Maybe you were unaware that Santa Barbara has not just one, but two of the best ultimate frisbee teams in the nation. If so, this weekend should have been a solid reminder. The men’s team, known as the Black Tide, took a hard loss to Michigan to take them out of the tournament as a 17th seed, while the Burning Skirts women’s squad managed to take out Washington in a 15-11 victory in the finals to earn an Ultimate Players Association National Championship.
Not only did the Skirts win the tournament, they did it in style. They took half (meaning they were the first team to eight points) in each of their seven games, including the finals. In fact, they scored an even 15 points in every match, while allowing their opponents, some of the best competition from around the country, an average of only eight. According to junior captain Carolyn Finney, the championship came as no surprise.
“We were seeded number one, and this whole year we’ve been on top of the rankings,” Finney said. “So it was pretty much ours to lose.”
Even with such high expectations, the Burning Skirts remained cool under the pressure, falling back on their suffocating defense, even when the offense took a few days to warm up.
“We played really tight defense this weekend, forcing the other teams to make mistakes,” Finney said. “Our offense started out kind of rough, but by Sunday and Monday, we were flowing well.”
Finney cited second-year defenders Marie Madaras and Briana Cahn as keys to the victory, as well as junior Kaela Jorgenson and senior Andrea Romano for keeping the all-important disc movement going.
Of his female counterparts, senior Black Tide captain Jeff Silverman knew they deserved the victory.
“They definitely deserved it,” Silverman said. “They were playing outstandingly well all year, and anything less than that would’ve been a disappointment. After being in the finals for two years and maintaining most of the players that they had, they just deserved to win it.”
Junior Burning Skirts co-captain Kaela Jorgenson agreed.
“I think that we worked really hard to get to where we did and we deserved it,” Jorgenson said. “It’s been building the last few years, so this year really was a great conclusion for the last two years of finishing second. Third time’s the charm, right?”
Though they did not take home the trophy at the end of the day, the Black Tide still had a few highlights of their own, including winning all but one of the games in their pool, losing to eventual Championship winner Carleton College. In tournament play, UCSB was taken out by way of a come from behind defeat, 17-15, at the hands of Michigan.
“We were in the lead and lost at the very end in three quarters,” Silverman said. “I was a little disappointed that we gave away a lead. We should’ve made it all the way but came up short because of a little lapse at the end of the game.”
Still, a strong showing against the best teams in the nation managed to turn some heads toward the unexpected West Coast team, comprised largely of rookies with no experience before this year. Those younger players, like freshman Evan Brydon, coupled with the experienced leadership of Silverman and senior co-captain Timmy Beatty, led to a solid show of heart, even if all of the skills weren’t there.
“Most of the team were rookies going into it,” Silverman said. “Hopefully this tournament will give them a newfound desire and motivation to play hard next year, to fill the roles of the few players who are leaving.
“My first two years had the most skilled players I’ve played with, and they couldn’t go as far in the tournaments as the team with a bunch of rookies that were filled with a bunch of heart and desire. My outlook on it is that the skill part of it is so easily learned in a year, the best players are the ones who try hard and run their heart out for their team, which we saw a lot of.”
Despite losing some key seniors, both the men and women ultimate teams feel strongly about their chances next year, based on the quick development of this year’s batch of rookies.
“We’re definitely losing a lot of key players, but we’re looking forward to seeing our new players from this year stepping up next year,” Jorgenson said. “We have high expectations for them. I have one more year to play, and Finney will be back, too, so we’ll see, but we’ll look to defend our title.”