Week 2, UNH District: Northern New England, Part 2
After Week 1, many people are saying “I told you so,” while others are shell-shocked by how difficult and defensively-oriented Aerial Assist is, while still others insist the game is broken. Regardless, all can agree that fouls can dominate match outcomes, referees are over-burdened, and even though the game can be very exciting, most qualification matches are a challenging and unpredictable struggle.
In Week 2 events, watch for the impact of the changes brought by yesterday’s Team Update… but don’t expect G40s or G28s to disappear. These (and other) technical fouls will still be common, but teams that are aware should be able to steer clear of them for the most part. The bigger impact may be much fewer shots bouncing back out, particularly benefitting teams with steep shot-trajectories.
Surprising to some, Week 1 didn’t reveal any cycle-combination as the stand-out method to score points. What cycle teams choose to run (truss, high goal, 1 or 2 assists; truss, catch, high goal, 2 assists; truss, high goal, 3 assists; 3 assists into low goal) will still be very dependent on alliance makeup; however, 138 and 177 (and others at other events) proved that a truss, catch, high goal cycle with 2 assists could be overwhelmingly strong, if left un-defended.
Week 1 did affirm the importance of a successful autonomous. 1519 and 177 both used double-ball autos to boost their scores, but the Finals at GSD also showed that putting all your balls in one robot can be risky… missing autonomous shots is a huge loss in points and also means the first portion of the match will have to be mop-up. Arguably, all three Finals matches at GSD were decided during those first 10 seconds.
UNH has no real predecessor, being the first FRC event (to my knowledge) ever held on New Hampshire’s biggest campus. But in terms of team makeup, the UNH district will inherit nearly as much of the old Granite State Regional as the Granite State District did. UNH will include primarily teams from New Hampshire (20), but also has the majority of Maine teams (8 of 14), and a collection of teams from Massachusetts (8), Connecticut (1), and Rhode Island (1). The Groton District later this weekend attracted most of Connecticut’s teams (29 of 45), leaving UNH primarily composed of the Northern New England teams that didn’t already compete at GSD.
That said, 5 teams (131, 509, 1512, 3323, and 4034) will compete at UNH after having competed only 4 days before at GSD! With teams likely needing around 50-60pts to qualify for the District Championship down in Boston, 131 will cement a spot having 56pts already. 3323 and 4034 will probably each need a solid elimination showing to build on their 40 and 35 points, respectively. Meanwhile, 509 and 1512 will probably need a Winner or Finalist finish to get the points they need, having only 12 and 10 so far.
UNH expects to have a shallower field than Granite State, with a smaller top and middle tier; however, the on-field performance may be comparable due to the Team Update’s improvements and the potential for smarter play by teams. Regardless, UNH should shape-up to be an interesting event, with excitement and game-play increasing dramatically on Friday afternoon!
**131 **will be the team to watch, having already proven their capability at the Granite State District (would’ve been #1 pick, but declined and captained #2; lost in the Finals in three matches). Their drivetrain and drivers provide exceptional speed and maneuverability, which combined with their smooth pickup create a robot that can tremendously benefit any alliance. Their high goal shooting was less consistent at GSD, but the lexan added to the floor of the high goals should help many of their shots. If their high goal shooting is improved, 131 is the easy favorite for the #1 pick and the blue banner; however, at least 18 matches stand between 131 and that lofty goal… and anything can happen in the chaos that is Aerial Assist.
**126 **has been a perennial contender in New England for over a decade, so even though they only brought a drivetrain to Week Zero, they will likely be a force at UNH. Breakaway, Logomotion, and Rebound Rumble were – by Gael Force standards – down years, however they bounced back in 2013 to turn in one of their strongest seasons yet. Last year they won the Boston Regional with 125 and 1511 and went on to captain the 5th-seeded alliance on Archimedes, upsetting a tremendous 4th-seeded alliance before losing in the semi-finals to the overwhelmingly strong #1-seeded alliance. While 126 hasn’t won their first event of the season since 2005, they usually do start out of the gate quickly… if over 10 years of success is any indicator, they will be one of the top competitors this weekend.
**3467 **is the first of a considerable pack of Tips. This young team has risen steadily over their 3-year history, now standing among New England’s best. This team wound-up being one of the very best competitors from New England last year, while some could fairly argue their team was the top robot by the end of the season. The only mark against Windham Windup is their propensity to start the season slowly; if they can iron out any technical difficulties quickly, expect them to be one of the top teams at UNH.
**176 **consistently succeeds at the Regional level, having made it to the Finals every year since 2009 and having made it to eliminations at every regional since UTC in 2010. Whether a finals appearance is in the cards for Aces High or not, expect this veteran team to find a way to be playing into Friday afternoon at UNH!
**58 **is another veteran with consistent success at the Regional level. Although they have been picked at every event they’ve attended since 2007, they have only made it through the quarter-finals once since 2009. This team, known for their unique wooden designs, will contend to make it another year of playing in eliminations… but don’t expect any riots if this team does make it through the semi-finals, as their ceiling looks high this year.
69 is yet another seasoned veteran with a knack for making it into eliminations. They’ve attended 11 regional events since 2007, and have made it to the eliminations at every one. They have a propensity to rank well and select their own alliance, captaining 9 of those 11 alliances. Expect them to again rank well and make it into eliminations… watch for how high they can rank to get a top pick.
**3280 **may slip through the cracks in a region filled with strong veteran teams. The Rhode Rebels made waves in their rookie year by captaining the 7th seed alliance in a strong Archimedes division; however, many students are too young to have been around for Breakaway and many veteran mentors struggle to differentiate among the “new” 4-digit teams. Regardless, 3280 won their first regional last year, upsetting a strong #1 alliance in three hard-fought matches in the finals at WPI. Watch for 3280 this year; see if they can continue to make a name for themselves as the district era begins.
319 has typically competed on the fringe of the elimination rounds over the past 5 years, so many may underrate their impressive showing at Week Zero in Merrimack, NH. They won the event with their partners 811 and 509, primarily on their big, bad capabilities to truss, high goal, and catch. Their one weakness at Week Zero was a susceptibility to defense; however, this weakness will likely be smaller at UNH as they have had more time for driver practice (and more of their opposition is capable of more than simply driving around). At UNH they will attempt to prove that their Week Zero showing wasn’t an aberration; expect Big Bad Bob to be one of the first 8 robots claimed in Alliance Selection.
The honorable mentions include: 151, 509, 1058, 1073, 3323, 4034, and 4564.
The Groton District predictions will be posted as the event approaches.