College Update: QCTU, D-III Grand Prix Headline Packed Weekend

Recapping eight tournaments that fielded top teams in every division, plus a look at the upcoming Presidents' Day Weekend

North Carolina’s Rutledge Smith lays out to save a deflected disc against Penn State in the men’s final of Queen City Tune Up 2024. Photo: Brian Whittier

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2024 college 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.

Throughout the spring season, we’ll publishing a bite-sized weekly recap of the action across the college division. This will serve as a supplement to our standard tournament reporting and offer a high-level look at the latest happenings and the biggest stories of the week.

Want your tournament listed? Submit a recap of what happened right here.

D-I Women’s Division

This past weekend was pretty eventful for the D-I Women’s division, with 20 teams traveling down to South Carolina for the long-awaited Queen City Tune Up. While no one was betting on #1 North Carolina losing any games this weekend, viewers were searching for the team that could be the Pleiades’ closest contender.

Same Story Different Font

#1 North Carolina Pleiades added six wins under their belt at Queen City Tune Up, but not without a fight. On Saturday, UNC, #3 Vermont Ruckus, #5 Carleton Syzygy, and #11 Tufts EWO swept their respective pools and dominated in their quarterfinal matchups.. While Carleton’s top defenders Tori Gray and Audrey Parrot were able to cause some chaos for UNC’s O-line, Erica Birdsong and Theresa Yu were able to push back and lead Pleiades to victory. However, this loss for Carleton in no way dismisses them as a challenger to UNC’s four year winning streak – it firmly establishes them among the teams capable of ending the historic run.

Subscribers can relive all the action in our QCTU Day One and Day Two recaps.

Around the Division

The College Women’s Huckfest in Huntsville, Alabama brought together seven teams. Hosts Alabama-Huntsville Terror secured the first-place win, beating Union in the final, despite losing to Jillz on Day One.

The President’s Day Qualifiers were canceled, leaving it unclear who, between UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, and various B and C teams, will earn the final spot to PresDay this coming weekend.

Looking Ahead

Presidents’ Weekend is looking to be jam-packed with tournaments happening all over the country.

The Commonwealth Cup will kick off Weekend 1, hosting D-I, D-III, and B-teams in Axton/Martinville, Virginia.

Tulsa, Oklahoma will play host to a mix of D-I and D-III teams at Dust Bowl, most notably 2023 Nationals attendee #17 UT Dallas Whiplash.

A swathe of top teams from the Southwest, Northwest, and South Central will converge in San Diego for the annual three-day Presidents’ Day Invite. An eight-hour jaunt north, Santa Clara will host their own President’s Day tournament, featuring a bevy of Southwest teams.

D-I Men’s Division

Darkside Win Again at Queen City

The teams who played at the Queen City Tune Up bookended the whole range of our Top 25 teams in the division, from #1 North Carolina Darkside to #25 Penn State Spank. Seeded at the top, UNC, #16 NC State Alpha, Penn State, and #18 Alabama-Huntsville Nightmares dominated their respective pools, pushed through quarters, and were paired to face each other in the semifinals. UNC and Penn State faced off in the final, with Darkside taking the win at 15-9 and improving their season record to 12-0 across two tournaments. Despite the loss, Penn State earned respect with their impressive fight and, crucially, notched a key win over NC State in semis to get to the game. In the other semifinal, UAH put up the closest game against the champs all weekend, mirroring the strong 15-12 result they hung on #4 UMass Zoodisc at Warm Up. They remain a program on the rise.

For a deeper dive, read up on our QCTU recaps from Day One and Day Two. Subscribers have access to many of the highlight-filled games in our video library.

Around the Division

In Franklin Township, East Coast schools brought the heat to the New Jersey Warmup, which was dominated by Temple Alert in both pool and bracket play.

Though Day Two of Big D in Little D was canceled, Oklahoma Apes of Wrath made a statement on Day One, rising above their six seed with back-to-back universe point wins over Rice Cloud 9 and North Texas UNT.

A split D-I/D-III UMass Invite saw Massachusetts’ B team narrowly lose to 2023 D-III Nationals attendee Williams in the final, 13-11, after claiming the pool and topping Vermont B in a battle of the B teams semifinal.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire tried to stake out a position for themselves among D-III and Minnesota’s B and C teams but ended up holding seed at the Ugly Dome round robin.

Three days of play at the Golden Triangle Invitational saw Illinois take home the title, bageling Auburn 7-0 in the final. Rise notched close wins over Auburn, Tennessee-Chattanooga and D-III’s Berry en route to an undefeated tournament victory, while Auburn, to their credit, only lost to Illinois.

The following Golden Triangle Invitational recap courtesy of Dawson Archer

Under the lights on Friday, Berry fought off a surging Kennesaw State, and Mississippi State came back from a 10-7 deficit to beat LSU 12-11 on universe.

Saturday morning began chalky with the exceptions of Auburn Aetos, who were able to break away late from Vanderbilt 11-9, and Mississippi State Dark Horse, who beat D-II’s #11 Berry Bucks 11-6. Round 2 saw Berry bounce back and take Purdue Undue to universe, a tight multi-turnover point, where Purdue held to win. Harding Apocalypse, the twelfth seed entering the tournament, meanwhile shocked three seed Vanderbilt Armada 11-9, and Union Jaxx upset Kennesaw State Parliament 11-7. Berry then staved off an opportunistic MSU-B team while the rest of the games went to seed, with Auburn falling to Illinois Rise 9-7 in a precursor to the final.

Weather wreaked havoc on the schedule, clipping the final and canceling the third place game due to lightning. The Tournament Director only had five minutes to set up bracket play, leading to some funky matchups.

Due to said scheduling mess, Auburn played Mississippi State in a matchup that should have happened in quarters, winning 13-8. Prequarters had few surprises elsewhere, but quarters started off with a bang as Berry took half 8-3 against Illinois. Illinois tightened up lines and eventually won 12-10. Tennessee-Chattanooga Swamp Donkeys and Alabama Yellow Hammer went blow for blow in a game that never saw either team get more than two scores ahead, with UTC eventually wining on universe 13-12 under the guidance of captains Jared Beazley and Braden Beebe. Auburn and Purdue both took care of quarters handily to meet in semis, with Auburn led by a strong O-line featuring Luke Thomas, John Michael Williamson, and Carson Owen.

Semis brought two tight games. Illinois broke early and clung to that lead, beating Tennessee-Chattanooga 13-11. In the other semi, Auburn went up early, and injuries hampered Purdue late, sidelining Eric Palia, who was key in fending off teams for Purdue earlier in the tournament. Purdue, to their credit, broke multiple times to force universe, but Auburn held to win, 12-11. The final saw Illinois rattle off seven straight to get to half quickly. Lightning caused the cessation of play, and Auburn never got a chance to bring put one on the board.

Despite the weather, great spirit and awesome competition lent the feeling every team had a chance to win the whole thing. That said, Illinois was the class act. Led by Eli Artemakis, Trevor Scott, and Tim Sheehan, they completely handled business. Other notable performances include Berry’s Collin Hill and Mississippi State’s Drew Laird. Expect to see many of these teams surge as the year goes on.

Looking Ahead

Commonwealth Cup Weekend 1 is coming up quickly and will feature the B-teams from top schools: North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Pittsburgh. And a huge cohort of ranked and nearly-ranked squads will be shuffling to California for the Presidents’ Day Invite tournament in La Jolla.

Oklahoma Apes of Wrath will look to continue their winning streak and Harding Apocalypse their upset run at Dust Bowl, where they’ll take on D-I teams St. Louis Archangel and Nebraksa-Lincoln Cornfed, among others, and D-III teams with their sights set on Nationals in Truman State and Missouri S&T.

D-III Women’s Division

The results of this past weekend’s D-III Grand Prix were unexpected, to say the least. The round-robin style tournament may have had you yearning for more #2 Portland UPRoar versus #3 Carleton Eclipse action, but instead, you got UPRoar versus #6 Whitman Sweets in the final. They say it’s hard to beat a team twice, and it might be even harder when those games are back-to-back, but the Whitman Sweets prevailed and took home the Grand Prix title. Stars like Gemma Munck laid everything out on the field to prove their under-raters wrong, and it paid off. The Grand Prix left us with some paradoxical results in the various combinations of the Whitman, Portland, and Carleton matchups. It’s safe to say Whitman may have won this battle, but they have yet to win the war. Check out our tournament recap for a deeper dive.

Around the Division

#14 Union made a remarkable appearance at the College Women’s Huckfest in Huntsville, Alabama, and came second to hosts Alabama-Huntsville, whom they initially beat on Day One of the tournament.

Looking Ahead

D-III teams abound at Commonwealth Cup Weekend 1. Of particular interest to D-III enthusiasts will be #20 Catholic Nun Betta, early favorites to once represent the Atlantic Coast at Nationals, and the newest school offering ultimate scholarships, Davenport University, who have yet to take the field this season but have garnered intrigue for their potential. A strong performance could vault them into the Top 25, potentially knocking out current #25 and fellow Commonwealth Cup attendees Cedarville.

#19 Claremont Greenshirts will take the otherwise D-I-filled field at PresDay. While they’re a longshot to rack up many wins, the added experience can only be a boon in the typically one-bid Southwest Region. Not to be outdone, Claremont’s regional rivals #17 Occidental WAC will similarly be the lone D-III rep at the Santa Clara University President’s Day.

Several D-III teams will also be looking to shake off the rust at the Dust Bowl.

D-III Men’s Division

The D-III Grand Prix gave us a first look at exclusive D-III action. #9 Whitman and #10 Lewis & Clark made their first appearances in 2024 and were seeded 2 and 1, respectively. The two tournament favorites met each other on Day One, with Lewis & Clark taking the win. In the background, Xaxier was chugging along, and despite their brutal 13-4 loss to Whitman, B.L.O.B were able to secure a shock 10-8 upset win over Lewis & Clark. All teams won some and lost some, making it unclear who truly was the topdog in Portland.

Catch up on the action with Day One and Day Two recaps, and select streamed games in our tournament library.

Around the Division

Back in Minneapolis, Minnesota, #2 St. Olaf and #12 Carleton CHOP dominated in the Ugly Dome. While both teams left the round-robin tournament with 4-1 records. Carleton was able to continue their strong start to the year with a 13-10 win against a regional rival in St. Olaf, a team many have pegged for a semis run at Nationals, if not a finals berth.

Columbus hosted the Golden Triangle Invitational where Union made a quarterfinal run in bracket play, despite a win and loss on Day One of the tournament. #11 Berry had a similar run, going 1-2 in pool play and notching a win over LSU to make it to quarters, where they fell 12-10 to Illinois.

In Amherst, Massachusetts, D-I and D-III college teams from the East coast were cordially invited to the UMass Invite. #6 Williams swept in pool play and beat Massachusetts B 13-11 to take the tournament.

Rice Cloud 9 and Dallas Vortex put the D-III in the Big D in Little D, with Rice marking quarters after holding tight to second in their pool, only losing on universe to a surging Oklahoma team. Day Two play was canceled, which would’ve pit Rice and Dallas against a Texas triad in Texas Tech, Texas State, and Texas-Arlington.

Looking Ahead

We finally get a look at the newest scholarship school on the block, #25 Davenport University, as they take the field at Commonwealth Cup Weekend 1. The Atlantic Coast and Ohio Valley also field teams who will hope to battle for a spot in the game-to-go in the Series in Davidson and Elon, and Messiah and Cedarville, respectively. We just saw OV’s Xavier make a name for themselves at the Grand Prix; if one of Messiah or Cedarville have a strong performance against the AC teams seeded above them, we could be talking about a two-bid OV sooner rather than later.

Dust Bowl will pit 2023 Nationals attendees #7 Missouri S&T Miner Threat against South Central regionmates #25 Truman State JujiTSU. It should be a good litmus test for a Truman State team hoping to rise above last year’s Regionals finish and challenge for a spot in the game-to-go.

  1. Raquel Alegria
    Raquel Alegria

    Originally from Los Angeles and a current senior at Wellesley College, Raquel is majoring in Economics and minoring in Psychology. Over the past two years, she has been playing for the Wellesley Whiptails and has developed a strong passion for the sport of ultimate.

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