Rebounding off of a first-round Regional loss to UC San Diego last year, the Black Tide will begin its Ultimate Players’ Association College Championship quest today for a chance to face off in the final round Sunday at 10 a.m. in Columbus, Ohio.

The 2006 season marks the first time that the UCSB men’s club ultimate Frisbee team (24-17 overall) has made a trip to the Nationals in five years.

“This is the first time in five years we’re going to Nationals, so we’re all pretty excited,” junior Jameson Tyler Shaw said. “We hope that this will be a continuing trend, to see the Tide at Nationals. We’re all just trying to live up to all the hype of the past teams that have won national titles.”

As they have been doing for the majority of the season, Shaw, senior captain CJ Putnicki and junior Rory Orloff will look to lead the team this weekend.

The tournament is set up so that four pools comprised of four teams each face off Friday, and each team receives a ranking based on their play. UCSB will face off in Pool A against the University of Florida at 8:30 a.m., Michigan State at 11 a.m. and concludes pool play with the University of Delaware at 1:30 p.m. today.

“We’ve had some battles against the toughest teams in the country,” Shaw said. “We came within two [points] of Florida, the #1 team in the country, and they’re the first team we play in the tournament. We’re really excited to have them in our pool because we do have a chance of knocking them off.”

The winner of pool play will have an automatic first-round bye and will compete Saturday at 12 p.m. Second- and third-seeded teams will have to compete in the first round of inter-pool playoffs, with two separate games for each team Saturday at 8:30 a.m. For the team that finishes in last place in the pool, a trip to the consolation bracket will be in order.

If Santa Barbara finishes higher than fourth place in the four-team pool, it may have a chance to face off against Florida again outside of Pool A, with the possibility of playing in the championship round, pending an undefeated streak outside of pool play.

“We’re the dark horse in this tournament, but we have proven that we can compete with any team,” Shaw said. “We’re going in there thinking that we have a legitimate chance to win. It’s going to be a difficult path, but we definitely think we can do it.”

The two teams with the best performance in the tournament will enter the championship round, set for 10 a.m. on Sunday.