No two-time defending champion. The return of another two-time champion. Two first-time teams. The women’s division at the 2018 Division III College Championships is prime for excitement this weekend in Rockford, Ill.
Williams (1), RPI (8), Georgia College (12), Claremont (13)
For a third consecutive year, Williams heads into the Division III College Championships as the overall top seed. In each of the last two years, they’ve left tied for fifth. Being located in the heart of the New England Region helped Williams play an almost entirely D-III schedule this year. They only have three losses on the season, one against D-I Championships qualifiers Pittsburgh and one against overall two seed Bates. The third was a one-point loss to the Triangle Tourists, possibly the best U-20 girls’ team in the country. Williams is definitely ready to move up in the final standings. La WUFA is led by the first of two Donovan finalists in Pool A, Haley Lescinsky. Look for the two-time All-Region member to keep the disc moving downfield and get Ds at crucial moments.
The pool’s second Donovan finalist leads the overall eight seed, RPI, in their first D-III Championships appearance. Tamar Austin helped bring the team back from the brink of folding and on to Rockford. She is one of the best cutters in the Metro East and will use her field vision to try and get RPI an upset over the tournament’s top seed. Georgia College will also have their eyes on an upset of the number one seed. Lynx Rufus is in the 12th spot for a second straight year, which means another pool play match up with Williams. It was a close game in 2017, and the extra year has only added experience and skill for Georgia College stars like Morgan DeMell and Katherine Yost. They ended last year’s championships in the top 10 for goals and assists, respectively, and have a good chance of ending up there again this year.
Claremont has been a consistent presence at the D-III Championships, representing the Southwest every year since 2011, but it has also been a bit of a tough ride for the Greenshirts since they won the title in 2012. They reached the semifinals the next year, but haven’t made it out of the quarterfinals since. It’s unlikely that streak will be broken this year, but anything is possible.
Bates (2), St. Olaf (7), Pacific Lutheran (11), North Park (14)
Bates, the second of four teams from the powerhouse New England region, headlines Pool B, thanks in large part to the anchor that is Josie Gillett. It’s no coincidence that Cold Front is making their third, and third consecutive, appearance at the D-III Championships in Gillett’s third year in Maine. She led the tournament in assists in her freshman year, with an astonishing 39, and was third in the ranking last year with 28. She will often be looking for Olivia Gomez downfield and hoping to lead the team to their first semifinals appearance. But first, they have to get past St. Olaf and their Donovan finalist, Tulsa Douglas. Gillett easily stands out for her throwing ability, but Douglas might be the best player in the division. The teams matched up in pool play last year, as well, and Vortex came away with a one-point win. Despite Cold Front being the higher seed this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar result in Rockford. Oh, and when Douglas did play last year, it was through an injury that clearly impacted her ability to contribute.
Bates and St. Olaf shouldn’t have problems maintaining the top two spots in the pool, so Pacific Lutheran and North Park are likely battling for the third and fourth spots. Pacific Lutheran won the first D-III College Championships in 2010, but this is their first trip back since 2012. They played a tough schedule this season, taking on a mix of D-I and D-III teams and earning a mixed bag of results. But the tough match ups are good preparation for the competition they’ll see in Rockford. North Park is making their first trip to Nationals after rolling through Great Lakes Regionals unchallenged. They are a young team that does a good job of spreading the disc around. They’ll use their time as the “hometown” team as an experience springboard for next year, and might tally a win or two in the process.
Puget Sound (3), Amherst (6), Lehigh (10), Rice (15)
Puget Sound is making their fourth straight appearance at the D-III Championships. They reached the semifinals in each of the last two years and are poised for a similar, or better, result in Rockford. Look for Sarah Davidson and Neeyati Johnson to be the distributors, with Jane Marie Gunn often on the receiving end. Freshman phenom Emma Piorier will be a big presence both behind the disc and downfield.
After a year away, Amherst is back at the D-III College Championships for their second appearance, having claimed the third bid out of the New England Region. Based in the current hotbed of women’s D-III ultimate, Amherst didn’t have to travel far to find quality competition this year. But they’ve had a tough time against that competition – they haven’t yet gotten a win over their fellow regional qualifiers, so it works in their favor that they won’t run into any of those teams until bracket play. Lehigh is in a similar position. They are 1-3 so far this year against fellow D-III Championships qualifiers. One of those losses came against Oberlin during the Ohio Valley regional final, but they easily secured the region’s second bid. Gravity is a young team, but most of their underclassmen got experience at Nationals last year and will look to apply what they learned in Rockford. Expect Madison Cannon and Claire Ternes to lead the team downfield along with Lexi Meisse and Juliet Chung and Dana Waxenberg to keep the disc moving.
Rice is a potential wild card in Rockford. The two-time champions are back in the competition field after a year away to rebuild and recruit some new faces. They didn’t get to play many games during the regular season and entered the South Central Conference Championships as a bit of an unknown. They pulled off multiple upsets to reach the final and earned the region’s sole bid to the D-III Championships with a double-game point win over Truman State. The team’s lone senior, Rebecca Lopez, will anchor their offense, while converted volleyball player and grad student Samantha Paulsen will patrol the deep skies on both offense and defense. They may be the 15 seed, but Rice could surprise some people in Rockford.
Oberlin (4), Wesleyan (5), Mount Holyoke (9), Catholic (16)
This year, Oberlin put together their strongest season in recent memory, with only two losses – both against D-I teams. And they rolled through the postseason, earning the Ohio Valley’s first bid to the championships with relative ease. The Preying Manti have worked hard in recent years to evolve their playing style, making it more efficient and reliable. Captains Abby Chaeng and Emma March lead the team on and off the field, so keep your eyes peeled for them on both sides of the disc, particularly Donovan finalist March, as she uses her height to bring down D after D.
Wesleyan is making their third straight appearance at the D-III Championships. They reached the championship game last year, in part on the backs of what is now a large senior class. Wesleyan has spent the year working to build a full-team dynamic and will rely on their depth, particularly in their receiver corps, to make their way through the field in Rockford. They’ve had a strong season and feel they’ve only gotten better as the year has progressed. They earned the first bid out of the Metro East, with a solid 11-7 win over RPI in the regional final.
Mount Holyoke may be the ninth seed, but being from New England, they’re used to high-level competition. They’ve had mixed results in their past D-III Championships appearances and in games this year against the other qualifiers from their region. They got a quality win over Amherst at the conference championships but also got crushed by Williams at regionals. Their ninth seed put them in a tough spot, as the third team in Pool D. They’ll have their hands full throughout the weekend, starting with a match up against the overall four seed in Oberlin, and will rely on Hannah Fin-Erb and Katrina Meserve to lead the way.
Catholic Nun Betta rounds out the competition field, in their second straight appearance. With strong coaching from “Scuba” Steve Kreider and Layne Scherer and the on-field leadership of their Dononvan finalist Grace Kreider, they’ll look to improve on their 14th-place finish from 2017.
Games to Watch
Williams v. Georgia College
5/19, 9:00 a.m.
This same 1 v. 12 match up was a close game in 2017, with Williams pulling out a close win. Maybe this is the year Georgia College gets the upset?
Oberlin v. Wesleyan
5/19, 1:00 p.m.
Pool D is the pool of death for a reason, and this is a classic 4 v. 5 match up.
Bates v. St. Olaf
5/19, 2:45 p.m.
Josie Gillett and co. v. Tulsa Douglas and co.! You don’t really need more reasons than that.