I know that DIII hasn’t gotten too much love this year, but it still deserves some. This weekend in Princeton, NJ, 8 teams will battle it out to take the lone Metro East bid to Nationals in Buffalo, NY. Without further ado, lets break down the two pools.
Connecticut College (A1)
The overall number one seed in the tournament, Connecticut College finished third at the Hudson-DIII conference ahead of RPI and below Vassar and Wesleyan. They had an upset win against Wesleyan in the semifinals, winning 14-12, before losing 15-12 in the 3rd place game. While they were the only D-III team to qualify for a non-autobid into DI Regionals, Captain Jonah Guerin said “Even though we qualified for D-I regionals, our team chose to play at D-III regionals. We want to prove that we are one of the best D-III teams in the country”.
Connecticut College is led by Captains Jonah Guerin and Max Weiert, who both are the primary offensive handlers and flow starters for the team. Jason Clancy and A.J. Jong alternate working the middle of the field and use their speed as cutters to get open. Even though they ended up in DIII, Guerin remarked that “Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make DI regionals. We played our best tournament of the season to date and had a couple of huge upset wins over Wesleyan and Marist“.
Marist Fox Ultimate is led by captains Henry Zhang and Matt Wilensky and has qualified for Regionals in only their second season as an open team. With not many women to form a full team, Fox Ultimate spends the majority of the early and fall season playing mixed tournaments. While they had a handle on Connecticut College earlier in the season, the games at Conference Championships did not fall in their favor. “Conference championships taught us what happens when you get complacent.”
Marist along with Connecticut College and RPI is one of the favorites for late Sunday play. Along the road, they have successfully beaten five of the remaining field by relying on some of their go to play makers. Pat Cummings is the brains of the operation and is usually looked to for strategic advice. The driving force to be competitive is led by Wilensky who “is one of the biggest motivators on the team”. Henry Zhang is the young stud, who provides the athletic spark and recklessness to dive into a crowd to get a disc. Robbie Kohler is the main offensive weapon as the primary handler spot. He provides the deep throws and is a beast on defense.
One of the newer faces in the region, Cortland was the highest ranked sanctioned team for the Western NY DIII conference. It was an exciting run through the conference championships with a 13-11 win over SUNY-Geneseo, 12-11 win over SUNY-Oneonta and a 11-10 win over Ithaca to advance to the championship game. Unfortunately they met their demise against Hamilton in a 15-6 loss to get 2nd place.
One of the teams bringing up the rear, Rider snagged the final bid out of their conference with a 14-11 win over Ramapo.
RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) B1
Rensselaer (or Renns-lur if you’re native) has been a strong team in the old Upstate NY section for the last five years. Successfully qualifying for Regionals each year since 2008, this is the first time they hadn’t qualified for the D1 section. If anything, this is the most established DIII program at Regionals this year. Last year and years before they attended DIII nationals. Even though they lost 6 of their top 10 guys from last year, TRUDGE has come back strong. Captain Dan Donovan knows that it’s not just about talent, “As a team we’ve gotten smarter. We’ve learned more offensive and defensive sets”. With alumni Zac Hilton and Steve Calebrese as coaches, RPI is going to be prepared for the high intensity competition
John Henry “Hoz” Hosmer is in the discussion to be the best player at this tournament. Having played against him myself last year, he’s an incredibly fast cutter which allows him to get power position very easily. After playing with Sons of Liberty last year, Hoz has improved the already sound deep throws that made him such a threat. Donovan on Hoz “What makes him different is that he is usually the one getting the assist. His height and speed force teams to give him unders, but he can be even more dangerous there”.
RPI did not run into any of the DIII competition at all this year. Due to a losses against Wesleyan and Vassar, they never had a game with Connecticut College. While Vassar is not attending DI or DIII regionals, they were one of the more impressive teams in the Metro East Region in general. A hard fought 9-12 loss to Vassar indicates that RPI could have been at DI regionals playing with the top competition. Donovan “One of our season’s goal is to do well at DIII nationals but we first have to qualify. We are watching out for Connecticut College, Hamilton, Marist and Stevens”
Hamilton is another up and coming face in Western NY. They will continue their new rivalry with RPI in pool play after they were eliminated by them in 2010 Sectionals. They are the lone conference winners at this tournament, with everyone DIII conference winner declining their bid. However, Captain Brandon Kline said that the road wasn’t looking so easy, “We lost in a scrimmage game to Ithaca College the week before Conference Championships. So when we saw that we would be playing them in our first game on Saturday morning, we were extra excited. ” Well Hamilton used that motivation well and blazed through their Conference with a 15-6 win over Cortland.
My alumni team squared off with Hamilton in the early fall season, and the offense really runs through two guys. Brandon Kline and Joe Pinney spend most of the time putting their squad on their backs. Kline is one of the players mentioned the most when I polled the other teams, and it’s not hard to see why. Consistent throws, tough defense and good leadership is why Hamilton is in the position it’s in.
Hamilton turned down the DI bid knowing that this road give them the best chance to compete. “There’s one bid to DI nationals from our region, but at DIII regionals we’ll have a real chance to advance to nationals”, Kline told me. As far as the other teams they’re watching for, “Definitely looking at Marist, their handlers move extremely well”. Hamilton will surely be one of the teams capable of going the distance this weekend.
Stevens Tech (B3)
Stevens Tech is the first DIII qualifier out of the Metro NY conference with wins over Rider to take third place. They beat Marist in a 13-10 game earlier this season and are looking to make some noise. RPI has them listed as team to watch out for.
The rivalry between Ithaca and Hamilton will enter it’s third chapter this weekend. While they won in a scrimmage before Conference Championships, Ithaca suffered a big defeat to Hamilton and then lost on Universe to SUNY-Cortland. They will certainly be gunning to take down Hamilton as the 2nd seed, and they are my pick to break seed for sure.
Marist and RPI should take their respective pools with Marist getting revenge on Connecticut College. Hamilton and RPI game should be close, but I like RPI’s experience. No one is eliminated on day 1, so the bracket is going to be fun to watch on Sunday.
The semifinals should consist of the top four seeds in some order, depending on finish on day 1. I have RPI likely to face Connecticut College in the semis with Marist seeing Hamilton. I like Marist and RPI to advance to the championship game. RPI comes away with the bid to DIII nationals with a 15-11 victory.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire (UltiPhotos.com)