Sunday at the USAU D-III Championships began immediately with bracket play. Eight teams put their seasons on the line at eight in the morning in the prequarterfinal crossover games.
Georgia College and State put together its second complete game of the tournament, avoiding falling early to Swarthmore and closing
out strong, winning 15-7.
Wake Forest possibly received the most unfortunate draw of the first round, matching up with a Harding squad that was playing with renewed energy from the prior day. Harding took solid lead before halftime and managed to stave off Wake’s comeback attempts. Apocalypse sent WOMB home with a score of 11-9.
North Park and Bentley were both teams that clearly wanted to advance to the next round and they delivered the only truly exciting matchup this round. Bentley took a lead and looked in command of the game as the soft cap horn blew. However, North Park stormed back to force a double game point situation. Both teams had multiple possessions and a Bentley drop in the endzone gave North Park new life. The Lost Boys marched the disc back up the field and punched it in to win 11-10.
Finally, one of yesterday’s biggest surprises, Connecticut College, squared off with one of the teams most disappointed in their Satuday performance, Truman State. Dasein appeared to be without Jonah Guerin, who was doing just about everything for them on Saturday and it showed in their Sunday results. JujiTSU triumphed 15-10.
If the prequarterfinal round was disappointing in terms of excitement than the quarterfinals at D-III Nationals made up for that lack of excitement and then some. With all the pool winners from yesterday back in action, not a single game had a margin of victory of more than three.
Harding took the field against Claremont and stormed out of the gates to a 4-2 lead behind inspired deep throws, runs and catches from Nick Doores, Ryan Rummage, Tyler Samuel, Taren Goines and Tucker Bankston. Apocalypse looked to get the disc in the endzone in as few throws as possible and to say its deep game was clicking throughout the first three-quarters of the Claremont game would be a vast understatement.
However, one couldn’t help but feel that Harding needed a little bit more of a lead than the 2 goal one it was clinging too. Every point Apocalypse’s deep throws hung in the air a little longer. The Harding resets got the disc a later in the stall count and Claremont scored a little easier. It was clear that, slowly but surely, Claremont was wearing Harding down.
Then, with Harding still in control at 10-8, it happened. The Braineaters scored three quick breaks to take an 11-10 lead. Harding would come back with one last gasp and score the next two goals to take a 12-11 lead as the soft cap came on but it the boys from Searcy, Arkansas did not have enough left in the tank. The Braineaters came out on fire and scored the next three earn their berth in the round of four, 14-12.
In an entirely different kind of story, St. John’s took on Georgia College and State. Disconnected looked like a different team from Saturday. They had been avoiding the mistakes they had made that led to two double game point losses. St. John’s had barely had a challenge yet and both teams rely heavily on their deep games, anyone watching this game had to know they were in for some fireworks.
However, the fireworks came in a different manner than expected. Drops, turfs, overthrows, miscues and hard defense from St. John’s saw GCSU dig itself into a 7-2 hole. Had this been any other team at the tournament, it might have been sensical to just call it a game and count GCSU out. However, this was the same team that had come back from 6-1 to force double game point against Connecticut College yesterday, if any team was going to muster this comeback, it would be Disconnected.
St. John’s wouldn’t find the endzone until after GCSU had tied the game at 7-7. GCSU’s comeback was largely stirred by the play of seniors Alex Vickroy, Taylor Minch and Blake Hannah. It seemed that, for a while, Disconnected could do no wrong. Throw after throw; defensive point after defensive point, St. John’s was at a loss for how to stem the tide.
Finally, BAM managed to take half, on serve, 8-7 and then earn a crucial break coming out of half to take a 9-7 lead. The teams would trade points until 11-10 where GCSU got the break it needed just before the time cap. The teams traded several more points until a double game point was forced at 13-13. It seemed that Disconnected was going to have its chance to complete its storybook comeback when BAM’s first throw floated over an in-cutting receivers head. Unfortucately for GCSU, BAM’s other receivers were playing heads up and another downfield player tracked down the errant throw and sent it to the endzone for the win, 14-13.
Truman State had managed to redeem itself for a disappointing peformance on Saturday and advanced to the quarterfinal round. The only thing that stood between JujiTSU and the semifinals was the tournament’s 15 seed, Grinnell. The Grinnellelephants had gone undefeated on Saturday and looked to be as strong a team as there was in the field.
Grinnell continued to show that strength, taking a 2-0 lead early. However, Truman would not count itself out and scratched and clawed with Grinnell all the way to a 5-4 lead. These two teams were battling hard and nearly every point featured possessions for each team with every throw and catch being hotly contested. The teams traded out to 10-10 as the cap horn blew letting the teams know that they were playing to 12.
Grinnell punched the disc in on its first possession after the cap blew and then put the brakes on for defense. Truman State couldn’t work the disc through a tenacious Grinnelephant front and a turnover gave Grinnell the opportunity to win the game and they would do just that sending TSU packing with a 12-10 victory.
Sadly, the set up of the tournament left the North Park/Missouri S&T game a little too far away for this reporter to see much of the game. Miner Threat jumped out to an early lead and it appears that they clung on despite North Park’s best attempts to cut it down. Missouri S&T won by a count of 13-10.
After such a heated quarterfinal round, one could expect that semifinals would be matchups that would result in two more close, hard fought games. However, that would not be the case. Apparently, the overall No. 1 and 2 seeds woke up from their first round naps and decided to take care of business.
The first semifinal saw Claremont against Missouri S&T. Though Miner Threat had played well leading up to the semifinal, it appeared that the Braineaters out classed their opponents. Claremont earned its first break at 3-1 and got its second at 5-2 and Missouri S&T would not close the gap to closer than two goals for the rest of the game.
Towards the end of the round, with the time caps looming, S&T took to the air, trying to score fast and quick using hucks to isolated matchups. Though Miner Threat made numerous athletic skys and catches, Claremont was quick to answer back with equally intense play and possibly more intense defense. Players like senior handler Logan Schumacher stepped up their game in order to protect the Braineater lead, Schumacher specifically stayed a dependable reset, found receivers on the breakside and generally kept his offense consistent throughout the second half of the game. By the time it was all said and done, Claremont took a 15-8 victory.
In the second semifinal, second-seeded St. John’s squared off against the tournament Cinderella story, Grinnell. The two teams both were representing the North Central region and were quite familiar with each other; this led to ambitious play on both sides of the disc as the teams struggled to keep their opponent out of his comfort zone.
Grinnell looked to continue its storybook run starting out with a 2-0 lead and hanging on to that two-goal lead all the way to 5-3. St. John’s was not connecting on its deep shots and senior handlers Tom Elliot and Dennis Kuo were leading Grinnell’s offense to efficient results when the Grinnellelephants got their hands on the disc.
After 5-3 came a clear change in attitude and intensity from St. John’s. The team stepped up its marks and its handler defense, forcing Elliot and Kuo to work harder to reset the disc and make tougher throws to utilize deep space and the break side. St. John’s also depended on 6’6" freshman Nihal Bhakta to shut down Grinnell captain Aaron Swaney. Bhakta rose to the challenge, earning multiple blocks and then being an effective force downfield after generating the turnover.
The Bad Ass Monks rolled out 7 straight scores from that point to take what appeared to be an insurmountable lead, 10-5. Before the game was finally over, the Grinnellelephants would close the gap by one but BAM showed that it knew how to protect a lead and eventually walked into finals with a 14-10 semifinals victory under its belt.
Finally it was time for finals, despite upsets, close finishes and too many other mitigating factors to name, the top two teams in the tournament were meeting in the championship game, both prepared to leave it all on the line to earn the USAU D-III crown.
Though St. John’s had only truly been challenged by GCSU in quarterfinals, the feeling throughout the tournament, possibly because of the Braineater’s high USAU ranking, was that this was still Claremont’s game to lose. The Bad Ass Monks made it their mission to prove that was not the case by storming out to a 3-0 lead on the wings of a defensive offense that quickly took advantage of two Claremont throwaways.
The Braineaters had been too focused all year on performing well at DIII Nationals to let everything easily slip through their fingers in finals though. Claremont finally got on the board when rising senior Tommy Li found sophomore Devin Drewry unmarked in the endzone. Claremont continued to close the gap on the next point when Drewry showed up again with a poach catch block just when the Bad Ass Monks were knocking on the door. A short outlet pass later, senior Markham Shofner sent the disc 70 plus yards in the air to sophomore Jacob Coleman. Coleman boxed out his defender and pulled the disc down after an observer overruled the defender’s foul call, the Braineaters were within one, 3-2.
The BAM offense came back out with a roar after getting broken. After working the disc up to midfield senior Matt Thiesen hung up a fading OI flick for freshman Nehal Bhakta, Bhakta found his space and got up over Shofner to put the score at 4-2. Claremont once again got within one after Li found Drewry for Drewry’s second goal of the game on a 40 yard huck, 4-3, St. John’s.
St. John’s avoided near disaster on the next point and Claremont missed a golden opportunity when, after a stall near St. John’s endzone gave the Braineaters a great scoring opportunity, Theisen poached off his man to intercept a Li pass intended for Shofner. St. John’s moved the disc up to near midfield before Theisen sent a fading huck up to freshman Pat Kunkel who got big over his defender to keep BAM’s two point lead alive, 5-3.
After the Braineaters received the pull, Logan Schumacher attempted to hit a receiver with a fading huck of his own but St. John’s junior Ryan Archbold made a spectacular layout block to give St. John’s the disc. BAM took advantage and once again extended its lead to three, 6-3.
From there, Claremont went on a tear. It began with Li finding senior Riley MacPhee on a run of the mill upline cut after the Braineaters marched the disc down the field on the next point. That was followed by an errant Theisen pass that led to Shofner hitting Drewry on a near full-field huck and Drewry flipping the disc in to an unguarded Coleman for the score. The Braineaters tied the game at 6-6 when junior Sam Trachtman intercepted a miscommunicated pass and near the St. John’s endzone and flipped it into the endzone for the score. For the first time in the game, Claremont took the lead on the next point after a floaty BAM huck was blocked by a pair of Braineaters and Shofner found who else but Drewry in the endzone on a 60 yard scoring throw. The Braineaters led, 7-6.
The teams traded to half and Claremont received the pull to start the second half. The Braineaters scored to lead 9-7 but St. John’s would answer back. For several points the teams traded goals, BAM was answering every score Claremont had with equal intensity.
However, the tone of the game changed when, with Claremont leading 9-8 and the soft cap forcing the game to end at 11, Schumacher sent a huck up to Li. The disc began to fade hard away from Li and just when it looked like it was going to float harmlessly to the ground in the endzone, Li launched himself fully horizontal and snagged the back end of the disc about four feet off the ground. The Claremont sideline exploded and the Braineaters were within one score of a national title.
St. John’s did not give up easily though. After multiple turns on the next point Thiesen smacked a Shofner huck out of bounds, calmly received the first throw after play began and sent a huge forehand across the field and into the endzone where Kunkel once again got up over his man to bring the Bad Ass Monks within 1, 10-9.
BAM forced a turnover on the next point and senior Tyson Gerdes sent a huck downfield to an open receiver who caught the disc and
called a timeout only to realize that, instead of a being a goaline with a chance to tie the game, the disc was being sent back to Gerdes due to an upheld travel call. Gerdes hit Archbold on an incut and Archbold attempted to send the disc into the endzone but it bladed out of his fingers and Trachtman got the block.
Claremont picked up the disc and after swining it a few times the Braineaters called a timeout to collect their thoughts. After a few throws, Shofner connected with Drewry one last time this season on a 40 yard scoring throw that gave Claremont the victory, 11-9.
2011 D-III College Champions, Claremont
PHOTO CREDIT: Discraft
1 - Claremont
2 - St John's
3T - Grinnell
3T - Missouri S & T
5T - North Park
5T - Truman State
7T - Georgia College & State
7T - Harding
9T - Swarthmore
9T - Wake Forest
11T - Bentley
11T - Connecticut College
13 - Lewis & Clark
14 - Occidental
15 - Lehigh
16 - Colby