Friday, April 25, 2008

Talking with Trainor: Anne Mercier / Ottawa Gee Gee's Women's Ultimate


As I said before, we need to devote more attention to the women's game on this blog. No two teams are more deserving at this time than the UBC Thundbirds and the Ottawa Gee Gees, both looking to make it to the UPA College Regionals this spring.

Hammer Time at Vegas 08

Anne Mercier took the time to quickly interview with me before she and her teammates head out to regionals. Mercier, one of the best players in the college game and a UPA club game breaker, will look to help lead her talented squad right to the finals.

Best of luck to the lady Gee Gee's!
What was the Vegas tournament like? How does it compare to other victories?

Vegas was awesome. A fun city that no one has ever visited before. It was sweet to have a different ultimate venue compared to what we were used to at home (in a gym or in the snow).

The competition was great. I think the Sunday was the best - playing UW in the quarters, Wisconsin in the semis and UCLA in the finals. It's great to see college women's ultimate at a high level. It made us realize that there were many teams who are really skilled and it was a good to see some west coast teams too.

The victory was awesome. Don't know how I'd 'rate' them against other victories but it's definitely up there. Winning the 3-day tournament with 12 girls was huge and I'm sure everyone who was there will remember it for a very long time.

How were Sectionals? Despite the weather problems, did the team take anything out of the experience?

Sectionals was good. Despite running in foot-sinking ankle-high mud fields, we're happy with the results. We were able to iron out a few more kinks in our game, and it was great to be playing outside again!

How do you feel heading into Regionals? What teams do you prepare for?

I think I speak for the whole team when I say that I'm completely stoked for the weekend. We didn't have the chance last year to attend, and any/every accomplishment will be a new one for this relatively young team.

We haven't seen much in-region competition, but based on this season's results I'd say that Maryland, Pittsburgh and NYU are the teams that we'd have to look out for. They have solid programs and I would expect to get some good games during the wknd against these teams. However, we still can't rule out the rest of the pack; a good number of teams have some great talent and could give us a run for our money (proved by Cornell's 3 point run in our sectionals final near the end of the game).

Does the narrow window of opportunity in college scare your team, given you are a favoured women's team this year?

Favoured or not - doesn't really matter. All we need to know is that there are 2 spots to go to Nationals. We have to work hard to get one of those two spots. I don't think we're scared. More-so we want to rise up to the challenge.

How do you prepare for good teams you have yet to play?

Most of the work has already been done - at practice, training and trowing on our own time etc. We go back to the basics no matter who we face and play to the level that we can play. We're going to play against many good teams that we've never met before over the next few weeks. Smart matchups will help, but if we stick to what we know and just play our game, hopefully everything will be okay. One point at a time.

Which players are expected to lead this year? Have there been any pleasant performance surprises?

I think in college it falls down to the same people on all teams: those who are confident enough to lead. That normally comes down to the comp (club) players. But in all honesty, so many people on the team have already stepped it up this year. Even though it's in different ways, every person has found their role on the team and does a superb job of doing what the team needs them to do.

Who have been the toughest opponents thus far in the spring series? (Vegas tourney included)

So far, I'd say that we had our best competition in Vegas - mainly during the Sunday games. Our toughest game was against Wisconsin. They have a really deep team, an all around athletic roster, and many big-game players that are very capable of taking over games. This was a while ago so I'd assume that they've only gotten better.

Do you think a UBC-Ottawa UPA college final is possible?

Hell yes.

It's possible, but there's still a lot between now and May 18th. It's going to take a lot of work and there will be 20+ teams that would like to have a say on that. We'll see with regionals first, then think about Nationals (hopefully).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Talking with Trainor: Tory Hislop/ UBC Women's Ultimate


This site needs more cowbell. No wait.. it needs more ladies coverage.

The UPA College regionals are coming up, and Canada should be talking about the women's division. Why? UBC and Ottawa are both heading into their respective regionals with legitimate chances to make UPA Finals. Dare I say either of them could make the championship game, against one another?

Being in central Canada (no, Ontario is not Eastern Canada!), I don't get to see UBC mens or women's teams as much as I would like. However, I know enough to know there is a rich history of strong clubs from the school, and that is no different this year. The women's team has had an impressive spring, and I contact one of their team captains (Tory Hislop) to find out more about the team before their regionals grudge match.

Not only did I get a quick response, but an excellent one. I'm not the only one covering the team's quest.

Best wishes to the Thunderbirds!
What was the Vegas tournament like?

Vegas is always a great tournament. It is the biggest tournament, starting on a Friday and going to Sunday. It is always a good place to get a feel for where the team is at in comparison to everyone else, and this year we saw so much potential for our team.

Overall it is a great tournament with teams from all over the states, and obviously in an extremely fun location. We made it to semi-finals and unfortunately lost to UCLA, but it didn't really feel like a lose because I think we were all so excited for the season after seeing some of the talent we had on the team.

What are your thoughts on the Stanford Invite?

(I wasn't there) But we did make it finals and again lost to UCLA. From what I heard we had to get some players "set-up" big time to compensate for the missing players and injured players. So again we walked away knowing we had lots of talent but still need to create more cohesion, to exploit it.

How big was the tourney win at Centex?

Centex is a long way from Vancouver, so with travel expenses, time commitment and injury issues, only 12 of our 24 players where able to make it down. With only 12 players the cohesion that had been missing came out in full force. Players again had to step up into bigger roles then they were use to and as a dynamic group of 12 players and 1 coach we managed to play our system all the way to the finals. However this time we did not get to face UCLA but instead UW.

The whole game was close, with some strong wind conditions making it any ones game up until the very end. Winning the tournament felt amazing especially after having being one step closer with each tournament we played but also on top of that we won $2000.

How were Sectionals?

We came to Sectionals slightly disorganized and maybe a little to confident after our Centex win. We definitely did not play very well for most of Saturday. Sunday our play in comparison to Saturday was much improved. We faced UW first game of the day and last game of the day. The first game did not go well at all, they came out strong and didn't let up. The second game was finals and again they came out strong, played really well and earned the win.

We on the other hand came out soft, with some turnovers, a couple drops, and before we knew it we were down 8-3 at half. We climbed our way back to 11-9 but the game was done before we had a chance to close the gap anymore.

How do you feel heading into Regionals? What teams do you prepare for?

I want to believe that sometimes losing is a good thing. I hoping the feeling of defeat had pushed us to practice harder, and driven us to want to win. We are in the middle of exams so have not had a full team at practice lately, because of that it is hard to say how we are looking, but I am confident that we have all the talent to do extremely well.

I am not sure that we are preparing for any team in particular, mostly we are preparing to play hard, play smart, and play our system; hopefully that preparation will help us be successful with every team we face.

Does the narrow window of opportunity in college scare your team, given you are a highly regarded women's team this year? (i.e. So few bids)

I am amazed on a daily basis by the talent, athleticism, and field sense that many of our players have. We have proven our ability to succeed and I think a lot of us were disappointed with last years finish at college nationals and would love the opportunity to go further this year.

Being led by a player like Kira Frew is truly inspiration, and a source of confidence for us, she makes us all want to play harder, run faster, and ultimately WIN! The idea of not making college nationals is always sitting in the back our minds but I think that helps push us to work harder so hopefully that hard work will pay off this weekend.

How do you prepare for good teams you have yet to play?

We have a great coach, Stephanie Chow, she tells us what to do and we go do our best to make it happen.

Which players are expected to lead this year? Have there been any pleasant performance surprises?

This is a hard question, we have a lot of talent, and on any given day a different girl may step up. I like to think we are a team of 24+coach and every win is an effort of the team. With that said I also don't think it would be fair not to give credit to Kira Frew for her beautiful throws and unbelievable D's, also Nikki Short's height and speed has make a lot happen on the field for us, and finally I want to give notice to Lindsay Olimer who although has been injured for the past two months started off the season showing lots of potential to make some great things happen, and we are very excited to be getting her back from regionals.

Who have been the toughest opponents thus far in the spring series?

Well UCLA is the only team we have played and not beaten this season, but UW is a team we have seen more and know our system better, they are a very talented team with a lot of drive. Therefore, I am going to have to say UW.

Do you think a UBC-Ottawa UPA college final is possible?

Anything is possible!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Roster Size- Too Big, Too Small, or Just Right?


Tryout season is alive and well in Canada right now, and most likely down in the U-S of A. As teams are being formed, the question many people discuss is this:

  • How many guys should we carry?
An impossible question, which makes for a debate that never ends.

Personally, I've always been a big fan of carrying a team of 20-25. It seems big at the start of the year, but yet it always seems to whittle down each and every year. Even with 25 players, you're likely to have a tournament where your numbers are bordering around 14. People have jobs, lives outside of ultimate, and there is always that nasty injury bug that haunts many players, some more than others. And some ultimate players, dare I say it, lack committment to make all practices and tournaments even if they say they will at the start of the year.

While you might only bring 20 players to each tournament, you need to make everyone hungry for every practice.

If you're going with a program of two teams, I think you need at least 50. I think the lower half of a program is transient in nature, and the last thing you want to do is find replacements in mid summer.

Do players want to be in the 20-25 spots or in practice rosters:? The good ones will, as long as they get good experience and play with a winner.

So the poll question is : How big should a team roster be in ultimate? What are the considerations?