Wind. Heat. Long points. Close games. One seeds doing what they’re supposed to. Day one of the 2019 Division III College Championships had it all. Catch up on what happened in College Station, Texas.
After three games of pool play, the overall number one seed is still sitting atop the field, but they didn’t look super authoritative about it. Middlebury’s first two games were close. They just edged out an 11-10, double-game-point win over Franciscan, after being down a couple of breaks in the first half, and had a similar experience against Hamilton, a game the Pranksters won 12-10. Their third game against Michigan Tech was their most definitive win, and it was enough to get them the bye into the quarterfinals. For Franciscan, their almost-win against Middlebury was their high point on day one. They left it all on the field in that first game, which didn’t leave much in the tank for games two and three. Fatal went down early against Michigan Tech and couldn’t mount a comeback. They looked legitimately tired by the time their first pull went up against Hamilton. It ended up being another double-game-point loss for Franciscan, which put them in the pool’s bottom spot and left the 2015 champions out of bracket play in Texas.
They aren’t the overall one seed, but Air Force looked like the best team in the tournament today. They rolled through their first two games, accumulating a +18 point differential before coming face to face with the defending champions. The Air Force v. Bryant game, a rematch of last year’s D-III Championships final, was expected to be a barnburner, but that never actualized. True to form, Air Force played to their strengths, using their athleticism to win their person match ups, while Bryant used zone looks in deference to the wind. Air Force jumped out to an early lead, going up 4-0. Similar to what happened last year, Air Force gave up their lead allowing four straight Bryant goals, but this time Air Force was able to stop the slide. Afterburn pulled away again later in the game to win 11-7 in the cap and solidify their spot in the quarterfinals. Despite the loss, nothing about the final score line implies that Bryant played poorly. Like Air Force, they rolled through their first two games with big margins. Air Force was just playing well, and having guys who are comfortable with the disc in windy conditions, guys like Alan Villanueva and Noa Chun-Moy, makes a huge difference. Matthew Moshea and Michael Delatte also had good games. For Bryant, Justin Kunkel is still a force, contributing in a huge way on seemingly every point. He got some help from the likes of Jacob Roy and Zach Tuxbury. In the battle for third, Claremont surprised Portland and claimed the pool’s last spot in the championship bracket.
Things started off with a bang for Carleton College-GoP. Their game of the day came in the first round against Missouri S&T. Both teams were settling in, which included a number of unforced turns for both teams, leading to long, sometimes chippy points. Missouri S&T played a solid first half and was up 8-6 before Carleton College started converting some of their break opportunities. A 4-1 scoring run in the second half for GoP game them the advantage, before they closed out the game 11-10. The next two games went much smoother for GoP, and they held seed to earn a bye into the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Colby was having a hard time really finding their stride – probably due in part to the team still being in the midst of final exams. It’s totally normal to be taking finals at a hotel in the evenings while trying to play for a national championship, right? Anyway, Colby managed to hang onto a small early lead against 15th-seeded Berry in the first round, but it ended up being their only win of the day. They were upset my Missouri S&T before running into a rolling Carleton College-GoP. But thanks to their first-round win, they held onto the third spot in the pool and a spot in the pre-qaurterfinals, along with Missouri S&T.
As expected, Pool D played out with the most parity. Richmond came into the weekend with big expectations after a really strong end to their spring season. It didn’t took look like that was the case when the first pull when up against Luther. LUFDA jumped out to an early two-break lead before Richmond found their stride and got their own break train rolling. Plus, Callahans never hurt a team’s momentum – Richmond is thanking Ty Englert for theirs. By halftime, the game was seemingly over. Richmond was really showing why they got the fourth overall seed, with guys like Chris Selwood dialing in their throws and making things look much smoother. At the half, Richmond was up 8-6. Traded points finished the game, 10-8 in Richmond’s favor. But Luther went on to win their next two games, as did Bowdoin, including a win over Richmond. In that game, Richmond’s zone wasn’t enough to contain Conor Belfield and Nathan Blum. They were able to complete some pretty impressive passes over and around to put Bowdoin up a couple breaks in the first half, despite great effort from both teams on defense. Going into the game, there was still a chance for Bowdoin to finish at the top of the pool with a win, so they were leaving it all on the line. But with the Luther’s win over Valparaiso, it didn’t matter how the Richmond-Bowdoin game ended. Bowdoin was going to finish third in the pool. But they won anyway, 11-9, a big confidence-boosting win going into bracket play. Richmond barely hung onto the top spot in the pool, thanks to their head-to-head victory over Luther, when both teams ended up with +5 point differentials. Valparaiso was unable to come away with a win and finished fourth. Pool D almost always delivers excitement.
Colby’s hopes were high entering the pre-quarterfinals; they were facing a familiar foe in Bryant. Colby won the last meeting between the two teams at New England Regionals 10-6. But Bryant wasn’t having any of it, and the game was never close. Both teams were clearly tiring in the day’s final round, with the wind continuing to make things interesting, but Bryant chose safe and smart, hucking downwind and playing defense to prevent upwind break opportunities. Bryant won 12-5 and advances to face a fellow 2018 D-III Championships semifinalist in Middlebury.
Missouri S&T and Luther both cruised through the pre-quarterfinal round against Claremont and Hamilton, respectively. Hamilton hung around for the first several points of their game against Luther, but were obviously running on fumes. Luther went up 4-3 and never looked back, just playing a slightly more efficient game to put it away 14-5. It was a similar story for Claremont and Missouri S&T. Claremont just couldn’t get a handle on working through the Missouri S&T zone and couldn’t quite equal the energy S&T had left in their fourth game of the day. S&T cruised to a 14-6 win and a date with Richmond in the quarterfinals.
The most exciting pre-quarterfinals game came from Michigan Tech and Bowdoin. In their first trip to the D-III College Championships, Michigan Tech is making a name for themselves, in large part thanks to the play of Brendan McCann. The 22-year-old grad student leads the Michigan Tech O line and accounted for most of their assists today. But Bowdoin did a good job of adjusting and mixing up their defenses to try and keep McCann away from the disc. Michigan Tech did some adjusting of their own, doing their best to neutralize Bowdoin’s deep looks and biggest contributors, like Belfield. Bowdoin fond themselves up 11-7 in a game to 13. Michigan Tech didn’t go away. They managed to get two holds and a break back before Bowdoin closed out the game, fittingly Belfield to Blum, and advanced to tomorrow’s quarterfinals.
All games at 8:00 a.m. CT
Middlebury (1) v. Bryant (7)
Richmond (4) v. Missouri S&T (10)*
Carleton College-GoP (3) v. Luther (9)
Air Force (2) v. Bowdoin (5)
*The Richmond v. Missouri S&T quarterfinal will be streamed live on the USA Ultimate YouTube page. Tune in at 8:00 a.m. CT.
Follow along with the D-III College Championships at collegechampionships.usaultimate.org, and get the USA Ultimate mobile app for score updates and final results.