D-III College Championships 2022: Pool D Preview (Women’s)

With no quarterfinalists from the 2021 College Championships, Pool D feels more wide open than maybe any other.

Lehigh at the 2021 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rodney Chen -- UltiPhotos.com
Lehigh at the 2021 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rodney Chen — UltiPhotos.com

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Returning to its normal late-May slot in the calendar for the first time since 2019, the D-III College Championships are finally upon us. Despite an irregular spring season without rankings to influence the bid allocation, 16 worthy teams arrive at the campaign’s final weekend ready to resume the regular business of crowning a national champion. This season we have a women’s field featuring four previous national-title winners as well as four programs with no previous Nationals experience.

We’ve got you covered for all the exciting action this weekend, but before the first pull goes up tomorrow, let’s get to know the teams who will be competing in Milwaukee. Then follow along at ultiworld.com/live for updates and livestreams throughout the weekend!

Pool A | Pool B | Pool C | Pool D

Wellesley (Whiptails)

Seeding: D1; overall no. 4
Power Ranking: #4
Path to Nationals: Lost to Middlebury 11-9 in New England final; def. Mount Holyoke in semifinal
Past Nationals Appearances: 2010, 2011
Location: Wellesley, MA

For the first time in a decade, Wellesley will be making an appearance at Nationals. Fighting through the gauntlet of the deep New England region is never easy, but the Whiptails made it look so last month, blowing out all comers at both Metro Boston Conferences and Regionals, aside from #1 Middlebury, whom they twice played to within two points.

This comes after an eventful regular season for the team. After suffering five losses across their first two tournaments, Wellesley turned their season around with a clean sweep in the New England Open, leading into a successful Series. They head to Wisconsin riding an 11-game winning streak against non-Middlebury competition. Yet the most memorable game for the team, however, did not result in a win. The Whiptails played Brown at Jersey Devil earlier on in their season and took the D-I #24 to double game point. Despite losing, they discovered how hard they could fight as well as the level of play they are capable of.

Although every player is critical to their success, Donovan nominee Josie Ku will be one of the many talented players showing off their skills this weekend. They also benefit from the presence of long-time coach Marshall Goff, who has won a Club Coach of the Year award for his work with Boston Slow. As coach, Goff provides his players with the extra pushes they need to succeed, especially when they are trying to find their rhythm.

One element of this tournament that Wellesley looks forward to is breaking out of their New England bubble to face teams from all around. They’ll get plenty of that in Pool Play on Saturday, facing off against opposition from three different regions. If they can keep up the same level of fight they showed themselves capable of in their game with Brown in March, they could come out on top in their pool and be a tough out in the bracket.

Lehigh (Gravity)

Seeding: D2; overall no. 5
Power Ranking: #7
Path to Nationals: Def. Haverford & Bryn Mawr 15-8 in Ohio Valley final
Past Nationals Appearances: 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2021
Location: Bethlehem, PA

Lehigh is no stranger to the Nationals scene. In fact, North Central pair Carleton Eclipse and St. Olaf are the only teams in the field with more nationals appearances than Gravity. Having placed third in 2018, they are looking to break seed and make the podium once again this year.

Despite some decent early-season results and a tournament victory at Fuego, the biggest game of the season for the team from Pennsylvania was their Ohio Valley Regional final against Haverford & Bryn Mawr. Having dropped the first two matches against the Sneetches in 2022, Gravity got sweet, sweet revenge when it mattered most, earning regional title and a no.5 seed in Milwaukee. Gravity went into that game with the mindset and drive to succeed and it proved to work. T

The team’s stand-out players include 2021 Breakout Player of the Year runner-up Anna Sivinski and Elly Layby. Both are versatile and talented players who lead the team on and off the field. Erin Dillion and Nora Abbott will also be key components of Gravity’s success at Nationals; Dillion has “unstoppable” flick hucks and Abbott controls the downfield with her decisive cutting and speed.

In terms of strategy, “Gravity utilizes all players to move the disc up the field in a well-balanced attack utilizing our depth and determined competitive defense,” said player Catherine Spillman.

2018 Coach of the Year Matthew Lubitz will lead the team again this year, along with a new addition Emily Polefka. Both coaches have proved to be assets for the team, helping push players to their fullest potential.

St. Olaf (Vortex)

Seeding: D3; overall no. 9
Power Ranking: #11
Path to Nationals: Lost to Carleton 10-8 in North Central final; def. Winona State 8-5 in the game-to-go
Past Nationals Appearances: 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Location: Northfield, MN

After a three-year hiatus, Vortex is back at Nationals. The program made a name for itself as national champs back in 2018 and placed third the following year. But they came up short in two games-to-go last fall, breaking a six-year qualification streak. They threatened to repeat that ignominious end this year, dropping the regional final to their Northfield neighbors Carleton, but used the energy from that game to propel them past Winona State to secure their bid to Milwaukee.

St. Olaf lost several key players since their last appearance at Nationals but added a new group of talents, who have really grown into their own this season. Vortex in 2022 has a relatively deeper roster with quite a few standouts. Their trio of captains — Anna Mulhorn, Elsa Anderson, and Carolina Schuster — help lead the team on and off the field. Anna Clements, a 2019 Rookie of the Year runner-up in the division, is also a handler to watch, keeping the offense moving and providing a solid reset option. Meanwhile, Grette Schmidt initiates the offense as a cutter downfield.

The team is coached by Biz Cook and Rebecca Enders. Between Cook’s exploits with Minneapolis Pop and Enders playing for Minnesota Strike this year, the team had a pair of fantastic role models to look up to and learn from. They bring loads of experience in coaching and playing and have made major contributions to the culture that a competitive game and a fun, supportive environment can intertwine.

Vortex has been on an upward trajectory this spring, rebounding from a slew of losses early in the season and turning a nine-point loss margin to Carelton Eclipse back in February into a two-point margin at Regionals. If they can continue their growth trajectory, they may be a team no one wants to face in the bracket.

Lewis & Clark (Artemis)

Seeding: D4, no. 16 overall
Power Ranking: #23
Path to Nationals: Lost to Portland 14-5 in Northwest final; def. Puget Sound 11-5 in game-to-go
Past Nationals Appearances: 2019
Location: Portland, OR

Like the team slotted ahead of them in Pool D, Artemis will be returning to the Nationals stage for the first time in three years. They may not have the same nationals pedigree as most of their pool mates, but this is a dangerous squad that has already proven capable of a big upset, knocking off Puget Sound Clearcut in the Northwest game-to-go.

After finishing fourth of four at regionals in the fall, Artemis sat quiet for most of the spring, not participating in any competition prior to the Series. For their 19-person roster, this season was a rebuilding year, since most of their players are new to the sport. Their victory over Puget Sound was the culmination of all the time and intention spent by players and coaches this season, as every member of the team played a crucial role in getting them to Milwaukee. While it was a full team effort, all of Mikah Keetch, Katelyn Osborne, and Athena Anderson showed the promise of greatness and will be major factors in Artemis’ success at Nationals.

“We love each other, we trust each other, and we work hard for each other,” said Artemis Captains.

Lewis and Clark is led by Jacob Artz, who has been with the team since the 2018-19 season. He is a huge asset and has been the team’s rock, especially throughout two very tough years trying to endure the pandemic. They are also coached by Christine Beaulieu, who played for Oregon Onyx this WUL season, and her professional playing demonstrated to the team how to become incredible female-matching players.

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