12 Days of College Ultimate: D-III Staff Picks

For Day 3 of college ultimate content, we unwrap our staff picks for D-III College Nationals.

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 college ultimate season are presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

With the fall season in the rearview, it is still difficult to identify how the D-III division will be represented at Nationals come May and how teams will stack up against each other. With tournament results hard to come by this I’ve been finding myself scrolling teams Twitter feeds or perusing USAU for sanctioned score reports to gain an initial understanding of where this ever-changing division stands.

In addition to tournament results being difficult to access, the results we do have may not show the whole picture of a team’s strength. The impact of weather or team strategy can change the entire story of a team’s road to Nationals. All these factors considered, let’s jump into our predictions.

Women’s Division

Total Women’s Champion Picks

Middlebury Pranksters – 5
Carleton Eclipse – 1

Total Women’s Semifinalist Picks

Middlebury Pranksters – 6
Wellesley Whiptails – 6
Carleton Eclipse – 5
Haverford/Bryn Mawr Sneetches – 3
St. Olaf Vortex – 2
Portland UPRoar – 1
Berry Valkyries – 1

Middlebury Pranksters

2022 Nationals Finish: 1st
Overall 2022 Record
: 24-1
Against the Picks
: 3-0 vs. Wellesley, 2-0 vs. Berry, 1-0 vs. Haverford/Bryn Mawr, 1-0 vs. St. Olaf, 1-1 vs. Eclipse

Is anyone really shocked? The Pranksters back to back nationals championship roster returns a majority of their players with a depth of talent to shut down any opponent. With the return of highly decorated players such as Claire Babbott-Bryan and Keziah Wilde, the Middlebury team will be heavy favorites coming into their spring season.

Carleton Eclipse

2022 Nationals Finish: T-3rd
Overall 2022 Record
: 23-3
Against the Picks: 2-0 vs. St. Olaf, 1-0 vs. Haverford/Bryn Mawr, 1-1 vs. Middlebury, 0-1 vs. Wellesley

The only team to defeat Middlebury in 2022, this perennial nationals qualifying team is locked and reloaded. They return Second Team All-American Harper Brooks-Kahn and ROTY Second Runner-Up Zoe Marquis. Together, this handler-cutter duo are expected to be steadying, experienced presences on the field for their team and matchup nightmares for opponents. We at Ultiworld have long been some of the biggest proponents of this Eclipse squad, and let’s not forget they had a spot in the national final well within their grasp before watching it all slip away on universe point. These returners certainly haven’t.

Wellesley Whiptails

2022 Nationals Finish: 2nd
Overall 2022 Record
: 24-9
Against the Picks: 1-0 vs. Carleton, 1-0 vs. Portland, 1-0 vs. Berry, 1-1 vs. Haverford/Bryn Mawr, 0-1 vs. St. Olaf, 0-3 vs. Middlebury

If an injury-plagued Wellesley could make it to the national final – including coming back against Carleton after being down 13-10 to win on universe in arguably the most exciting game of the tournament – imagine what a fully healthy crew can do with another year of experience.

After a breakout spring 2022 season, Wellesley has had a hot fall season already. First Team All-American Tess “Roo” Dolan returns to lead the Whiptails. With a second place finish to Yale at NY Minute in Van Cortlandt Park, the Whiptails were dominant, only giving up 10 points Sunday in the quarter and semifinals.

Haverford/Bryn Mawr Sneetches

2022 Nationals Finish: T-7th
Overall 2022 Record
: 25-7
Against the Picks: 1-1 vs. Wellesley, 0-1 vs. Carleton, 0-1 vs. Middlebury, 0-1 vs. Portland

The Sneetches earned a quarterfinal berth at Nationals for the first time since their third-place finish in 2014 and their 2023 lineup seem poised to make an even deeper run. Haverford/Bryn Mawr’s only losses at 2022 Nationals came to the top three seeds: their blowout loss to Carleton was arguably meaningless as pool seeding had been decided, Middlebury delivered the 12-8 knockout blow in quarters, and their final loss came against Portland in the fifth place game on universe point.

Though over half of the team are first-years, they’ve already seen success this season, defeating all comers at Haverween and making it to the semifinal of NY Minute, where they lost 10-7 to fellow semifinal pick Wellesley. While they’ll be missing Donovan-finalist and OPOTY second runner-up Mariah Newfont who led the team in every statistical category at Nationals, expect players like Lindsey Hua and Julia Smeltzer to step up and take on bigger roles. Zoe Costanza in particular was deadly at Haverween, shredding opponent’s offenses with quick give-gos.

St. Olaf Vortex

2022 Nationals Finish: T-3rd
Overall 2022 Record
: 16-12
Against the Picks: 1-0 vs. Wellesley, 0-1 vs. Middlebury, 0-2 vs. Carleton

St. Olaf have made the Nationals quarterfinal every year since 2014 and semifinal since 2018 and look poised to do it again. In 2022 their only losses to D-III opponents came at the hands of Carleton and Middlebury, a fact that belied their no.9 overall seeding at Nationals.

Like many teams on this list though, some of the biggest losses they’ll first have to overcome are from their own team: Vortex graduated Anna Mulhern and Anna Clements, who made the First and Second All-American teams, respectively. These losses cannot be understated, as the Anna duo were the only ones on St. Olaf to post double-digit assists at Nationals and were the top two block getters. Grette Schmidt, who led the team in goals, is also gone. Returners like Annika Challgren, Erica Collin, Leina Goto, and Unni Isaksen will need to lead the charge if St. Olaf hope to keep their semis streak alive.

Portland UPRoar

2022 Nationals Finish: T-5th
Overall 2022 Record
: 13-2
Against the Picks: 1-0 vs. Haverford/Bryn Mawr, 0-1 vs. Wellesley

Perhaps the brightest star leaving the division is UPRoar’s Jaclyn Wataoka, 2022 Donovan finalist, POTY first-runner up, and OPOTY. She led Nationals with a gaudy 29 assists in just five games, including seven in Portland’s quarterfinal loss to Wellesley. But Portland seem to be taking the loss in stride and have put up solid results to start the 2023 season, including taking second place at Beaver Brawl in October and only losing to D-I team Oregon Fugue and their own split roster.

Wataoka was one of just two players who graduated and the continuity can only work in Portland’s favor. Expect to see Julianna Galian (who led the team in blocks at Nationals), Julia Hanly (who led the team in goals), and Makaley Kruger (who had the team’s highest plus/minus and was second in goals, assists, and blocks) take on larger roles shoring up Portland on both sides of the disc this coming spring.

Berry Valkyries

2022 Nationals Finish: 11th
Overall 2022 Record
: 6-7
Against the Picks: 0-1 vs. Wellesley, 0-2 vs. Middlebury

It’s been a fast rise for Berry Valkyries. Despite competing in just their first ever college series in 2021, the team’s commitment to skill development in the offseason saw them claim at spot at 2022 Nationals. Even sweeter, that spot was earned via an 11-8 win over Union College, the same team that ended Berry’s season in 2021. While they didn’t have the strongest showing in Milwaukee – only notching wins over the no.12 and 13 seeds and falling to the Wellesley buzz saw in prequarters – even there they showed growth, losing by three to no.12 SUNY-Geneseo in pool play before flipping the script and beating them by five two days later in the eleventh-place game.

The Valkyries return 2022 BPOTY second runner-up and captain Hannah Tritschler who led the team in goals and assists at Nationals and was second in blocks. If Berry can accomplish all this in their first two years as a program, don’t be surprised if this ride of the Valkyries leads to a semifinal berth in 2023.

 

Men’s Division

Total Men’s Champion Picks

St. Olaf Berzerkers – 3
Middlebury Pranksters – 2

Total Men’s Semifinalist Picks

St. Olaf Berzerkers – 5
Oklahoma Christian Eagles – 5
Middlebury Pranksters – 4
Berry Bucks – 4
Whitman Sweets – 1
Claremont Braineaters – 1

St. Olaf Berzerkers

2022 Nationals Finish: 2nd
Overall 2022 Record
: 19-1
Against the Picks: 1-0 vs. Middlebury, 1-0 vs. Berry, 0-1 vs. Oklahoma Christian

Ultimate is an offensive game, and St. Olaf returns the division’s offensive star in Will Brandt. The OPOTY spent his offseason with the AUDL’s Minnesota Windchill for the second year in a row and the Koo added experience is sure to have only honed his lethal disc skills. To put this in a broader context, Brandt is the only returning player from the men’s offensive podium, as fellow semifinal picks Middlebury and Berry lost their star offensive pieces to graduation.

While Brandt is certainly the headliner, the Berzerkers are far from a one-man show. Senior Luke Bleers is one of, if not the, best defenders in the country and can go every other to generate breaks for the St. Olaf D-line. The Berzerkers have a large, deep junior class that goes well beyond Brandt: Eric Crosby Lehmann, Matt Kompelien, and Carter Schafer are all primed to step into bigger roles this season.

St. Olaf came so close to a perfect season in 2022, only falling in the championship game. They’ll be hungry to finish the job this time.

Middlebury Pranksters

2022 Nationals Finish: T-3rd
Overall 2022 Record
: 23-2
Against the Picks: 1-0 vs. Claremont, 0-1 vs. Oklahoma Christian, 0-1 vs. St. Olaf

Another team with high profile graduations, D-III First Team selections Leo Sovell-Fernandez (also the Donovan award winner) and Walker Frankenberg leave huge shoes to fill on both sides of the disc.

Louis Douville Beaudoin also joins the Pranksters squad this year. The only D-III men’s player to earn a spot in our First-Year Players to Watch article, his experience with the USA U20 open team in Wroclaw led Keith Raynor to claim Beaudoin as an early ROTY front runner. 2022 Second Team All-American Max Hanscom headlines a strong group of returners that also includes key contributors like Max Rogers and Jorre Dahl; expect all three players to play bigger roles this season.

Perhaps the biggest addition for Middlebury this season will be junior Malachi Raymond. After missing the 2022 college season due to injury, Raymond spent his summer playing with Minneapolis Sub Zero and should be ready to make a difference for the Pranksters this year.

Oklahoma Christian Eagles

2022 Nationals Finish: 1st
Overall 2022 Record
: 19-4
Against the Picks: 1-0 vs. St. Olaf, 1-0 vs. Middlebury, 1-0 vs. Berry

It’s hard to argue any team lost more talent from last season than the Oklahoma Christian Eagles with the departure of POTY winner Elliott Moore and first runner-up Jonathan Costello. Max Hamilton and Trevor Cook are both gone as well, leaving the defending champs to pretty much completely rebuild their O-line.

Even with those losses, the Eagles are heavily equipped to make a run for a third straight title. They return the division’s BPOTY second runner up in Thomas Maguire, ROTY Sammy Roberts, and DPOTY first runner-up Emmanuel Kameri. 2021 ROTY first runner-up Evan Card and Emmanuel Bilolo are both excellent cutters. Per usual, the Eagles have also been active on the recruiting trail, adding a handful of key rookies including Logan Krehbiel and Logan Hammersmith, both from Colorado Cutthroat, and Ryan Loui-Ying (Canada U20).

The reigning two-time national champions are sure to be hungry for the hat trick and their preeminent scholarship program will undoubtedly keep the talent coffers full to bursting.

Berry Bucks

2022 Nationals Finish: T-3rd
Overall 2022 Record
: 22-3
Against the Picks: 0-1 vs. St. Olaf, 0-1 vs. Oklahoma Christian

After graduating maybe the most loaded senior class in the division last year, one that featured two First Team All-Americans in Walter Ellard and Caleb Enright and DPOTY 2nd Runner-Up Chris Gmeiner, this season is going to be about the Bucks proving that they’re an established program in the division. Coach Robert Bradham won COTY last fall and finished first runner-up in the spring, and rebuilding this team will be the biggest challenge of his coaching career thus far.

Let’s be clear: the Bucks’ cupboard of talent hasn’t been completely drained. Junior Collin Hill spent his summer playing with Chain Lightning and will be the star of this offense. Seniors Caleb Grant and Aidan Meek both played with Roma Ultima this summer, getting valuable experience that will have prepared them for a bigger role in the Berry offense this year.

Whitman Sweets

2022 Nationals Finish: N/A
Overall 2022 Record
: N/A
Against the Picks: N/A

While the Sweets normally play D-I in the series due to graduation conflicts, we’ve been told that Whitman plans on playing in the D-III series this spring, adding another very strong team to the division. Whitman played D-III in the fall 2021 series, losing in quarters to eventual champions Oklahoma Christian, and return most of that roster this year.

Sophomores Leo Dungan-Seaver and Kai Kirsch will be leading the way for the Sweets. Tyler Shanahan will be one of the best deep threats in the division. Whitman ran one of the most well-coached offenses in Norco last fall, and they got contributions from everyone on the roster. The rest of the division should be on notice and expect to see the Sweets making their presence felt at Nationals this spring.

Claremont Braineaters

2022 Nationals Finish: 11th
Overall 2022 Record
: 5-3
Against the Picks: 0-1 vs. Middlebury

Look, it’s D-III. Some wild stuff is bound to happen. I refuse to make chalky picks and it’s not a big stretch to see Claremont dominate a weak region, come into Nationals seeded in the 6-12 range, sneak an upset along the way either in pool play or the early bracket, and accidently end up in the semifinal. Also, hey–I can’t pick against my favorite team.

Bringing back offensive centerpieces Lukas Karapin-Springorum and Rory Beals already has the floor high for the Braineaters–with two senior captains out during 2022 Nationals, Claremont’s star duo have already made it into the Nationals bracket as the go-to players and can only get better with another year’s experience. August Cosinuke, Andrew Baxter, Cianan Gamble, and Clay Rasmussen are other key players who will step into the void left by the class of 2022.

  1. Michael Ball
    Michael Ball

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

  2. Theresa Diffendal
    Theresa Diffendal

    Theresa began playing frisbee in 2014 at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh. Having lived all over Pennsylvania, she’s settled at the moment in Harrisburg with her partner and plays with the mixed club team Farm Show. She received her BA from Bryn Mawr in Comparative Literature where she played with the Sneetches and her Master’s from the University of Maryland.

  3. Fiona "Scotti" Nugent
    Avatar

    Fiona “Scotti” Nugent is a the D-III Women's Editor and co-host of the Laying it Out podcast. She is a graduate of Lehigh University, and now plays mixed club in New York City. You can reach her through email at nugent.fiona2@gmail.com.

  4. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Philadelphia to experience real seasons and eat soft pretzels. You can reach Alex through e-mail (rubin.alex14@gmail.com) or Twitter (@arubes14).

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