By: Patrick Kelley
Welcome to the party, Mary Washington! It is a momentous occasion when a school makes its first trip to Nationals, and MW is the only school in the men’s division doing that at this year’s D-III Championships. But let us be clear: MW is not in any sort of “just happy to be here” mode. They are hungry to go all the way, as hungry as many other schools with storied histories and multiple appearances at the D-III College Championships since its inception in 2010.
Richmond is here to defend its crown.
Bryant is the number one seed and making their fifth consecutive Nationals appearance.
Past champs Carleton College GOP and Georgia College extend their D-III Championships appearance records to seven apiece after both failed to advance out of regionals in 2017.
Three-time and defending spirit champs John Brown are making their sixth straight appearance.
RPI, Oberlin and Middlebury can each trace their programs’ histories back to ultimate’s infancy and the early to mid-1970s.
While 15 of the 16 schools advancing in 2018 have been to the D-III College Championships before, just five made it in 2017, so Mary Washington will not be alone in revealing some fresh faces on this stage. With no fewer than seven Donovan Award nominees in action this weekend, the anticipation is high to see these talented players compete on this level, some of them in their final collegiate opportunities. However, seeing the pure joy and spirit of the many athletes playing at Nationals for the first time will be equally, if not more, entertaining.
Weather has been a major factor for any outdoor activity around Chicago and Rockford this spring, but temps will climb into the 80s this weekend, which should provide the setting for some great college ultimate.
Here is a quick look at each pool.
This pool has three Donovan nominees, the number one seed and the past two champions. Bryant emerged from the deepest men’s D-III region, New England, to earn the top seed. Donovan nominee Alex Kenworthy leads an undergrad-laden squad in search of a title after reaching the semifinals in 2017. 2017 champs Richmond are the eight seed and have their own Donovan candidate, defensive standout Justin Keller. The 2016 champions, 12 seed Georgia College, also needs major contributions from their freshmen and sophomores, but are led by grad student Nathan Vickroy. Thirteen seed Oberlin is Pool A’s only team without a loss at their regional championship and is led by their Donovan nominee, Tobias Harvey.
Second overall seed Air Force went into the South Central Regional Championships on a major roll, but were brought down to earth by Missouri S&T in the finals. Led by stellar Donovan nominee Alan Villanueva, Afterburn has won an astounding 33 games thus far in 2018. Seventh seeded Whitman is back for the first time since 2010, having avenged their loss to Portland in Northwest Conference Championships round robin play with a finals victory. Whitman will lean heavily on Robbie Farwell. RPI, the tournament’s fourteen seed, was the fourth seed at Metro East Regionals, lost a pool play game and then cruised through the bracket to qualify for their first College Championships since 2012. Now featuring a coach for the first time, RPI will look to captain Alex Curreri, handler Andrew Kerns and their big roster for success. Number 11 Bowdoin, qualifiers from the ultra-competitive New England Region, brings several colorfully nicknamed young men to Rockford with a chance to make some noise. Babakaku, Summer, Cosmonaut, Schultz and Bison lead this group.
The third team out of New England’s is overall three seed Middlebury, whose ultimate roots go back to around 1976. Ten seniors, including five offensive-line starters, are gone from last season, but they have fast-forwarded to immediate success with a group of talented freshmen and sophomores and are gaining confidence after big wins at regionals. Junior Dylan Salzman and sophomore Kai DeLorenzo are a couple players to look for. Middlebury has a great shot at a deep run. Sixth-seeded John Brown is THE definitive spirit program in the D-III men’s division. You know they will be bringing that, but with only a 10-man roster, they will need to be efficient and keep points brief. Maybe they just put it deep quickly every time, and let their length rule the day – JBU lists no one under 5’10”. Spencer Patterson and Ethan Bolthouse anchor this tightly knit team. North Park is the “local” school, from Chicago’s north side. They are making their sixth appearance and are also a very spirited group. Scott Nitchie and Drew Swanson lead North Park into Rockford after a lack of real challenge at the Great Lakes Regional Championship. Led by Donovan nominee Chris Roach, 15-seed Puget Sound arrives after surviving the Northwest Conference Championships. They defeated Portland in the second-place game to go after three losses in round robin play.
First timers Mary Washington earned the fourth overall seed, after finishing second at the Atlantic Coast Regional Championships. Richmond won the region, but Mary Washington got a win over the defending champs in pool play. Zachary Norrbom, Donovan nominee, gets his opportunity to shine at Nationals for Mary Washington. Carleton College GOP won two of the first three D-III Championships and are back after missing Nationals for only the second time in 2017. Ezra Sergent-Leventhal brings this band of silly but focused players to their seventh D-III College Championships. Ultimate is deeply ingrained in the culture at Carleton College, and they will most likely have a significant role to play this weekend. Do not sleep on ninth seed Missouri S&T, who took down John Brown and Air Force to capture the South Central Regional crown. If S&T brings every rostered player, they will have 26 to choose from on every point. Happy to be playing on grass, as opposed to their dirt, als0-a-cricket-pitch practice field, S&T has some strong defenders, including Louie Bertoncin. Donovan nominee Adam Grammer leads 16 seed Occidental out of the thin Southwest for their second consecutive appearance at the College Championships, edging former perennial Southwest representatives, Claremont, on double-game point in the Southwest Conference Championships final.
A few marquee games to watch:
#2 Air Force vs #11 Bowdoin
5/19 – 9:00 a.m.
Air Force faces a test right out of the gate against Bowdoin, fresh out of the loaded New England Region, where facing quality teams is the norm.
#4 Mary Washington v. #9 Missouri S&T
5/19 -10:45 a.m.
Pool D may be tight, so this will be an indicator of how things could shake out.
#8 Richmond v. #12 Georgia College
5/19 – 1:00 p.m.
2017 champion takes on 2016 champion!
#1 Bryant v. #8 Richmond
5/19 – 2:45 p.m.
The number one seed v. the defending champs. With no chance of a rematch of the 2017 final, this may be the next best thing.
#4 Mary Washington v. #5 Carleton College GOP
5/19 – 2:45 p.m.
May very well be the game to determine who will get to de-cleat and rest up for Sunday morning and who will have to gear back up for the pre-quarterfinal round at 4:45 p.m.