For CUT and Syzygy, eighth week involved double digit hour layovers, suiting up in their official uniforms and laying it all on the line under the warmth of the California sun, at USA Ultimate’s Stanford Invite 2019.
Considered by most to be the first critical event of the ultimate season, CUT and Syz entered the weekend with championship aspirations, and though neither squad walked away with a title, both improved from fifth weekend’s east-coast tournament performance.
Syzygy had a rough start to the weekend before any of the players had an opportunity to pick up a disc. Their 6:00 P.M. scheduled flight slipped into a six-hour delay, leading to a 5:30 A.M. arrival at their hotel: just three and a half hours before their 9:00 A.M. match against Whitman College.
Fatigue aside, Syzygy took care of business in their first two morning games, defeating Whitman 7-5 and dispatching #24 UCLA 11-3.
In their lone afternoon contest, Syzygy picked up a big win against perennial frisbee title-contender, #10 University of Oregon, achieving the all important “undefeated” moniker in pool play, and finishing with a record of 3-0 on the day.
Syzygy’s strong Saturday play earned them a bye straight to the quarterfinals on Sunday, where they matched up with #20 Stanford. Syz downed the hosts, squeaking into the semifinals by a score of 9-8.
In the semis, Carleton posted quite possibly their most impressive win to date, defeating #6 overall UC Santa Barbara 12-8.
This was a huge win for Syzygy with regards to the in-tournament rankings, as the third ranked Syz overcame expectations to beat the second ranked UCSB to advance to the championship game, in which they fell to #1 overall UC San Diego. Members of Syzygy were not available to comment.
CUT flew into California comfortably on Thursday night, looking to bounce back after a tough fifth weekend at the Florida Warm-Up, which saw the 2017 national champions drop three straight on Saturday, missing the championship bracket completely. They opened confidently in pool play, posting two wins against #15 Washington and #25 Colorado, and dropping a close one to #2 Brown, by a score of 11-8.
The national ultimate community criticized CUT’s low energy levels. Ultiworld.com characterized Carleton as possessing “a lack of effort and sharpness” in Florida, which, according to Captain Tim Schoch ’19, was far from an issue on the West Coast. Schoch said of his team’s intensity, “Something I’ve noticed about this version of CUT is we really get up for big games. Anytime it’s a meaningful game, or we’re in bracket play, you can feel there’s an energy difference. It’s really good to know that we can rise to these moments.”
CUT’s elevated play landed them into Sunday’s championship bracket, where they quickly eliminated #24 California 12 to 6. This landed them a spot in the quarterfinals, along with the North Carolina Darkside, the top-ranked team in the nation. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill team has been virtually unstoppable since their 2018 National Championship run and entered the Stanford Invite undefeated in 2019.
CUT felt well prepared, however. “The preparation [for North Carolina] is pretty easy, since our two teams are so familiar. In the past couple years, we’ve had a bunch of guys from North Carolina, so they know those guys very well. We know them very well and they know us very well, so our individual scouting is already there,” said Schoch.
When the dust had finally settled, North Carolina barely edged CUT 12-11, though Schoch felt proud of his team’s performance. “As a team, it felt like last year, we had this mental block around them [North Carolina], which was totally gone this year,” said Schoch.
“We played our game, we were focused on all the things we wanted to do, by applying pressure early, not letting them shoot to score easy goals, forcing them under, and we executed super well.”
CUT rounded out the weekend with a win against #19 Ohio State, and a loss to Colorado. Looking forward, Schoch is looking to further develop CUT’s young talent.
“I think the improvement we’re looking for is going to be a lot of individual and skill development,” Schoch said of his hopes for CUT’s spring break trip. CUT will travel to Atlanta to practice for a week, and then head to South Carolina to compete in the Easterns Tournament.
“When we get back to campus after Easterns, we’ll be in a good spot to keep improving on what we’ve learned, add some new plays to our arsenal, add some new defensive looks, and then we’ll be set to go for the USAU Series.”
Carleton students can catch CUT and GOP at sectionals for the frisbee post-season on campus, slated for April 13 and 14, or on the rain dates, April 20 and 21.