Ultimate Frisbee club team proves itself among Southwestern elite
Going into the Trouble In Vegas tournament as the #2 seed, the Claremont Braineaters Ultimate Frisbee squad were eager to face off against the #1 Arizona Sunburn in the championship game. After easily making it through the brackets with a perfect 6-0 record, they finally got the match-up they were looking for. Having beaten the Sunburn 15-7 in the Presidents Day Qualifier five weeks ago, the Brains wanted to once again prove they were the better team and emphatically answer the question that opposing teams have been asking all season: “Who the $%*@ is Claremont?” However, after a hard-fought battle that ultimately came down to the universe point (ultimate’s version of winner-take-all, sudden-death overtime), Arizona found a way to come out on top.
As the #2 seed, Claremont got a first-game bye on Saturday, allowing them to grab a few more hours of rest after the drive out. After easily beating Willamette 13-8 for the first win of the tournament, the Brains faced some slightly stiffer competition from a very tall BYU team but still held on for a 13-11 victory. In Saturday’s final game, the Brains faced an exhausted University of Redlands team with a playoff bye on the line. The Brains came out strong and let the Jackalopes know early on they had no chance of winning the game. The Brains went on to win by a final of 13-7, a key and promising victory over a team they will face again in regionals later this spring.
After another first round bye, the Brains started Sunday off with an easy 13-6 win over the Arizona State Diablos. Their next foe, the University of Wyoming, put up a bit more of a fight, but ultimately succumbed to the Brains’ strong offense and relentless D and lost 13-8. In the semifinals, the Brains squared off against a Lewis and Clark team that had just beaten Air Force on universe point. Taking advantage of Lewis and Clark’s fatigue, the Brains came out with a lot of intensity and opened up with a 4-0 lead. According to Zach Purdy HM ’13, “We crushed them pretty handily, 13-5.”
Then came the championship game. The Brains were missing a few key players, including senior captains Riley McPhee PO and Logan Schumaker PO, and some of the Sunburn’s key players that had not played in the previous match-up had returned. Both teams came out with a lot of intensity, but Arizona jumped out early to a 2-0 lead. The Brains quickly got back into the game as their sideline got more involved and the relentless chants of “Braaaaaaaaains” got louder. The Braineaters managed to take half by a score of 7-6 and seemed to have momentum.
The two teams proceeded to trade points until the Brains took an 11-9 lead, thanks to some great defense and a few breaks. The Sunburn did not give up though, and after a few controversial plays, they tied the game up at 12 to set up a championship-deciding universe point. The Brains received the pull and methodically worked the disc up the field. However, about ten yards away from the end zone, Arizona D got a huge block and kept the Brains out of the end zone. They then quickly moved the disc down the field, benefiting from a somewhat-lucky complete huck, and scored to win the game the tournament.
Instead of taking the loss as a negative, the captains stressed how much the Brains improved throughout the tournament and how they can use this as motivation for the rest of their season. After the tournament, Purdy captured the feelings of the team when he said, “Despite this tough loss, everyone had a great time the whole weekend. We had great hucks, skies and D from Tommy Li [PO ’12] and Markham Shofner [PO ’11] as always but also really consistent play from Devin [Drewry PO ’12], who didn’t throw a turnover or drop disc the whole weekend… More importantly, some rookies stepped up big time.”
Drewry thought that part of the reason for the Brains’ success was that “we spread out the scoring between a lot of players this weekend. China Sam (Sam Trachtman PO ’12) also played really well, and he and Little Bear (Daniel Geller PO ’13) are starting to work really well together in the middle of the ho stack.”
Freshman rookie Joel Fagliano PO cited the Brains’ positive attitude as the reason behind their success. “Everyone came to the tournament really expecting to play well and expecting our team to win,” he said. “A lot of credit should go to Tommy and Riley for keeping us focused.”
Throughout the tournament, Claremont relied on their passion and energy to keep the team rolling, shouting, “What do we eat? Brains! What do we eat? Brains! What do we get? Brain!” after every point scored. Players encouraged each other to get as many layout Ds as possible and helped defenders on the field with vital sideline talk.
Despite last weekend’s loss, the future looks very bright for the Braineaters. Now, they will set their sights on winning regionals in Claremont on April 23-24, and on making it to Division III Nationals in Buffalo, NY on May 21-22.