University ultimate has changed for the better in this decade.
Gone are the days where Queens was the unquestioned leader of the East, and UBC was an unstoppable force from the West. 17 open teams will take part in Easterns in London, Ontario this weekend and I would venture to say that at least 8 teams have a chance of winning the title.
Thanks to a growing number of strong junior programs in the country, players are emerging as star caliber University players in their freshman years. Teams are also committed to better fitness and development plans and attract serious athletes from other sports.
Now, greater parity has resulted and picking the winners and losers is much more difficult. Let's look at a preview of the teams, ranked by 2008 CEUUC results. Special thanks to the captains who supplied me with team information.
University of Toronto "Torontula"
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 1st
The numbers are simple
* 3 straight national championships
* 3 straight eastern championships
Tula is being led by Taylor Martin, Thomson McKnight, and Adrian Yearwood (all of GOAT fame) and being coached by Nathaniel Brown (ROY) for the first time this year.
They have many returning players, and 5 new players. Two new juniors (Mateusz Bocian of DIRT and the hard working Gabriel Brown of OJ) will be looked to contribute immediately.
Players to watch: Rob Svaluto and Mike King (a very "raw new guy").
In addition to adding another title as a short term goal, TULA maintains a focus on developing the depth of their roster, which is helped by their B team. "We always want to be breeding new players and this year has been good to us", says team captain Taylor Martin.
University of Western Ontario Sharks
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 2nd
The year of the Shark may have finally come.
Since 2005, the only team that has eliminated the Sharks from Eastern and National championship contention has been Torontula (save for CEUUC 2007, Guelph). Losing to the very best each and every time has lead the Western program to learn and develop accordingly. The program will feature three open teams this year, and the quality of the A roster is equal or better to any squad in the tournament.
GOAT player Mark Lloyd wowed fans and opponents at nationals this year with his individual talent and skill. He (along with Kielan Way) can arguably be considered the best player in University ultimate.
By no means is Lloyd alone, He is accompanied by Scotty Hislop (national and world championships in coed) Andrew Higy Higgins (Captain and star of Liquid) Andrew Watts (Grand Trunk and stud d line player) Andy Siy, Kevin Horgan (6'6 monster) , Trevor Henry (One of the fastest players in ultimate), and the addition of former Guelph captain and current Grand Trunk regular Andrew Butler. Myles Sinclair is a freshman to watch.
The leadership group, including Aaron Leung and Lee Gonzalez are quick to point out that the team lost 1/3 of the team from last year, but they will have a tough time convincing me that this team doesn't want to win it all now.
McGill University "Redmen" A
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 3rd
One of the most historic programs in the country is alive and well. After experience a bit of a performance slump mid decade, the program took off in 2006 and has consistently been a top three team at eastern and national events.
As an outsider, I expect this team to once again be a threat for the title, and to do it with team depth and a strong system. In the past, their zone defence has been a great weapon.
Here's a write up from coach Markian "Muk" Kuzmowycz:
One word this year -- versatility. we're inundated with skilled handlers who can just as easily be cutters. will try to beat teams with athleticism and lots of movement, with the usual emphasis on team defence that mcgill has prided itself on in the past several years. it's the fastest team we've had yet, and we've got great veteran leadership behind captains Rob Sevalrud and Piotr Mankowski. we only lost a handful of players last year, and this team is rallied behind the goal of a nationals win on our home turf. players to watch -- veteran cutter Rob Sevalrud and rookie handler Tim Tsang for our O-line. Piotr Mankowski (cutter) and Tobias Froehlich (handler) are going to be giving the opposing offence a very hard time, every time. they're just as skilled following the turnover.
University of Waterloo Mannschaft
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 4th
Another program that shows nothing but improvement and progression over the past 5 years. They will be sending a B team to this tournament as well, the first time I can recall they have been able to do so.
The A team from Waterloo will be looking to return to Eastern semis this year, and perhaps improve on it. Key players include Phoenix player Carson Turner, along with ex Carleton players Aaron "Kooch" Kucherawy and Bryan Cunningham.
Carleton University Ravens
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 5th
They have a seven footer! More on that later.
Carleton has been on the edge of great things for several years. Like Western, it is time to produce.
The Ravens boast Kielan Way.. who was dominant versus Mephisto in the CUC 2009 final. He has one of the quickest flick hucks in the nation and is equally strong on defense and offense. Opponents can factor him to mark the strongest player and be the go to offensive cut on every play if needed.
By no means will he be alone. Phoenix players Brent Gerhert, Rey Arteaga, Bryce Ring, Ryan Bauer, Matt Godkey, and Rob Schimdt are gifted and seasoned. Chess Club also has athletic talents Danny Van Willingham, Josh Tai and Joel Bellavance to provide even more skill. Grand Trunk veteran Jason Lobb and Liquid's Jan Gorski return to the team.
On the rookie side, I would be excited to see Karl Loiseau (Big Fish to Phoenix in one season) and 6'5 Ottawa Junior Tyler Zandbelt. Also, the team has added former Carleton Ravens Basketball player Neal Dawson. Dawson, who stands 7'0, has shown quick promise despite complete newness to the game.
In short, this team has the ability and athleticism to beat any team in the country. What they must overcome is the habit of wasting such athletic and defensive prowess with unforced errors.
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 7th (Tied)
Hamilton continues to rebuild their program. Gone are the late 1990's where John Hassell was leading the team to national title glory, but the A team will be building with strong juniors and a b team.
Players to watch include Matt Penman, Aiden "Kirby" Koplimae Smith, Dan Robertson, Ryan Keyfitz
According to team captain Ryan Keyfitz, the team can be described as:
McMaster has a few talented, experienced handlers and a lot of strong, athletic cutters this year and will look to make some noise grinding teams out, both on D and on O, with our speed. The team also has a number of promising young players with some touring experience with DIRT, Roy, GT, and Mayhem.
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 7th (Tied)
The team is lead by the young and uber talented Cam Harris of GOAT and world juniors fame. Seeing Harris play at No Borders this year, it was impressive to see a player that age be that effective against some of the best players Canadian open ultimate has to offer. He will be even tougher to face at the university level.
Harris indicates the players to watch include "3 of the most under rated players I have ever had the privilege of playing ultimate with: Andy Kubinec, Tim Likely, and Tim Martin. All three are ready to break out this year."
University of Ottawa Gee Gees
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 9th
On the women's side, Ottawa U is strong, Carleton is weaker. On the men's side, it has been the opposite. However this year might see Ottawa have it's strongest team in recent memory.
The team will be lead by Phoenix handler Scott Westwell. He will be flanked by fellow handlers Fred Caron, Joel Driedger, and Rob Ainsworth (who might be the same dread locked Ainsworth who played for McGill/Phoenix in the early part of the decade).
Cutter wise, the team has some athletes. Phil Boisvert is a great deep strike who has played with Firebird/Demon and Mephisto in the past two summers. Craig Tai is a great defender who legitimately forces turnovers.
Travis Stinson (brother of Scott "Beast" Stinson) and Corey Boucher are exciting rookies to watch.
McMaster University B Team
CEUUC 2008 Finish: 10th
As per program leader/captain Ryan Keyfitz:
Players to watch:
Philip Sy, Alejandro Carrera, David Ip, Harrison Niznick
Team style or focus:
McMaster's B team has a lot of very athletic players and a few guys with good throws. They'll be looking to hang their hats on some solid grind-out D. On offense they'll be looking to catch teams off guard with their athleticism.
Queens University Mothership
CEUUC 2008 Finish: Did Not Play
Whatever the reason, Queens did not send a reason to CEUUC 2008. Fortunately, the downward spiral of this program seems to have been quickly curtailed and the prospects for 2009 are promising.
Patrick Mooney will be a key player who can affect this team's fortunes. The only veteran left from the squad that won the Canadian University Ultimate Championships back in 2002 and 2004, and who qualified for UPA college Nationals in 2005. Mooney won WUGC gold playing with TFP during WFDF 08 and has been a member of GOAT for the past 4 years.
Mooney's take on this year's a Squad is as follows
Players to Watch:
* Captains Richie Tam and Ernie Lin: It's quite possible that these two guys are twins who were lost at birth. Squirrely handlers who play both sides of the disc well. I think both have worlds juniors experience and they have some of the best communication going in the university game right now
* Alex Ginther and Andrew Carroll: Ginther played GT and got a lot better after a junior career playing with DIRT. he will make a big impact as an all purpose player this year for ship. Carroll is the youngest player to ever get picked by GOAT (19yrs old). He had a really stellar rookie season and decided to go back and concentrate on school and Ship as opposed to playing the fall. He will be a huge impact player for ship this fall
* Geoff Powell (captain) and Steve Lee: two speedster cutters with lots of experience at the college level. Geoff played moondoggies this summer and held his own amongst some of the best goat dudes
Team Style and Focus: More than anything Queens is a team. A faceless army of players who has been hiding in the shadows over the last few years retooling a system that was one of the strongest in the country. We play balls out team defense and try to make it exciting for the fans and scary for the opposition. On offense we spread the disc around and use multiple looks to keep the defense off balance. This team is close knit and will push themselves and other CUUC teams to their limit this upcoming fall
Other Teams Competing (Unable to Preview due to Timelines)
Queens University Superfly
University of Waterloo B
University of Toronto Torontula B
McMaster University B
Mcgill University Redmen B
University of Western Ontario Seals 1
University of Western Ontario Seals 2
University of Ottawa Gee Gees B