Disclosure: This author coaches SUNY-Geneseo
Three years since the current structure was implemented, we see one of the most prestigious college tournaments add a Division Three section. Easterns has gathered teams on the East Coast for decades, with the outcome giving us our last major glimpse at contenders heading into the series. Along with D-III Warm-Up, the division has steadily grown since Carleton-GOP took down Whitman for the first official championship. The arrival of D-III Easterns signals a coming of age and opportunity for small schools.
The biggest difference between D-I and D-III is the depth at the bottom of the rosters. At the end of the first day, squads across the tournament were struggling to put together full games. It was clear that teams, including my own, were not used to other strategies other than running tight lines. With four quality opponents in a row, teams struggled to keep a high level of energy and focus. Where as some D-I teams can go 27 deep, some D-III teams are getting the job done with 12 or fewer. Injuries added up, and those who had the fresh legs benefited.
No team went undefeated in pool play and both pools have three teams tied up at 3-1 going into the final round of play tomorrow morning. Richmond, Elon and Davidson could all take Pool A, with the latter two facing off. Geneseo is in the drivers seat, needing to beat UNCW-B to guarantee first place. While Geneseo played well enough to be in that position, a strong showing from a young UNC-Ashville team put a damper on their performance. Oberlin and North Park will fight it out for the number two seed.
Zone, and more Zone
Zone is one of the quickest things any team can pick up to give themselves a defensive edge. Over the years, I’ve seen zones fade in and out of style. From 4 man cups, to the 2-3-2, 3 man, 1-3-3, 1-3-2-1, one of my recommendations for young teams is to pick one that teams in your region aren’t used to playing against. They all provide different looks, require the offense to have faster or slower pacing, and force the offense to have certain competencies. Today, SUNY-Geneseo utilized the three man, North Park ran a 4 man, and UNC-Asheville had success with a form of the 2-3-2 that packed as many as 5 around the disc at one time.
Offenses can do themselves a favor by gaining competencies in the around, through, and the over the top throws necessary to beat these zone defenses. I’ve found weaker teams typically have two of these three, but do not employ all three. For developing teams, the hammer is the flashiest throw and learning how to swing the disc around a 3 man was one of the first lesson introduced to me as a player. Some zones deal better with the over the top throws, some zones force scoobers and hammers.
Conservative offense dictates that zones should just be patient, take their time, and avoid turnovers. I believe this notion comes from the many days where 3 man cups were the most popular choice. Handlers were spread three wide, and told, swing to your hearts content because you’ll tire out the defense. At the D-III level, teams don’t have the skill or consistency to work it all the way down the field. I prefer going two handlers, with more receivers down field, ready to take advantage of the mismatch. Teaching poppers to immediately turn around after catching the disc can be a little counter intuitive for some, but it pays big dividends. When taking the appropriate risks, I celebrate the moments where we can score in 6 throws upwind, as opposed to a 10 minute point where turnovers are abound.
There’s more to come where we review Day 2 action.