Not winning a national championship will not mar the great season the UCSB men’s ultimate frisbee club team had this year.
The Black Tide was defeated 15-10 in the semifinals of the UPA National Tournament in Boston this past Saturday by Carleton College, the eventual National Champions. The closely contested match was decided by a few critical plays. Unfortunately for the Black Tide, all the big plays of the day went Carleton’s way.
“We played good all around but no one had an outstanding performance,” senior co-captain Nick Fiske said. “We had some miscues at bad times that led to some really dramatic swings in the game.”
Carleton senior Alex Nord played like someone on a mission against UCSB. Nord caught seven goals and threw for three. The 6’5″ senior had a noticeable advantage over the shorter Santa Barbara defenders.
“[Carleton’s] offense was really focused on getting it to [Nord],” Fiske said. “Whatever we did on defense, they would just find a way to throw him the frisbee. They did a good job of isolating him one on one.”
The Black Tide began the UPA National Tournament weekend with several quality wins, however. UCSB defeated North Carolina 15-11 and Harvard 15-7 in pool play on Friday. Santa Barbara also took a very close match against defending champion Brown on Friday, 15-14.
“The game against Brown was a test of desire,” junior Kevin Buchanan said. “We didn’t play as well as we could have, but we really wanted to win. I think that’s what it was about, who wanted to win more.”
UCSB faced Michigan the next day in the quarterfinals. Michigan had trouble containing the Black Tide offense and had an equally hard time scoring against Santa Barbara’s smothering zone defense. UM attempted to keep the game close by continuously going for the big play, throwing deep down field whenever they could. The Black Tide, however, prevailed in convincing fashion, 15-9.
“We played a great game against Michigan,” UCSB graduate Dan Schneider said. “They had one of the better players in the country on the team, but I think we did a great job stopping him. We stuffed them cold.”
UCSB finished the season with a final record of 29-2 on the year. Although Santa Barbara did not get the national title it coveted, the players have no reason to hang their heads: the Black Tide still took home the UPA Regional Tournament. They were ranked number one in the nation and played well enough to get into the National Semifinals.
“There were a lot of great moments,” Schneider said. “It was a good year. Any year you make it to the final four is a good year. I think the fact that we were disappointed that we didn’t win the title is the mark of a championship team. We had a hell of a year.”
Instead of dwelling on what could have been this year, UCSB has already started looking forward to what can be next season. With a large majority of its players returning, Santa Barbara should once again be a national power in ultimate frisbee.
“A lot of our younger players – second and first year guys – learned a lot about the game and what it takes to do well this year,” Fiske said. “I think the experience will make us very good next year. I think we’re going to be an incredible team next year.”