The Skyd 2013 College Tour presented by Spin Ultimate shifts into gear with coverage of the monumental DIII Warmup in Riverside, CA this weekend. Monumental because this marks an important step in legitimizing the path of DIII ultimate, but also in that it features 3 of our top 4 Power Ranked DIII teams and numerous other top DIII schools. As there are few opportunities for these DIII school to compete outside of Nationals, if there’s one event that will serve as an important proving ground for the DIII Championships in May, it’s the DIII Warmup.
GOP: The Best of DIII?
It’s hard to count Carleton GOP out of the top spot for any DIII event. As the reigning and 3-time DIII champs, GOP has proven time and time again that they a head above the rest. Even after taking a year off to pursue DI National dreams (and coming damn close I might add) the Gods of Plastic returned to DIII in 2012 only to slaughter opponents on their way to their 3rd title. With exception to Puget Sound, who kept Carleton close until losing 12-14, no team scored double digits in the entire tournament.
Maybe it’s the culture at Carleton that allows for not one but two excellent teams (Carleton CUT are perennial contenders in DI) to develop a strong program time and time again, but GOP has proven that they’re ahead of the pack. With losses of captains Cory Fauver and Jon Isaac, captain Rhys Lindmark is left to lead the team of Hawaiian shirt clad heroes to victory.
Lindmark notes that with tryouts in the 40s, GOP cuts didn’t come until a few weeks into January and they intend to approach the Warmup as just that — a warm up. “As is the case with any tournament that isn’t Nationals, the goal is to improve as much as you can,” said Lindmark. “We didn’t win all our games [this fall], but we had large improvements across the board. Coming into this weekend, we are working on dump swinging the disc, body D, and sidelines. That trifecta can’t be beat.”
Nevertheless, Lindmark has his sights set on tournament #1 seed, St. John’s BAM whom, if all goes to seed, will meet Carleton in the finals.
St. John’s Finally Ready?
Ranking #1 at the DIII Warmup and last year’s #1 seed at Nationals, St. John’s BAM is a team expected to excel this year. With very little roster turnover, in graduated captain and O-line player Paul DeWenter, St. John’s brings back Andrew Johnson, Pat Kunkel and a roster that has had that much more time to develop chemistry. Though much of the team was abroad this fall, BAM used Eau Claire Chillout to gain experience for the spring.
“Since our full team has reunited, we’ve been working on just getting back into sync with one another and turning on the bunsen burner (chemistry),” notes BAM’s Charlie Enders.
Last year at Nationals, St. John’s dropped an early game to Rice only to fall early in the quarterfinals to GOP. Enders acknowledges St. John’s misses and looks at the Warmup as an opportunity. “We wanna play GoP. And Claremont. And Rice,” said Enders. “They all have beaten us in the last couple years, and like a bad breakup we’re still pretty bitter about it.”
If St. John’s can make it past a hungry RPI in pool play, a finals matchup with Puget Sound or GOP is likely.
Stop, Look. What’s that Puget Sound?
Though constantly ranked high, currently #4 in Skyd’s Power Rankings, Puget Sound seemed often left out of contender discussion. In years past, while living in the shadow of Whitman (now turned DI), UPS has had ambitions for Division 1 competition. After placing 3rd behind GOP and Whitman in 2010, UPS returned to the DIII championships in 2012 climbing back from a pool play loss to North Park, and surviving a universe point victory over Rice in the semis. Inevitably, the Postmen would fall to GOP in the finals, but after giving GOP their best post-season battle in a long time. The evidence that the Postmen have what it takes to be a DIII champion is there, but the program has lacked the consistency to establish itself.
This season, with handler Ky Lewis and defensive powerhouse Luke Jesperson graduating, Puget Sound is left with much of the same faces. Like many squads, Puget Sound has been focusing on the fundamentals up until now explains Coach Adam Lerman. ” Other than two scrimmages the past weekends, D3 Warmup will the first time since D3 Champies that we have a majority of our A team on the same team (split squads all fall),” said Lerman. “We want to get the players who were abroad or injured in the fall up to speed on our sets. We want to be able to execute the things we’ve practiced, under pressure and at game speed.”
With their sights set on a GOP rematch, Coach Lerman believes this to be the Postmen’s best shot at a title yet. “This is the deepest, most athletic Postmen team ever, and we have to figure out how to put the pieces together.
UPS will look to the handling of Jonas Cole and Spencer Sheridan as well as the playmaking ability of senior Peter Geertz-Larson and junior Eric Hopfenbeck.
This is St. John’s pool to lose. They’re they same team that dominated GOP twice at Regionals, but they’re also the same team that lost early at Nationals. An upset to RPI is possible but I expect BAM to take the Pool. Occidental may make some noise with U23 tryout star Andrew Featherston.
With mixed results this fall, GOP is a team that is comfortable standing on unstable ground in early season. That said, 2nd seeded PLU may be able to stick with Carleton for a short while, but they lack the experience to pull off an upset. GOP takes the Pool.
Puget Sound has developed a strong NW program over the past 5 years and they’re a contender. They were a contender when they lost a pool play game to the always tenacious North Park at Nationals. That being said their biggest threat isn’t 2-seeded Claremont College, but 3 seeded Rice who had little roster turnover (though losing star handler Sean Murphy). I wouldn’t be surprised by a 3-way tie here with a Rice over UPS upset, but I’ll play it safe either way and put UPS on top. Unfortunately for the Braineaters, Claremont without Tommy Li is the same team that tied for last at last year’s Nationals. I’m hoping they can prove me wrong, but they have a lot to overcome to be back at the form they were in 2011.
St. John’s should be able to score a finals spot over Rice, 15-8. In the other side of the bracket, I’m putting my money on UPS over GOP. The Postmen have been a program building towards stability. Now with enough institutional knowledge to match their drive to excel (and minus the windy Appleton environment), I don’t see GOP being well-rounded enough, at this point in the season, to fend off UPS’ new patient team offense. That being said, I fully expect excellent plays from GOP’s Lindmark to keep Carleton deep in the game, but the height of Hopfenbeck and Sam Berkelhammer will help to create enough tough matchups to put the Postmen over the top. UPS 15-11.
The difference between St. John’s and UPS in a DIII Warmup final is experience. Both teams have miniscule turnover to cry about, but Puget Sound was here last year in the National final. Undoubtedly both teams have experienced close games, but last year after a loss in pool play and a universe win in the semis, Puget Sound proved they have the endurance and depth to win big. Sure, they fell just short in a windy final, but that sort of experience grows a team.
UPS over St. John’s, 15-11.
Skyd will be attending the DIII Warmup as part of the Skyd 2013 College tour to bring video and written coverage of the event.