Games to watch:
Quarter-Finals: Phoenix vs. Garuda
Semi-Finals: Goat vs. PoNY
Finals: Ironside vs. Goat/PoNY
2nd Place Finals: ??? vs. ???
Last weekend decided eleven out of sixteen contenders for the National Club Open championship. Teams in the Northeast and Southwest will be fighting for the final five this coming Saturday and Sunday. Northeast Club Regionals, held outside of Boston, will see Ironside (#1), Goat (#9) and PoNY (#16) trying to capture the bids they earned for the region throughout the regular season.
While rankings and the final bracket have not yet been announced, the story of this weekend will be likely be the top three teams trying to hold off potential spoilers and vying with each other for seeding going into nationals. Ironside is clearly the strongest team going into the tournament as the defending regional champion and has the experience needed to take care of business in important games. Goat and PoNY will almost certainly have to face each other at least twice to make it to Florida, and each loss will mean more games.
The dark horse that caught everybody’s attention in New England sectionals play is the likely #4 seed coming into regionals, Boston’s Garuda. Garuda played Ironside to a close 15-12 in the finals of East New England Sectionals and will be looking to upset one of the top three teams to grab their first bid to Nationals ever.
A great deal has been said about Ironside this year. Having lost only one game all season (on universe point to a Rhino squad that they beat 15-7 the next day), they have everything that it takes to win: top talent and athletic ability, team chemistry after a year with little turnover, and mental strength based on strong coaching (not to mention home-field advantage). While they were surely surprised by an unexpectedly close game to Garuda at sectionals, I believe they will use that to come into regionals focused and determined to clean up against weaker teams. I expect to see Ironside emerge with another regionals victory.
Goat vs. PoNY
The preview of the big game-to-go of the weekend will be the semi-final matchup between Toronto’s Goat and New York’s PoNY. One team will go on to try to take first place from Ironside; the other will have to play more games against ambitious dark-horses trying to claw their way through the back door.
While Goat is the higher seeded team and has had better results this season, I like PoNY’s chances at an upset here. Goat won the only game that they played against each other during the season, but PoNY has tended to play slightly closer games against top opponents (Ironside, Revolver, NexGen). On the other hand, Goat saw stronger competition at sectionals, and has arguably played slightly stronger competition all season. Regardless, it is going to be a good game, and these two teams will quite likely play each other again in the game for the second bid.
The other interesting game of the winner’s bracket will be the #4/#5 game, most likely Garuda against Phoenix, in the quarterfinals. These two teams will be playing for the semi-final game against Ironside and the probable trip to the backdoor. But the winner of this matchup will have one less game to play in the backdoor, and that could make a big difference. Either team is most likely looking to play up through the back-door and challenge the losers of Goat/PoNY matchups for the 2nd and 3rd spots to nationals.
Garuda has played an ambitious schedule this year, and they have proved that they can play against top teams. They have only three losses this season- one apiece to PoNY, Cash Crop and Ironside, and all within four points- and have drawn from New England’s colleges to put together a young, athletic and hard-working team. Phoenix has played less consistently throughout the season, and will be hard-pressed to grind down a Garuda amped after a three-point loss to Ironside. Garuda will be looking to win this game for a jump ahead in the losers bracket, as they are undoubtedly prepared to play deep into Sunday’s 3rd place bracket. If they can take care of business against Phoenix, they will prove that they have what it takes to challenge Goat or PoNY in one of the games-to-go.
-Joe Bobman, Amherst College/The Night’s Watch
Follow the action on twitter, too; @Boston_Ironside, @PrideofNY
Here’s last years Open final; Ironside vs GOAT;