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Ninja vs. Ninja: Semi-final #1

A preview of the first match ups in the Ninja playoffs

Eddy Chen/USA Network

The Ninja vs. Ninja playoffs are officially here! After months of preliminary match ups, the stage is set for the Sweet 16. To prepare you for the exciting team battles, we’ve previewed the match ups in the paragraphs below.

Golden Hearts

Grant McCartney, Natalie Duran, Neil Craver

Golden Hearts flashed some serious skill in the qualifying round. They first defeated Average Jo Jos before surviving against Three Wishes in the final match up. Three Wishes had a 2-0 lead early, but the Golden Hearts stayed poised and delivered three straight wins to advance. Team Golden Hearts was undefeated in their three relay match ups and that made all the difference.

Eddy Chen/USA Network

An injury shortened Neil Craver’s season last year, but he looked as strong as ever during his return to the course. Craver won both his individual races and provided a big spark for his squad. You can tell this team really enjoys racing with one another and that positive energy has resulted in some impressive results.

NorCal Ninjas

Dave Campbell, Anna Shumaker, Brian Kretsch

It’s been a long, winding road for the NorCal Ninjas. In the qualifying round, they ran into an up and coming team of young bloods aptly named … The Young Bloods. That match went all the way down to the wire as, in the first relay, the Young Bloods’ Tyler Gillett reached the buzzer first by just two hundredths of a second! That relegated NorCal to the wild card round in a winner-take-all match-up. After falling behind 2-0 early, things looked bleak for this squad, but they never gave up. Behind a pair of huge anchors from Dave Campbell, the NorCal Ninjas outlasted Team Dark Horse and grabbed a spot in the playoffs.

This squad will have a ton of momentum as they enter this round. Their relays have been impressive to date as it feels like these Ninjas have a little extra spark when they take the course together. Led by the Godfather himself, the experienced NorCal Ninjas will be tough to knock out.

Eddy Chen/USA Network

Iron Grip

Daniel Gil, Tiana Webberley, Mathis Owhadi

Team Iron Grip asserted itself as one of the favorites to win the entire competition during their match up in early April. First, they defeated the InvicAbels in a compelling back and forth match up. Then they went head to head with one of the most dangerous squads in the tournament – The Lizard Kings. The Lizard Kings had an early 2-0 lead, but (noticing a theme here?) when it came time for the relays, Daniel Gil was ready to lead his team to victory.

Iron Grip’s greatest advantage in this round was their composure. The extended course is a long, grueling lay out and you can’t panic. Tiana Webberley really helped put the pressure on her competitors with fast starts while Mathis “The Kid” Owhadi ran with a precision well above his age. Couple that with a proven star like Daniel Gil and Iron Grip will be tough to beat.

Beasts from the East

James McGrath, Erica Cook, Dave Cavanagh

Like many of the teams on this list, it seemed as though the competition would be over early for Beasts from the East. In the show’s very first match up, the Beasts from the East ran into Hashtag Ninjas and were eliminated after four races. But the Beasts didn’t hang their head and, when they were called back into duty, they came ready to play. They went up against a very strong Wisco Warriors squad and left with a spot in the playoffs.

Erica Cook, who suffered a major injury at the end of last season, really seemed confident in the wild card round. She delivered a pair of huge races, first individually and second to start off the relay. From there, Dave and James never looked back. Beasts from the East proved it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And they are looking to finish with the championship trophy.