For the second straight year, the Claremont Braineaters will be playing in the Division III National Championship ultimate frisbee tournament. Just like last year, the Brains beat out rival Occidental in the finals of Conference Championships on April 15 to book their ticket to compete for a national title. Unlike last year, though, the Claremont ultimate frisbee team will enter the College Championships in Appleton, Wisconsin, as the defending National Champions.
The Braineaters were the number one seed going into the Conference Championships last weekend and certainly showed it in their opening game on April 14 against an inexperienced Chapman team. This was Chapman Downe Towne’s first-ever season, and they had only played in one previous tournament. The Brains took advantage of Chapman’s inexperience early on and held on for a blowout win that set the tone for the rest of the day. After a tough game against Oxy, the Brains won a surprisingly competitive game against Caltech to end the day 3-0.
Going into Sunday, the Brains knew they had to beat Westmont in their final game of the bracket to set themselves up with the number one seed in the playoff round and an easy shot to the title. Another relatively young program, Westmont was largely considered the largest threat to Claremont’s trip to Nationals. The Brains came to play, however, and ended any hopes Westmont had at an upset.
“We broke Westmont multiple times while playing suffocating man-d[efense] and converting turns into scores,” Dylan Horowitz PZ ’14 said. After their decisive victory over Westmont, the Brains prepared to face off against Caltech with a shot at the finals on the line.
Once again Caltech proved to be a challenge for Claremont early on.
Horowitz said after the game, “We played Caltech in the semifinals and once again came out a bit flat, going down 4-2 at one point. Like the day before, we got ourselves together, took half at 7-6 and held them to one point in the second half, winning 13-7.”
Joel Fagliano PO ’14 helped the Brains change momentum against Caltech, according to Sam Asin PO ’12, when he “had the play of the tournament, diving full extension and reaching out to knock down an opposition’s pass with his left hand.”
The Brains scored their winning point on an all-Harvey Mudd line, improving the all Mudd line’s record to 2-0 on the weekend against Caltech, showing once and for all which school is superior on the field. The debate on which school is better academically, however, has not yet been answered.
With their victory over the Caltech Tractor, the Brains moved on to the finals against the Occidental Detox, who were coming off a grueling semifinal matchup against Westmont that was decided on a winner-takes-all universe point. Claremont and Occidental are fierce rivals, and each team steps up their game when playing against the other, but the Brains have had the upper-hand in the matchup over the past couple of years, and it safe to say the Brains continued their domination over Detox this weekend with their impressive 13-3 win. Daniel Geller PO ’13 attributes the team’s success against Oxy to Claremont’s ability to stop Oxy’s deep hucks and that the Brains “stuck to the fundamentals.”
The Brains took advantage of Oxy’s fatigue and jumped out to a 4-0 lead early on, thanks to a couple big defensive breaks. Claremont kept the momentum rolling and ran Oxy all over the field, scoring on deep shots to the endzone, especially thrown to Devin Drewry PO ’13. Captain Tommy Li PO ’12 scored the winning point for the Brains on a short pass from the other captain, Sam Trachtman PO ’12, out of the endzone set.
While the Brains are pleased with the outcome from this past weekend, they know their work is far from over, especially since, in the words of team president Zach Purdy HMC ’13, “the tournament is looking to be the most competitive it’s ever been.”
“In particular,” he said, “Harding University and St. John’s University—the teams that gave Claremont its toughest two games last year—will likely be back and stronger than ever.”
Trachtman emphasized how hard the Brains were going to have to work in the weeks leading up to Nationals, which takes place May 19-20.
“We played some good Ultimate this weekend, but we’re going have to step our game up in Wisconsin,” Trachtman said. “The competition is going to be better this year than last year, and we don’t have nearly as experienced a team. With that said, with this year’s Brains’ good attitude and defensive intensity, we definitely have a shot.”
Fagliano also shared Trachtman’s optimism.
“I think we have a really good shot to win DIII Nationals again,” Fagliano said. “We clearly have the talent, we have some amazing senior leadership in Tommy Li and Sam Trachtman and, after our strong showing at Conference championships, we’re coming into form at the right time. I’ve never been more excited to go to middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin.”
This year, Claremont also had a B-Team that played in Development Sectionals this past weekend. In their final game of the tournament against UC Irvine-B, the Brains-B forced the game to universe point after tying the game at 14 on a “spectacular, grueling, 20-minute point which featured multiple changes of possession, 4 or 5 injuries and the best man-defense the team had played all weekend,” Jackson Newhouse HM ’12 said. “After much struggle, we managed to put it into the end-zone off of a perfectly executed play.”
Unfortunately for the Brains-B, Irvine converted on universe point to secure the victory. The B-team’s performance, though, bodes well for the Brains’ future as these younger players begin to move up to the A-team.