D-III College Championships 2023: Pool Play Recap (Men’s)

Recapping all the excitement from day one at the Men's D-III College Championships!

Rochester score past a bidding Richmond defender in pool play of D-III Nationals. Photo: Rude Desort - UltiPhotos.com
Rochester score past a bidding Richmond defender in pool play of the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rude Desort – UltiPhotos.com

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2023 college ultimate season is 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.

Sixteen of the best D-III teams in the nation have gathered in Columbus, and after one day of play and 24 games only 12 remain in title contention. With just one pool going to chalk, we’ve got a lot to break down. Below we present the main storyline from each pool, as well as everything else you need to know going into day two. Make sure you’re following along on the tournament event page so you don’t miss any of the action.

Pool A

Colorado College Remind Us Why They’re the One Seed

In case anybody out there was questioning the validity of Colorado College Wasabi’s status as the overall top seed this weekend, put those questions to rest. Wasabi were in complete control of every game they played, and the scary thing for the rest of the division is that they looked like they still had another gear to reach. The nature of being the top seed in a tournament is that you can’t overachieve in any way, and there’s plenty of room to underwhelm. Today, however, Colorado College looked every bit the part.

Colorado College flexed their depth, getting contributions from the whole roster and keeping their top end fresh for bracket play: fifteen different players scored goals for Wasabi today. But there were some standouts: Oliver Kraft led the team with 11 assists while playing on the D-line, while Oliver van Linder often looked like the best player on an O-line that also featured POTY candidate Lincoln Grench.

Elsewhere in the Pool

  • Kenyon SERF held seed and proved they can hang with the top teams. Led by Owen Hevly and Ethan Wagner, Kenyon blew out the bottom two seeds in the pool and stuck with Wasabi, eventually losing by four.
  • Berry and Occidental were a clear tier below the other two, with Berry winning their matchup in the final round of pool play to qualify for the bracket.

Pool B

St. Olaf Tell the Division to Wake Up

While talking to St. Olaf star Will Brandt during the team’s bye, he said, “Everyone is sleeping on us, for no reason.” The Berzerkers certainly played today like a team trying to prove a point, and they have to be taken seriously as a title contender.

The sedative causing people to sleep on St. Olaf was the loss of Luke Bleers, but the Berzerkers had plenty of players step up to fill his spot. Matt Kompelien and Eric Crosby Lehmann, in particular, both stepped into much bigger roles than last season and handled the extra responsibilities with aplomb. The two combined for 10 goals, 10 assists, and 7 blocks, and their contributions on the field extended well past their box score numbers. Champion-level teams have a “next man up” mentality, and the Berzerkers exhibited that today.

Elsewhere in the Pool

  • The rest of the pool went to seed.
  • Williams WUFO were the second best team and got major performances from Danny Klein and Charlie Tantum.
  • Navy’s vaunted D-line wasn’t able to consistently generate breaks, relegating them to third in the pool.
  • Colorado Mines’ Cinderella story came to an end.

Pool C

Today, We Spell Grinnell With One L

While Middlebury took the top spot in the pool (in line with their no. 3 seed), the most interesting line coming out of Pool C is no. 10 Grinnell’s campaign to lock up the second spot of the pool with a 2-1 record. With a 14-13 nail-biter over Lewis & Clark Bacchus and a 13-11 victory over Butler Big Dog, The Grinnellephants broke out of their C3 seed to make prequarters with a statement.

Grinnell’s strong energy began in their first round match of the day, battling back and forth with the Middlebury Pranksters before falling 13-10. From there, the Grinnellephants’ path through the pool mirrored the team’s approach to the weekend, as described by coaches Rebecca Crown and Nick Culver: “our intensity, our level of play, is only going to build every single game going forward.” Among the engines driving the level of play is Donovan nominee Jacob Cowan led the team in both goals and assists, as well as taking and running well with physical matchups driven on the ground and in the air. Regularly finding the end zone were Noah Fehr and William Norry; Norry also ran up the leaderboard of assists, sitting just behind Cowan in overall volume.1

Elsewhere in the Pool

  • Chalk was the name of the game for the top and bottom of the pool.
  • Middlebury won all games by a margin of three or more points in every matchup, the foot fully on the gas pedal and production distributed across the top lines of the team.
  • Lewis & Clark faltered in their game against Grinnell but persevered against Butler, trailing 5-9 before roaring back for a 14-9 win built on a staggering nine point unanswered run.

Pool D

Whitman Can’t Jump

The fourth-seeded Whitman Sweets went 0-3 on Saturday. Their 13-11 loss to the Rochester Piggies means they will be competing in the 13th Place Round Robin tomorrow. The Sweets couldn’t seem to string anything together as teams adapted to their huck-heavy play style and were able to stifle their downfield movement and stunt the Sweets’ offense. Their game against the zone-heavy Missouri S&T Miner Threat made these issues very clear. Starting the day with this 15-8 loss was not what the Sweets needed to jumpstart their Nationals. By their third game against the Richmond Spidermonkeys, Whitman were playing for highlights and pride; Richmond had clinched the pool with a universe-point win over Miner Threat. While they may have gotten some highlights, they still dropped the game 13-11.

To say Whitman underperformed would be an understatement. While winning the pool was up in the air, we predicted the top three teams would make it to prequarters, resulting in an pretty uninteresting Pool of Death. Instead, the Rochester Piggies make a return to the bracket for the second time since 2021 to tie, or improve, on their program best 12th-place finish. The Piggies have a formidable opponent in Kenyon SERF tomorrow morning, but could throw together another upset if they catch a team flat-footed.

Elsewhere in the Pool

  • Missouri S&T Miner Threat took second in Pool D with wins over Rochester and Whitman. Tall and athletic, Miner Threat put great defensive pressure on teams, forcing opponents to grind through tough points and bringing Richmond to universe point. Some standout players: Ray Mauntel, Sam Papin, and Michael Lahmeyer. S&T likely have the upper hand against Berry tomorrow, after which they’d face a challenging quarterfinal game against Middlebury.
  • The Richmond Spidermonkeys won Pool D after dominant performances in two games and a tight win in one. They struggled early against both Rochester and Whitman,2 but were able to pull ahead and win in the second half. The Spidermonkeys grappled with S&T’s physical defense, but took home the second-round win on universe point. Henry Groves, Max Caputo, and Calvin Ciorba should continue to make an impact into the bracket. Richmond has one of the larger, and deeper, rosters in the tournament, so look for them to exploit these numbers as they enter their quarterfinal game against the winner of Grinnell/Navy.

  1. Check out our interview with Jacob Cowan and William Norry after their universe point victory over Lewis & Clark. 

  2. Ultiworld subscribers can watch Whitman and Richmond’s pool play game in our video library. 

  1. Michael Ball
    Michael Ball

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

  2. Chris Cassella
    Chris Cassella

    Chris Cassella is from Orange, Connecticut, and started playing pick-up at the age of 11. He is a graduate of the University of Richmond, where he played four years with the Richmond Spidermonkeys. While at Richmond, Chris won a national championship (2017), two High Tide titles (2019, 2020), and the “worst decisions award” four years in a row. He is a current graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, where he played for one season. You can follow him on Twitter (@nerdyboypolis) to see his daily takes about zone defense, political science, and I-35 traffic jams.

  3. 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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