April 11, 2014 by Charlie Eisenhood in Preview with 2 comments
A lot has changed for the Southeast DIII region in 2014. Last season, the struggling region couldn’t even piece together a regional tournament, as logistic and financial constraints limited teams from attending the national qualifier. This season, there are seven teams that will be in attendance — more than some other DIII regions around the country. This renewed level of commitment has turned the regional tournament into a legitimate competition that a handful of teams have a shot at winning.
Georgia College, the 2013 qualifier, is again the heavy favorite. A team that has had consistent success on the national level, Disconnected improved this season by bringing in experienced coach Jericho Barbour.
“Barbour is just as committed as the players, so this is the first time in my five years here that we have had a coach who is present at every single workout, practice, and tournament,” explained captain Charles Morris. “This outside perspective has really rejuvenated our program, and added an aspect of fundamentality to our traditional ‘huck it to our athletes’ mindset.”
Additionally, they have solved a depth problem that the team has struggled with in past seasons. Often relying on nine or ten players to get them through entire tournaments, Disconnected now carries 22 players on their sanctioned roster.
These upgrades have resulted in tangible results this spring. Finishing the season as the 16th best DIII team in the nation, Georgia College has seen some impressive wins. They’ve taken down UNC-Asheville (#19) and Carleton GOP (#9) as well as Wake Forest (#32). Additionally, they lost a close game to Appalachian State, one of the team’s three losses this season.
Morris explained that despite being the favorite, the team will take the rest of their season one small step at a time: “Our primary goal is to win regionals. For now, that is our only goal. After the whole free bid fiasco that has happened so recently in our region, we do not want to take anything for granted and want to earn this bid before we start prepping for Nationals.”
Disconnected relies on Josh Bush, Caleb Shorthouse, and Morris to shoulder much of the load. The 6’3″ Bush has improved his ability to read discs in the air and, paired with his vertical and raw athleticism, poses a serious threat for opposing defenses. Shorthouse (Bucket) relies on a lightning-quick first step and with the help of Morris behind the disc, abuses defenders in give-and-go situations. Look for Nathan Vickroy and Felix Jaffin (Atlanta YCC) to make big plays as well.
If all goes as planned for the perennial qualifiers, Georgia College should be planning a roadtrip to Westerville pretty soon.
One of their biggest challengers is a relatively unknown group from Jackson, Tennessee. Union University Jaxx is an extremely young team. A second-year team with 17 freshmen and sophomores on a 22-man roster, it’s no surprise that Jaxx is only beginning to come into their own. Under the coaching of Harrison Hayes (Tanasi), this team is headed in the right direction.
Nonetheless, they’ve seen impressive results this season after a weak showing in 2013. Jaxx lost to Ohio Wesleyan by only two points and finished Music City Tune Up with a 6-2 record.
Captain Jesse Dahms and Tyler Erlandson are two of the better players in the region and have the ability to control both sides of the disc. Dodgen Swanson, one of three seniors on the roster, and sophomore Christian Winter are key contributors along with Dalton DeLuca and Jeremiah Marcellino.
Jaxx works hard on defense and poaches intelligently despite their relative youth and inexperience. Their D-line looks to capitalize on turnovers with transition deep looks. On offense they run through their handlers and look to gain yards on big swings to the break side.
Vanderbilt captain David Sun, who played Union three times this season, honed in on their top-end talent. “Union had about three guys who were very tough to guard,” he said. “They’re tall and scrappy and they’ve played us tough every game.”
Another top team out of the SE-III will be Belmont Disco. Like Union, Belmont is only in their second season as a team and first playing competitively outside of Nashville. Still, captain Sam Moxley did not temper the young team’s expectations.
“We set our goal for this year really high. We wanted to make it to Nationals this year. I know that it may seem a little unreasonable from a second year team, but we really thought that the personnel we have this year makes it a reasonable goal considering the size of our region,” Moxley explained.
While the team has yet to make Nationals, they feel they’ve met their goals in each of their tournaments this season. Disco broke seed in all of their fall tournaments and played well thus far in the spring. At Music City, Belmont played well during pool play and won out after quarters to take 5th place. A 12-11 win against Wisconsin-Parkside shows their ceiling against a good DIII competition.
As an offense, Disco tries to play as team-centered as possible. They work at a fast pace and get everyone involved, working the disc between Moxley, Jon Schumm, Austin Schulenburg, and Jeff Arnold. They take their deep shots to Eric Owens, Michael Elliot, Max Hockley, and Bryan Griffith making sure that their offense at any time is tailored to the players on the field.
The rest of the region is composed of Rhodes, Embry-Riddle, Spring Hill, and Louisiana College. Rhodes went 2-5 at HUX and 1-4 at Mardi Gras. Embry-Riddle and Louisiana College finished 2-4 and 0-6 respectively at Mardi Gras. Spring Hill finished a combined 0-6 at Tally Classic and Freaknik. While these teams are unlikely to make any noise at conferences, their initiative to travel to their regional tournament is motivating and encouraging for their programs and the Southeast region overall.
It’s great to see two teams like Union and Belmont emerge as contenders in a region that has lacked depth and punch for some time. Seeing all of these teams travel many hours to make their regional tournament shows the commitment needed to establish DIII ultimate in the southeast corner of the country.
A Georgia College tournament victory is the likely scenario, but any of these young challengers can pose a threat to the reigning champions.
Look out for further Ultiworld coverage on the encouraging turn-around of the SE-III region.