This weekend 125 teams are traveling to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the first East Tour Stop of 2018. This event may be drawing more teams than usual due to the fact that the tournament will be filmed and broadcast on ESPN2 at 9pm EST. With the chance to play on television looming, all teams will be bringing their A-game.
To allow for the broadcast to go smoothly, the logistics of the day are a bit atypical for a Spikeball™ Roundnet Association (SRA) event. First off, the day will be starting two hours earlier than usual at 8am. The Premier Division is also set to be a bit more intense as only the top 16 seeds will move onto bracket play. In bracket play, games will be played to a capped 15 points. Teams must step up their play and lay their bodies on the line to earn breaks in a finite match.
This tournament has attracted 20 Premier teams for the Premier Division, which is the most at a tournament in 2018 thus far. Looking to shine and take it home are four of the top five teams and many other of the top 25 teams.
Leading the pack of top teams is the #1 ranked and 2017 National Champs, Cisek/Showalter (Tyler Cisek and Peter Jon Showalter). This pair has taken home first at both tournaments they have attended so far in 2018 and are the clear favorite. Showalter excelled in the club bracket at College Nationals last weekend in which he defeated #7 Easily Dug in the finals with his partner Jonathan Waterman. Peak play from Showalter and Cisek is scary and their desire to win on Saturday may be unmatched.
Of course. Cisek/Showalter has not yet competed against the #2 team Wabi Sabi (Jarratt Rouse and Preston Bies). After scoring first place finishes at both the Huntington Beach and San Diego Tour Stops, Wabi Sabi fell to #6 Point Loma Spike in San Francisco. Improved play is needed to compete with Cisek/Showalter and maybe even some of the teams ranked below them. If Wabi Sabi is playing on the main court, though, expect a boost in their play as Bies enjoys a crowd.
With Point Loma defeating Wabi Sabi, both #3 Anchored LI (Ryan Fitzgerald and Anthony Alvino) and #4 Origin Vengeance (Dylan Fogarty and Chris Hornacek) should be looking to do the same. Anchored LI has yet to play in 2018, but they remain the only team to defeat Cisek/Showalter since early 2016. Anchored LI is known for their strong defensive play so expect an entertaining match if they land on the main court this weekend.
Ryan Fitzgerald of Anchored LI goes for a 'tweener at the 2017 Philadelphia Tour Stop.
Origin Vengeance's only 2018 result is second at the Atlanta Tour Stop where the pair fell to Cisek/Showalter in the finals. Outside of this event, Fogarty and Hornacek have both found great success in 2018. Hornacek has placed on the podium four times and Fogarty won the Chicago Tour Stop with Fitzgerald. If Alivno and Hornacek can match the play that Fitzgerald and Fogarty had together, both teams will be able to compete with Wabi Sabi and possibly Cisek/Showalter.
Two other top 10 teams are joining the fun on Saturday: #8 Hilltop Spikes (Max Model and Cole Model) and #9 The (717) (Joel Graham and Caleb Heck). Both of these teams landed in the top 4 at the Atlanta Tour Stop. The (717) players are Lancaster natives and home-field advantage may help them excel in this event.
Assuming these six top 10 teams make their way into the quarterfinals, the question is: who will fill the last two spots? Three mash-ups teams with a good chance to make it are Multivariable Fun (Patrick Drucker and David Gonzales), Santo de Witzo (Nick Sant and Ezra Dantowitz) and Swizik (Josh Swimm and George Rizk). Drucker and Gonzales were members of top teams in 2017 and Drucker has two top 8 performances in 2018. As Ben Dantowitz of the Do a Barrel Roll is injured, Ezra is teaming with Nick Sant of the Spicy Roundnet Club to form a team that can do well with limited mistakes. Lastly, Rizk placed third at the Chicago Tour Stop and his calm collected play could take him and partner Josh Swimm far.
Ezra Dantowitz of Santo de Witzo winds up for a hit at the 2017 Philadelphia Tour Stop.
Two Power Ranked teams will also be making their 2018 Tour Series debut and can compete with the aforementioned mash-ups. #18 Bullcity Spikes (Anthony Daming and Juan Ruiz) will be joining from the Southeast where they have attended multiple small tournaments this year. Zac Vance of #19 MAXIMUM EFFORT has participated in a few Tour Stops in 2018 but this is Cam Cisek and the team's first tournament. #24 Cho's Bro is also joining for their fourth tournament appearance in five weekends.
With eight more solid teams joining the fray, this division will be a battle on Saturday.
The Lancaster Tour Stop hype is bringing 16 women's teams to compete.
The front-runner is the two-time National Champs and Lancaster natives Ogres Heroes (Becca Graham and Alli Kauffman). These two competed in the Advanced Division at the Atlanta Tour Stop but had to drop from the Women's bracket when Kauffman rolled her ankle. This is their first women's division action in 2018.
A strong West player Jordi Vigna is making the trip out and joining with the Lancaster local Sarah Zook as EZ Pass. This mash-up should be strong enough to compete with all of the establish teams heading to Lancaster.
Jordi Vigna of EZ Pass makes a diving set at the 2018 San Diego Tour Stop.
Twinz (Ali Jenkins and Olivia Jenkins), who took first in the Atlanta Women's Division, are traveling form the Southeast. Lagertha (Nancy Gougeon and Marie-Eve Bergeron) are coming down from Quebec to compete. This pair may surprise many, like they did at 2017 Nationals, due to the amount of off-season play that occurs in Quebec. Doctor's Orders (Tory White and Jackie Yoo), who placed second in San Francisco, are heading out from Seattle.
This is also the SRA season debut for a few women's teams, including Maiden Merica (Peazy Ruiz and Katie Pierson) and Mighty Kites (Micaela McMullan and Lauren Miller).
The Advanced Division at the Lancaster Tour Stop has 34 teams competing. Carter Clem and Skylar Shibayama are coming out from Seattle and will be top contenders. Three teams are heading down from Canada with hopes of earning Premier. Chocolate Milk (Tyler Montgomery and Clark Marshall) and Pierson Miller (Tripp Pierson and Alex Miller) are both coming from the Southeast and looking for a top spot as well. These teams are joined by a large group of East teams to fill the division.
On Sunday, the Lancaster Tour Stop will host the largest Coed tournament in roundnet history with a massive 33 teams. Some top contenders include Riff Raff (Joel Graham and Becca Graham), Sour Patch Kids (Peter Jon Showalter and Joelle Nguyen), Taly Clank (Aly Blank and Tyler Cisek), and Oliviark (Clark Marshall and Olivia Jenkins).
Make sure to tune to ESPN2 at 9PM EST on Saturday!
Vote for who you think will place top 4 and top 8 in the Prediction Poll!
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.