2015 DIII Men’s Preview: Brandeis

Brandeis is losing some big weapons, but has the depth to stay relevant on the National DIII scene.

brandeisBrandeis TRON shocked a few DIII Nationals onlookers last year when they spurned their 14th seed and finished 5th overall, notching an impressive win over second-seeded Lehigh on Saturday. This year, Brandeis is looking to build on that confidence and momentum with another strong showing.

Despite losing first-team all-region player Nadav Pearl and second-team all-region players Victor Zhivich and Max Zaslove from last year’s unit, captain Clarence Lee is confident in the team’s depth heading into this season. “Losing one of the best players in the region is always tough,” Lee said. “While we might not have another Nadav nor another Victor, many of our players have improved since the end of last season. We have more depth than in previous years so we’ll be looking to utilize it.”

Depth has indeed been a key strength for Brandeis early on. The team went 8-0 at the Lobster Pot tournament in Maine earlier in the fall, beating the likes of Bowdoin, Skidmore, and Bryant despite missing seven A-team players due to abroad studies and other conflicts. Coaches Sam Dinning and Lily Steponaitis have returned for a second year to lead the team in what they hope will be an even more successful 2015 season.

Brandeis in a Nutshell

Overall indicators:

  • Finished T-5 overall at 2014 DIII Nationals
  • #10 in Ultiworld’s preseason DIII power rankings

Positives:

  • Only four A-team players graduate from last year’s squad
  • Picked up a number of recruits with prior ultimate experience including graduate student Stephen Gross – a product of Colorado State
  • Large number of returners plus a large freshmen class gives them great depth overall
  • Have a disciplined offensive and defensive system that is now in its second year brought in by experienced coaches

Concerns:

  • Lost Nadav Pearl, Victor Zhivich and Max Zaslove from last year’s team – all players who were essential to the team’s offensive and defensive game plan
  • Still struggle with height and guarding their opponents’ tallest deep threats
  • Can lose focus at times when facing lesser-talented teams; an odd tendency to have mental lapses

Playing Style

Brandeis pride themselves on outworking their opponents. That is, they strive to be well conditioned and like to use their endurance and speed to wear down opponents.

Offensively, they are comfortable using a vertical and horizontal stack, and do not tend to favor one offense over the other. In the past their offense has tended to be handler-centric and what some might call “squirrely.” They like the short and give-and-go style of offense, though year they have been successful stretching defenses with deep shots as well.

Many TRON players are coming off successful club seasons, like captain Noah Newberger and senior Sam Zuckernik, who both played key parts in Boston Big Wrench’s impressive club series run.

On defense Brandeis will often switch between a man, zone, and junk look, depending on the opponent. They look to play aggressive and physical man defense, and their zone, when played effectively, can generate the necessary turnovers.

It is safe to say that Brandeis’ style of play can be easily compared to that of Boston Wild Card, likely because both of their coaches are big players on the club team. Like Wild Card, Brandeis has surprised with their upset victories and maintains a strong focus on achieving process goals, rather than outcomes.

Likely Ceiling

Semifinals of Nationals. Depth is a big strength to have in DIII ultimate, and the top-end of players from Brandeis are good enough to hang with just about anyone at the top level of the DIII scene.

Likely Floor

T-9 at Nationals. Losing the type of players that Brandeis did will take an adjustment period. They still have the depth and talent to qualify for Nationals, but the question will be if they have enough mental strength to make a run.

  1. Elan Kane
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    Elan Kane is the DIII NE Region reporter for Ultiworld. He grew up learning and playing ultimate at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires in Wingdale, NY, and played in high school ultimate at Solomon Schechter in Westchester, NY. He currently attends Brandeis University, where, in addition to playing on the ultimate team, he is pursuing a degree in American Studies and Journalism. You can reach him by email (elankane15@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@elankane15).

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