With 14 of 16 teams qualified for the 2012 Open D-3 College Championships, the final two spots will be decided at this weekend’s New England Regionals at Amherst College. Favorites Bowdoin and Bentley look to clinch their spots while D-3 newcomers Amherst and Brandeis try to play spoiler, and several dangerous teams in the bottom half of the bracket looks to make someone’s life harder.
Bowdoin (19-0, 2nd D-3) comes into Regionals with the unique distinction as the only undefeated Open team in the country in regular season play (the Bowdoin women are the only undefeated Women’s team in the country as well).
The Stoned Clown’s offense is run through senior handler Adam “Trebek” Mortimer and cutter Taylor “Kazoo” Tremble, while their defense will look to Bill “Fulton” Page and Will “Klobb” Alexander behind the disc and a disciplined crew of cutters playing tough D and grinding for the score. Look for Dylan “Slammu” Kane and Nick “Zima” Riker to play often both ways, acting as primary cutters on offense and taking the toughest defensive assignments. Keep an eye out for freshman Amherst Regional High School grad Nick “Fletcher” Benfey playing on his home turf as well as standout sophomore cutters Zack “Pancakes” Morrison and Sam “Saks” Fichtner to be making big plays on both sides of the disc. Bowdoin’s offense will try to isolate primary cutters and hit the break side early and often, while their defense relies on a number of different looks to keep opponents on their toes.
The Stoned Clown is also returning a number of players from injuries. Senior defender and returning starter Dan “Posh” Peckham is back at full strength after missing the entire regular season and starting offensive handler Eddy “Clouseau” van der Kloot returns after missing D-1337 and limited action at Conferences. A number of other players are returning from injury as well; the Clown hasn’t played with more than 14 players all spring and is looking at at least 18 for this weekend.
Bentley (14-5, 6th D-3) has qualified for the last two D-3 Championships, and they are looking to make it three in a row. After two universe-point losses at Nationals last year, Icehouse is poised to threaten the top of bracket play on Sunday in Appleton.
Offensively they are patient with the disc and very efficient, while their defense gets turns through hard man-to-man and occasional use of zone. They are well disciplined behind coaches Ben Davis and Henry Brecher, both Needham High alums. Icehouse’s offense is led by handlers Alex Foo, Maxwell Rick, and Chris Saroka. They run largely through a strong corps of handlers and cutters who are conservative with the disc, looking for their handlers to make up-line cuts and move the disc quickly. The offensive cutters have tremendous speed and athleticism, and are led by junior Lucas Ruffel, sophomore Scott Seifert, and senior Peter Login. Icehouse’s defense is led by junior handler Kevin Sparacino who will be seen throwing both lefty and righty backhand hucks and getting layout d’s all over the place. The defense plays a little more aggressive when they get the disc off a turn, and will look to seniors Matt Burton and Mark Bokuniewicz to provide some patience and leadership on this line.
Bentley is returning seniors Dan Bourdeau and Seth Jackson from injury; watch out for an added defensive spark and leadership from the two of them.
Amherst (8-8, 22nd D-3) has played a tough schedule this season and is looking for it to pay off on their home turf this weekend. Coming in as the 3rd seed, this is their first time participating in the D-3 series. Credit for the humor in this preview goes to Joe Bobman.
On offense, co-captains Lock Whitney and Joe Bobman will be distributing the disc across the field, keeping it moving, and in all likelihood throwing it to each other more times than they throw to anyone else. Co-captain Ezra Van Negri and cutter Will Longabaugh work the field to get open constantly and hit the handsome Matt DeButts in the endzone. Most notably, the offense will be buoyed by the return of handler Sam Feldman, cutter John Yarchoan and ruler of the skies and nationally ranked wrestler Stefan “Super Saiyan Broly” Breitling to the field after injuries.
Defensively, look to junior Nate Thomas to take a break from physics to wrack up some Ds from behind, beside and below the disc. Historically, Amherst loves zone defense more than kids love chocolate cake. They’ve recently come to have a healthy taste for lock-down, grinding man defense, as it allows them to put all seven of our chases on the field at the same time to make plays.
They have three freshmen on the team who have had a big impact on the field. Tall man Rainer Lempert just has fantastic hands and can get quite big. Andrew Edelman plays harder defense than anybody in the ‘CAC, and you can also expect Giaco Corsigilia to get some of the prettiest lay-out Ds you’ve ever seen.
Brandeis (15-8, 24th D-3) is, like Amherst, participating in D-3 for the first time. After graduating most of a team that made the semifinals of the New England Open in 2011, a small but dedicated squad is looking to upset this weekend.
They run both horizontal and vertical stacks on offense, and look to Brian “Banks” Dahlben, Nadav “Apoc” Pearl, Gabe “Zorro” Colton, and Matt “Beta” Wiener to run the show. All four will often be seen both cutting and handling, and their speed will provide matchup problems for any team at the tournament. Brandeis likes to score off a break throw from Dahlben or Pearl, or a quick huck, usually to Wiener or Colton. Defensively, Tron likes to play hard man-to-man D and is very efficient after a turnover. Look for Colton to match up on the other team’s best player and create issues with his speed.
While Brandeis comes in as the 4 seed, their top-end talent and intensity could win any game. Look for them to upset early and then ride that success into the game-to-go.
WPI (8-8, 52nd D-3) is the most likely to come from the bottom of the bracket and upset a top team. Look for seniors Marcus Amilcar and Matt Guilfoyle to make plays and lead a young team trying to return to D-3 Championships after a tough finish last year.
Bryant (11-2, unranked) posted some impressive wins at South New England Conference Championships, losing only to Westfield State by 2 and Amherst by 3 with a win over WPI. They have the talent to threaten top teams and are coming off a 3rd place finish at Regionals last year.
Bates (7-4, 45th D-3) Orange Whip is an up and coming ultimate program with a lot of talent and determination. They hope to turn heads at their first regionals appearance in school history.
Wentworth (5-9, unranked) snuck into Regionals with two big wins to redeem a lackluster pool play performance at Conferences.
Anticipate seeing Bowdoin and Bentley in the finals. Both teams have steamrolled D-3 competition this year, and they have the depth and talent to make it deep into Sunday. These two have already met 5 times in the last two years. Bentley won at High Tide in ‘11 and ‘12 and at Regionals last year but Bowdoin got the better of them at New England Open last year and in an exciting universe point game at D-1337 this year. Both teams are also returning multiple key players from injury, and this could certainly go either way.
In the backdoor bracket, it will be a question of who can keep their top players healthy and rested to challenge the top teams. Look for Amherst to use their depth to make the game-to-go, but if Brandeis can win their early games quickly they will be a handful for any team on Sunday.
Feature Photo of Nadav Pearl of Brandeis at D-1337 by Mitul Shah.