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

Posted: May 21, 2016 09:05 PM
No matter your sport, obviously as long as it’s a team sport, roster depth is going to play a big part in how well you do. Particularly when the competition format includes somewhere between six and eight grueling games over the course of two days. 
The challenge of creating a deep team exists for both men and women, but just as a result of participation numbers in sports, women often feel it a little more. And D-III schools feel it a little more than D-I schools. And so we come to the D-III College Championships. It has gotten better every year, but the teams in the women’s division still run the gamut on roster sizes, from 29 (Truman State) to seven (Valparaiso). It’s not the only important factor, but unsurprisingly, the teams sitting atop their pools, and in the second spots, have healthy roster sizes. And so the battle of attrition goes. 
Pool A
Like in the men’s division, Pool A has some rightful claim to the "Pool of Death" title at the D-III Championships this year. Pool play ended with a three-way tie for first place with three 2-1 teams. After implementing a few levels of tiebreakers, Claremont, originally the 12th overall seed, ended up with the number one spot in pool A. 
Claremont is one of this weekend’s teams with a big roster, but they also have depth. They utilize a large rotation without experiencing a drop in production from one line to another. They aren’t alone in this, but they aren’t afraid to take deep shots. But they should probably choose their moments a little more carefully on occasion. In their game against Carleton College, Eclipse was about to take full advantage of their impatience and reliance on the deep shot. But they have a chance to make a deep run this weekend. 
Carleton wasn’t impervious to the deep turnovers either. Senior handler Lisa Qiu has a cannon and used it liberally. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But Eclipse is scrappy. They ended the day with two wins but were down in both those games, by two to Elon early and four to Claremont. They managed to scrap their way back into both of those games and emerged with two wins. They have one of the smaller rosters in the field this weekend with only 16 players, and they play five of them a lot, so it's going to be a question of survival and fitness for them. 
Williams LaWUFA is always a contender at the D-III Championships. They got off to a bit of a slow start against Claremont, but came back with a vengeance later in the day. They defeated Elon 10-6, and Carleton 11-6. But thanks to their first-round loss to Claremont, they ended up Pool A’s second seed and have to play through the pre-quarterfinal round tomorrow morning. Williams has finished in the top half of the field in each of their last three appearances at the championships and reached the finals in 2013, so you can never count them out. 
As close as we get to a hometown team this year, Elon has a solid core and good coaching, but their lack of depth is a challenge for them. One player remarked that their goal was to make Nationals and be competitive, and despite going 0-3 in pool play, they have certainly done that.
Pool B 
Puget Sound managed to take down the two-time defending champs, Rice, on double-game point in their final game of pool play to earn the top spot and bye into the quarterfinals from Pool B. Their game was a back-and-forth battle in the first half with lots of great plays by players on both sides. Puget Sound got the first break to go up 6-5, but Rice got the break back and took half 8-7. They traded points in the second half, but when the cap went on, Puget Sound had the offensive advantage. Puget Sound held to win 11-10 but not without some drama. Rice got a D on that final possession, but the disc floated and was grabbed by a Puget Sound player, who called a timeout. Jane Marie Gunn managed to pull in a towering flick over two Rice defenders to seal the game.
Rice graduated several leaders after winning their second national championship last year, but the team is still strong. They earned two decisive victories before their double-game-point thriller with Puget Sound. Valerie Pinillos, Kelsey Nanneman and Brandi Ransom all sit near the top of the goals leaderboard, while the Angelas – Aie and Yang – are racking up assists. Their ability to spread the disc around should serve them well as they head into the pre-quarters against Luther. 
Amherst and Oberlin both held seed after day one. To stay in the championship bracket, Amherst just held on against a surging Oberlin squad in the final round of pool play to claim a 10-9 victory and the pool’s final spot in the pre-quarters. 
Pool C
Bates is making a splash in their first appearance at the D-III College Championships. They rolled their competition on day one behind an amazing 30 assists from freshman Josie Gillett. Her assists total from day one nearly doubles that of the next closest player. The Seattle product and 2016 WJUC National Team member was able to involve many of her teammates; Erin Hazlett-Norman, Wendy Goldman, Natalie Silver and Hannah Gottlieb all ended the day with five or more goals. 
The real battle in Pool C was for second place. Truman State and Luther met in the second round in the game that would determine that second spot. Truman State broke twice to start, a couple long points, and in the end, those breaks were all they needed. Like Carleton and Claremont, Luther is not afraid to take deep shots. After a turnover, instead of initiating cuts underneath, Luther’s cutters go deep, and their handlers, Rachel Johnson stands out in particular, give them a chance to make a play. Despite their relatively small roster – 15 total – they are not afraid to huck and play D. With the help of their two early breaks, Truman State got the win 11-9. 
Valparaiso is in a rebuilding year. Big rosters have never been their trademark, but after losing six seniors last year, they are particularly small in 2016. They fought hard in each of their games today, but their savage line wasn’t able to seal a win on day one. 
Pool D 
Like Pool C, the teams in Pool D held seed after day one. St. Olaf put together what is possibly their best season in recent memory. They had just one loss to a D-III opponent this year – Carleton College – and they avenged that loss in the finals at the North Central D-III Conference Championships. They kept their streak alive today with three solid wins in pool play. Wesleyan kept things interesting in their first-round match up – St. Olaf was up just 11-10 in a soft-capped game to 12. Wesleyan forced St. Olaf into a few too many throws with their zone defense, while St. Olaf often used their height to get the disc back off floaty throws from Vicious Circles. Tulsa Douglas quarterbacked St. Olaf from the center handler position while Sami Peterson took the shots. She eventually found Emily Verticchio to close out the win at 12-10. From there, St. Olaf found more of a rhythm, defeating Georgia College 15-1 and Mount Holyoke 11-7. 
Mount Holyoke’s game with St. Olaf was a battle back and forth. Mount Holyoke ran a solid box zone that forced enough turnovers to keep them in the game, but St. Olaf just made fewer mistakes and rode some great handling from Douglas to a second-half shutout and the 11-7 win (after taking half 8-7).
With the help of strong handling from Rose Dennis and a combined seven goals from Alaina McGinley and Tahlia Hodes, Mount Holyoke defeated Wesleyan to maintain the second spot in Pool D and head into the pre-quarterfinals against Carleton College Eclipse. 
Looking Ahead
Thanks to some late afternoon thunderstorms, the pre-quarterfinal round of play, originally scheduled to take place today, will be played on Sunday morning. The match ups look tough across the board, but the Mount Holyoke v. Carleton College game will likely be the one to watch. 
Assuming seeds hold, there will be some exciting quarterfinal games to keep up with come 9:00 a.m. ET. Claremont would meet up with the defending champions from Rice, and St. Olaf should find themselves competing against perennial contenders Truman State, a team many expected to reach the finals last year. Meanwhile, Bates will be faced with either the last-season number one, Mount Holyoke, or past champion Carleton Eclipse in their bid to reach the finals in their first appearance at Nationals, and Puget Sound would be in a Northwest v. Northeast battle with Williams. 
Stay tuned! It should be fun!

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