The 2014 College Tour is presented by:
We’re back for another D-III season, where the talent level and overall competitiveness grows by leaps and bounds every year. This ranking set was particularly difficult, not just because we have very few Spring results to rely on, but also because in the open division, it seems as if the quality of personnel losses of each team are proportional to their performance in 2013. This puts almost every team on equal footing, and sets us up for a D-III season with more parity than any before it. However, rankings are rankings, so without further ado:
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#1 Wake Forest “WOMB”
They graduated three players, but have a returning class of ten seniors who have been to D-III Championships for the last three years. This includes two of their top three from last year, Jay Seghal and Tim Kreutzfeldt. They also have a large class of athletic rookies who were able to get lots of playing time in the fall.
Lehigh lost three players from their 5th place finish last year, and they return Nick ‘Falcore’ Mathison and Justin ‘Chalky’ Beats who have MLU and high level club experience on the open team Garden State. A strong finish last year plus a strong core of returning player puts Lehigh at #2.
#3 St. John’s “Bad Ass Monks”
They did lose two serious contributors in Matthew Kortz and Andrew Johnson, but they have a lot of talent leftover. Nihal Bhakta and Pat Kunkel are two of the best players in the division. For the last two years, at least one of them has been injured for the series, so if they both stay healthy, St. John’s has a good shot at semis or higher.
#4 Bentley “Bus”
Bentley also returns a strong crop of veterans, including Alex Foo, one of the premier handlers in the division. They only graduated two players, and they will even regain the services of Scott “Spoon” Seifert who had an injured knee for the 2013 series. Chemistry can carry this team to a semis appearance.
#5 Stevens “Ducks”
Yes, we’ve gotten this far before including a semi-finalist from 2013. Stevens graduated their top player, Mason Compton, one of their most athletic cutters, Chris Fairfield, and 5 other players. However, they return 5th year captain Andrew Misthos and Marques Brownlee, who both have pro experience with the NJ Hammerheads. Furthermore, Stevens has always been effective at developing their rookies, so a quarter or semi-finals run is possible despite heavy losses from 2013.
#6 Amherst “Army of Darkness”
Amherst had a number of losses in Lock Whitney, John Yarchoan and Stefan Breitling, but they had a strong Northeast Classic against many, albeit weaker, opponents. Amherst is team with high level D-III experience and a lot of potential in 2014.
#7 Claremont “Braineaters”
Claremont lost four players, including two defensive studs, from their 2013 championship run. However, they are returning several players fresh off of club seasons, including all-around baller Alex Gruver. They also picked up several talented rookies including South Eugene product Bruce Service and the athletic Seattleite Jordon Lim. Finally, Claremont returns sophomore Jimmy Bright-Dumm, perhaps the most talented player in the division. If they can put all the pieces together, this team has the talent to match the best D-III has to offer.
#8 John Brown “Ironfist”
Ironfist only lost one player from last year (a rookie), and added two new starters to their line. With just about the same team from last year, John Brown has this whole season to develop their depth with last year as a starting point. Time will tell if this will allow them to make a deeper run into the championship brackets.
#9 Xavier “Blob”
Xavier looked like the team to beat in the Ohio Valley region last year. That is, until they struggled to get wins at the Regionals event itself. They return this year only having graduated three players and adding several promising rookies. Most importantly, a significant portion of their team got club experience this summer. This gives some context to their strong performance at T-Town Throwdown and likely positive results later this season.
#10 Middlebury “Pranksters”
Middlebury has lost their three best players from last year, including, most notably, Davis Whitehead. Whitehead had a dominant performance controlling Middlebury’s offense throughout the 2013 D-III Championships. Middlebury could very well still be a championship caliber team, but without Whitehead, they are at best a very different team. Until we can see them perform without Whitehead, I’ll leave them at 10.
#11 Lewis & Clark “Bacchus”
Lewis & Clark may be a surprise to some, but they have two things that are important for top teams: 1) an experienced coach in Rhino player Sean Parker, and 2) lots of players with club experience, notably Will Shaw on Rhino and Kyle Barton on Engine 45. With a weaker UPS, this is Bacchus’ year to take back the NW.
SUNY-Geneseo had a strong run up until Regionals last year. This year they return having only lost one player, led by with Rochester Dragons player David Abbott and likely the new best coach in the division, Bryan Jones.
#13 Puget Sound “Postmen”
Yep, the D-III team with the most consistent performance over the last 2 years has fallen all the way to 12. They lost eight players, including D-III Warm Up MVP Spencer Sheridan and four other starters. Perhaps less obviously, they lost the reigning best coach in the division in Adam Lerman. The Postmen return Eric Hopfenbeck, and they always have a program capable of reloading, but for now I can’t see a quarter-finals appearance given their losses from last year.
This is finally the year for someone to dethrone the three time Great Lakes regional champion, North Park. Harper Garvey is one of the best players in the division, and the elite club experience he got with Sub Zero will raise the level of play of this whole team. Look for Knox to have initially inconsistent results, but to bring it when the series rolls around.
#15 Carleton “Gods of Plastic”
The losses of Rhys Lindmark, Scott Graber, Niko Duffy, Will Gagne-Maynard and others are brutal, but GoP is an established and deep program that will likely bring experience and sideline vigor to every game they play. Don’t be surprised if they take the loss of last year’s core in stride.
#16 Harding “Apocalypse”
Harding has been the class of the South Central region for a long time. Can they get it done without Taren Goins and Tucker Bankston? Those two have run the show for Harding for the last two years. In a region that is on the up swing, Harding stands as a team with a lot to prove.
After all that, we’ll be putting up another ranking set right after D-III Warm Up. Don’t be surprised if every single team moves several positions. It’s looking to be that kind of year.
Feature photo of Middlebury by Nick Lindeke – Ultiphotos.com