2013 Division III College Championships - Saturday Recap (Women's)

Posted: May 19, 2013 01:49 AM

If you ask women’s teams who played in the 2012 D-III Nationals, what they remember most about the weekend, threaded through stories of victories and losses, is one common theme: wind. As the 2013 Division III Championships kicked off in Milwaukee, Wis., today, the windy conditions seemed like a distant memory.  Temperatures in the high 60s and light breezes set the stage for teams to execute under the best of conditions. Pool play was hard fought and spirited, and at the end of the day, six of the top eight seeds were headed to the championship bracket. However, stellar performances by small squads and teams receiving "backdoor bids" ensured that Saturday was full of excitement and upsets.

Top Seeds Cruise to Victory

The top two seeds in the tournament, Valparaiso Chicks Hucking Discs and Bowdoin Chaos Theory, had both accumulated stellar records on the season, even with adverse weather affecting many of their regular-season tournaments. While Bowdoin is unbeaten this season, Valparaiso’s wins over multiple D-I rivals and their victory at the Chicago Invite earned them the number one seed. Both teams looked poised and confident today: no opponent put up more than six points against either top seed.  Valpo employed several versions of zone defense throughout the day with great success, spreading the field quickly after turns and capitalizing on their speed to win long match ups. Valpo’s deep roster resulted in a distribution of assists and goals among many offensive players. Seniors Steph Volz and Erika Wagner had big days on both sides of the disc for their team, and captain Wagner praised the contributions of new players. Bowdoin was in control of every game from the beginning, displaying stellar offensive versatility and adapting quickly to a variety of defenses. Captain Phoebe "Goose" Aron found a variety of targets as Bowdoin executed an efficient, forward-looking offense. Quick transitions off defensive stops paired with solid throws from the whole roster allowed Bowdoin to convert effectively on defense as well.  

The other top seed to go unbeaten, Williams La WUFA, started the day with a somewhat tentative win over Elon, but finished the afternoon looking crisp and unhurried, utilizing the athleticism that has been their trademark this season. Despite flying into Milwaukee amidst their finals, Williams was able to utilize diverse offensive weapons, including 2012 All-Region player Claire Baecher, sophomore Charlotte Fleming and senior Rachel Kessler, who was masterful on both sides of the disc. 

2012 Semifinals Rematch

Pool C featured the highly-anticipated rematch of the 2012 championship semifinal game in which eventual champions, the Claremont Greenshirts, eliminated Carleton Eclipse from the tournament. The two teams squared off in February at the Stanford Invitational, where Claremont dealt Eclipse a 12-9 defeat. Both teams are quick and skilled, with Claremont executing a fearsome long game and Eclipse pairing solid handler flow with effective fast breaks run through a cohesive cutting corps. The teams played a tight first half, with Eclipse going into halftime with an 8-6 lead. Eclipse would take the first (very long) point out of half, with handlers Kalli Perano and Claire Leichter displaying punishing coordination, driving the offense and combining for downfield blocks. However, that point would be Eclipse’s last. Suddenly the underdog, Claremont readjusted their defensive pressure and ramped up their communication, playing tight handler defense and generating turns that led to quick scores.  Sisters Catherine and Julia Raney were offensive engines for Claremont, and freshman Marianna Heckendorn’s stellar defense and strong throws made an impact on both sides of the disc. The Greenshirts scored five unanswered points to win the game and secure their place in the championship bracket. 

Small Squads Play Big

It is common for established programs to bring rosters of over twenty women to tournaments, but small squads are a reality for many fledgling women’s teams. While playing with a small roster can mean fatigued players and small margins for injury or illness, it can also result in a team that is fiercely loyal, incredibly well-conditioned and deeply in-tune with one another. The two teams with the smallest rosters, Georgia College Rufus Lynx and SUNY-Oneota Love$eat, displayed all of these characteristics on Saturday. 

In their first game of the day, Love$eat’s 10-woman squad shocked a strong Oberlin team fresh off of sectional and regional sweeps, 15-6. Love$eat, founded just last year, built their success on smothering defense and solid communication. The deep defense of senior Shannon Chrystal and junior Rhiannon Spencer combined superior disc-reading skills, agility and height, allowing them to completely shut down opponents’ long games. This created opportunities for a quick and sure-handed offense led by juniors Erica Bornhoft and Colleen Parker. Love$eat would fall to top-seeded Bowdoin before outlasting the surging St. Benedict Bad Habits for a 13-11 win to end pool play as the second seed in Pool B. 

Just eight women strong and missing a key player to injury, Georgia College entered the weekend as the five seed and a solid record against D-I and top D-III rivals. Playing with only one sub, their crisp throws and sharp cuts allowed them to shred zones and execute fast breaks cleanly. The tight rotation that the team insisted they "wouldn’t have any other way," resulted in a remarkably balanced offense and defense with blocks, assists and goals leaders changing each game. After a 15-9 win over a young Grinnell team, Lynx Rufus played close against a tough Elon team and dropped a game to Williams to capture the third seed in Pool C. 

Backdoor to Big Show

For another small squad, the 11-woman Philadelphia University Diskfunctional, a frustrating second-place finish in the Ohio Valley regional tournament meant they would have to wait until 2014 to have a shot at the College Championships. However, when the Northwest women’s bid to D-III Nationals was declined, Phil U got a call inviting them to this year’s national tournament.  Seeded thirteenth, Philadelphia started out Saturday with a close loss to Truman State Tsunami that featured dynamic handling by sophomore Kelsey Kausch and sharp cuts and blistering continuations from junior Allysha Dixon. Diskfunctional would suffer a quick loss to Valparaiso before taking on 12-seed Mary Washington Massacre.  The teams were well matched, and the deep defense of Mary Washington’s Mary Beth Moody slowed Philadelphia’s long game. Ultimately, Philadelphia’s strong defense, featuring hand-blocks by captain Erika Krueger, was too much for the Massacre, and Diskfunctional came away with the win, 9-7. 

Diskfunctional headed into a pre-quarters game against Pool B’s second seed, Elon, with nothing to lose.  Elon had played well all day, breaking seed in their pool and hanging with a tough Williams team. Elon’s Maureen Dougherty led the team offensively and defensively, generating turns and throwing goal after goal. Freshmen Sydney Harris and Aelish Aoki as well as Senior Kelsey Aikens had been huge in the end zone as well. In the pre-quarters match up, however, Philadelphia would take an early lead and never relinquish it, winning 12-9.  Next up: Claremont.   

As if one Cinderella team out of the Ohio Valley wasn’t enough, a similar story was unfolding across the field complex in the stadium. At the beginning of the tournament, the Swarthmore Warmothers had found themselves as the fourth seed in the formidable Pool C.  With their handler corps depleted by injury, star cutter Amy Jin made the switch to handle alongside senior Emily McAfee. After suffering 7-12 and 6-12 losses to Claremont and Carleton respectively, Swarthmore came out blazing against Bentley. The 12-4 final score obscures the close play by Bentley—big hucks by Sydney Southern and tough defense and end zone cutting by Christine Westgate—but in the end, Swarthmore made their statement: they had come to play. 

In their pre-quarters game against Love$eat, Swarthmore found themselves down. McAfee’s big hucks were getting eaten up by Love$eat’s powerful backfield, and SUNY’s fast up-line looks were causing trouble as well. Regrouping and focusing on their strengths, Swarthmore was able to exploit squirrelly handling and careful disc management to bring the game to 11s. During the next marathon point, soft cap went on. Swarthmore never looked back, notching two more points to punch their ticket to the championship bracket and a match up against Valpo. 

Filling out the Bracket

The 2012 runners-up, Grinnell, were missing several key players to illness and had graduated several more, but they showed they could still play at the national level. Captains Carla Eckland and Hannah Bauman paced the team on offense and defense and ran a deep rotation focused on building nationals-level expertise in their young team. Oberlin, coming off a strong spring season and paced by solid play in both directions from Sharon Cross and Kayla Emrick, kept pace with rivals but struggled convert in the topsy-turvy Pool B. 

The final two spots in the championship bracket were decided in thrilling pre-quarters games.  Truman State Tsunami had shown grit and resolve throughout the day, led by captain Erica Sumner and junior Brooke Giddens, battling through high-scoring games to hold seed in Pool A. During pool play, Coach Melissa Huegerich remarked that while Tsunami had performed well, she believed the best was to come.  The Tsunami women proved her correct, pulling out a nail-biter against Georgia College. While Georgia held the lead through most of the game and was up 9-12 in a game to 13, Tsunami stayed mentally and physically tough, rallying behind a huge game by freshman Emilie Willingham. Tsunami will play Bowdoin on Sunday morning. 

The other pre-quarters game featured a rematch of the North Central regional championship game, pitting the experienced Carleton Eclipse against a young St. Benedict team making their first appearance at Nationals. Bad Habit came out hungry, led by Erynn Schroeder’s fierce play on both sides of the disc.  Schroeder and junior Kelsey Peterson moved the disc well across the field, taking advantage of Bad Habit’s speed and disciplined offensive motion to take a 6-3 lead over Eclipse. Eclipse’s experience won the day, however, as they stormed back to take half 8-7 and eventually close out the game 12-7, with end zone dominance by Zoe Suche and Katie Claiborne and a balanced and effective defensive effort.   Eclipse will play Williams Sunday morning in a rematch of the 2011 D-III Championship final.

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative

Photo Credit: CBMT Creative


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