The UCSB men’s ultimate Frisbee team prefers to be called the Black Tide instead of the Gauchos, but these days the team has got a new name it hopes people will soon be calling it: National Champion.

Santa Barbara will begin its run at a national title this coming Friday when it participates in preliminary pool play in Devon, Massachusetts. The pool play has no effect on tournament play, but gives each team a chance to scout the competition. Tournament play will begin on Saturday with quarterfinal and semifinal matches. On Sunday, play will move to Tufts University in Boston for the national championship game.

“We’re fired up,” UCSB graduate Dan Schneider said. “Boston is a great town. It’ll be an awesome venue to play at. There was a lot of pressure for us to make the national tournament, but now that we’ve made it, I think it’ll all work out. Off course there’s pressure on us to win, but we’re really committed and we’ve got a lot of confidence.”

It has been two and a half weeks since UCSB qualified for the UPA national championships by winning its regional tournament. The waiting has not been easy for the Black Tide, but has afforded the team time to prepare for the challenge that awaits it on the East Coast. The squad has been practicing five days a week and spending up to four hours a day honing its skills.

“We practice so much more than any other team we play,” senior Kevin Buchanan said. “It really gives us an advantage out there. Our second-year players are just as good as fourth-year players on other teams.”

Santa Barbara has toned down and shortened practice in recent days though, hoping to keep its players fresh for the tournament. The Black Tide has instead begun working on game plans and preparing themselves mentally for their opponents.

“We’ve had discussions about strategies,” Buchanan said. “We’ve been talking about how to ration out our energy during the games so we don’t get tired too quickly. We’ve also talked about matchups and how we should handle our substitution so everyone can stay fresh.”

Winning the national championship will be far from easy for UCSB. The two teams with the best chance to upset the top-seeded Black Tide are second-seed Colorado and fourth-seed Carlton. Although Santa Barbara has already defeated the Colorado MamaBirds twice this season, the last coming in the form of a 15-12 victory in the UPA regional tournament finals, the team believes the MamaBirds are the biggest hurdle in the Black Tide’s road to a championship.

“I’m looking forward to playing,” sophomore Taylor Cascino said. “Colorado will be tough, and there’s been a lot of talk about Carlton. We don’t know too much about the East Coast teams in the tournament. There are a lot of unknowns. We’re confident though. I think we’re gonna win.”

Capturing the national title was a goal UCSB set for itself at the beginning of this season. During the course of the year, Santa Barbara has put in countless hours working towards that goal. Now as the Black Tide prepares for the payoff to its season’s worth of sweat and sacrifice, all the work it has put into this campaign seems more than worthwhile.

“Winning the national championship would be a great accomplishment,” senior co-captain Nick Fiske said. “That’s a high you ride for a whole year.”