D-III Regionals 2019: Weekend 1 Preview (Women’s and Men’s)

Five bids to D-III Nationals will be decided on the opening weekend of the postseason.

North Georgia Aurea at Luminous 2019. Photo: Katie Cooper — UltiPhotos.com

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In the first weekend of Conference Championships, four of the 16 D-III Nationals bids will be decided. Whether teams have wrapped on a perfect season, or are making their sanctioned debuts for 2019 in the Series, a single game could mean the difference between representing their region in College Station, or heading home empty handed. Looking ahead, these are the teams and storylines to watch for as the bids to Nationals are determined.

Women’s

Atlantic Coast

Tournament Profile

  • Location: Glen Allen, VA
  • Nationals bids available: 1
  • Top 25 teams: 1
  • Weather: thunderstorms, low 60s to high 70s
  • Schedule & Scores

At first blush, the Atlantic Coast looks clear as to which team will likely to ride the single bid to Nationals in May. #21 Catholic Nun Betta has earned the bid in the last two years, and at the end of the regular season, they finished at the top of the region with a 14-5 record. The four other Atlantic Coast teams with regular season sanctioned results collectively finished out at 13-34. Nun Betta won two out of the three tournaments they attended this fall, Huckin’ and Shuckin’ and Towsontown Throwdown. Led by senior captains Emily “Yams” McGuire and Katie O’Brien supported by the hard work of rising players Maddy Demaret, Anne “AP” Perry, and Abby Grabowski, Catholic feel almost inevitable to end up capturing the the bid.

But the rest of the region won’t let Nun Betta walk away with the bid without a fight. The Richmond Redhots have suffered losses to common opponents —George Washington and American University— that Catholic have bested, but the small margins and return of 2018 all-region players Allison Zhang and Mimi Tran alongside captain Rhiannon Begley show potential. Christopher Newport University Airbenders ascend to the third seed in the tournament, showing the work the program has put in since their foundation two seasons ago. The small and mighty Airbenders squad will look to make their mark in the region this year.

From there, the region is largely a series of question marks, as teams span the full spectrum of experience. Elon Wild Rumpus played sixteen games this season, but haven’t beaten anyone ranked inside the top 250 in the algorithm. They attended the weather-impacted Commonwealth Cup with a limited squad and were largely crushed, however 2018 All-region performer Olivia Ford should not be dismissed out of hand. Mary Washington Mary Massacre showed promise in the fall as a rising star in the division, but wilted against better competition in the spring. Davidson DUFF had a minimal presence this season, but acquitted themselves fairly well at I-85 Rodeo. UNC Asheville Hellbenders struggled with low numbers at Huckin’ and Shuckin’, and Goucher All-You-Can-Eat didn’t play sanctioned games during the regular season.

With the forecast promising storms in Glen Allen, games and scores may be all over the place — and more than a few surprises could be in store as the Atlantic Coast determines which team will represent the region at Nationals.

-Additional Reporting by Layne Scherer

Great Lakes

Tournament Profile

  • Location: Bourbonnais, IL
  • Nationals bids available: 1
  • Top 25 teams: 0
  • Weather: Some rain Sunday, low 30s to mid 50s
  • Schedule & Scores

Six teams will meet to play for a single bid to Nationals, enduring the weather of the Midwest and winds of the Great Lakes to do so. The two most likely candidates are North Park Allihopa and Knox Alley Cats at the first and second seeds, respectively. Allihopa’s respectable 10-5 regular season saw them ranked in our Top 25 as late as the end of March and is peppered with confidence-building wins over in-region challengers Valparaiso, Olivet Nazarene, and Wheaton. The talents of Maggie Johnson and Erin Staurseth, along with defensive pressure from Kajsa Meyer will be sorely needed in the almost-guaranteed windy conditions that will be present to keep the winning momentum for Allihopa. North Park enters the weekend with a target on their back as the no. 1 seed thanks to their regular season ranking, but they have lost 13-5 to Knox already this spring. The Alley Cats have similarly benefited from confident regular season, taking home wins against all other D-III Great Lakes matchups in a variety of weather conditions. The talents of Meryl Davis on all parts of the field will be crucial to Knox’s ability to generate strong performances in pool and bracket play. If the weather in Sunday’s final turns sour, the Great Lakes may end with the bid in the paws of the Alley Cats.

Beyond the top tier sit the rest of the Great Lakes teams: Wheaton Mastadonnas, Valparaiso Chicks Hucking Discs, Olivet Nazarene Black Penguins, and Kalamazoo Queen Beez. Wheaton and Olivet Nazarene have each had encouraging close losses — 10-8 and 8-6, respectively — to either Knox or North Park; the tide could swing in their favor in close matches in the weather to upset the results. Valparaiso has struggled to post competitive scores against their in-region competition, and Kalamazoo did not play the regular season, making it unlikely that either team will make huge waves in Bourbonnais this weekend.

South Central

Tournament Profile

  • Location: Tulsa, OK
  • Nationals bids available: 1
  • Top 25 teams: 4
  • Weather: afternoon rain, high 39s to low 60s
  • Schedule & Scores

The South Central will get to show off the depth of its bench with their Conference Championship event pitting quality teams against one another for the singular bid to College Station. The South Central holds the distinct honor of being home to the top ranked team in the division according to the USAU algorithm, #4 Truman State TSUnami. An undefeated 2019 campaign included wins against teams from the North Central and Great Lakes, as well as drubbings of in-region rivals Air Force and John Brown in subpar conditions. TSUnami looks like the picture of success and a strong favorite to hold on to their bid. Watch for Emilia “Bud” Budzowski, Lexi Thomas, and Sarah Finley to lead TSUnami to big scores and big bids against their opponents.

Sharing the pool with TSUnami are #17 Missouri S&T Miner Threat, Rice Torque, and Tulsa Coriolis Force. Missouri S&T has had a positive season with their 10-person roster, highlighted by performances from Rachel Althage and Madison Stiebel. Miner Threat own wins against Tulsa and other D-III teams, specifically playing in miserable weather conditions, which may prove critical during the tournament. Rice, with limited exposure to other D-III teams beyond Trinity this season, will look to their younger roster to fight their way into the bracket and into bid contention. Tulsa has a handful of wins under their belt, but none against the rest of the highly competitive region.

Over in Pool B, the region’s no. 2 seed goes to #11 John Brown Savage Skies, who ended the regular season just a handful of spots away from adding a strength bid for the region. They’ll be looking to avenge early season losses to Truman State and take the bid to Nationals. Hot on their heels will be #23 Trinity Altitude; Trinity made noise at the start of the season by going undefeated at Rice’s tournament Antifreeze; they also had strong Centex showing with just a pair of losses against D-I programs. While they’ve proven they can take down Rice, their ability against the rest of the region is still to be determined. Rounding out the pool are Air Force Kiwi and Dallas Vitality. In just their second year as a program, Air Force travelled to play at different tournaments across the country such as Stanford Open and Midwest Throwdown, gaining experience if not a stellar resume beyond the 6-7 record they built. Dallas only has games from a single tournament on record, but a close 11-9 loss to Rice suggests they can keep things interesting in the lower brackets.

The potential for rain, paired with lower temperatures opens the doors for teams that have had more poor weather experience a better opportunity to take the bid out from under TSUnami, and not be swept away in their wake.

Southeast

Tournament Profile

  • Location: Statesboro, GA
  • Nationals bids available: 1
  • Top 25 teams: 1
  • Weather: Morning thunder storms; high 60s to low 80s
  • Schedule & Scores

A new name finds itself the top of the seeding for the Southeast’s second Conference Championships, and the region looks the most competitive it’s ever been for the lone bid to Nationals. With four teams attending, sitting at that no. 1 spot is North Georgia Aurea. After a 7-8 record in the regular season, including wins over Florida Tech and Luther, North Georgia will be hungry to take the bid that they earned over the course of the season. Their fiercest competition will be Georgia College Lynx Rufus, who has represented the Southeast at D-III Nationals every year since 2013. Their own season ended with a 7-4 record, including wins over Elon and Smith, but no play against Aurea. It will come down to a battle of the wills from North Georgia’s Gabrielle Hartman and Georgia College’s Morgan Demell and Lindsey Moon in the last round of play on Saturday to snag the bid to Nationals.

Also attending will be Belmont URSA and Florida Tech Flux as the third and fourth seeds. While neither completed the season in a position to seriously impact the bid picture, the event will offer the taste of competition for the growing region. In their first season, Florida Tech ended with three wins under their belt; meanwhile, Belmont took home four wins at the only regular season tournament they attended. URSA in particular could stand the chance to spoil the efforts of Aurea or Lynx Rufus if the weather makes for sloppy games during pool play leading into the bracket and a single shot at Nationals.

Southwest

Claimed BidOccidental Women’s Air Corps (WAC)

For only the second time since the creation of the D-III division, Occidental College Women’s Air Corps (WAC) has captured a bid to Nationals. The last time Occidental went to Nationals was in 2011, the first year of the regional redraw and the only year in which the region had two bids. The bestowal of the bid comes thanks to WAC ending as the highest-ranked Southwest team at the end of the regular season, secured by a 5-5 record that included a head-to-head win against their only in-region competition for the bid, the Claremont Greenshirts. Ending the longest active streak of D-III Nationals attendance (held by the Greenshirts), WAC will look to demonstrate the growth and talent of a massive rookie class, led by captains Nora Fujita-Yuhas, Meike Buhaly, Clarasophia Gust, and Celeste Padula. With the chance to perfect defenses and get more offensive reps in with warm-weather games at SoCal D-I conferences before Nationals, Occidental will be gunning to come out hot and surprise other teams in College Station.

Men’s

Southwest

Tournament Profile

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Nationals bids available: 1
  • Top 25 teams: 0
  • Weather: Sunny, high 50s to high 70s, 5-10 MPH wind
  • Schedule & Scores

The only Nationals bid being determined in the men’s division this weekend is in the smallest region. Four teams will compete in Los Angeles this weekend for the Southwest’s lone bid. With only one of the four teams getting to the ten game threshold in the regular season, not much is known about the competition this weekend, but a few head-to-head matchups hint at a weekend filled with close games.

The top seed is Occidental Detox. The two-time defending regional champions have the no. 1 seed as a result of reaching the ten game threshold in the regular season, but they enter the weekend with a 1-1 record against the other teams in attendance. Detox’s win came against the no. 2 seed Claremont Braineaters, 13-11, at SoCal Mixer, and the loss came against the third seed Caltech Aftermath, 13-12, at the same event. The top three seeds are all of relatively equal strength, and teams will have to decide how much of their tactical hand they wish to show in pool play, knowing they’ll see each other again in the bracket.

With the fourth seed Biola Afterdark looking a tier below the other three teams, there will be value in finishing first in pool play to have an easier semifinal on Sunday morning. Avoiding the dogfight of the 2v3 semifinal could be what decides who is able to take the bid in the final.

  1. Sam Echevarria
    Sam Echevarria

    Sam Echevarria is the Women's D-III College Editor at Ultiworld. She has been playing ultimate since 2010, starting with the Centerville HS Outsiders and later the Claremont Colleges Greenshirts. Currently based in Madison, WI, you can reach her on twitter (@sechevarria27).

  2. Michael Ball
    Michael Ball

    Michael Ball is the Men's DIII College Editor for Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (mball2293@gmail.com) or on Twitter @mike_ball423

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