By: Zoey Clark
How to Follow Along
The 2019 National Championships will be held at Surf Cup Sports Park in San Diego California, with the semifinals and finals moving to Mira Mesa High School on Saturday and Sunday. Can’t make it to the event? You can follow the action via ESPN/TSN, USA Ultimate’s YouTube page the USA Ultimate app (iOS, Android), and #USAUNats.
What to look for on Thursday: Pool Play
Drag’n Thrust (1) | BFG (8) | Public Enemy (12) | Cocktails (13)
In their fourth year as a team and second trip to the Nationals arena, Cocktails will first face off against BFG for what looks to be an exciting preview of the games to come. Even riding the high from their Select Flight Invite win, the Columbus team has a strong opponent in store as BFG, the reigning World Ultimate Club Champion from 2018, is obviously no stranger to high-level competition. They defeated second overall seed, Mixtape, to win Northwest Fruitbowl only to come in second at Northwest Regionals. BFG will be fired up and ready to settle the score. Seeded directly above them, Public Enemy is ready to make even more noise than their sidelines in this tournament after breaking seed against fellow National Championship qualifier, shame., to win the South Central Region for the first time and earn their bid to San Diego. Since claiming the National Championship crown three years in a row between 2013 and 2015, Drag’n Thrust has sat in the top three every year and are eager to take back their crown. With a nearly perfect 25-2 season, and hot off winning the U.S. Open Club Championships and Pro Championships they are the only team still with a chance to win the 2019 Triple Crown and are poised in the perfect position to do just that.
Mixtape (2) | Space Heater (7) | Toro (11) | Polar Bears (14)
Runners-up at the National Championships last year, Mixtape has a score to settle. After getting off to a good start by winning the Pro-Elite Challenge, losing the U.S. Open Club Championships title to Drag’n Thrust on double-game point only put more fuel in Mixtape’s fire. Two years old and two National Championships appearances, Space Heater is rife with talent and athleticism. With a roster of renowned ultimate athletes, they find themselves back in the saddle and back as the second seed in Mixtape’s pool. Their matchup last year was highly touted, but in the end, Space Heater ran away with the game. Mixtape will want to flip that result this year. But the D.C. team starts their 2019 National Championships run against 2010 National Champions, Polar Bears, who upset Blackbird in the game to go at Southwest Regionals. After a few down years, Polar Bears are ready to fight. Just as eager to stir up trouble is Toro. After winning Summer Glazed Daze early on, their performance at the Pro Championships looked a little rocky, but they managed to secure the top spot going into Southeast Regionals. A surprise pool play loss landed them in the backdoor bracket, but they fought through and earned the region’s second bid to Nationals in a tight game against Atlanta Bucket.
AMP (3) | Mischief (6) | Snake Country (10) | MOONDOG (15)
With a 25-3 season, winning both the AMP and Boston Invites, last year’s national champion returns ready to defend their title. Their loss to Drag’n Thrust in the Pro Championships final should give them the energy they need to take on this first wave of contenders and make some noise. Southwest Regionals winner, Mischief, has quite the first game ahead of them. MOONDOG (15) has built their season on upsetting the status quo by working their way from the 12th spot at Select Invite-West to tournament champions, then to not qualifying for regionals, before getting a late invite and overcoming BFG to secure the second bid to Nationals behind Mixtape. Snake Country comes into this race with a sturdy foundation, but with this unpredictable group, they’ll need to find the energy that earned them a spot in the U.S. Open Club Championships semifinal earlier this year.
Wild Card (4) | Slow White (5) | shame. (9) | Superlame (16)
Superlame makes their first National Championship appearance this year, after surprising Bucket, the Southeast’s most frequent Nationals qualifier in the mixed division, in the regional final. Theirs wasn’t the only upset at regionals this year, as we see several of them across the board. One nearly cost shame. their return trip to Nationals out of the South Central Regional. However, the seasoned veterans were able to secure their fourth Nationals bid in a row by overcoming Denver Love Tractor. Another tournament stalwart, Slow White has consistently been in the Nationals arena for quite some time now, winning their lone championship in 2016. They’ll face Boston counterpart Wild Card for the fourth time this season during the final round of pool play. Wild Card holds the head-to-head lead in the series at 2-1, with Slow White’s single win coming in June. Wild Card lives up to their name as they enter the tournament seeded first in their pool, having missed out on the Nationals spotlight since their last appearance in 2015. Seemingly unable to lose a game since they found their midseason rhythm – they haven’t dropped a game since late July, one of just three losses all year – the winners of the Elite-Select Challenge will match up against some heavy competitors in their first few games in the always-exciting Pool D.
Games to Watch on Day 1 – Thursday, October 24 (all times PT):
9:00 a.m.: Mischief v. MOONDOG (Field 3):
As a team who broke every assumption and seeding set before them to reach Nationals, MOONDOG’s first game against sixth-seeded Mischief could set the tone for what we should expect them to bring to the Nationals arena.
11:15 a.m.: BFG v. Public Enemy (Field 4) | Streamed live on USA Ultimate’s YouTube page:
An upset in this game could seriously stir things up and make for a very exciting first day with possible repercussions for who gets knocked out of championship contention in Pool A.
1:30 p.m.: Public Enemy v. Columbus Cocktails (Field 2):
This game will likely determine who winds up in Pool A’s bottom spot and be kept out of the championship bracket.
3:45 p.m.: Wild Card v. Slow White (Field 14):
The returning Nationals vet faces the aptly named Wild Card on the field, ready for a rematch of the Elite Select Challenge Finals.
3:45 p.m.: Mixtape v. Space Heater (13):
A rematch of last year’s highly anticipated pool play matchup, which Space Heater won handily. Both teams still reached the semifinals; will that happen again in 2019?
Check out the full schedule here, and check back in here for daily recaps on tct.usaultimate.org!