D-III College Championships 2024: Day Two Centering Pass (Women’s Div.)

Portland, Carleton set to clash in the 2024 D-III final, hoping to cap impressive tournament performances

Middlebury and Carleton Eclipse faced off in an instant classic 2024 D-III Women's Ultimate Frisbee College Championships semifinal. Photo: Sydney Kane - UltiPhotos.com
Middlebury and Carleton Eclipse faced off in an instant classic 2024 D-III College Championships semifinal. Photo: Sydney Kane – UltiPhotos.com

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Welcome to Centering Pass, Ultiworld’s articles covering tournament news and event stories you need to know.

MILWAUKEE, WI – A close day of bracket play saw the four pool winners – some of the most storied teams in the division – advance to semifinals in Portland, Carleton, Middlebury, and St. Olaf. One dominant showing and one instant classic later, and then there were two. Read on for the top level stories from the day and stay tuned to our 2024 D-III College National Championships event page for updates, as well as streaming links for the final showdown!

Middlebury vs. Carleton Goes Down to the Wire

Out of the gate, the rematch of last year’s final looked like it might go the way of Carleton’s four other tournament beatdowns as Eclipse jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Rowan Dong was fearless in the early going, 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. Responding to the frequent deep shots, both teams whipped out cup zones to try and slow offensive movement to great effect, with Middlebury’s forcing the first turns out of the Eek offense.

The Pranksters couldn’t capitalize on the first chances, but the continued defensive pressure granted enough turns that Middlebury clawed their way back into the contest. The messy play benefitted a Pranksters side who had to mount multiple comebacks on day one to clinch their pool compared to an Eclipse team who were barely tested, only allowing three breaks through quarters and running up a +38 score differential. The Vermont-based team took their first lead at 7-6, marking the first time Carleton trailed in a game the entire tournament.

Middlebury’s Keziah Wilde was as good as advertised, calmly marshaling the offense as Carleton switched between zone and person alongside fellow handler Sarah Rifkin, using her height and length to swat discs out of bounds, and of course putting up hucks with the weight and shape to lead a bevy of receivers like Harriet Dahlstrom and Cece Rhyneer to space.

The multi-turn points began to pile up as Carleton attempted to outrun Middlebury’s cup with fast-paced play that veered into rushed decisions towards creeping defenders lest Eek end up trapped on the sideline. Middlebury garnered double-digit break chances through the first half; that they only turned three into scores is a testament to Eek’s defense off a turn, epitomized by Dong and the lanky speedster Frankie Saraniti, who combined for five blocks.

The two pillars of the division seemed destined for universe with Dong sending an OI backhand crossfield to Maddy Brown to knot the game up at 13-13. Tensions mounted as Brown got open in acres of space on the ensuing point to retake the lead for Carleton after Middlebury airmailed a huck to no one. With the pressure on and needing to score twice, the Pranksters instead turned it in two throws as Brown got a hand on it in the middle space.1 Facing a short field, Saraniti found Dong at the front cone to send Eclipse back to the national final and ended the Pranksters’ hopes of a fourpeat in an instant classic.

Despite the grand stage and intense battle, the game remained spirited between the two familiar squads. Both teams were cheered on by their men’s counterparts who’d already been eliminated from title contention. In a touching display, the men’s teams combined to form a tunnel and guide players from both semifinalists off the field.

 

Universe Games Dot Thrilling Prequarter Round

Three of four games went to universe point to kick off a competitive day of bracket play, with the lower seed ultimately prevailing in each contest.

Macalester and Union bounced back after falling to second in their pools, with Macalester taking half 8-7 and maintaining that buffer to the final score, 13-12, against Lewis & Clark. Pursesnatchers’ Claire Lee had another massive game, tallying eight goals and seven blocks to bring her totals to 22 and 33 on the weekend, while Else Gerber traded her finisher’s hat to get in on the assisting action with four dishes of her own. In her place ten different players recorded a goal for the Pursesnatchers, with Madeleine Salunga, Sophie Diliberti, and Dorthea Trelstad Pi-Sunyer the only ones to rack up multiple goals.

Meanwhile, Union fended off new kids on the block Davenport, preventing the Panthers from recording their first bracket win in their first Nationals appearance despite Davenport’s early 3-1 lead. At 6-5, Union trailing, the Jillz rattled off three in a row to take half, and boarded another train when down 10-9 to take the 11-10 win. Jillz rookie phenom Anna Forbes played a perfect 3G/2D/0T game, bringing her tournament total to 9G/6D/0T. The handling triad of Kathryn Haynes, Victoria Green, and Claire Ward combined for seven assists and eight blocks, and downfield contributor Courtney Lawson used her speed to wind up just outside the end zone to get in on the assist action. Panthers’ Lanie O’Neill continued her dominance despite the loss, throwing six goals, while fellow standouts Leilani Lepe and Yasmin Bañares each found the end zone three times.

Haverford/Bryn Mawr and Mount Holyoke competed in the third universe point game of the round, though it didn’t appear it would be that close late in the match. Trailing 6-5, the Sneetches punched in six in a row to take a commanding 11-6 lead, inching closer to quarters at 13-8. Both teams employed zones as the wind blew in a steady upwind/downwind, but the Haverford/Bryn Mawr cup was suffocating, forcing swing after swing until an over-the-top look or huck shot was eventually attempted and frequently swatted down by the Sneetches’ tall defender Phoebe Hulbert.

Daisy Chain’s Charlotte Moynihan and Jamie Eldridge were complementary fiery and cool presences on the field, occasionally connecting with Eva Taberski and Eliza Williams-Derry downfield, but the top-heavy Daisy Chain roster didn’t appear able to run with the deeper and much larger Sneetch team. The Sneetches looked set for quarters, even as Holyoke stopped the bleeding with a hold at 13-9, but then Daisy Chain punched in a break…and another…and another…until the score was tied at 13s, cap on and game to 14.

The Sneetches received on universe going downwind and it seemed like it might be a classic turn-filled universe point when Eldridge used every inch of her height to swat a pass. But, to Eldridge’s utter dismay, the deflection sent the disc directly into Celia Nicholson’s waiting arms. Haverford/Bryn Mawr called a timeout to collect themselves, and out of the break Morton calmly broke the mark for their last assist of the match to Celia’s sister, Sonia Nicholson.

“That felt awesome,” beamed Sonia. “It was exactly what we planned to do and what we talked about in our timeout, and to capitalize on that was really satisfying.”

Haverford/Bryn Mawr got contributions from up and down the roster, including fresh legs in May Courtney who flew in after graduating yesterday. Olivia Davis didn’t light up the stat sheet, but her speedy and relentless cutting provided a crucial release valve for the handling corps of Hulbert, Morton, and Zoe Costanza. Costanza, who now leads the tournament in goals with 20 and is tied for ninth in assists with 15, had a thrilling matchup with Moynihan as the two speedy stars battled for cuts to the cone and frequently swatted any errant pass intended for the other.

“It speaks to how good Holyoke was that they had 12 players and grinded out a really tough game,” said Sneetch captain and Donovan nominee Amy Tse. “So many props to them, that’s a really impressive score.”

Notes From Around the Complex

  • The closest game of the quarterfinal round belonged to Haverford/Bryn Mawr and Middlebury, who faced off for the third consecutive time in as many Nationals. The Sneetches gave the eventual champs their closest game in 2022, also a quarters match, but were easily put away in pool play last year. This contest proved to be the tightest yet – Haverford/Bryn Mawr were gunning for revenge and looked like they might get it, leading 6-5 early and going blow for blow with the champs. Costanza, Hulbert and Morton once again paved the way for the Sneetches, but Middlebury’s deeper roster was able to clamp in the downfield space and force short turns with their zone. The Sneetches broke late to bring it within one at 12-11, but a clean efficient hold, capped by Harriet Dohlstrom’s third goal, ended the Sneetches’ semis aspirations, 14-12.
  • Julianna “JJ” Galian was dominant in Portland’s semifinal win over St. Olaf, recording three goals and eleven assists to rack up 14 of UPRoar’s 15 total goals. Fellow UPRoar captain Mallori Boddy was on the receiving end of five of those assists. Galian frequently took the Leina Goto matchup on defense and her stifling reset defense stymied the Vortex offense. Goto was one of the few St. Olaf players able to reliably crash and break Portland’s cup zone, and without her as a release valve the Vortex flow halted on the sideline.
  • Occidental got their first win of the tournament in consolation play on universe point against Richmond after trailing 4-1 early and 7-5 late. WAC scored three in a row to force universe and, needing a break to win, came up with a clutch catch D to deny the Redhots’ victory. Occidental punted for field position, were rewarded with a quick turn, and sent a prayer of a huck to the end zone that floated so long a pile formed underneath. WAC’s Audrey AlQatami, with a skying grab that would put the UFA to shame, came down with it over the pack to seal the improbable comeback. The win matches Occidental’s performance from 2023 Nationals, when their lone win also came in the 13th place round robin.

  1. Talk about clutch: Maddy Brown recorded all three of her stats in the game’s last three points and had the final hockey assist 

  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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