By: Frank Nam
The 2019 National Championships return to San Diego, Calif., this year. The top 16 women’s teams will compete for the title at Surf Cup Sports Park in Del Mar, Calif., through the first women’s semifinal. For the last two games, the women’s division will relocate to Mira Mesa High School in San Diego. No matter the location, expect to see exciting games on day one as teams look to upset one another for a chance to enter the bracket.
Here’s what to look for on day one: Pool Play
Fury (1) | Traffic (8) | Ozone (12) | Nemesis (13)
As the overall number one seed, Fury should have no trouble in Pool A. The defending national champions won a close one versus Traffic this year, but it was at their earliest tournament back in Eugene, Ore. The team from San Francisco has not played anyone else in their pool but should have no problems keeping their spot intact. With multiple lines of all-star-caliber players, Fury will likely find themselves in the championship game, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can secure their third-straight championship in 2019. Traffic snuck into Pool A after upsetting their neighbors, Schwa, at Northwest Regionals, where they placed second to Seattle Riot. At that tournament, during pool play, Traffic scored the last point after hard cap versus Riot for a final score of 10-11. However, with their ticket to Nationals already set, they did lose to Riot by seven in the final game. Don’t put too much stock into that second loss, as the team from Vancouver will likely hold their second spot in the pool by fending off upset attempts from both Atlanta Ozone and Chicago Nemesis. Ozone will look to hold off Chicago Nemesis for the third spot into the pre-quarterfinal round. Although the two teams haven’t met this season, they do have a common opponent in Columbus Rival. Ozone lost both their games to Rival where Nemesis went 1-1 against their common foe. Look for a close game at the end of the day to stay relevant. When the dust settles, this may be one of the division’s few early upsets as Nemesis looks to push Atlanta (who were in the semifinals just a couple of years ago) into the consolation bracket.
Molly Brown (2) | Phoenix (7) | Siege (11) | Wildfire (14)
Molly Brown comes into San Diego with only three losses to other teams at Nationals. This record includes a 13-10 win over Seattle Riot, which gave them the second seed overall. The team from Denver will be excited to get on the other side of the bracket from Boston Brute Squad. The New England team has ended Molly Brown’s season in the semifinals more than once. Denver has re-stocked their depth with talented rookies, but look for their veterans to push them into the quarterfinals where, if things go to seed, they may likely find a tough test in Vancouver Traffic. How the rest of Pool B ends up is anyone’s guess. Although Phoenix sits in the second spot in Pool B, they should be worried as they will face one of the six teams that has bested them this season in Wildfire. Siege sits in the third spot after narrowly defeating Wildfire by one point in the finals of Elite-Select Challenge. 2019 will be Siege’s first-ever trip to Nationals, and it will be interesting to see how the team from Boston fares under the bright lights of championship ultimate. No matter how things shake out top to bottom, this will be the most exciting pool to watch on day one.
Riot (3) | Scandal (6) | Nightlock (10) | Iris (15)
Seattle Riot has not entered Nationals in a spot lower than the third overall seed since 2015 and has not played in the finals since 2016. However, the team from Seattle walked away with their second World Club Championships title in 2018 and will look for a shot at Nationals redemption on the fields in San Diego. Their only losses in 2019 come against the two teams ranked ahead of them. However, their performance at Northwest Regionals may cause some concern as they played a very tight game versus Vancouver Traffic. Another close win came at the Pro Championships against the second seed in Pool C, D.C. Scandal, by a score of 15-14. Look for Scandal to push Riot in the final game of day one. No matter that outcome, Scandal will likely make their way into quarterfinals as they hold off both Nightlock and Iris. Nightlock has had an up-and-down season with only three total wins at their last two tournaments in the regular season but looked much more like their regular selves at Southwest Regionals. Iris will look to find an upset as no one in their pool has seen them in action this season, but chances are slim that they’ll fight their way into pre-quarters on day two.
6ixers (4) | Brute Squad (5) | Schwa (8) | Pop (16)
The Toronto 6ixers come into San Diego with their highest ranking ever since their first foray into the Nationals scene in 2017. To get there, they were able to defeat the 2018 National Championships runner-up, Boston Brute Squad, this year. Twice. The two teams will get a chance at a second rematch on day one, but both will likely find themselves in quarterfinals no matter how this pool shakes out. Brute Squad has had an enigmatic season, but only a fool would count this squad out of the championship game when all is said and done. While these two titans from the Northeast battle it out, Schwa will do the same with Pop in order to stay relevant after day one. Schwa is looking incredibly fast this season, and if either Northeast team overlooks them, Schwa could deal out an upset. Pop comes into Nationals as the last seed but should not be overlooked as they scored a win versus #11 Siege at Elite-Select Challenge this summer. With that said, it’s unlikely that they will be able to avoid the consolation bracket on day two.
Watch live games from the early rounds at USA Ultimate’s YouTube page and the semifinals and finals on ESPN3 and the ESPN app.