D-III College Championships 2023: Pool D Preview (Women’s)

Four programs with multiple Nationals appearances all are back after successful seasons.

Portland UProar at the 2022 D-III College Championships. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – UltiPhotos.com

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.

We are less than one week out from the D-III College Championships, and that means it’s pool preview time. With the first full regular season and rankings post-COVID, 16 worthy teams arrive at the campaign’s final weekend ready to crown a national champion. This season we have a women’s field featuring eight returners from last year’s Nationals, four previous national-title winners as well as two formerly D-I programs.

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

Pool A | Pool B | Pool C | Pool D

Portland UProar

Seeding: D1; overall no. 4
Power Ranking: #4
Path to Nationals: NW 1; defeated Whitman 15-1 in NW final
Past Nationals Appearances: 2017, 2019, 2021, 2022
Location: Portland, OR

Portland extends their active College Championships attendance streak to four in 2023 (one of four teams this year with four consecutive showings at the big dance), with hopes of bringing home a title after falling just short as the 2021 runner up. UPRoar has made the case that this year they’re ready to take another shot at the championship, showing off team DNA of positivity and fun along the way to high caliber competition play.

And it’s an impressive path the Portland team has walked on the road to Ohio. Remember early season concerns that Portland wouldn’t be able to fill the on-field work of 2022 OPOTY and graduate Jaclyn Wataoka? Those worries evaporated after seeing how thoroughly Portland won the west in 2023 from a D-III perspective. Not only did UPRoar dominate the Northwest region in the course of their season, but the team also took down numerous Southwest D-I teams, such as Santa Clara and Southern California. And to wit, their 15-1 win to take the regional crown came under poor weather conditions that UPRoar found their way to work within. As Portland’s captains describe the match, the team was “really dialed in” at the right time, with key defensive adjustments to capitalize against the Whitman strategic decisions, and it stands as a massive feather in the Portland team’s cap.

In terms of decorating the stat sheet, expect names such as 2023 Donovan nominee Makaley Krueger and Julia Hanly will be active on both sides of the disc and defending the skies and turf. Hana Elawady and Mia Taylor will likely be ringing up goals throughout the end zone as well, fed by the production of Hanly and Krueger as well as steady backfield presences like Mairead McManus and Christine Burchinal. For rookies to break out, keep an eye out for Annalise Korch and Hayden Ashley in handling and cutting capacities across the field.

2023 so far has shown just how much coaching staff Elise Hollowell, Rebecca Perston, and Daniel Young have helped guide a large and energetic team into a cohesive, flexible machine ready to take on the competition. Win or lose, Portland is doubtlessly looking forward to playing one more tournament with their 10-strong senior squad–but do expect them to show up hungry for much more than going home with a couple of wins.

Mount Holyoke Daisy Chain

Seeding: D2; overall no. 5
Power Ranking: #6
Path to Nationals: NE 3; lost second place final to Wellesley
Past Nationals Appearances: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022
Location: South Hadley, MA

Mount Holyoke Daisy Chain is ready to build on their legacy within the already bright constellation of New England D-III ultimate. Their 11-7 loss in the second game-to-go at New England Regionals was their closest match, a scant four points, of the season with the no.2 seed of College Championships, Wellesley. In fact, in sanctioned play this season Wellesley is the only D-III team Holyoke has lost to even after tangling with the likes of teams such as Lehigh Gravity and Vicious Circles–although it is worth noting that Daisy Chain never saw no.1 seed and in-region competition Middlebury in their route to the postseason.

What would it take to meet Middlebury and make a run for the title? It could come in a semifinal, if Daisy Chain comes out on top of the ‘Pool of Death’ first and reigns supreme. To get there will be a cross-team effort for a squad that has been training with the new-in-2023 coaching trio of Kate Powers, Justin Baumann, and Paige Howell. “Our coaches have helped us to develop strong systems this year, as well as encouraged us to play with confidence,” said the captains, adding they also instilled a fierce sense of joy and silliness side-by-side.

Within their systems, several players will likely create notable output on the field. One can’t discuss Daisy Chain without mentioning captain Gigi Downey, who brings an impressive resume to the field – 2023 Donovan nominee, 2022 All-American First Team, 2023 USA Ultimate U-24 team member, to name a handful – as a lethal handler/cutter combination. Watch for Jamie Eldridge and Molly Potts to also be active forces that other teams will need to reckon with, both dominant players in the air and contributing to Daisy Chain’s deep game. Expect rookies Charlotte Moynihan and Eliza Williams-Derry to appear on the stat sheet with defensive contributions and speed in the end zone.

Having already made it through the grueling New England region, Daisy Chain is on the verge of an opportunity to show just how well they can hang with the top tier teams in the D-III Women’s division, and will make a very dangerous seed for no.4 Portland and others in the Pool D play this weekend.

St. Olaf Vortex

Seeding: D3; overall no. 9
Power Ranking: #9
Path to Nationals: NC 3; defeated Winona State 10-6 in third place final at North Central Conference Championships
Past Nationals Appearances: 2011, 2012, 2014-2019, 2022
Location: Northfield, MN

St. Olaf Vortex has a lot going in their favor, and should–alongside their Pool D associates Mount Holyoke–be considered a team to watch for prime #UpsetAlert material. A few points of evidence building that favor: they’ve played the third-most sanctioned games of any College Championships women’s division team with 28 under their belts, meaning Vortex has a lot of real game time reps in Midwest conditions as a 2023 team. Next, they were in the midst of a very tight game with top seed Middlebury before lightning ended the match as a 9-8 Vortex loss at Needle in a Ho Stack in late March – a midseason indicator of being able to hang with the top tier talent in the division. Last but certainly not least, in the North Central conference championships Vortex adapted and converted a Saturday 9-4 loss to Winona State into a Sunday 10-6 game-to-go victory against the same team to take the final bid to the Big Show.

Before anyone–including Vortex–can start dreaming of bracket play upsets though, they need to play spoiler in Pool D first. Can St. Olaf mount a stronger campaign against a top tier team like no.4 Portland now in May, considering the 15-3 smackdown of a loss they suffered at the hands of no.3 Carleton at North Central Conference Championships? Will Vortex’s sizable roster have the legs needed to take whatever no.5 Mount Holyoke coaches throw St. Olaf’s way? Look for players like Leina Goto and Annika Challgren to rack up assists, Erica Collin to bring the pressure on defense plays, and Unni Isaksen to regularly find the end zone for the score as Vortex takes on their Pool D competition.

One final note: in 2022 a similarly-seeded Vortex did triumph from the dangerously difficult spot of D-III to win the pool and eventually made it to a semifinal berth. It will be quite the feat (and sure to be fun to watch) if St. Olaf can shake up Pool D again and duplicate their success a second year in a row.

Knox Alley Cats

Seeding: D4; overall no. 16
Power Ranking: Unranked
Path to Nationals: GL 1; defeated Wheaton in GL final
Past Nationals Appearances: 2022, 2023
Location: Galesburg, IL

2023 marks just the second time that Knox has qualified for a D-III College Championship berth, a sequel to their first trip in 2022. The hearty group from Galesburg has faced all the best (and worst) Midwest weather there is at events like Midwest Throwdown and Illinois Invite on their path to ending up on top of the small Great Lakes region. On the season their overall record of 3-1 in games with Wheaton (IL) demonstrates the close connections between intra-regional teams, as games were all determined by margins of two, three, or six points between the local rivals.

Knox is also in a unique position: while not every D-III team has a coach (hello, Middlebury), they are even more unique in that the Alley Cats are only expected to bring a roster 10 bodies strong going to the national event. Small numbers, but big heart and deep determination seem to be the unofficial Great Lakes regional motto are qualities likely to be on display as Knox plays to hang with the rest of Pool D.

Look for big contributions from players like Nola Walston, who threw the point responsible for sending the Alley Cats to Ohio amid many other scoring drives across the season. Similarly, Kali Christopher and Leak Wheatley will be among top goal generators for the Alley Cats, making connections with handler Sarah Strauss in the end zone.

Even if the Alley Cats don’t cause major waves in the tournament bracket, the College Championships will be an opportunity to create additional connectivity as Knox plays against cross-country competition and see where they stack up before the dust settles at the end of 2023.

  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).



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