Coming off a very strong second-place finish at the Division III Warmup in mid-February, the Claremont ultimate frisbee club team finished a somewhat disappointing 13th out of 27 teams at the Trouble in Vegas tournament this past weekend. The Brains ended the tournament with a 4-3 record and now have a 9-5 record overall this season. They are currently ranked second in Division III.
Trouble in Vegas is always one of the more exciting tournaments for the Braineaters, not only because of the setting, but also because the tournament gives the Brains a chance to see where they stand compared to top teams from across the country. This year was no different, as the tournament field included perennial DI powerhouse University of Florida, up-and-comer Florida State University, and even the Canadian Under-23 National Team.
“We have a lot of good players, and getting an opportunity to test ourselves against other competitive teams really lets us come together as a team and figure out our strengths and weaknesses,” Captain Devin Drewry PO ’13 said after the tournament.
The Brains came out very strong in pool play, cruising to a perfect 3-0 start to the weekend against United States Air Force Academy, University of New Mexico, and the Arizona State University B team. In the first round of bracket play, however, the Brains faced their first real challenge in the form of a skilled athletic squad from San Diego State University.
The Brains seemed up to the challenge early on and broke out to a 3-0 lead thanks to a few very strong defensive plays. SDSU was not done just yet, though; they fought back to even the game and began to gain steam and confidence. Jake Coleman PO ’13 captured the shift in momentum with a post-game comment.
“Unfortunately, I feel we became a little complacent and let them back into the game, and they were too good a team to give a second chance,” he said.
After a number of very long points, SDSU took control of the game and eventually scored the winning point with the soft cap on for the 9-6 victory. The Brains’ performance in the game and their early 3-0 lead demonstrated their tremendous potential and that Claremont could compete with strong DI programs, especially once they gain experience finishing opposing teams and not letting teams fight their way back into games.
On Sunday, the Brains started the day bright and early at 8:30 a.m. with a frustrating loss to Utah State University, in which they let a 3-0 lead slip away en route to the loss. As the day continued, the wind picked up and made it very difficult for the Brains to play the style of offense they were used to.
“The sport is still recognizable, but the rules and strategies are way different,” Abe McKay PO ’13 said about the impact of the wind on ultimate frisbee.
After a 12-1 dismantling of California State University, Fullerton, the Brains lost their final game of the tournament 9-8 on universe point. That result was strongly shaped by the wind, as both teams struggled to break upwind but fell victim to dropped passes and errant throws.
Even though the Brains’ final win-loss record might have been a little disappointing, much of what they took away from the tournament will help the team as the season progresses.
“On Sunday, we greatly improved our play in the high winds throughout the day,” handler Dylan Horowitz PZ ’14 said after the weekend. He thought it provided much-needed experience in those conditions, something that will prove invaluable at Nationals.
“We struggled in the wind at Nationals last year, but our rapid improvement on Sunday shows that we were able to learn from the experience last year,” Horowitz said.
Many players on the team also felt that the disappointing performance will serve as a strong motivation to continue to work hard and improve.
“After a great success at DIII Warmup, this was a wake-up call about how much we need to focus and improve in order to succeed against high-level teams,” Nathan Hall HM ’15 said. Both Hall and Coleman, however, remained optimistic about the team’s prospects this season.
“This is definitely a championship-caliber team, and, if anything, this tournament is just going to motivate us to push ourselves for Conference Championships and Nationals,” Coleman said of the Brains.
“I’m stoked to see where we go from here,” he added.
The Braineaters are not currently slated to play in any more tournaments until Conference Championships in April, but they plan on playing tune-up games against various nearby teams, including SDSU; University of California, Los Angeles; and University of California, San Diego, to get ready to try to book another ticket to DIII Nationals in May.