Eastern Regionals Retrospective

This was the weekend that we were to head to the Queen City of Cincinnati for the Eastern Regional Championship.

We weren’t there, but we’re still all here, which is a silver lining.

But we will be back next year to add to the legacy of this tournament, which has seen one dominant side ebb and flow with others who, for years, have gone from being back-up singers in a one-team band to ensemble players in an emerging region.

While Philadelphia and Baltimore have led the way in pulling themselves up close to the New York Magpies on the men’s side, the latter has asserted themselves in regional competition over the past five seasons.  The same goes in the women’s competition, where emerging women’s clubs have made the ‘Pies women dig deep to maintain their tiara as Queens of the East.

Though we couldn’t be in Cincy this weekend, there has been some great matches and memories from the Eastern Regional Championships.  Here are but a few.

April 17, 2015 – Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Results and Replays)
Ft. Lauderdale (MD1)

The carpet-like surface of the Central Broward Regional Park welcomed the New York Magpies, North Carolina Tigers, and homestanding Fort Lauderdale Fighting Suqids on a warm late spring night.  And with everyone expecting the defending National champion ‘Pies to win both games on the day, it was the home side that lifted their first, and so far only, regional title.  Led by Perth native Dave Regan, the Squids racked up two victories, including the clincher over New York in the twilight.

June 25, 2016 – Yonkers, New York (Results and Replays)
New York (MD1), New York (WD), Baltimore-Washington (MD2)

2016’s Regionals were held in New York, New York, and that’s who took out the top two divisions.  Both the Magpies men and women had been the class of the Eastern region for several years, and playing at home at Tibbetts’ Brook Park, they asserted their dominance.

On the men’s side, Mike Murphy’s Magpies completed a whirlwind month of June.  After winning on the road in DC, North Carolina, and Philadelphia, they returned home and cooly dusted off emerging Columbus and Boston to lift their own men’s title under the current regional championship format.

A year after having to travel to Wisconsin to play in the Central Regional tournament, the Magpies women faced off against a composite side of players from Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Columbus, and Montreal.  Though New York was favored, and won by two goals on the emphasis of Kim Hemenway’s forward line play, the story was the emergence of newer players from developing teams that would have an impact on the national level.  Columbus’s Katrina Scherer and Montreal’s Valerie Moreau had breakout performances that would be the signal of fast rising careers for both.

In Men’s D2, Baltimore-Washington and North Carolina locked horns after both accounted for Philly in the earlier session.  Jay Levesque and rookie Nick Sisca led the Eagles to victory in a physical, tense nightcap, but there were better things to come for the capital boys.

June 24, 2017 – Raleigh, North Carolina (Results and Replays)
Baltimore-Washington (MD1), New York/Philadelphia (WD), North Carolina (MD2)

A dry Southern heat welcomed seven sides to the campus of North Carolina State University, as did a surface that was as dry and dusty as an America song.  The carnival was played roughly a month from the International Cup, and this was the last chance for a number of players to get a run in before heading to Australia.

In what was their best, and ultimately their last season as a unified club, the Baltimore-Washington Eagles upset the New York Magpies in the first game of the day, then parried away Columbus and Boston to win the Men’s D1 title.  The Eagles, who would return to Division 1 at Nationals for the first time in seven years that fall, would expand into the DC Eagles and Baltimore Dockers at the end of the year, but not before coming together to signal a shift in power in the East.

As in the year before, there was one women’s game to determine the regional champion.  This time, however, there were new kids on the block, as players from Philadelphia teamed up with New York and Boston to face Baltimore-Washington and Columbus.  Hawks players Erica Sacci and Amy Arundale, and Lady Demons captain Cailin Deal, fit into Magpie coach Christina Licata’s plan perfectly, and the Pies combo won out by 13 points.  As in last year, there were more emerging names that used regionals to make their mark, such as Baltimore-Washington’s Molly Halberstadt and Roxy Alei.

North Carolina kept the home-team success rate intact, as they won in matches over the BWE reserves and the Philadelphia Hawks to take home their first ever regional flag.

June 23, 2018 – Philadelphia (Results and Replays)
Philadelphia (MD1), Baltimore-Washington/Boston (WD), Columbus (MD2)

Regionals day at the Hawks Nest played out under pewter grey skies that varied anywhere from weepy to downright biblical.  The wet weather affected just about every game on the day, and for the first time in the history of the regionals, New York would be shut out of a title.

Again the homefield streak continued, with the Philadelphia Hawks winning their first ever regional crown.  This was no fluke – New York had their veteran squad down the Turnpike to take on the field, but Philly, paced by former NCAA gridiron players John Hinchen and Chris Gough beat the Gothamites and the weather, winning the final game by 17 points.  It would be the best season in the Hawks’ 20 year existence, and it ended with a D3 title at Nationals that year.

The Magpies women were favored to win their fourth straight regionals, but they would be up against it.  Columbus/Philadelphia showed improvement, and the expanded Hawks women showed their promise.  But it was Boston/Baltimore/DC Eagles who would win the day in a thrilling final game that had all of the drama of a prizefight.  Alex Mims-Pike and Karen Stablein, two veterans of the Eagles, helped put together a 13-1 win the decider.

In D2, the newly named Columbus Cats went toe-to-toe with the Boston Demons in an improved lower level competition that also included DC and Baltimore.   The final game of the afternoon saw 2-0 Columbus and 1-1 Boston face off, and though Geoff Hamshar and the Demons won the match, they couldn’t overcome the percentage gap that saw Eric Politz and the Buckeye Boys win out.

June 29, 2019 – Raleigh, North Carolina (Results and Replays)
Philadelphia (MD1), New York (WD), Boston/Jacksonville (MD2)

Returning to the Tar Heel State for the second time in three years, the 2019 Easterns were a testament to the growth of the region in terms of newer clubs on both the men’s and women’s competitions.  New clubs such as the Maine Cats, Rome Redbacks, RVA Lions, and Jacksonville Saints were represented, and Nashville and Atlanta sent women to carnival to help bolster the numbers.

The Hinchen brothers and Chris Gough, backed by veterans Jon Loring and Jay Sacci, went back-to-back in Men’s Division 1, becoming the first men’s team to turn the trick under the current format.  They were challenged by the Baltimore Dockers, who would move up two divisions and make the D2 Nationals Grand Final later in the year.

New York and DC would decide women’s division supremacy for the second year in a row, and once again this was a tightly contested tug-of-war game.  New York won 19-8 in the final behind Jani Boal and another stellar performance from Kim Hemenway, but the Eagles’ speed and deft defence, foreshadowed a deep run at Nationals several months later.

In Division two, the Boston Demons, paired up with an iron four from the brand-new Jacksonville Saints, took home their first regional after being denied a season before.  This two would be a forbearance of Nationals success, as 3.5 months later, they’d be crowned Men’s D3 champions in Florida.

Photo: Jerry Long

Image icon eaglespies17-2.jpg851.25 KB
Posted in 
Watch AFL