Note: This article was written by Alli Kauffman.
The 2018 women’s roundnet scene has been nothing short of entertaining. We’ve seen RazzMatazz dethrone Ogres Heroes from their two-year winning streak. We’ve seen women compete at the highest level in coed, advanced and premier tournaments. And we’ve even seen the Southeast dish out some solid talent (Ali Jenkins, Olivia Jenkins, Tori Farlow, Jenna Coleman).
The 2018 National Championship is gearing up to close this incredible season with international competitors, upset potential, and the strongest battle women’s roundnet has ever seen.
Here’s a look at eight of the top teams going in to the tournament:
Ogres Heroes - Becca Graham and Alli Kauffman - East
At this year’s nationals, Ogres Heroes is looking to become the first team in history to three-peat as national champions. The past two years, Becca Graham and Alli Kauffman walked into nationals as the undisputed favorites and claimed both national titles without dropping a bracket game.
This nationals, their two 2018 women’s tournament losses (Santa Monica Grand Slam, SummerSpike) and the strength of the competition suggest the possibility of a new national champion. Still power ranked as the #1 women’s team in the nation, Ogres Heroes won’t fall easily, but this year’s national championship is far less secure than the two years prior.
The experience, confidence and strength that Ogres Heroes has gained from their 25 career finals appearances will be difficult to match, but they’ve already been broken twice this season. The question is, which team has the composure and skill to take them down on the biggest stage of roundnet history?
Becca Graham of Ogres Heroes serves at the Jersey Shore Tour Stop.
RazzMatazz - Jordi Vigna and Tori Farlow - West/Southeast
RazzMatazz brings more energy and hustle to the roundnet scene than any other women’s team. At last year’s national championship, Tori Farlow and Jordann Vigna played separately on two of the teams predicted to make a strong run for the national title. With Farlow finishing T-5th and Vigna 4th in 2017, you can guarantee RazzMatazz will show up hungry for nothing short of first place.
Nationals will be Farlow and Vigna's fourth tournament together, contrasting the rest of the top five power ranked women’s teams that are returning for at least their second nationals appearance. So far this season their individual skill has made up for their lack of experience together. If Farlow and Vigna challenge opponents with their serves and play clean, consistent offense, few teams will be able to take them down.
MØXIE - Julie Haselton and Jenna Coleman - Midwest/Southeast
As past tournaments prove, MØXIE often matches the skill level of their competition. This leads them to take games and series off of the best competition and also leads them to fall to competition that couldn’t match their stronger skill level.
If MØXIE shows up and consistently plays their best, they could take the tournament. However, if MØXIE loses their focus, they become vulnerable. Without focus, any team that challenges them with consistent put-aways could take them down with a few opportune aces or defensive plays.
Cougs - Ashley Gingerich Showalter and Michaela Hershberger - Midwest
2017 Nationals was Cougs’ first tournament and they proved their skill by eliminating two of the strongest teams in the game (MØXIE and veinte hamburguesas), ultimately earning a very respectable second place finish. Ashley Gingerich Showalter and Michaela Hershberger thrive as underdogs, but in recent tournaments we’ve seen uncharacteristically disappointing results from them.
While the pressures of the nationals stage create more nerves and errors, Cougs’ consistent, challenging-enough serves could carry them to another successful nationals finish. Cougs knows how to beat the best teams and they know how to withstand the pressures of high-stakes tournament. To take down the top teams this Saturday, however, they need to come out stronger than they have in their recent appearances.
Jenna Coleman of MOXIE hits a shot between her legs.
Lagertha - Marie-Eve Bergeron and Nancy Gougeon - Canada
The last time we saw this Canadian duo in the U.S. was the Lancaster Tour Stop where they were one hit away from beating Ogres Heroes. Since then, Lagertha has secured themselves as the top women’s team in Canada and they’re coming to sunny California to see how they can manage against the top women’s teams in the US.
Lagertha is the first of two major dark horses in the women’s division. Although the US arguably presents the strongest roundnet field in the world, many Canadians are well-known for putting in the work and training to improve. If five months ago Lagertha was one hit away from taking down Ogres Heroes, it’s safe to assume they’ll be even stronger and more prepared to create some chaos at 2018 Nationals.
Doctor’s Orders - Jackie Yoo and Tory White - West
Doctor’s Orders broke into the roundnet scene this year with fresh, blue jerseys and a whole lot of hustle at the San Francisco Tour Stop. After placing second in San Francisco, Doctor’s Orders traveled to multiple tour stops and even took first at the Seattle Tour Stop.
If Doctor’s Orders is prepared to add consistent offense to their hustle, Tory White and Jackie Yoo will present a serious threat to the teams that are power ranked above them. However, Doctor’s Orders has failed to reach the podium at a highly competitive tournaments this season. Unless they’ve been training, a T-5th finish might be Doctor’s Orders' best bet.
USK - Krista Shrock and Ruth Troughton - Midwest/United Kingdom
The mashup team USK is the second dark horse of the day. Ruth Troughton from the United Kingdom is traveling to the US to team up with Krista Shrock from Rosedale, OH. At the 2018 European Roundnet Championship this October, Troughton fought through the championship bracket before losing in the round of 16. She earned the “best mixed team” award and, similar to Lagertha, Troughton could bring new elements to nationals that the US women’s teams haven’t seen before.
Consistency will either be their strength or downfall. If USK is able to minimize errors and find their chemistry early enough to do well in pool play, Troughton and Shrock could tear through the competition and potentially podium.
Jordi Vigna of RazzMatazz makes a diving set at the San Diego Tour Stop.
Hubba Bubba - Kayla Swayze and Hannah Coyle - West
At the Santa Monica Grand Slam, Hubba Bubba made their entrance into the roundnet scene by eliminating Ashley Gingerich Showalter and Jackie Yoo to place third and join the strong podium alongside RazzMatazz and Ogres Heroes. If Kayla Swayze and Hannah Coyle can prove their skills again, Hubba Bubba will have a shot at upsetting any power ranked team that isn’t fully focused.
Other teams to look out for: FURY (Joelle Nguyen and Ashely Ortlip), New Girls on the Block (Alex Perry and Janelle Roby), Kaplow (Christina Coppola and Emily Kozlowski), Loma Ladies (Hailey Ortega and Madyson Fulcher) and an entire lineup of others.
This will mark only the third women’s tournament of the season to have a single elimination bracket. The other two were Lancaster and Summerspike, where Ogres Heroes narrowly defeated Lagertha and then lost to Gingerich Showalter and Farlow, respectively. Additionally, this will be Ogres Heroes' sixth SRA women’s event on sand. They won 4 of the previous 5, but dropped at least one series in each of their last four sand tournaments. As dominant as they usually are, sand is their kryptonite.
Got something related to roundnet that you want to know more about? Have any topics you want to be discussed on the podcast? Contact Mike White at email@example.com or @mwhitey17 on Twitter.