D-III Championships: Men’s Division Recap – Day One

Posted: May 21, 2016 08:24 PM


It was a day of incomplete games for everyone and, in the men’s division, surprises across the board. 
Lightning was spotted only about 15 minutes into the pre-quarterfinal round, and after a short delay, play got called for the day. Apparently 400ish people with fingers crossed wasn’t enough to hold off the storm.  
Not a single pool had held seed from top to bottom at the end of pool play, with top seeds falling all over the place. To be fair, everyone was falling all over the place. After two solid days of rain in Winston-Salem, even before the afternoon addition, the fields at BB&T Soccer Park were completely saturated on Saturday morning. The water and mud caused players to slip and slide all over their fields and made it nearly impossible for anyone to make hard cuts. 
But back to the results craziness. 
Pool A
Pool A isn’t often the pool of death, but it is certainly in the running this time. 
Not that postseason success is ever a surprise for any Carleton College team, but GOP came out firing on Saturday. For a team that champions fun and lightheartedness, they brought plenty of intensity to their first three games at the D-III Championships. They cruised to the top spot in Pool A on the backs of their defense, forcing turns by contesting nearly ever throw and often forcing middle, effectively getting around throwers on the sidelines to cut off their continue looks. Their closest game came against Colorado College in the last round of pool play, but they pulled out a 13-12 win to go undefeated on day one. 
After falling in the first round to GOP, Bryant earned two close wins to hold onto the second spot in the pool. Richmond was likely the pool’s biggest surprise. After rolling through the season with just one loss to a D-III team (and only three total losses) across five tournaments and winning the Atlantic Coast Region, Richmond went O-fer in pool play and landed in tomorrow’s consolation bracket. That put Colorado College, the pool’s initial fourth seed, in the pre-quarterfinals. 
Colorado College managed to go 1-2 today with a point differential of -2. And they weren’t the only team with a similar total. That’s how close many of these teams are to one another. Wasabi started the day aiming to make a stand for the South Central Region, whose highest seed was Air Force at number six. At the end of the day, the region didn’t fare all that well, but all three SC teams made the pre-quarters and still have a chance to turn that around tomorrow. 
Pool B
So much for the rankings. Indiana Wesleyan headed into the D-III Championships as the fourth-ranked team in the country and the second overall seed. But today, they couldn’t win a game. They hung with John Brown to start the day, trading points nearly throughout, but ran out of time to earn back the breaks they’d given up just before half. Then they hung with North Carolina-Asheville, but still couldn’t pull out a win. And by the time they got to Brandeis, TRON had found their rhythm. Brandeis won that game big, and Indiana Wesleyan ended up dropping from the top spot in Pool B to the bottom. In a pool full of experienced teams with big rosters, depth seemed to be the biggest think lacking for Indiana Wesleyan on Saturday. Travis Carpenter alone is probably worth a handful of points a game, but even though he played nearly every point today, directing traffic on offense and defense, it wasn’t enough to get Huck Dynasty a win.  
Despite an almost total lack of wind, there was a lot of zone defense being played around the soccer park today, one of the most popular being a force-middle zone that shifted to straight up when the disc reached the middle of the field while the cups’ wings sagging into the throwing lanes. The other common zone look was a "puppy fence" zone, with an all-time mark and a three-man wall set upbehind. The disc was plenty slippery, so even with wind lacking, the zone sets still managed to force turnovers often enough. 
North Carolina-Asheville was one of today’s many surprises, at least probably to everyone outside the Atlantic Coast. Their only pool play loss came to Brandeis in the first round of the day. Brandeis went up early, and despite winning the second half, UNCA couldn’t overcome the deficit. But they took their momentum from the second-half and earned big wins in their next two games, first over Indiana Wesleyan and then over John Brown. UNCA is athletic and super tall. They have seven players on their roster 6’2" or taller, including two guys who are 6’5". With people like Clint McSherry in the backfield and their tall receivers downfield, they’re hard to defend when they are clicking. 
John Brown also had a good day, despite the 1-2 record. They outlasted Indian Wesleyan after the teams traded points nearly the entire game, then lost on double-game point to Brandeis before crumbling a bit in their last pool play game against UNCA. John Brown’s depth bodes well for them throughout the rest of this tournament. They have a stable of quick but also fast-in-a-straight-line receivers that make them difficult for opponents to match up well with across the board. It will be interesting to see how today’s rain delay affects their pre-quarters game with Knox, a team that definitely lacks that same depth. Instead of playing in the day’s fourth game, John Brown should see a more replenished Knox in the morning.   
And rounding out the pool is its new top seed and last year’s runners-up, Brandeis TRON. They looked better and better as the day went on, behind the play of Noah Newberger, Gabriel Goldstein and a strong senior class. In what was one of the best games of the day, their double-game point win over John Brown, they never looked uneasy. Through missed throws and turnovers, they always appeared confident in their ability to win. And win they did. They’ll get the winners of Bryant v. Wheaton in the quarterfinals and look to be a formidable opponent. 
Pool C
Lewis & Clark was the only one seed to maintain their top spot after pool play and did so pretty convincingly. Captain Ben Whitenack led Bacchus in both goals and assists on day one. Teams will have to find a way to shut him down tomorrow if they hope to advance past Lewis & Clark. 
Knox was another surprise on day one. After a double-game point win over Claremont in the last round of pool play, they ended up with a 2-1 record and the second spot in Pool C. They also live and die with Harper Garvey. Unsurprisingly, the Minneapolis Sub Zero veteran was the driving force behind Knox’s offense. Teams were happy to let him have open resets, which he took nearly every other pass. On every point. Since he played every point. Anything to keep him from burning them downfield. So instead, he burned them with hammers. Or scoobers. Or whatever upside down throw he could come up with. When he got a little overzealous with them, he often got the disc back. We’ll see tomorrow morning if John Brown has someone who can contain him.  
Air Force, the first service academy to qualify for a national championship, had what they consider a frustrating day. The tone was set when they got down big against Knox in round one, but managed to tie the game back at 13-13, only to surrender the next point and lose 13-14. They won a barnburner against Claremont in their second game, this time coming out on top on double-game point, but then closed out pool play with a loss to Lewis & Clark. They’re a team that has come really far over the last few years, and they’ve worked hard to get there – trekking to four tournaments before this spring before the series and seeking out the best D-III teams to compete against. Two of their strongest players are freshmen, so they have potential for a strong future. Plus, Coach Carl Chan says they’re awesome. But for now, they face a hot UNCA team in the pre-quarters. They’ll need to show up with their best game tomorrow morning to shut down UNCA’s army of receivers and advance. 
Pool D
I don’t think anyone is surprised that Franciscan did well today, but I’m sure there are plenty who are surprised to see Georgia College sitting at the top of Pool D. They played a couple regular-season tournaments this spring, but all within their region, so it wasn’t easy to figure out how they would match up with teams from around the country. But they came to play today. No one was able to stop the Nathan Vickroy/Josh Bush connection. Despite running essentially the same play on each offensive possession, they managed to keep scoring. A throw or two to center the disc, an open-side cut from the back of their vert stack, a huck to the deep cutter who came from the front of the stack and a goal – usually in the hands of Josh Bush. In a low-scoring affair, they held onto a 10-9 win over Wheaton to start the day before surprising Franciscan in round two. 
Georgia College was up as much as 12-6 when Franciscan seemed to finally find their feet and start mounting a comeback. Fatal scored four in a row and got as close as 13-11 before they ran out of time. They scored last, after hard cap, but fell 14-13. 
With all their recent additions, or re-additions, Franciscan was bound to feel some growing pains. With people back from injury, back from studying abroad and just back to ultimate, Franciscan is a different team this weekend than they were early in the year. But one thing that hasn’t changed is Dom Schuster. Last year’s Great Lakes Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year is still a huge presence on the field for Fatal. Down 9-10 against Wheaton, Schuster decided it was time to take over. In the stretch of seven points between 9-10 and 14-12, he racked up two goals, three assists and one D, plus countless mid-field completions. Franciscan clinched the game on a throw from Tommy Koch to Tony Bort, another common combination. 
They were the original top seed, but in yet another difficult pool, Wheaton ended up third in Pool D. They are a strong team, led by seniors Luke Rynbardt and Marty Dekker. They got help downfield from standout sophomore Jonah Karls. They just didn’t quite have enough to overcome the athleticism of Georgia College or the team understanding of Franciscan. Wheaton’s win over Connecticut College, who remained in the bottom spot in Pool D, they earned a pre-quarterfinal match up with 2014 semifinalists Bryant Craze. 
  • Many teams really took the anti-HB2 initiatives to heart, sporting rainbow armbands, headbands, etc. in solidarity with the LGBT community. 
  • Most of the teams in Winston-Salem this weekend are not accustomed to playing with observers. Offsides calls were frequent, and yardage penalties for multiple infractions commonplace.
  • Some cheers never fade – like the El Camino chant I’m sure everyone has heard at some point in their ultimate lives.  


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