Can St. John's hold off GOP?
April 29, 2016 by Charlie Enders in Preview with 3 comments
The DIII North Central Region has historically been, much like its DI counterpart, a three team contest. St John’s, Carleton GOP, and Saint Olaf have fought over the region’s one or two bids every year since DIII’s inception. Last year, GOP and Olaf claimed the region’s two bids. This year they’ll brawl over one. However, with Olaf in the midst of a rebuilding year, St John’s and GOP seem to be on a collision-course for the regional final. Will the two behemoths of the region carve their way through the competition as expected, or will another team surprise?
St John’s BAM* (UW #12, USAU #17)
Overall Record: 15-2
Notable wins: Luther, Iowa, GOP
Notable losses: Missouri, Luther
2016 Summary: Perhaps bitter about failing to qualify for Nationals in 2015, St John’s stormed into 2016 with a vengeance. 2nd-place finishes at both Midwest Throwdown and Old Capitol Open have given them confidence, confidence that helped propel them over GOP in a tight Northwoods Conference final. BAM* brings an immaculate overall record into Regionals and looks to cement their place at the top of the North Central.
Main Contributors: A discussion of St John’s begins and ends with Charlie Schuweiler. The sophomore dynamo is the best DIII player in the region, and changes the game anytime he’s on the field. Although he’s struggled with injuries at times throughout his two years on BAM*, this former U19 Worlds player looks healthy heading into regionals. BAM*’s sophomore class is extremely strong in general, featuring Alec McFarlane and Tyler Meyer’s size and athleticism and Colton Motschenbacher’s squirrely defense. For veterans, Edward “Ricardo” Mallak and Sam “Tosh” Eherenmen lead the team with size and guile, each playing a majority of SJU’s points. And of course, you can’t discuss BAM* without mentioning the emotional heart of the team, the fiery Jeff McGurran.
#15 Carleton GOP (Ultiworld #15, USAU #14)
Overall record: 22-10
Notable Wins: UCLA, UNC-A, Lewis & Clark
Notable Losses: Occidental, Wisconsin-Whitewater
2016 Summary: Predictably, GOP has been rock solid this season (as they always are). GOP’s endless depth allows them to overcome personnel losses (Matt Godfrey and Anders Berglund) that would cripple other teams. In addition to that, GOP has four regular-season tournaments under their belt, meaning this team has had more playing time together than any other NC team. Although they performed below expectations at DIII Warmup (7th), they rebounded nicely at Stanford Open (5th) and College Southerns (3rd). A slugfest with Saint John’s in the Conference final ended in a loss, but GOP has to feel confident heading into Regionals.
Main Contributors: Junior captain Dan Black has been a steadfast leader, both on and off the field, all season. Black possesses lethal over-the-top throws and anchors the O-line against any zone look. For rookies, Bryce Barton has been a thorn in the side of opposing defenses all season. The list goes on, as despite having a smaller roster than in years past, GOP remains as deep as ever.
Overall record: not available
Notable Wins: West Virginia, Michigan Tech
Notable Losses: Union
2016 Summary: The Lake Superior Conference Champions, Platteville has risen from relative obscurity to the head of the pack. Although they had a rather mediocre showing at High Tide, a win over West Virginia shows what this team is capable of. They looked absolutely dominant at conferences, winning all of their games by at least 11. It will be interesting to see how Udderburn handles the stiffer competition.
Grinnell Grinnellephants (USAU #47)
Overall record: 12-8
Notable Wins: Missouri S&T, Texas-Dallas
Notable Losses: Wisconsin-B, Marquette
2016 Summary: Losing experienced upperclassmen is never easy. But losing 11 (including two 1st-team All-Region players) and fielding a competitive team is almost impossible. No one would have blamed Grinnell for a score reporter sheet filled with red, for a young team to crumble under the pressure. But Grinnell rebounded nicely. No, they aren’t the Grinnell of 2011 (National Semifinalist) or even the Grinnell of 2015, but this team has managed to stay competitive in the face of adversity. Despite mixed results at Dust Bowl (13th) and Midwest Throwdown (10th), both tournaments allowed the team’s young core gain valuable experience. Even if they don’t make nationals, the Grinellephants positioned themselves well for the future.
Main Contributors: 2015 2nd-team AR Caleb Leedy leads the Grinnellephants D-line, while Mark Lewis guides the offense with calm, efficient handling.
Macalester Blue Monkeys
Overall record: not available
Notable Wins:St. Olaf, Dickinson
Notable Losses: Yale, GOP
2016 Summary: Perhaps the surprise of the tournament, the Blue Monkeys came into conferences and defied all expectations en route to a 3rd-place finish, defeating 2015 National-qualifiers St. Olaf along the way. While they’re not a historically strong team, the Blue Monkeys are young and full of spunk. They could surprise some teams.
Main Contributors: Junior Remy Eisendrath leads the Blue Monkeys with tireless defense and strong leadership.
Saint Olaf Berzerkers (USAU #59)
Overall record: 12-5
Notable Wins: George Mason
Notable Losses: Charleston, Rhode Island
2016 Summary: 2016 St. Olaf can’t be discussed without mentioning who is missing from their roster: Ben Liska, Ben Marolf, and Cullen Raasch. Olaf hasn’t played the most difficult competition this season, and they paid for it at Conferences, failing to finish top three for the first time in recent memory. With that being said, these are still the ‘Zerks, and remain a talented and deep team.
Main Contributors: With a lack of starpower, Olaf has morphed into the prototypical “faceless army,” relying on their depth to outwork and grind opposing teams down. Alex Pham, Evan Weselmann, Andrew Lawrence, and freshman Austin Brown are all integral to that strategy’s success.
Drake DUC (USAU #44)
Overall record: 11-6
Notable Wins: Xavier, Northern Iowa
Notable Losses: Luther-B, North Park
2016 Summary: Drake has their coming-out party at Regionals in 2015 (finishing third), and expectations were high heading into 2016. Sadly, the injury bug has bit DUC. Despite a relatively successful season, recent season-ending injuries to mainstays Neal Patel and Eric Olsen have put a damper on expectations. While still a talented squad, stealing a spot at nationals is probably out of the picture.
Main Contributors: Before their injuries, 5th year Neal Patel and senior captain Eric Olsen consistently put DUC on their backs. In their absence, juniors Alex Stumphauzer and Mitchell McCarthy and senior captain Huynh Vo will be who DUC looks to to guide them to victory.