Thursday, April 24, 2008

MO HS State Championship Preview

Welcome to what is truly becoming the St. Louis Classic. This year, St. Louis Ultimate Juniors has experienced more parity and enjoys a talent-pool bigger than ever, so expect the competition to be even wilder this year than last—-any of the top 5 teams have a legitimate shot of taking home the hardware, in my opinion. What follows is my biased purview of what to expect from each team on May 3rd & 4th at the Missouri High School State Championship. I’ll hold back any commentary or attempt to rank the out of town teams, as doing so wound up as a bit of a disaster last year. For these eleven teams, though, I’ll be as fair-minded and open as I can; still, the seedings below are my PREDICTIONS, and not the actual seeding for the tournament. Click below to read the preview.

1) Priory: Priory has edged out both Desmet and Francis Howell Central to lead SLUJ’s (St. Louis Ultimate Juniors) North division with an undefeated record. This completely reinvented team barely resembles last year’s group of high-flying gorillas, but Brother Alban has found a way to help them coalesce and develop the skills necessary to move the disc on their own terms. On offense, they favor short give-and-go cuts amongst the handlers, always looking to establish a power-position and let one go downfield. An interesting note about the game versus FHC (my team): They came out flat but improved throughout the game. They’ll need to get the engines running early on Saturday if they want to fend off the pack of hungry teams hoping for a chance to knock them off.

2) Rockhurst: To quote Chris Martens, regional coordinator, “Apparently, having the same name each year is boring,” so this year, it’s Synergy. It’s tough to predict what the test from the west will bring this year. They’ve only posted 4 scores from 1 tournament in the score-o-matic, amounting to a record of 2-2. But it’s Rockhurst, come on! For the past 3 years, they’ve contended for one of the top three spots. They lucked out last year, though, as a brutal semifinal game vs. Desmet left Priory with empty tanks in the finals, and what was then Alacran strolled through the game after having easily bested a young SLUH in their semifinal match. This year, SLUJ teams are better-conditioned and bring more teams than ever to challenge the Kansas City dynasty. Side note: Why is there only one juniors team out there? Someone start a league, for God’s sake!

3) Marquette: SLUJ’s only other undefeated team, Marquette, has the South division under it’s thumb like some kind of brutal dictator. SLUH got 9 from them; Kirkwood got 10 . . . but those are pretty big deficits considering the windy weather we’ve had through most of this spring. They run a very effective cup that they establish quickly in transition, and their key handler (his name I know not) is a monster who controls the game at will. Look for the neon yellow cleats, and you’ll see one of SLUJ’s most promising young players in action: great breakmark throws, fearless defensive bids, all the necessary tools. These kids, as a team, can do it all: quick in-cuts, give-and-go’s, deep shots, and tough zone and man-to-man defense; however, a weaker division may signify an inflated record. They face Priory this weekend, in SLUJ’s final week. Could this be a preview of the State Championship Finals?

4) Francis Howell Central: I couldn’t be more proud and hopeful about my team’s chances this year. The effects of our 3 year-old JV program are really starting to show this year, as a glut of strong throwers help us to move the disc well. Strategically, I won’t tip my hand too much; those teams who have faced us can judge for themselves what kind of sets we’ll bring to the tournament. The addition of two big, fast seniors this year, both rookies to the sport, has pumped some lifeblood in to the team. I’ve seen more layouts this year, on both sides of the disc and from ALL of my players, than I’ve probably seen in the previous two years totaled. We dropped our only game this season to Priory, a 15-16 battle in which the Jeromans never held a lead until they won the game. Other than that, we’ve crushed pretty hard, and my kids can’t WAIT to get another crack at Priory at the tournament.

5) Desmet: I haven’t seen Desmet play yet, and so there’s not much I can say, specifically, about their strengths and weaknesses. Priory downed them 13-9 on a fairly windy day, and Clayton hung 10 on them, so it would appear there is finally a chink in the Spartans’ armor. They’ll be contending, I’m sure, but based solely on the scores they’ve posted, it would seem that Priory and Marquette will have the edge going into the tournament. Again, my opinion is based solely on the scores.

6) SLUH: I haven’t seen SLUH play, either; however, my JV coaches faced them, and although SLUH won that game 15-1, my JV coaches reported a lazy approach to the game. Well, it’s tough to get jazzed when you’ve got such a huge lead, so I’m not sure what to make of that report. Truly, SLUH’s schedule has been cake. They’ve faced a first-year team and two JV’s. They beat Kirkwood but allowed 11 that day, and they lost to Marquette 15-9. This is just wild conjecture, but they may be a team untested, unproven. Still, for a storied program like SLUH’s, it’s tough to count them out completely.

7) Clayton: Another year, another huge sideline for Clayton. I don’t know what Dana’s putting in the Kool-Aid over there, but it seems to be working. This program grabs more kids than Michael Jackson (rim shot)! But seriously folks, Clayton scored 11 on FHC and 10 on Priory, so it would appear that they are on the cusp of breaking through. Last year, they came ALIVE in the tournament, knocking down opponents who defeated them in the regular season with total ease and confidence. Will Clayton hulk-up in 2008? We shall see.

8) Kirkwood: I know nothing at all about this team, but I’d say their record places them about 8th

9) CBC: This is a team chock full of overgrown freshman that, I predict, will be very strong in years to come. Right now, however, they’re pretty raw, still learning the game and its finer points. Still, I haven’t seen them since the first week of the season, so they may have improved. Come to think of it, coach Matt Reardon is always able to help them do so. There’s no reason to suspect this year will be any different. Middle-of-the-pack teams: Don’t sleep on CBC! This could be a very cool, quiet story about a low-level team setting reasonable goals and climbing their way in to the fight, but upper echelon teams shouldn’t have much to worry about.

10) Vashon: Coach Chris Martens tells me that there’s some possibility they may withdraw from the tournament due to uncertain commitments from the players. Apparently, like many other teams, there is a conflict with prom. It’d be a shame, though. Vashon is always fun to play; however, sketchy attendance throughout the season has kept them from progressing much beyond their raw athleticism (which is considerable).

11) Desmet JV: Coach Pete Lenzini must have a serious overload of interested players, as this year he is keeping his JV unit together for the tournament. Pretty ingenious, if you can manage it. More tournament experience + more touches for developing players = further developed skills for next year. Lucky jerk.


Anonymous said...

your jokes are clutch. this was very fun to read.

Anonymous said...

no one cares

Anonymous said...

I care. I think it looks great. These are always so much fun to read.

Anonymous said...

no scouting report for Chaminade? Common, just cause we're a first year team doesn't mean we can't even have a shout out...

Coach Becker said...

Sorry, Chaminade!

When I wrote this, you were not registered for the tourney yet. Allow me to make amends . . .

Chaminade: I have not personally seen this team play either, but they managed a win last week against a respectable Kirkwood squad; however, rumors are circulating that the team plays a very physical game and has a sketchy knowledge of the rules. Teams who face Chaminade will need to uphold the Spirit of the Game by calling fouls appropriately to keep the game safe and fun for all involved. This, of course, goes for all teams and games. This is, unfortunately, the extent of my knowledge of the Chaminade squad. They may be more than this report; I'd love nothing more than to have them prove the rumor wrong by playing clean, Spirited games at the tournament.

Anonymous said...

How is FHC ahead of DeSmet? DeSmet played well in the game vs FHC leaving FHC only to 4 points.

Coach Becker said...

Simple. I wrote this before that game occured. Based on FHC's score vs. Priory (15-16 Priory) and the fact that Priory BEAT Desmet by 4 points (if I recall, exactly), I PREDICTED FHC would seed above Desmet.

The official seedings have been published by now, and Desmet outranks FHC now.

They go thusly:

1. Priory
2. Rockhurst
3. Marquette
4. Desmet
6. FHC
7. desmet jv
8. Clayton
9. Chaminade
10. Kirkwood
11. Vashon
12. CBC