This weekend Claremont, Westmont, Occidental, Caltech and Chapman will meet in Claremont, California to do battle on the ultimate field. Because there are only 5 (fully-rostered) DIII teams in the region, there is no regionals tournament. Thus, the winner will get the Southwest’s only bid to DIII championships, making them the first team to officially qualify. Without further adieu, the teams:
Going into the weekend, Claremont is the favorite. Coming off their DIII national championship victory last year, they have lost some key seniors. However, with Tommy Li, one of the strongest DIII player in the nation, they are still looking solid. Tommy and Sam “China Sam” Trachtman will open up the field with hucks and breaks, while track star Devin Drewry powers the offense with his relentless running. Finally, look for stand-out freshmen Alex Gruver and Nathan Hall (Harvey Mudd represent!! What? There’s certainly no bias here) to make a big plays on O and D-lines respectively. Claremont has only played at President’s Day Qualifier and Trouble in Vegas this year, so their chemistry may be a bit off. However, if they can find their rhythm, they could run away with things.
Occidental also attended DIII championships last year and placed 14th. Since then, they have lost a few key seniors. However, after some development in the Fall and first half of the Spring, they have found their groove. A lot rides on all-region nominee, sophomore Andrew Featherston, whose under cuts and enormous flick huck add a lot of explosiveness to Oxy’s offense. Finally, Noah Donnell-Kilmer’s ups and throws give Occidental the consistency it will need to take down Claremont or Westmont.
An incredibly young team, Westmont is competing in the USAU series for the first time. However, don’t let that fool you. Westmont has improved dramatically in the last two years. With a solid incoming class, and a few overseas returnees from last year, they finished 6th at the Irvine Invite, 5th at Santa Barbara Qualifier, and 7th at Pres Day Qualifier – all team bests. Most notably, they have beaten conference rival Occidental twice. Todd Scalisi and John Ortberg do most of the handling, while some amazing development in Jordan Bleecker and Josh Miller has allowed them to thrive as deep cutters. Finally, Peter Matthews has “gotten more D’s by himself this year than [the] entire team since 2008”.
Caltech comes excited to improve upon last year’s performance at Conference Championships. Captains Josh Wiensch and Erik Liu lead a young team highlighted by seniors Sean Mills and Alan Li and twelve rookies led by Sam Szuflita. Despite having few wins, Caltech looks to make some noise in this year’s championships while building a strong team for the future.
Chapman University is home to a brand new team in Downe Towne this year. They were able to play in one tournament this season before the DIII Conference Championships and fared rather commendably, given that it was the first ultimate tournament that the team had ever experienced. While most of the team has very little ultimate experience, they have improved quite a bit over the course of the season. In particular, senior Alex ‘Tits’ Klein’s progress and leadership have inspired the team. While it is very unlikely that Down Towne will win the tournament, they are aching for their first regular season win, so it would be dangerous for the other teams to take them lightly. And, after all, every team has to start somewhere. This is what DIII ultimate is all about.
That’s it for now. Check back at the end of the weekend to see the first team of 16 to qualify for DIII championships.