Sunday of D-III Nationals displayed the most athletic and tightly-matched games of the weekend. Teams new to the division made it surprisingly deep into play on Sunday, with Rice Torque ultimately winning the championship at their first ever Nationals appearance.
Rice Torque (1) vs. Truman State Tsunami (2)
The first and second seed in the tournament began their quarterfinal by trading points. Rice continued to utilize handler swings to open up deep looks from power positions, while Truman State played on the strength of their power roster. Tsunami’s players all exuded confidence with their resets and upfield throws, but Madeline Niehaus from Truman State added some edge with great grabs and polished pulls. Ultimately, Truman State could not challenge the height of Rice cutter Erika Danckers in the air on deep shots, and Torque pulled away to take the game 15-9.
Wake Forest Ruckus (3) vs. St Olaf Durga (16)
St. Olaf struggled to work past the Wake Forest zone, but their active and involved sideline kept players spirited and in the game. Wake Forest continued to rely on the ability of their receivers to come down with swilly throws that were as difficult to receive as they were to defend. While St. Olaf did reduce their point deficit in the second half, Wake Forest’s athletic receivers like Danielle Walsh still came down with most of the catches, ending in a 15-9 victory for Ruckus.
Carleton Eclipse (11) vs. Williams La Wufa (9)
Carleton and Williams glowed in this exciting and evenly-matched quarterfinal game. Claire Leichter from Carleton moved fluidly between cutting and handling, continually getting open at crucial offensive moments and distributing precise throws to carry her team through the game. From Williams, dominant player Chelsea Zhu found her speedy handler cuts suddenly challenged by Leichter, and La Wufa’s offense struggled to complete in the endzone. Carleton eked out the win, 14-13.
Haverford Sneetches (4) vs. Claremont Greenshirts (6)
Claremont found themselves challenged by the athleticism and disciplined endzone offense of the Haverford Sneetches in this round. Claremont receivers seemed less comfortable asserting themselves in their cuts and throws, consistently dumping back to handlers and missing out of the opportunity for yards. Haverford capitalized on Claremont’s risky offensive looks with great defense from Rosemary Ventura. Haverford stayed cool and pulled ahead, with a final score of 13-7 to take the Sneetches to the semifinals.
Rice Torque v (1) Haverford Sneetches (4)
Rice may have found themselves caught off-guard in this semifinal matchup as Haverford broke for the first point, drawing first blood in the most spirited and also most exciting game of the tournament.The athletic and skilled Haverford players rarely had an unforced turn, forcing Rice to tighten up on defense. While Haverford pulled ahead at points, making it up 10-8 at one point, Rice’s handler upline cuts proved too much to stop for the Ohio Valley team. With shocking D’s at both endzones, Rice pulled out the narrow win, 15-13.
Carleton Eclipse (11) v Wake Forest Ruckus (3)
Ruckus took the lead lead early in another tightly fought semifinal. Blading hucks by Wake Forest were time after time brought down in the endzone with incredible athleticism and skill by Amanda Murphy and former basketball player Danielle Walsh. Once again, polished play from Leichter helped her team pull out the victory, though she had help from teammate Lisa Qiu who played very intelligently as a handler and when marking in the cup. Qiu scored the point that pulled Eclipse ahead for the 10-9 lead and assisted the point that put her team decisively ahead, at 11-9. After soft cap went on at 10-9, Eclipse won 12-9 to send them to the final.
Rice Torque (1) v. Carleton Eclipse (11)
Eclipse’s handlers struggled to properly deal with Rice’s zone–starring the intimidating wingspan of 6’0” of Erica Danckers–and Rice quickly found themselves up 4-0. Behind great play from Leichter against Matsumoto, Carleton staged a comeback of several small runs before the end of the first half. After a highly athletic defensive play by Carleton defenders at 7-5, a contentious foul call by Marica Sharashenidze maintained the Torque possession on the endzone line that led Rice to take half. Following halftime, the the first seed continued to outscore Eclipse by playing within their own abilities and by thoughtfully using breakside swings to create opportunities rather than forcing deep throws. Carleton began this game without their usual on-field confidence, and while they managed to steady themselves later in the game, they could not overcome Torque’s disciplined offense. After a whirlwind of a season, Rice won the championship 15-9 through a disciplined offensive system and a talented core of players
All-Tournament Lines: Here is the D-III Women’s all-star, fantasy roster with players selected from the teams who competed this weekend.
1. Monica Matsumoto, Rice
2. Ana Leon, Bowdoin
3. Tanya Bovitz, Saint Olaf
4. Chelsea Zhu, Williams
5. Fern Beetle-Moorcroft, Haverford
6. Amanda Murphy, Wake Forest
7. Kalli Perano, Carleton
All-Tournament Defensive Line:
1. Claire Leichter, Carleton
2. Erynn Schroeder, Saint Benedict
3. Maple Adkins-Threats, Truman State
4. Laurel “Steve Irwin” Estes, Claremont
5. Erica Danckers, Rice
6. Danielle Walsh, Wake Forest
7. Paige Carver, Georgia College
Player of the Weekend: Monica Matsumoto, Rice
Matsumoto missed her college graduation to compete at the D-III Championships, and she absolutely made it worth her while. A player with a huge amount of awareness and knowledge, Matsumoto always plays smart. Whether handling or cutting, she makes huge plays on offense or defense and brings her team up with her to compete at a heightened level of play. Congratulations to Monica on her great, championship-winning season!