Thursday, February 2, 2012

QCTU Qualifier Preview

Queen City Tune-Up Qualifier in Chapel Hill this weekend is the first Without Limits tournament of 2012! The highest finisher (besides UNC A) will advance to Queen City Tune-Up in Charlotte next weekend. The Qualifier features ten teams from the Atlantic Coast region, and is a quality local playing opportunity for a number of teams.

The Pleiades are the clear favorite going into the weekend, but the team knows that they need to remain focused, not only to do well at the tournament, but to prepare themselves for tougher competition at next weekend's event. The team's most notable loss is 2011 Callahan winner Leila Tunnell, and in order to make another strong run this year, the team will have to adjust to the loss of their best thrower and all-around player. Other notable losses include 2nd Team All-Region players Janna Coulter, Britta Jones, and Kaitlin Baden.

Captains Lindsay Lang and Shellie Cohen will shoulder much of the burden for the Pleiades this season. Lang received All-Region honors last year and Cohen was voted FOTY, and both have spent time playing with North Carolina Phoenix (Lang in 2010 and Cohen in 2011). Their leadership and skills will be key to the Pleiades' success this year. The Pleiades also return coaches Lindsey Hack and Raj Prasad, who will do a great job molding young talent to play their best in April and May.

Elon takes the 2 seed into the weekend, coming off a strong showing at Wolfpack Invitational, with their only losses coming against 2011 Nationals Qualifiers UNCW and Virginia. Elon will be looking to qualify for next weekend's event and will be led by captain Lauren Krizay. UNC-Greensboro and Duke round out the top four, with Elizabeth Longmire and Meredith Chase leading their teams respectively.

Liberty is a second year team with a ton of athletic potential. Last year, they pulled off impressive wins against UMass and SUNY-Buffalo at Easterns, and also competed at Conference Championships for the first time. They will be looking to build on last year's successes and despite some personnel changes, have a dedicated coach and advocate in Jason Barett.

Wake Forest is one of the most interesting teams competing at the Qualifier. The team qualified for D-I Nationals in 2008, but has been rebuilding since. Gone are studs like Lucia Derks, Kennedy Wolfe, and Claire O'Brien. Coach Tammy Moose has departed as well. But this year, Wake Forest will be renewing their focus and competing in D-III. They will be a dangerous team in the Atlantic Coast and should easily contend for a bid to Nationals. This is the first step in their journey.

Davidson, UNC-B, JMU-B, and Virginia-B round out the field of teams. Of note, Kate Leslie of Bay Area Zeitgeist is now coaching UNC-B. Mary Schone will be a player to watch for Davidson, and JMU-B and Virginia-B represent some of the tremendous growth and development that is happening in the Atlantic Coast women's region.

In addition to tournament play, Triangle Area club players will be hosting a skills clinic on Saturday afternoon. The clinic is open to all QCTU Qualifier and TYUL participants.

Registration info is here:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day!

Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day! I'm writing this post from somewhere (in the middle of nowhere) between St. Louis and Nashville. Today is a huge day for Without Limits, and it seems fitting that this day coincides with a holiday that celebrates the big things happening in girls' and women's sports. :)

Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending some time with the Wash U women's team-- I spent a day in St. Louis, caught some of their practice, and watched them destroy the varsity soccer team in IM basketball. I also got to spend some time with former and current captains, as well as a former and current coaches. There are few teams, besides those I have played on myself, that I have invested so much time and energy into. Watching their ridiculous numbers and energy at practice last night was a bit of a surreal experience. While I take no credit for how far they've come over the past few years, I can't help but feel incredibly proud of them, and to feel incredibly lucky that they are one of my most trusted partner teams. You all have taught me so much. Thank you.

Today, I am headed to Nashville to stay with an old college friend who now coaches the USN girls' team. We'll be running a tournament together next month, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with someone who shaped my early college ultimate career and to bring some of the best women's ultimate in the country to the backyard of the girls she coaches. It's a bit of a reminder that
as uncertain as the future is, friends are the one constant.

So, why is today such a big day? Well, aside from being halfway through my cross-country drive (YAY!), we reached a huge milestone for Layouts today.

The tournament is now completely full and we have all of the guest coaches we need.

28 teams, 28 coaches.

Over the past couple of years, I have felt a growing need to help the "next tier" of women's teams-- the teams who do not have the opportunities or resources that many of us are fortunate enough to have. Their passion for the game and their love for their teams are no different than what is found at the elite level-- but there is a gap in skill level and competitiveness because they have few ways to improve their game. The idea for Layouts was born out of wanting to do something to change this, and out of the desire to help a friend's team fundraise money for their season.

We launched what we thought was an awesome idea... and were met by what can best be described as the most underwhelming response I have ever received to any of my ideas to date. (And that says a lot, because I have had some truly crazy / terrible ideas.) Our emails recruiting teams went largely unanswered, the few teams we did get on board started to get cold feet, and we weren't even sure we could the guest coaches we needed. At the end of November, the organizers met to discuss the situation-- pulling the plug on an idea we were so passionate about was never an option, but we talked about scaling the event down, moving the tournament to a smaller field site, and adjusting expectations. We were discouraged to say the least.

With the end of November came a lot of life changes. A new job, no place to live, and a need for attention to other family and life matters...

What came next can only be described as a miracle. In two months, we have added 23 teams to the tournament. Our friends have stepped up HUGE as guest coaches. We now have the pieces for an event that has the potential to be a game-changer in college women's ultimate.

I could go on and on about every single coach who has committed to coming to this event, and about the dozens of friends around the world who have donated to make this project happen. I could tell you a million reasons why you should support what we are doing. And if you feel compelled to support this project, please do.

But Nashville awaits, and I ramble enough as it is.

So just a few important shoutouts to close this:
- Amber Sinicrope and Smith College LunaDisc for making me believe in this project even when I was ready to give up
- Lindsey Hack for recruiting MANY of the guest coaches, and for giving me a place to call home for a couple of months
- Adriana Withers, Steve Meyers, and the team at VC Ultimate for supporting this, and every other Without Limits project
- All of the phenomenal guest coaches- teammates, rivals, and above all, dear friends. Thank you.

Thank you for following our journey, and for supporting us however you can. Here's to many more years of working for the growth and development of the sport we all love.

Without Limits Founder