Claremont’s men’s ultimate frisbee team, the Braineaters, won the Southwest Conference Championship this past weekend, earning a spot in the Division III National Championships. The Braineaters compiled a perfect 6-0 record throughout the tournament against teams from University of San Diego, Westmont College, Caltech, and Occidental College. The win came as a mixed blessing to senior members of the Braineaters, who will have to choose between attending their graduation or helping their team fight for their second national title in three years as the tournament overlaps with Pomona’s commencement ceremony. So far, four of the seven seniors on the team have decided to skip graduation and attend Nationals instead.
Claremont came into the weekend as the top-ranked seed, but they had only played Occidental so far in the season, edging out a narrow victory in their previous meeting. The Brains knew they would have to come out strong and live up to their potential to book their ticket to Nationals for the third year in a row.
Saturday began with a round robin of pool play. The Braineaters that showed up on time started strong against a casual University of San Diego. Confident throws from handlers Chris Brown HM ’15 and Dylan Horowitz PZ ’14 exploited holes in San Diego’s zone defense. The Brains charged to a firm 13-2 victory, turning the disc over only three times in the second half.
The day’s second game brought Claremont against their main challenger, the Occidental Detox, in a preview of the final. Detox took an early lead, but the Braineaters fired back in the second half with what captain Daniel Geller PO ’13 called “some of the best frisbee the Brains have played all year” and a 13-11 win. The Brains finished Saturday against Caltech’s appropriately named Aftermath. Despite their intellectual prowess, Aftermath was no match for Claremont’s physical play and fell 13-2.
Early Sunday morning, the Braineaters ended the pool play against Wildfire from Westmont, a team known for its jazzy dance moves on the offensive line. According to Geller, Claremont played “just well enough to win.” But after the semifinal match against Caltech, Geller said, “[Claremont] came out fired up from point one.” After a monster, full-field pull (similar to a kick-off) from Alex Cloud PO ’15, Michael Weil PO ’14 intercepted Aftermath’s first throw for a Callahan, one of ultimate frisbee’s few named plays. The rare play can only be achieved by a defenseman catching the disc in the opponent’s end zone for an instant score. With their momentum, the Braineaters finished off Caltech 15-4, which took them to their exciting final match against Occidental.
The atmosphere dramatically shifted for the showdown. The location switched to Scripps’s field, lined with both painted boundaries and a jubilant crowd of over 30 spectators. Both teams knew only one of them could continue to the national championships.
Despite Claremont’s bombastic pregame cheer, Occidental scored the first point on a single, deep throw and followed by a break for the second point.
“They threw a flat mark, which was able to shut down our offense,” Geller said. “The active handler movement on the defensive line got us back into the game.”
“Strong defensive play from [Weil] and Gabby Ayala CM ’16 forced Occidental to commit several turnovers,” Captain Zach Purdy HM ’13 said. “The Brains were able to capitalize on these as Jimmy Bright-Dumm [PZ ’16] , Nathan Hall [HM ’15], Alex Cloud, and Devin Drewry [PO ’13] led the defensive line’s offense up the field, creating easy scores on the end zone line.” However, Detox rebounded to take the half with a slim 8-7 lead.
Drawing energy from their committed fans and many players, Claremont burst into the second half with three back-to-back scores.
“We were deeper and more conditioned. Especially, we saw Will Marks PO ’16 and Weil step up with a couple of poach Ds, including two from Weil in a single point,” Geller said. After swapping points, the Braineaters finished off Detox with a line of all seven seniors: Drewry, Geller Purdy, Nick Bordner PO ’13, Jake Coleman PO ’13, Abe McKay PO ’13, and Charley Vallejo-Anderson PO ’13. The veterans’ pressure forced the weary Occidental to attempt a doomed throw. With the disc reclaimed, Geller threw a short break to Drewry. Wasting no time, Drewry launched a three-quarters field huck to McKay’s outstretched hands, cinching a 15-11 victory and a ticket to Milwaukee.
Looking forward to the championship, Cloud said, “This tournament highlighted once again that the Brains are deep and indomitable.” A more cautious Purdy noted, “The Braineaters had a disappointing performance in the strong winds of Appleton, Wisconsin last year, and Milwaukee promises similarly strong winds. However, the team’s fundamentals have improved since last year, and they will continue to be the focus of our next month of practice. With a month of hard work, a repeat of the Braineaters’ 2011 DIII Championship is appearing increasingly likely.”