The nearly perfect #1 UCSB men’s ultimate Frisbee club team, nicknamed the Black Tide, will be taking its 26-1 regular-season record to the UPA Regional Tournament this weekend in San Diego.
The Gauchos have compiled a tremendous year with impressive wins over Harvard, Yale, Michigan and Cal. An especially important victory for Santa Barbara this season, though, was a 15-8 win over #2 Colorado in March. Despite the success the Black Tide has experienced already, graduate co-captain Dwight Hines feels the team is far from fulfilling its season goals.
“It’s obviously been a good year,” Hines said. “We’ve still got a lot to do though. All our energy and thoughts are focused on the tournament. We still aren’t finished yet.”
UCSB will be playing at San Diego in the regional qualifying tournament this coming Saturday. The top two teams from the qualifier will advance to the UPA National Tournament. To prepare themselves for tournament play, the Gauchos have increased the number of days they practice a week from five to six.
“We’ve spent a lot of time training to get conditioned,” senior Kevin Buchanan said. “We’ve tapered off this week to give everybody some rest and spent time talking about our game plans. I think we’re going to do the same things we’ve done all year for the tournament.”
Conditioning and depth have been assets to Santa Barbara this entire season. The Black Tide boasts a 22-man roster and regularly plays 16 to 17 players a game.
“The depth of the team has really been an advantage for us,” junior co-captain Nick Fiske said. “We play a full rotation even against the best teams. Our players don’t get as tired as other teams get during a game.”
UCSB’s large roster has also provided the team with another windfall. Unlike previous seasons, the Gauchos have been able to divide up their players into offensive and defensive lines in practice. Buchanan believes this new wrinkle has helped the team greatly in game situations.
Santa Barbara will need all its assets this weekend when it travels to San Diego. The UPA Regional Qualifying Tournament has a new structure this season, a format that Hines thinks may give the Black Tide trouble. In years past, tournament play began each day with teams participating in round-robin action, which had no bearing on the previously decided seedings. These extra games placed a premium on conditioning, something on which UCSB prides itself. But the new structure eliminates the round-robin portion of the tourney, which benefits Gaucho opponents.
“We’re so much better conditioned,” Hines said. “In the past, when we played the semi-final game, the other team would already be tired. Our conditioning and the depth of the team were a really big advantage for us. This year, I think the teams will be a lot more rested and endurance will matter a lot less.”
Nonetheless, the Gauchos remain confident that they can claim the tournament title.
“Everybody’s excited,” Fiske said. “We’ve had a remarkable season. We’ve put together a really good team.”