The men’s ultimate frisbee team, Detox, won the University of California, Irvine Huckfest Tournament, which took place Nov. 4 and 5, accumulating a 9–0 record in the process. The team beat San Diego State University (SDSU) in the final.
Nathan Warden, Detox head coach, said that he was pleasantly surprised by how well his team did in the tournament.
“Until last weekend, a lot of these guys had never won a tournament before,” Warden said. “So for a lot of our seniors and a lot of young guys, it was kind of a chance to really go out there and play structured, disciplined, organized ultimate and win games.”
According to captain Kade Cheatham (senior), the tournament served as an introduction for the many rookies and first years on the team.
“Since it’s a fall tournament, it’s kind of like an introductory tournament for a lot of the kids,” Cheatham said. “It’s meant to help teach the freshmen about the idea of playing and getting a better sense of the rules. So that’s why there’s a lot of split squads, like there were.”
Split squads are formed when one team divides itself into multiple squads for a tournament to give players more in-game experience, Cheatham said. According to Max Marion (senior), another captain, many of the teams Detox played during the group stage Saturday were split squads, which made them weaker. When Detox beat California State University, Fullerton, a non-split squad team, they started to believe they could win it all, according to Marion.
“Fullerton was just one squad,” Marion said. “They were at their sort of full strength, and so that was the hardest game we played the first day. After beating all the split squads and beating them, we sorta looked around and were like ‘huh, you know we might be just the best team here.’ That let us believe that we could win.”
According to Marion and Cheatham, the tournament final against SDSU posed the biggest challenge of the weekend. According to Marion, SDSU had entered two teams in the tournament, both of which Detox had already beaten. Cheatham said SDSU fielded its best-combined squad for the finals game, which made the game more challenging.
“In the finals game, they had kind of switched up their split squad, so they had a couple of more experienced players playing in the finals to give it more of a competitive edge,” Cheatham said. “Both teams had this competitive fire. It showed a lot of struggle between the teams and the game was much more difficult than previous games.”
According to Warden, SDSU is a competitive team at Division I regionals each year and was the only team at Huckfest that was more athletic — bigger and faster — than Detox. Warden said that the game was played at a high level and was exciting throughout.
“It was just a quality game, in terms of both teams didn’t turn over the disc very much,” Warden said. “It was very, very clean offense from both sides. It was a fun game to watch and be a part of, and it’s really amazing. I mean, our guys stepped up and played with the big dogs.”
According to Cheatham, many important handlers — the players who stay back and make long throws to cutters, who catch the frisbee downfield — graduated last year. Now, former cutters are becoming consistent handlers, and some new players, including Sundy Khalsa (first year) and Sam Monius (first year), are also training to fill that need. Warden said that because the team has many new players stepping into new positions, he is emphasizing the fundamental concepts of the game.
“We have a lot of young folks and we have folks in a new role, so we have to work on the fundamentals and make sure we do them properly,” Warden said.
Last year, Detox went to Division III nationals for the first time in five years. Both Cheatham and Marion said they feel nationals is once again attainable, especially because the team is very organized and disciplined this year. According to Warden, if the team continues in the same direction, it is completely reasonable for Detox to set its sights on nationals.
“The captains want to return to nationals, and I think we have a great shot at that,” Warden said. “My thinking is if we continue to focus practice by practice on becoming a better team, we’ll get there easy.”