fusion at WUCC in 2014, and is was the Callahan nominee from the University of Victoria UVixens this past season.
- Carolyn Normile
Normile helped lead Pittsburgh Danger to the D-I College Championships this past spring, won silver with the USA Women’s team in London a few weeks ago, and really enjoys chocolate, Twix, and cheese.
- Rebecca Brereton
Hailing from Australia, Brereton (or ‘Bec’) was in London with the Australian Women’s team, the Stingrays, that finished fourth, and is a member of the club team Kaos back home.
- Margot Stert
Stert was phenomenal during the UCLA Bruin Ladies (BLU) run this past college season, culminating with a birth to the D-I College Championships, and was the team’s Callahan nominee.
- Steph Lim
A recent addition of San Francisco’s Fury, Lim had a huge season with Stanford Superfly this past college season – often acting as the main facilitator of their offense, and grabbing tons of highlight reel defensive blocks.
With the project and planning of the tour only recently coming together, this is quite the roster. Balancing where all of the playmakers fit in will be a challenge, but easily overcome with a few games under their belt. They have one short practice under their belt already, with the help of Riot’s Rohre Titcomb and Mike Lawler. There are some players who instantly stand out for a ‘universe-line’ type situation, but it’d be a tough call to take anyone of these players off of the field.
- July 27th – @ Seattle Riot
Matchup to Watch: With Gwen Ambler returning for another year, who gets the pleasure of guarding one of ultimate’s most well-decorated players?
- July 28th – @ Vancouver Traffic
Matchup to Watch: There’s too many cooks for just one matchup to watch.
- July 29th – @ Portland Schwa
Matchup to Watch: Amanda Kostic should play a huge role for Schwa with Wahlroos and Shofner on the Tour’s side for this game.
- July 31st – @ Denver Molly Brown
Matchup to Watch: With Octavia “Opi” Payne joining Molly Brown this offseason, she instantly becomes the player to watch.
- August 5th – @ Atlanta Ozone
Matchup to Watch: With some of her U23 USA Mixed teammates on the tour, how will Lane Siedor fare when the team visits Atlanta?
- August 7th – @ D.C. Scandal
Matchup to Watch: The team may have lost some players in the offseason, but Sandy Jorgensen is still leading the team, and Alex “Dutchy” Ghesquiere still their coach, in what is certain to be a tough game.
- August 9th – @ Philadelphia Green Means Go
Matchup to Watch: There are 12 rookies on Green Means Go this season, so watching how the two teams handle their rosters will be interesting!
- August 10th – @ NYC Bent
Matchup to Watch: Guarding Bent captain Megan Randall will not be easy for the Tour.
- August 12th – @ Boston Brute Squad
Matchup to Watch: The last game! Many matchups to watch, but lets land on watching the two captains – Emily Baecher and Paula Seville – and how the Tour guards these storied players.
The break to travel from Denver to Atlanta is going to be nice, here’s hoping the travel vans the tour has purchased has A/C to go along with it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that much sight-seeing will be going on during all of the traveling either. Unless they stop in cities like Kansas City, or Nashville, on their way over to Atlanta.
The first game against Seattle Riot is sure to test how well these 17 players can mesh together on such short notice, against one of the most consistently dominant teams in the Women’s division. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how teams that have already established themselves atop the Women’s division this season approach these games, both in how they utilize their available players and on the field strategy. Only Philadelphia Green Means sits outside of Ultiworld’s top 15 in their rankings, sitting 19th overall; the tour starts off by facing numbers 2, 5, 11 and 4 before the travel break to Atlanta. Much like we saw during the NexGen Tour though, be ready for young and (sometimes) well-rested group of All-Stars to light up the club teams.
Remember, go to the All-Star Ultimate Tour website to find information on streaming. They also have a blog and @allstarulti on Twitter to follow along. And be sure to go to the All-Star Ultimate Facebook page, and find the event nearest you to go see this tour in person.