Friday, March 23, 2007

2007 PHUL Analysis: Preseason Predictions (First Edition)

With the 2007 PHUL (Pittsburgh High School Ultimate League) season under way, I am writing this to report on how I see things shaping up. My predictions are fairly similar to how the teams finished up in 2006, so there's always reason to believe I could be wrong; and I'd love nothing more than to see some of my predictions wrong as it will show that competition in PHUL is continuing to increase.


Before I start my analysis, I just wanted to let everybody know that this year looks to be the biggest improvement in Pittsburgh league history as there will be upwards of 40 teams, including a girls division that could be as competitive as they come. The skill, experience and growth of this league is something that I feel is unmatched in other parts of the country and only looks to get bigger.

So without further delay, here is how I see 2007 in PHUL.

THE CHAMPIONS

North Hills:
With the 2006 title under their belts and a trip to the Paideia Cup in mid-April, the North Hills boys are this year’s favorite to win it all. Having lost no players to graduation and acquiring Nick Kaczmarek from the University of Pittsburgh to coach them, North Hills will be a force in PHUL. The handling duo of Alex Thorne and Ben Funk brings something to the offense that no other team in PHUL can match. The speed and skill of Colin Conner (last year’s finals MVP) will continue to impress the league, while the presence of Jeff Olko and Jack Gazdik will make it tough for opponents to score. With more players on Pittsburgh’s Youth Club team than any other team in PHUL, experience and skill will be the underlying reason why North Hills will be the team to beat this season.

THE CONTENDERS

Mt. Lebanon:
In 2006, Mt. Lebanon suffered a devastating PHUL finals loss on universe point. There is no reason not to believe they won’t be hungry to have revenge and get that finals trophy that seemed to slip out of their hand at the last second. To help achieve this goal, Mt. Lebanon hired Jake Christian and Evan Jenkins from the University of Pittsburgh to coach them. The skills and knowledge of the game that these two men have will only help to surge the confidence of this team. The consistency of Peter Imler is something that opponents will need to worry about, while the arm and accuracy of big-time handler Julian Hausman will keep other teams running up and down the field; and the speed and intensity of Zach Ehler will help compliment a team that lost only two players to graduation.

Hampton:
With two losses in the semifinals in both 2005 and 2006, Hampton looks to finally break that streak and have their chance in the finals. The hiring of David Vatz from the University of Pittsburgh is sure to help them. With captains Lukas Truckenbrod, Perry Martin and Cody McInnis, Hampton will continue to build up their experience and be a legitimate contender in PHUL. The handling core of Hampton is about as good as they come and the deep threat is always there with confident throwers and receivers. A solid recruiting class by the team, who graduated only three players, will help them in their quest for a PHUL championship.

THE SURPRISES

Pine-Richland:
Having been able to watch a little bit of the non-divisional scrimmage between Hampton and Pine-Richland on Thursday, it was clear that this team has the ability to upset some teams and make a deep run into the playoffs. They got off to a quick 4-1 lead on Hampton, but suffered when a zone was thrown at them. If they can master their zone offense with the help of new coach Jack Miller, then Pine-Richland will be a team to fear.

Shady Side Academy:
Every year Shady Side plays quietly in PHUL and making it into the playoffs where they just explode. They’ve made it to the quaterfinals the past three seasons and putting up a good fight in those games. They always seem to get hot at the right time, but this year look for coach Matt Weis to keep them hot the whole season.

Montour:
Last year was Montour’s first season in PHUL and coach Darren Shultz was able to teach a bunch of athletic seniors how to play the game and we saw them cruise all the way to the semifinals. They graduated a solid amount of players, but that doesn’t matter because the skill, knowledge and ability to coach a team of Darren is what will make this team scary for a second season in a row.

Fox Chapel:
After a disappointing 2-6 season in 2006, there is no reason not to think that Fox Chapel is working hard to erase that from their minds. Returning players Dan Berk and Ariel Altschuler will look to turn this team around and make some noise during the playoffs. Having lost very few seniors to graduation, a solid recruiting class could make Fox Chapel very dangerous.

Bethel Park:
With trips to finals in 2004 (won) and 2005 (loss to Fox Chapel) in their history, Bethel Park looks to keep things moving in that direction. Only two points away from defeating eventual the PHUL champions (North Hills) in quarterfinals last year, this team can do it again in 2007 and upset some teams. Players Zach Reinhardt and David Macurak will bring experience and skill to a team that could start winning games this season at the right time.

It's important to realize that this is just a small breakdown of the large amount of teams in PHUL. I will be looking for upsets, close games and surprises throughout the entire season and hope that this year will be the most competitive season to date. I plan on writing at least a weekly article that can be found both here on PlayUltimate and on the Pittsburgh-Ultimate website. Next week’s edition will have a game of the week recap, something I plan on doing to begin to get a better grasp on some of the teams in the league, as well as news and analysis from around the league, including my input and predictions on the 2007 PHUL Girls Division.

6 comments:

Panther Cycling said...

Nice right up Jay, and thanks for the notice. Just a thought, I wouldn't overlook Taylor Allderdice. They have a strong tradition at that school and are returning a lot of players after a tough rebuilding year.

-Jack Miller
Pine-Richland Coach
Ex-Hampton Captain

Anonymous said...

Pitt cant play with Philly

Anonymous said...

Can anyone say cheap shot

Panther Cycling said...

I agree that no Pittsburgh team is as strong as Pennsbury, but Philly as a whole looks much weaker than in years past. I think states will have Pennsbury at the top, with Pitsburgh teams rounding out most of the top 8.

-Jack

Anonymous said...

this site would be better if anonymous posting was not possible

jayhuerbin said...

I will say how I love anytime I write an article about Pittsburgh Ultimate, it turns into this debate. Can't we just let it rest? I wrote this to inform the rest of the country about what is happening in Pittsburgh, not to create an argument between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.