Trouble in Vegas: men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee vie for nationals spot

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Team captains Clarasophia Gust (senior) left, and Meike Buhaly (senior) right, of the Occidental women’s frisbee team discuss their team pride and goals for the remainder of the season at Occidental College. Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Miaja Lemieux/The Occidental

Occidental’s men and women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams took Las Vegas by storm, playing in the annual Trouble in Vegas tournament March 23–24. The men’s team, Detox, went 5–2 and the women’s team, Women’s Air Core (WAC), went 5–1. The tournament was round-robin style, consisting of a mix of USA Ultimate (USAU) Division III and Division I teams. Teams traveled from all over the country to participate in the tournament.

WAC placed third out of 15 teams. The team’s one loss came against San Diego State, a USA Ultimate Division I school that ended up taking first in the tournament.

“We still got 8 points against them. It was 8 to 11, so we did very well,” captain Clarasophia Gust (senior) said. “It’s pretty big for us to go against [Division I] schools, and getting third place at the tournament was really huge.”

According to WAC’s captains, the Trouble in Vegas win shows the major transformation the team has gone through during the past three years.

“Our freshman year we lost every single game, so it’s been a really big three building years,” captain Meike Buhaly (senior) said. “We almost felt bad because we had been in the position where we had been crushed by teams before.”

Gust said WAC was not anticipating the ease of their wins against teams to whom they had once lost.

“We surprised ourselves a little bit during the tournament. A lot of our games felt easy. We just went out there and did it, and there was so much chemistry. It was so much fun,” Gust said.

Team captain Clarasophia Gust (senior) discusses the team’s success at the Vegas Tournament at Occidental College. Wednesday, March 27, 2019. The Occidental/ Miaja Lemieux

Detox’s head coach Nate Warden said the tournament had its ups and downs. Detox went 1–2 on the first day of the tournament, knocking them out of the round robin for the winner’s bracket. Detox went undefeated on the second day.

“The tournament was a mixed bag,” Warden said. “We beat the best team that we played, which was awesome, we lost to a couple of teams that we shouldn’t have, but we took care of business and essentially won all of our consolation games, which was good.”

Nathan Warden, head coach of the men’s frisbee team, discusses challenges Detox faced this season, at Occidental College. Wednesday, March 27, 2019. The Occidental/ Miaja Lemieux

Warden believes this tournament reflects the tough season Detox has had. Warden points to California’s rainy winter as a struggle for Detox.

“This season has been kind of a difficult one, but a lot of it hasn’t been related to play,” Warden said. “We had a tournament that was canceled due to weather. This past weekend was actually our first full two-day tournament, which is not typical. That has affected the development of our squad over the spring.”

Despite the hard season, Detox captain Paul Tomlinson (senior) echoed Warden’s sentiments, describing a tournament that began with frustration. According to Tomlinson, there was a gradual realization that the first round of teams Detox played was difficult and the tournament ended on a high note.

“We played our hearts out on Sunday,” Tomlinson said. “Even though the teams we played weren’t necessarily good, we blew them out like we should have, took care of business and had a lot of fun.”

According to Warden, despite Detox’s achievements, the men’s team should not be Occidental’s main focus this year given the success of WAC.

“It’s been a really fun year,” Warden said. “But if anything, the big story this year is the women’s team.”

After the Las Vegas tournament, both teams have their eyes on nationals. The men’s team plays at conference championships for a spot at nationals April 13–14 against members of the Southwest Division III: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Biola and CalTech.

According to Warden, Detox’s intense preparation for the conference championships will begin next week. While the team will work on physically preparing, Warden says more emphasis will be placed on mentality.

“Our plan is to work on a lot of defensive adjustments and a lot of mental work, mental preparation and getting into a positive athletic headspace,” Warden said. “Physically and on the field, we’re holding roles pretty well. In terms of picking up each other, we’re still learning how to do that.”

Detox does not assume it will receive a bid for nationals for a third year in a row, according to Tomlinson.

“We were definitely stronger last year,” Tomlinson said. “We know we’re going to have to work for it, and it’s definitely going to be a good fight.”

In the women’s Southwest Division, there are only two teams, Occidental and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. In order for WAC to make nationals, they have to rank higher than Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. According to Buhaly, WAC is 138th in the country and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is 172nd.

“We won’t know for sure until next Friday, April 5th when rankings come out — the big reveal,” Gust said.

In USAU’s preliminary end-of-season rankings, WAC seeded higher than Claremont, all but guaranteeing them a spot at the national tournament.