Saturday, May 12, 2007

UPA PA State Championships: The PHUL Side

With PHUL season officially over, it's time for some teams to look to the next step. For all but one of the eight PHUL teams playing in this year's state championship, this will be their final stop on their 2007 spring season; North Hills is the lone exception as they will be playing in HS Easterns.

On Thursday, PHUL finished up the season with the championship game between North Hills and Mt. Lebanon. It was evident from early on that North Hills would dominate the game and went on to repeat as league champions.

But as for States, PHUL is now showing signs of a more established and dominant league in Pennsylvania. They are sending the most teams to States (8) and three of the top four seeds in the tournament belong to PHUL: North Hills (#2), Mt. Lebanon (#3) and Hampton (#4). This, however, is no surprise as they are the best of the best in Pittsburgh. The semifinal matchup between North Hills and Hampton was one of the most intense and exciting games to watch.

Although I still don't understand how Mt. Lebanon continues to be ranked higher than Hampton, these two teams along with North Hills will be able to bring to States something that Pittsburgh hasn't been able to do in quite a while: presence. These are the teams with the big name players and these are the teams that will be able to give Pennsbury (#1 seed and early favorite to win it all) a game.

North Hills, Mt. Lebanon and Hampton have the skills and talent to be a contender for a State Championship and all three bring with them a wealth of knowledge from their coaches: North Hills (Nick Kaczmarek, Pitt Ultimate); Mt. Lebanon (Jake Christian and Evan Jenkins, Pitt Ultimate); Hampton (David Vatz, Pitt Ultimate). Being able to "recruit" the talents of collegiate players, who just so happen to vying for a National Championship in a couple weeks, has allowed for these teams to use their potential to the fullest and become a stronghold in PHUL.

For North Hills (#2), look for PHUL Finals MVP (and PHUL MVP candidate in my opinion) Alex Thorne to lead his team. He seemed to be everywhere on the field during the PHUL championship as he collected 6 goals and 3 assists in a dominating fashion. Along with handlers Ben Funk and Jack Gazdik, North Hills bring perhaps the best handling core this side of the Mississippi (and, yes, I'm serious). Look for last year's PHUL Finals MVP Colin Conner YCC players (Pittsburgh Impulse) Jeff Olko and Chris Lippert to also make their presence known on the field. If there is any early favorite to knock of Pennsbury, this is the team.

Mt. Lebanon (#3) rolled into PHUL Finals as the number one seed before getting knocked off by North Hills. Potential PHUL MVP candidate Julian Hausman will use his knowledge of the game, along with his flick huck, which by my estimate can circle the world, to dominate the game and lead his team. YCC players (Pittsburgh Impulse) Pete Imler and Zach Ehler will look to also keep Mt. Lebanon's offense rolling. And guess what? If both North Hills and Mt. Lebanon win their polls, then we'll see a 2007 PHUL Finals rematch in semis; that will be one intense game as I'm sure Mt. Lebanon is looking to avenge their two strait losses in PHUL Finals to North Hills.

Hampton (#4) is lead by senior Lukas Truckenbrod, who is my pick for PHUL MVP. This guy has to have ice as veins because he's so calm and cool in the most intense and nerve-racking games. His handling skills are among the best in PHUL and with the help of junior Allen Rakers, he hopes to dominate the offense (and defense) for Hampton. Other key players include junior captain Cody McInnis, who has exploded this year as a key player in PHUL. His defensive skills are amazing with many footblocks and skies for turnovers. Senior Perry Martin looks to own the sky and come down with anything thrown his way.

After the "big three" in PHUL, Tayler Allderdice (#9), Montour (#10) and Pine-Richland (#13) will have the best chance to break seed this weekend. These teams have the talent and knowledge to be a good team and if they are able to put the pieces together, they will be able to give anybody a fight. Fox Chapel (#15) and Moon (#16) round out the rest of PHUL.

PHUL sends three girls teams to PA States this year. Fox Chapel (#1), Hampton (#3) and North Hills (#4) all have talented girls on their teams and will look to win the girls championship. Maybe I'm biased, but if I had to pick right now, I'd have to say that Hampton has the best shot at winning it all. OK, I am biased. But I'm a writer and I can have thoughts and feelings, too, right?

Good luck to all PHUL teams taking part this weekend!