D-III College Championships 2024: Final Preview (Women’s Div)

Portland hopes to cement their position among the division's elite with a first title while stalwarts Carleton look to ride victory over Middlebury to a fourth championship

Portland’s Mallori Boddy disregards the body to keep possession alive for UPRoar in the 2024 D-III College Championships. Photo: Sydney Kane – UltiPhotos.com

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After two days of play, just two teams remain in the fight for a title. #1 Portland UPRoar and #7 Carleton Eclipse each pushed aside all challengers thus far, setting up what should be an exciting title match. Carleton is one of the most storied programs in the division, reaching semis or better the past three Nationals and notching three titles throughout the 2010s. Portland, on the other hand, has been knocking on the door of a title in the post-pandemic era, reaching the final in 2021 in Norco and making deep bracket runs in 2022 and 2023 but falling short to eventual finalists each time. They’ll look to reward the star play of their two seniors and captains, Julianna “JJ” Galian and Mallori Boddy, with that elusive championship.

How Did They Get Here?

Portland entered the national tournament as the overall no.1 seed and have backed up the seeding with aplomb. The UPRoar squad cruised through pool play, recording a day best +30 point differential and never surrendering a break. The dominance continued in the bracket, putting overall no.2 Union to bed in quarters and playing their closest game yet in a 15-11 semifinal win over St. Olaf that never seemed in doubt as they from the opening score.

Carleton were similarly untouchable through pool play, distancing themselves to the tune of +29 and never allowing more than seven goals. If possible, they looked even more impressive in the bracket, thrashing a Wellesley squad 15-6 and appearing ready to do the same against a Middlebury team that thwarted their title hopes in 2023 as they jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Middlebury wouldn’t be put away so easily, roaring back to take a lead and keeping the game tied late at 13s. But the inspired play of Eclipse’s superstars finally powered the perennial powerhouses past the Pranksters, and they’re back in the final for the second year in a row.

The Superstar?

Portland's Julianna "JJ" Galian launches a flick huck against St. Olaf in the 2024 D-III Women's Ultimate Frisbee College Championships semifinal. Photo: Rudy Desort - UltiPhotos.com
Portland’s Julianna “JJ” Galian launches a flick huck against St. Olaf in the 2024 D-III College Championships semifinal. Photo: Rudy Desort – UltiPhotos.com

No team has yet found an answer for JJ Galian, Portland’s captain, Donovan nominee, and 2023 First Team All-American, and 2023 DPOTY first runner-up. She leads the division with 34 assists, seven clear of the player with second-most, and is tied for fifth in goals. She’s already cashed in an absurd 14G/34A/12D triple double, with three of those goals and 11 assists coming in Portland’s semifinal win. If you weren’t counting, that means she directly contributed to 14 of the team’s points. Hardly a slouch on defense, her explosiveness and ability to change direction allows her to lock down the opponent’s best players, be they cutters or handlers.

Carleton Eclipse's Rowan Dong surrounded by teammates during the 2024 D-III College Championships semifinal. Photo: Rudy Desort - UltiPhotos.com
Carleton Eclipse’s Rowan Dong surrounded by teammates during the 2024 D-III College Championships semifinal. Photo: Rudy Desort – UltiPhotos.com

The player most likely to challenge Galian for 2024 POTY is Carleton Eclipse’s Rowan Dong. The speedster is another three-tool player, also posting a triple double with 12G/15A/16D and instrumental to Eclipse’s success. When Carleton raced to a 4-1 early semifinal advantage it was all Dong, launching a backhand huck to the end zone one point, recording bookends the next, and breaking free deep for a goal right after, their first three scores of nine in the game. Fittingly, the final break to send Eclipse to the final was another Dong goal, breaking free in the end zone and beating their mark to the front cone. The two stars should square up for all the marbles, and who wins the fierce contest will likely the decide the team that comes out on top.

The Supporting Cast?

Galian can hardly throw all those assists to herself. Fellow captain Mallori Boddy has used her speed and field IQ to collect disc after disc in the end zone, reeling in five from Galian in the semifinal victory alone. Operating in the backfield are Hayden Ashley, 2023 ROTY first runner-up, and Audrey Stineman. Just a sophomore, Ashley has assumed an immense load and responsibility despite her youth. She was the primary handler during UPRoar’s semifinal berth in 2023 and tied Galian for the team’s most assists. Ashley’s positioning and field awareness garner her block after block, crucial to Portland’s ability to run away with games. Hana Elawady utilizes an endless motor to keep the UPRoar offense flowing, and first-year Mayanne Maxwell stepped into an on- and off-field leadership role with immediate impact, tallying eight goals in just her first trip to the big dance.

Carleton Eclipse's Frankie Saraniti collects one of her four goals in the semifinal of the 2024 D-III Women's Ultimate Frisbee College Championships. Photo: Rudy Desort - UltiPhotos.com
Carleton Eclipse’s Frankie Saraniti collects one of her four goals in the semifinal of the 2024 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rudy Desort – UltiPhotos.com

Dong is similarly complimented by the play of Frankie Saraniti, 2023 BPOTY first runner-up. Her speed and ability to read the game saw her setting up perfectly timed continuation cuts, and her height was as likely to deter a shot as to garner a block – she has 15 already on the weekend – crucial in Eclipse’s matchup with Middlebury as the turns began to pile up in the late going. Saraniti also epitomizes the sportsmanship central to D-III, often the center of Carleton’s rousing singing between points and the team’s spirit captain. Part of Eclipse’s young core is sophomore Maddy Brown, only trailing Dong and Saraniti in goals thus far. While she didn’t have the gaudy stat line of Dong (6G/3A/3D) or Saraniti (4G/3A/2D) in the final, all her stats came in clutch time to ice Middlebury: her textbook s-cut in the end zone to run onto a Dong huck drew Eclipse even at 13s, the following point she found herself in her own zip code on a deep cut to notch a break and reclaim the lead, and she got a hand on Middlebury’s pass to the middle of the field to earn Carleton the disc and recorded the hockey assist to finally surmount the three-time champs.

The Big Storyline?

Portland have looked unchallenged thus far, and that extends back to the regular season. Their only D-III losses the whole season came to fellow Northwest team Whitman, a squad they were able to dispatch on universe in the regional final after Sweets star Gemma Munck went down with an injury. Portland has led wire to wire in every contest, the hunger for their first title fueling them to put teams away quickly and efficiently.

“We’ve been dreaming about being back…in the finals since 2021 Norco,” said captain Mallori Boddy. “We’ve used that to motivate not only returners but also freshman coming in and being like ‘that’s the goal, that’s what we work for.'”

They’ve been thwarted in the past three Nationals appearances by eventual finalists, twice by champs Middlebury. A senior, this is likely Galian’s last year to power her squad to a title, an opportunity they dearly want to cash in.

Carleton have been similarly close to tasting success in the 2020s. In contrast to Portland’s season, however, their large losses to graduation in 2023 OPOTY Maya Kalmus, 2023 DPOTY Alex Rowell, and 2023 Second Team All-American Harper Brooks-Kahn garnered doubts as to their ability to again summit the division, epitomized back-to-back losses against fellow Nationals teams to open the 2024 DIII Grand Prix.

A shock universe point loss in pool play to Macalester at North Central Regionals pushed the narrative, and even their 15-2 dismantling of St. Olaf in the backdoor bracket could be chalked up to both teams already sealing their bids to Nationals. As opposed to Portland’s seeding atop pool A, Carleton entered Milwaukee as the no.7 seed, but they quickly proved they deserved much, much better.

Carleton’s ability to battle back against a fierce Middlebury side is the more impressive victory between the two teams, showcasing Eclipse’s ability to battle though adversity. Even with the mutual respect and love between the two familiar teams, finally beating the team that’s plagued their bracket dreams has to feel like an immense weight off Carleton’s back, leaving them free to reach the previously untouched heights in the 2020s.

Final Thoughts

Portland have to be favored as their run through Nationals echoes the dominant Middlebury teams of recent years. Questions will swirl about their ability to handle adversity as they did Carleton before Eclipse answered those by prevailing against the Pranksters. Galian and Dong have gotten everything they’ve wanted against teams thus far, and whether each side is capable of containing (you can’t shut them out) the stars and forcing their opponent to look for second and third options will be crucial to each team’s success. Fans hope for a close contest to rival the instant classic we were graced with in the late semifinal in a battle of the team that epitomizes the division’s best in Carleton and the team hoping to join them, Portland.

  1. 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 where she played with the Sneetches and her Master’s from the University of Maryland.

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