DIII Warmup, the first early test for many of the country’s top DIII teams, is set to take place in Riverside, California this weekend. The tournament will feature six 2012 Nationals competitors and eight teams in Ultiworld’s initial DIII Power Rankings. Warmup will be a great opportunity to showcase the premier talent of the division in the first exclusively DIII tournament of the season.
St. John’s (#3): After a disappointing quarterfinals exit to eventual champion Carleton GOP at Nationals, St. John’s looks to reestablish themselves as the top DIII team in the nation. Despite losing captain and O-line starter Paul DeWenter to graduation, BAM’s deep roster will allow them to continue to compete at a high level. Andrew Johnson (U-23 tryout invitee) returns from abroad to replace DeWenter and tall, athletic cutter Nihal Bhakta can be expected to make huge plays on both sides of the disc. Bhakta was knocked out of BAM’s game against GOP due to injury but will be back on the field as one of Warmup’s premier players.
RPI (#24): Trudge appears to have taken a step back from their 11th place finish at Nationals last season. They lost two of the strongest players in the Metro East region in Dan Donovan and John Hosmer as well as key role players Stefan Dicker and captain Max Dyer. However, Trudge’s O-line remains deep and effective with Andrew Janucik, Matt Lustbader, Nolan Ryan, and Russ Katz cutting in a vertical stack. Keep an eye on Katz, who isn’t afraid to play physically and grind through points on both O and D. This pool will be a great chance for RPI to retool their D-line and test their athletic underclassmen in pressure situations.
Brandeis (#19): Tron is one of the more interesting stories at Warmup. A relatively unfamiliar team on the National level, this Boston area squad looks to turn some heads and make a name for themselves. In 2012, a small A-team roster hindered their ability to perform deep in close games, resulting in them just missing out on Nationals play. However, Tron has gotten deeper and will be carrying seven freshmen across the country for this tournament.
Losing handler Brian Dahlben to graduation will hurt them behind the disc, but lefty Nadav Pearl should be able to pick up the slack with break throws to Matt Wiener. Additionally, Tron is comfortable running a handler-centric offense if the lines call for such play. With a freshman-heavy squad, look for a great deal of weaving. In the end, Brandeis is looking to gauge themselves against top squads from around the country. Pearl explains, “We know there’s a ton of talent (at Warmup) and some of these teams have met at Nationals before, but we’re coming in with a blank slate. We have a chance to gain some perspective on where we stand in the national DIII scene.”
Occidental: After a tough 14-12 win against Westmont in the semifinals of Southwest sectionals/regionals, Detox was no match for a strong Claremont team. Despite missing Nationals, Occidental has high hopes for their season. Their up and down results last season mirrors their style of play: a huck-first offense with athletic youth called on to make plays on defense. With a large freshmen class and Carleton College transfer John O’Neill, they look to get another shot at Westmont and Claremont. Watch for Andrew Featherston, Jordan Anacker, and Noah Donnell-Kilmer to make plays for Detox.
Prediction: St. John’s comfortably takes the pool. Brandeis upsets RPI behind strong handler play. Occidental ends 0-3.
Carleton College GOP (#1): After sweeping the 2012 DIII Championships, the Gods of Plastic come into Warmup with the biggest target on their back. Despite losing a number of key seniors, Carleton brings back a solid young group looking to repeat. Matt Godfrey and Ian Fischer highlight a strong sophomore class on a deep roster. If you watch one player at this tournament, consider Rhys Lindmark. A relentless cutter with great breaks, Lindmark made a ton of noise at Nationals, leading all players in goals. Offensively, he rarely makes mistakes and he has the athletic ability to take over points. Still, GOP’s success lies in their discipline and deep roster.
Pacific Lutheran (#17): Pacific Lutheran is definitely a team to watch this tournament. Finishing 4th in the Northwest section/region that had three bids, Reign just missed out on the big show. However, PLU only graduated one senior, Bernie Anderson. While Anderson was an integral part of the team’s D-line, a young roster should fill the void with ease. Reign had reasonable success in 2012 despite a roster that featured an impressive fourteen freshmen and sophomores. Look for Bjorn Slater (So.), along with strong senior play to help Pacific Lutheran make some noise.
Connecticut College: After losing consecutive games-to-go at Metro East Regionals, Dasein looks retooled and ready for high level competition. With improved winter fitness and the addition of Coach John Korber, this senior-heavy roster comes into Warmup with confidence. Chemistry and familiarity with one another on offense should help Dasein move the disc effectively. Andrew Greaves returns from a semester off and brings with him physical defense and the ability to work up-field or behind the disc. Jason Hamburger, Jamie Lawler, and Peter Glennon highlight their offense while Jake Schwartz, and captains Max Weigert and Jesse Moskowitz will look to get breaks on the defensive end. Smart ultimate and limiting turnovers should allow Dasein to run deep lines and compete at a high level.
Westmont: Wildfire missed Nationals last season, finishing third in Southwest section/region with a young roster. Currently captained by three sophomores, CJ Donahoe, Josh Miller, and Chris Costenbader, Westmont looks to continue to build their program and gain valuable experience for later in the season. The three underclassmen will have to work hard to replace top handlers John Ortberg and Todd Scalisi and go-to cutter Bryce Randolph. Additionally, Wildfire will be without handler Peter Mathews as he spends his semester abroad. Wildfire comes into Warmup as one of the only teams to play a registered tournament this early in the year. At Santa Barbara Qualifier, they fell in the quarters to Cal State Long Beach after a blowout loss to UCLA and a close win over Cal Poly SLO-B in pool play. Look for Warmup to provide a better picture of how they’ll fare against DIII competition.
Prediction: The pool holds as seeded. Pacific Lutheran keeps close with GOP early on, but the more experienced team pulls away in the end.
Puget Sound (#2): A great season saw the Postmen end with a second place Nationals finish after a close loss to GOP in the championship game. Puget Sound finds success through efficiency. “On offense we want to make the game boring,” explained Senior Spencer Sheridan. “We want to make 100% throws and not turn the disc over.” This style allows the Postmen to rely on their defensive players to win the game with breaks.
Eric Hopfenbeck returns for his junior year and looks to be one of the most dynamic DIII players in the tournament, if not the nation. Hopfenbeck had a tremendous Nationals performance, posting 16 goals, 15 assists, and 17 passes defended. This is the only case of a 15-15-15 Nationals in the past two season at the DI or DIII level. With Peter Geertz-Larson taking away opponents’ top cutters and Sam Berkelhammer making plays downfield, the Postmen still remain a force to be reckoned with.
Claremont (#13): The Braineaters had a disappointing end to their season, tying for last place at Nationals despite lofty expectations. The obvious question for Claremont is how they’ll be able to perform without All-Region and NexGen Tour star Tommy Li. For the past two seasons, this team has been anchored by Markham Shofner (2011) and Tommy Li (2012). On top of these losses, the Braineaters also lost top handler Sam Trachtman to graduation.
Watch how this talented and disciplined team performs without dominant handlers around the disc. Senior cutter Devin Drewry will be one of the toughest players to guard at Warmup. With blazing speed and an unrelenting motor, Drewry will be looked to to step up and establish a deep game for the Braineaters. What Claremont lost to graduation they made up in a dominant freshman class. Jimmy Bright-Dumm was the captain of Amherst High School last season and proved all Fall season that he can perform at the college level. Will Marks is an incredibly athletic player who played on several Seattle youth and high school teams. Owen Bell led his high school team in Tennessee last year and Gabe Currier played on a nationals level youth club in Maine. This pool will test these youngsters in their first Spring action.
Rice (#4): Coming on late last season, Rice was one of the biggest surprises of the DIII scene. After shocking top seeded Harding to make Nationals, Rice continued their strong play deep into the championships, ultimately finishing tied for third. Only losing three seniors from last season’s roster, Rice looks primed for another championship run. Graduated captain and D-line standout Stephen Haff will be replaced by defensive staples Frasier Liljestrand and Alex Hilser.
Rice is also extremely potent on offense. Cutters Michael Drewry and Wally Lang (second and third in goals at 2012 Nationals, respectively) anchor an offense that features Matt Liu and Kevin Shen behind the disc. This team will work hard on both sides of the disc and looks to use Warmup to further shape their identity.
Amherst: Army of Darkness finished short of Nationals play last season, failing to make it out of a strong New England region. This has left them hungry for better results this season. In the words of captain Alex Strecker, “Not only do we want to get to D3 Nationals, we want to tear things up there.” The road to Milwaukee will be made much tougher with the graduation of star player and three-year captain Joe Bobman.
A strong sophomore class led by Andrew Edelman, Rainer Lampert, and Giaco Corsiglia will look to step up in his absence. Captains Lock Whitney, John Yorchoan, and Strecker are staples of the Amherst offense and look for Nate Thomas to make huge plays on defense. While they’ve shifted to hard man defense as of late, Army of Darkness is not afraid to create turns with a feisty zone.
Fun Fact: Amherst had a near team civil war about a name change (from Army of Darkness to Monstars) this semester. They resolved it with an all-day Frisbee-lympics. AOD won out.
Prediction: In Warmup’s Pool of Death, Rice comes out on top. Puget Sound handles their business against Claremont. Amherst loses three close ones.