Harding, John Brown, And Rice Earn Bids To DIII Nationals Out Of South Central: Tournament Recap

TULSA — With three bids to DIII Nationals, the South Central has proven to be a developing scene for high-level Division III ultimate. This year, the Conference is one of the most competitive in the country, and the talent  was on display in Tulsa this weekend as teams fought for a bid to the big show in Milwaukee.

Harding Rolls Through Competition To Snag First Ever DIII Conference Championship And Returns To DIII Nationals

Since last year’s loss in the South Central DIII Conference final, Harding Apocalypse has focused on one thing: winning this year’s conference championship and returning to DIII Nationals (Harding last appeared in 2011).

Considering last year’s loss to Rice in the game-to-go, Harding attempted to remain focused on their goal throughout the entire weekend. Harding veteran Taren Goins stressed numerous times the importance of staying focused on the game at hand and to not assume an easy walk to Nationals.

After a sharp first game on Saturday against Missouri S&T, Harding faced rival Rice in a rematch of the last year’s final. Harding, however, refused to allow a repeat of that 2012 game and dominated early, taking a 7-1 lead on Rice. Harding continued to play with hunger in the second half and took down Rice 13-6. With the proverbial monkey off their back, Harding played through the rest of pool play with a focused determination that marks a championship contender team. Early leads over Hendrix, Midwestern State, and Tulsa allowed Harding to give their younger players a chance to develop and grow with in-game experience, all while resting starters and preparing for bracket play on Sunday.

By resting starters, Harding was able to go into the championship bracket with strong legs, easily handling their competition. In their semifinal match-up, Harding played an exhausted Truman State that had just come from a hard-fought 13-11 victory over Air Force (a victory that, while securing Truman State’s spot in the championship bracket, included several ties and lead changes). Harding’s D-line was dominant and able to control the flow of the game, leading to a 15-2 victory over Truman State. This victory cemented one of Harding’s first goals: a bid to Milwaukee. Only John Brown lay between them and their final goal, a long awaited Conference title.

With the wind as high as it was all weekend, Harding faced John Brown’s zone defense, a “bend-but-not-break” zone that relies on athletic plays from the mid-defender position. Harding’s experienced handlers, led by Taren Goins, used their arsenal of over the top throws and did not allow John Brown’s zone to catch up to the disc. From that point, Harding controlled the game with over the top throws and a strong D-line that exploited John Brown’s already tired legs. After taking half, 8-4, Harding maintained control of the game, winning the conference with a 15-8 victory over John Brown.

By posting a 95-37 point differential on the weekend, Harding solidified their supremacy of this conference and achieved their season-long goals of both winning Conference Championships and returning to DIII Nationals. Even with star wing Tucker Bankston’s injury and the lack of Nick Doores (unavailable for the weekend), Harding was able to walk through Conferences with ease. With a full, healthy roster, look for Apocalypse to advance far into bracket play in Milwaukee, as long as they take it one game at a time.

John Brown Arrives to the National Scene, Punches Ticket to Milwaukee

At the inaugural South Central DIII Conference Championship in 2011, John Brown went 3-4 on the weekend and finished 8th out of 12 teams in conference, a mediocre ending for a less than mediocre season (4-18 record overall). Fast-forward to the 2013 campaign and John Brown not only posted a 13-9 overall record, but also walked through their competition in route to snagging the second DIII Nationals bid from the conference.

While seeded 3rd in their pool to start the weekend (6th overall), John Brown quickly proved they were the most dominant team in their pool. That was clear from their first game on Saturday, a match-up against then top-seeded Trinity. This was a rematch from the quarterfinals from the Heart of Texas Huckfest (a game in which Trinity came out
victorious only after a JBU drop in the end zone on double game point), John Brown was eager to come out on top. Both teams traded scores, tying the game at 5s, but John Brown went on a 6-0 run to take a commanding 11-5 lead. From that point, it was all John Brown, posting a 13-7 victory over the #10 DIII team in the nation.

Following their victory over Trinity, John Brown walked through their pool unopposed, and were able to rest starters in games against Drury and Dallas. This set up a Semifinals game against Rice. By the 11 AM pull time of the game,
the winds had increased, forcing JBU to go into a zone defensive scheme. Rice, however, maintained a very physical man defense, making it difficult for John Brown receivers to retain control of the disc. After tying the game at 9s, John Brown was able to go on a 3-0 run, in part by their strong handler play and a smart deep game. From that point, John
Brown was able to take control of the game and secured a spot in the DIII Championships with a 15-11 victory over Rice.

However, John Brown’s lack of depth (no seniors, 14 total players on the weekend) hampered their opportunity at Harding in the championship game. After a close few points in which both teams traded scores, John Brown ran out of energy. They began to make mental errors and mistakes that are not the norm of this fundamentally strong team. John Brown had achieved their season long goal of making DIII Nationals, and had very little left in the tank for Harding after the dogfight against Rice.

John Brown’s lack of depth and size may hurt their chances on Sunday in Milwaukee, but their strong fundamentals make them a team that has the opportunity to be a surprise.

Tulsa Breaks Seed, Plays in Game-to-Go; Rice Returns to Nationals

A team that nobody (myself included) placed in contention for the weekend was the host team, Tulsa. Breaking seed by 1 PM on Saturday, Tulsa was placed in the quarterfinals of the 3rd place bracket against Trinity. Tulsa maintained a comfortable lead for the majority of the game by capitalizing on errors and turns by Trinity, finishing with a 15-10 win.

Tulsa’s match-up against Truman State in the game-to-the-game-to-go was hard fought. Tulsa went up two breaks, but Truman overcame that deficit and took half 8-7. Both teams traded points, but Truman State got the upper hand for a time, going up 12-10. But Tulsa’s solid downfield cutters (led by newcomer Jason Ketchum) and handler play from
captain Austin Weaver allowed Tulsa to step up and score four straight points (without a turnover) to secure Tulsa’s 14-12 victory and put them in play for the last bid to Nationals.

But they fell just short. Tulsa lacked the numbers to maintain strength over a deep Rice team. After a battle against Truman State, Tulsa did not have the legs to compete with Rice and fell 15-5, missing their first ever trip to Nationals.

Turbulence Faces a Bumpy Ride

Perhaps the most disappointing team in this conference was Trinity Turbulence. Ranked #10 nationally, Trinity sought to use their 2nd overall seed to place them in contention for a Nationals bid. A bid to Milwaukee would be the crowning achievement for a team that has struggled to gain recognition in the conference. However, poor play early on Saturday hurt Trinity’s chances of advancing far on Sunday.

It seemed that mental errors, as well as forced, unnecessary throws, prevented Trinity from competing with the likes of John Brown and Truman State. It was important for Trinity to defeat Air Force for them to even have a shot on Sunday. In what may have been one of the most exciting games from the weekend, Trinity and Air Force fought deep into cap. With several athletic plays from both sides (namely, Trinity’s Conner Stevenson and Air Force’s Wes Clark), Trinity pulled out the victory, 15-13, and gave themselves a shot to compete in bracket play.

However, it didn’t last long. Turbulence came up short in the quarterfinal game in the 3rd place bracket against Tulsa. Wind seemed to be an issue, again, and Trinity was pushed out of contention for Nationals. Forced, high-risk throws, especially with the weekend’s winds, were the deciding factor for Trinity.

Tournament Notes

– The South Central DIII Conference also hosted two up-and-coming teams – Midwestern State (Wichita Falls, Texas) and the University of Dallas — both of which competed in their first USAU Series Event. Both teams should continue to develop in 2014.

– Look for John Brown to return to the top of the conference in 2014. Their roster is made up entirely of juniors and underclassmen and all their starters return next year.

– Harding loses its all-star cast of Taren Goins, Tucker Bankston, and Nick Doores in 2014. It will be interesting to see how they develop younger players. The next season looks to be a rebuilding year for the conference champions.

– Tulsa cutter, Allen Greenlief, got a Callahan in Sunday’s game against Trinity. This is the 15th straight tournament for Greenlief in which he has brought down a Callahan!

South Central DIII All-Conference Championships Team

– Taren Goins – Harding
– Tucker Bankston – Harding
– Andrew Goode – John Brown
– Tim Fergus – Truman State
– Michael Drewry – Rice
– Wes Clark – Air Force
– Jason Ketchum– Tulsa

Honorable Mention

– Conner Stevenson – Trinity
– Austin Weaver – Tulsa
– Chris Genheimer – John Brown
– Jesse Jacobs – Missouri S&T
– William Haden-Chomphosy – Hendrix

South Central DIII Conference Championships Final Rankings
(* Qualifies for Nationals)

1. Harding*
2. John Brown*
3. Rice*
4. Tulsa
5. Truman State
6. Air Force
7. Trinity
8. Missouri S&T
9. Hendrix
10. Dallas
11. Midwestern State
12. Drury

  1. Taylor Stamps

    Taylor Stamps is a graduate of John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. While at JBU, Taylor was a 4-year starter, Club President, and Club Captain for JBU Ironfist. Since graduation, Taylor has lived in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he plays ultimate amidst the Oklahoma winds.

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