Ultimate frisbee, a mainstay of Knight culture for decades at Carleton, has officially kicked off the bulk of its season with both of Carleton’s Division 1 club ultimate teams, CUT and Syzygy (“Syz”), competing in major tournaments during the weekend of mid-winter break. The squads flew to the east coast in order to compete with some of the best-ranked teams in the nation. Both with national championship aspirations, CUT and Syz used their first significant competition as an opportunity to evaluate their skills against the most talented collegiate teams in the country, and to learn where they can respectively improve moving forward.
By all accounts, Syzygy looks primed for a deep postseason run. Placing thirteenth at last season’s national tournament, Syzygy features a revamped roster in 2019. With freshly anointed U24 team members from the class of 2022, in Carly Campana and Kate Lanier, Syz looks ready to grow from last year’s national appearance. Carleton was ranked #4 overall in the women’s D1 preseason rankings, an appropriate evaluation for a team of such talent. “Our upperclassmen are really supportive of all of us,” said Campana of the Syz upperclassmen. “We have a really close team. It’s nice to have a big range of experience, as well as a big freshman class.”
For their first major tournament, Syzygy traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to play in the Queen City Tune Up. The event played host to not only #4 Carleton, but #3 North Carolina, #5 Ohio State, and #9 Pittsburgh as well. With no shortage of talent, Syz certainly had their hands full, but rose to the task brilliantly. Saturday play saw Syz collect four wins, dispatching Massachusetts 13-3, beating North Carolina State 9-6 in a defensive showdown, posting an impressive 11-3 victory against #25 Georgia, and running Michigan off the field in dominant fashion (13-2).
“Pretty stoked,” Campana said of team dynamic following Friday’s wins. “It was really exciting to get out there and see all of the stuff we’d been working on. We knew we weren’t playing super tough matchups that day, so it was nice to focus on us, work on our systems, and really improve and grow as a team.”
After defeating Florida in the tournament quarterfinals 15-6, Syz finally met their match in the form of #3 North Carolina. In a clash between two of the top four teams in the nation, NC came out on top, 15-10. Syz showed some character following their semifinal defeat, however, bouncing back to smash #13 ranked Tufts, 15-3.
Of Syz’s resilience, Campana said, “we all pick each other up and have a really supportive team atmosphere. We weren’t bummed out at all after we lost to UNC because we played a really good game. UNC was genuinely very good, and now we know what we need to work on to play that game closer and compete with them next time. We were just ready to go play a good third place game, and we did.”
As for the men’s side, the boys from CUT are coming off a pair of excellent seasons, that saw them claim a national championship over North Carolina-Wilmington in 2017, and fall one win short of the national title game in 2017. Returning five national U24 team members, plus U20 world champion Ben Priess, the 2019 rendition of CUT has no shortage of talent. This past weekend, they flew to Tampa to partake in the Florida Warm Up, which featured ten of the top 25 ranked ultimate teams in the country. Going into the weekend, Carleton enjoyed a prestigious #2 ranking, and with it, high expectations at their first tournament.
“I think in some ways it can put a lot of pressure on the team, but not any that we didn’t already put on ourselves,” said Priess. “In and out of practice, we definitely expect, and want to be a team competing for a championship when nationals comes around. On one hand it’s nice to be ranked second, but I don’t think it’s very important to anyone on CUT, because we intend to get to the point this season, if we’re not already there, where we are one of the best teams in the country and can beat anybody.”
CUT competed well in their first two tournament games, pulling off wins over Harvard and #24 Emory, before suffering a loss at the hands of #5 Pittsburgh. A rematch from the 2018 national semifinal game of a similar result, Pitt and CUT went back and forth trading blows until Pitt was determined the winner by way of first to thirteen, with a final score of 13-11.
At the conclusion of Friday’s action, Carleton was ranked sixth out of 32 teams at Florida Warm Up. This would have landed them into the top eight team bracket, that was to compete for the tournament championship. Unfortunately, Saturday was not as kind to CUT as was to be expected. An uncharacteristic 13-8 loss to Central Florida, followed by a 13-10 loss to #9 Brigham Young, resulted in CUT missing the championship bracket all together. A first round loss to Tufts in second-tier bracket play capped off what was certainly a disappointing day for the previous tournament favorites.
Of their goals moving forward, Priess remarked: “As an O-line player, we’d let one small execution error spiral into a slide, rather than just an isolated incident that are bound to occur throughout games. I think just staying more level-headed, focusing on the next point instead of past mistakes will help, because a lot of times we dug ourselves holes in games that really weren’t necessary, and didn’t work to make the other teams earn goals. I know D-line is going to focus on scoring off of the opportunities they get. They created a lot of turnovers, and that’s great, but that’s only half of the defense’s job; the other half being using those opportunities to score goals, to put distance between teams or come back in games. As the season goes on, both of those things will come together with more chemistry and experience playing with each other.”
Regardless of the respective outcomes of their first tourneys, both CUT and Syz have high hopes for their seasons, and will be ready to bring it come their next competitions. Both squads will be in action in California during 8th weekend, playing in the Stanford Invite Tournament.