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2019 D-III College Championships: Men’s Division Preview

By: Joe Keat

Middlebury enters the 2019 D-III College Championships as the number one¬ overall seed. Over the season, they only took three losses, none of which were against other D-III teams. Middlebury has a long history of success (tied for third place in 2018) and are poised for another strong year.

Air Force Academy Afterburn is another noteworthy contender this season with a 26-3 record, having taken losses only to Middlebury and Richmond (in their division). After a close loss in last year’s finals, they look ready to make a deep run in College Station this year.

As quirky and spirited as ever, the Carleton College Gods of Plastic enter as the third seed. They have only taken a single loss to D-III competition this season and are looking to build upon an impressive record of success.

Few (if any) teams entering college station are as hot as Richmond. They are coming off of a stellar regionals performance where they finished with a +49 goal differential. Their offensive line was broken only once all weekend. Coming in as the fourth seed, the Spidermonkeys are looking to continue their streak of dominance.

Coming from one of the snowiest campuses in the United States, Michigan Tech makes their first-ever trip to Nationals. They are relatively untested, having only played 10 games, and will certainly be a team to keep an eye on. The only losses they suffered this year were against Whitman.

Following a strong Nationals performance last year, and a successful season this year, Bowdoin enters as the five seed at the D-III College Championships this year. Expect to see heavy contributions from Conor Belfield (their Donovan Award nominee) as well as Yuta Kobayashi.

Bryant enters this year as the defending national champions and the seventh overall seed. This is their sixth straight appearance, and they expect their past success to prepare them for a deep run this year.

Despite a near team collapse in 2015, Colby has managed to climb through several seasons, culminating in their second-ever Nationals appearance (the first win 2011).

Hamilton College, Missouri S&T, Berry, and Valparaiso are all making their first D-III College Championships appearances. All of these teams are optimistic about their opportunities at Nationals and moving forward.

Portland and Luther (the 11th and ninth seeds, respectively) are both teams that expect to break seed this year. Both are in the midst of an upswing and are coming off of strong season endings.

Franciscan (the 12th seed) and Claremont (the 14th seed) both enter the tournament following strong regional performances in which each team went undefeated. Both have strong potential to break seed.

Interestingly, the 2019 D-III College Championships feature five separate teams making their first-ever appearance. Needless to say, it is difficult to say what may happen with these teams, as they are all untested against Nationals-caliber competition. All are coming off of noteworthy seasons featuring impressive wins and have the potential to make some noise.

The weather this weekend in College Station is expected to be partly cloudy with intermingled rain and thunderstorms. We can also expect steady winds between 14 and 20 miles per hour alongside some hot weather.

Pool A
Middlebury (1)  Michigan Tech (8)  Franciscan (12)  Hamilton (13)

As the one seed, it is hard to imagine Middlebury not dominating. They have taken no losses to any D-III competition this season and are led by star player and Donovan nominee Dylan Salzman. The second seed, Michigan Tech, has played relatively few games this season and is making their first-ever Nationals appearance, along with Hamilton. Both of these teams have unknown potential and should be interesting to watch in College Station. Franciscan is coming in hot after an undefeated regionals run and will likely play tightly against Michigan Tech and Hamilton. The battle between the bottom three seeds should be interesting and unpredictable as they compete for the two remaining bracket spots.

Key Game to Watch:
Franciscan (12) v. Michigan Tech (8) – 11:30 a.m. – Field 7

Pool B
Air Force (2)  Bryant (7)  Portland (11)  Claremont (14)

Pool B will feature an exciting rematch of last year’s National Championship final in which Bryant managed to best Air Force by a single point. Air Force has won 26 games this season and are coming off of a relatively uncontested regionals performance, culminating in a 15-9 finals victory over Missouri S&T. Portland and Claremont are dangerous three and four seeds, respectively. Claremont made a very strong run through conferences and regionals, and won by large margins against all of their competition. They ended up punching their ticket to Nationals with a 13-4 victory over Occidental College in the conference championships final. Having missed Nationals last year, Portland considers themselves to be on the upswing this season and have the potential to upset this weekend. Bryant is coming off a disappointing regionals performance and could foreseeably play very close games with either Portland or Claremont.

Key Games to Watch:
Portland (11) v. Bryant (7) 11:30 a.m. – Field 9B
Air Force (2) v. Bryant (7) 1:15 p.m. – Field 9A

Pool C
Carleton College-GOP (3)  Colby (6)  Missouri S&T (10)  Berry (15)

Coming off of a very strong season, the Carleton College Gods of Plastic look poised to win their pool. However, Colby is a little-known program with considerable depth. They receive contributions from many different players and have the potential to upset GOP. Missouri S&T finished tied for 11th last year, in their first-ever trip to Nationals, and Berry is making their first trip. Both teams have potential to boom or bust and are coming off of tenacious regionals performances. Missouri S&T managed a 15-9 win over John Brown University in the semifinals at South Central Regionals. They ended up falling to Air Force in the final but have shown strong potential. Berry went undefeated at regionals and are coming off of a hot streak going into Nationals. There is a high chance this pool will not go to seed and will feature several key games.

Key Games to Watch:
Missouri S&T (10) v. Colby (6) 11:30 a.m. – Field 8B
Berry (15) v. Missouri S&T (10) 1:15 p.m. – Field 8B

Pool D
Richmond (4)  Bowdoin (5)  Luther (9)  Valparaiso (16)

Richmond, the top seed in Pool D is coming off of a truly dominant regionals performance. Their offensive line was broken only once, and they won every game by a considerable margin. They are led by Donovan nominee Chris Selwood, who has been a consistent presence for the team on both offense and defense for several years.

However, both Bowdoin and Luther have proven themselves to be capable teams over the course of the season. Bowdoin qualified for Nationals with a comfortable 15-5 victory over Bryant to take the second spot out of the New England Region. Luther won 23 of 28 games this season and are a very dangerous three seed with definite potential to cause commotion in Pool D. Valparaiso also has potential to stir the pot in spite of being the pool’s fourth seed. They finished the season with a 19-5 record and a point differential of +134. Overall, Pool D is the most interesting, with constant potential for upsets.

Key Games to Watch:
Luther (9) v. Bowdoin (5) 11:30 a.m. – Field 10B
Bowdoin (5) v. Richmond (4) 1:15 p.m. – Field 10A

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