DIII College Championships 2012: Open Recap

by | May 21, 2012, 10:52pm 0

Presented by USA Ultimate

At the end of the day on Sunday in Appleton, WI – another very windy day – only one team remained. That team was Carleton College GOP. On Saturday, they were able to win Pool B through their patience with the disc on upwind and downwind points – helping them net a lot of breaks in the windy environment. That was the same story again on Sunday, as GOP won their quarterfinal and semifinal games with ease. And then in the finals, a game that GOP didn’t play in the same decisive manner, they were still able to come out with a victory – taking their second title in three years at D3 College Open Championships.

The quarterfinal games were not as closely decided. The wind picked up from the day before, and some teams just came out flat – allowing for easy upwind breaks. The biggest story from this round was that St. John’s BAM , the #1 seed, being eliminated by Carleton in a game that wasn’t as close as the three previous matchups between these rivals (which BAM won). Part of the reason for that was that BAM’s Nihal Bhakta left the game with an injury after a head-to-head collision with a GOP player. Up until that point, he was making plays and helping to shut down Rhys Lindmark of GOP (more on him later). His absence was also felt during the pre-quarter game yesterday, which St. John’s came back and won. Without Bhakta, St. John’s could do little against the upwind work of their regional foe.

(Photo by Brandon Wu - Ultiphotos.com)

The semifinal games pitted Rice against Puget Sound and Carleton College against North Park. The two games were worlds apart. The Lost Boys looked, well, extremely lost on the field against GOP. Carleton’s defensive scheme, which saw the handler defenders poach into the lanes and the downfield defenders playing tight man defense, could not be defeated by the North Park offense even when working the disc downwind. GOP’s zone was anchored by an intimidating cup with Lindmark shutting down the dump the entire time. After taking half, I saw Lindmark and other top players for Carleton sitting out and resting up in preparation for the finals. The other semifinal game was a lot closer, but unfortunately for Rice their hot streak ran out against a Puget Sound team that flew completely underneath my radar. While standing in between the two fields, much like the GOP vs Lost Boys game, Puget Sound looked in control as they took half 8-5. That play continued into the second half, as Rice was unable to break them upwind. But with the game winding down, Stephan Haff – a tall and athletic captain for Rice – was able to close the two break gap for Rice and tie the score at 13’s to bring it to universe on a soft-capped game. On the last point of the game, a downwind offensive point for Puget Sound, a flick huck went off after the half-field pull and as Haff came off his man and unsuccessfully laid out for the disc, with the Puget Sound cutter making a great grab – apologies for not grabbing at least his number, but he was swamped after the universe win.

(Photo by Brandon Wu - UltiPhotos.com)

Now to the finals: Carleton College faced off against the Puget Sound Postmen. For the first few points of the game, it seemed like the Postmen had GOP figured out. They played a “huck and d” style of play during their downwind offense, and on defense pressured the man with the disc for Carleton – causing their points to last longer than had been the norm all weekend for GOP. But during the 7th point of the game, tied at 3’s, GOP broke upwind. Their consistent throwers returned to form briefly and they were able to punch it in and immediately followed that point with a downwind break. But after a quick downwind offensive point for GOP, Puget Sound did the same exact thing right back to GOP. Except instead of scoring through their patience, they worked it up field through bladey hucks that several times looked as if they shouldn’t have been completed at all. But they were, and Puget Sound wound up taking half. Out of half, the tight Puget Sound defense returned and GOP came out with all of their studs out in order to break. The Postmen didn’t allow them to play as effectively as they did in previous games. The “huck and d” style of play seemed very disheartening to GOP, after several times of working it up field and turning the disc over close to the goal line only to be followed by a quick Puget Sound huck to no one. As soft cap went off, making the finals a game to 14 while tied at 12, GOP came out with their best looking to break upwind. Unlike almost every other point, except for the earlier upwind break, the patience of the Carleton handlers returned as Puget Sound faltered with chances to not only punch in the disc downwind but stop the handler movement. As Carleton worked it up to the goal line, Rhys Lindmark dished it to fellow captain Jon Issac for the score. GOP quickly broke as Puget Sound was unable to work it on the following upwind offensive point and won the game.

Ultimately for Puget Sound, I think it was the fact that they were conservative with the disc regardless of wind direction – hucking it almost immediately after gaining possession – that most caused their defeat. Many times, they would stretch out their downwind offensive points by hucking the disc almost immediately with very few coming close to connecting. Many others that came close were knocked away by the Carleton defenders. Saying that, there were some phenomenal players on Puget Sound – and after watching the game, I wished I watched more of their Saturday matchups rather than catching a point or two in between walking to other fields. Ky Lewis, a short handler that played primarily on the defensive unit for the Postmen, had the best throws on the Postmen and was instrumental in the upwind break that allowed them to take half on GOP. Four cutters, Spencer Sheridan, Daniel Mozell, Eric Hopfenbeck and Brahm Heyman, all came down with some great grabs – especially when Puget Sound was working the disc upwind and their hucks would blade and fall short almost instantly. Their team is definitely talented, but they are losing a few of their studs through graduation, including Lewis, going into next season. If they can find a replacement for Lewis, or if he comes back for a 5th year at the helm of the team, expect Puget Sound to make a return trip here.

(Photo by Brandon Wu - UltiPhotos.com)

As for the Gods of Plastic, they earned this win. As I said earlier, even in the game that wasn’t their best they were still able to win. A few things stood out in the play of GOP, the first of which being that almost every one of their players had upwind throws – allowing them to put anyone out on the field. And related to that, they seemed to know what to do to prepare for playing in the wind before each game – an advantage given to them by playing in the North Central, I presume. Lastly, the studs for Carleton College – it’s amazing that one school could have so much talent. The three captains in Jon Issac, the main handler, Cory Fauver, a cutter that made amazing grabs when GOP needed them, and Rhys Lindmark, who was all over the field on both sides of the disc, were only part of their success. But their play was very important in their undefeated weekend – Issac’s 23 assists speak to his status as the distributer, Fauver an important cutter with 16 goals, and Lindmark as their team MVP finishing with 22 goals, 12 assists, and 8 D’s. Other important players for GOP included the handler team of Scott Graber, Matt Godfrey and Reed Jordan. While every GOP player had the upwind throws, these three had great decision making and complimented Issac well. Joining Lindmark and Fauver as cutters were Will Gagne-Maynard and Anders Berglund – Gagne-Maynard would play both sides of the disc as the finals game came down to the closing moments and Berglund was a reliable find for any handler during both Saturday and Sunday play.

After taking the year off from the D3 Championships last year in favor of trying their luck at D1 Regionals, GOP once again proved their dominance in this division through their play on Saturday and Sunday. Certainly, wind played a factor in the win – other teams suffered enormously from not having the disc skills that Carleton possessed. But Carleton simply was the best team in Appleton this weekend.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • If the D3 Championships next year is announced to be in another environment that is known to foster similar wind conditions, I suggest teams try to practice next to a giant fan. When your pulls can’t make it to half field, and upwind work is more frustrating than anything, your team needs work there.
  • I was extremely happy that the weather held off from coming down on the fields much more than the wind and sun, but battling through the delays and such at Chicago O’Hare wasn’t much fun either once it started to thunderstorm. I know Lewis & Clark was stuck there too, and I bet some others were as well – hopefully your night was a little better.
  • In case I haven’t made it clear, the difference in disc skills were a major factor this weekend.
  • The teams I talked to, which I tried to make it to most, apologies if I didn’t, were all very nice and helped put on the great tournament. Teams may have battled each other hard on the field, but off the field the spirit was great with the spirit scores as evidence.
  • Hearing eliminated teams on Sunday talking about how they can improve upon this season to come back stronger than next season was familiar and exactly what you want to hear at a tournament like this. The D3 Championships have been a great success so far, and teams recognize that.
  • Look for some game footage to be up soon, I worked with a great crew on Saturday and Sunday to get them. Apologies in advance for all three games being Gods of Plastic. While hindsight is 20/20, perhaps we should’ve filmed some different games.

All in all, I had a great time in Appleton. Thank you everyone for a good weekend, and congratulations again to Carleton College GOP on the win!

Feature photo of Puget Sounds’ Nitai Deitel by Brandon Wu (UltiPhotos.com)

Photo set from UltiPhotos’ Brandon Wu

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