In a dominating performance in their first event of the year, UCSB’s Black Tide rolled over all opponents only to fall short to the California Golden Bears in the final game of last weekend’s Santa Barbara Invitational ultimate Frisbee tournament.
“It was a great game,” senior co-captain Jonathan Hester said. “We battled back and forth, and the teams were so evenly matched it wasn’t decided until overtime.”
Cal pulled out a nail biting 20-18 win over Santa Barbara on Sunday, but not before the entire Western region was served notice that the Black Tide’s characteristic dominance of the ’90s had returned.
After missing the national championship tournament last season for the first time in seven years, the Tide has roared back. UCSB swept through pool play by beating UC Davis, Utah State, Idaho State and the University of Arizona. While most of the games were played on Storke Field, Santa Barbara demolished Arizona in the featured game of the weekend at Harder Stadium on Saturday.
The next day would bring more of the same, with the Tide outplaying powerhouse UC San Diego 13-10 in the quarterfinals and pulling out a 12-10 win over hated rival Stanford in the semifinals.
“The Stanford win was nice. They had beaten us the last six times we played, so it was good to finally get that win against them. Unfortunately, that game also tired us out a lot,” Hester said.
That fatigue may have been the deciding factor in Cal’s eventual tourney win out of a field of sixteen teams. Sophomore Asa Wilson and senior Tim Henshaw-Plath provided stellar play for the Black Tide in the final game, but it was not enough to overcome what many believe to be the best team in the nation.
“The West is absolutely the toughest region in the country. Last year we had six of the top 10 teams, and this year’s no different,” Hester said.
The Tide will travel to San Diego for the Presidents Day tournament on Feb. 14-16, then head north for the Stanford Invite on March 6-7. After that UCSB will make its way to Austin, Texas, for the Centex Invitational on March 20-21.
The battle for one of the 16 spots at the national tournament will be tough, especially with the heightened competition in Santa Barbara’s region. But this year’s squad has even more of a reason to make it than in year’s past. Not since 1995 had the Tide not made an appearance at nationals, and this year’s squad is determined to correct last season’s disappointing end.
“It was definitely upsetting. We thought we had the team that could do it. A lot of the guys from this team were there, so they know how it feels. It’s something that’s been driving us,” Hester said.
Hester and company might have something else up their collective sleeves as well – a year after the 1995 disappointment, the Black Tide would roll on to claim three consecutive national championships. Here’s hoping history repeats itself.