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CUT and Syzygy Head to Spring Season Opening Invites

This past weekend, both of Carleton’s Division I ultimate frisbee teams headed to their first invites since the 2021 NCAA Championships in December. Carleton Ultimate Team, CUT, Carleton’s Division I men’s team, headed south to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Smoky Mountain Invite. Syzygy, Carleton’s Division I women’s team, headed to the West Coast for the Stanford Invite in Stevinson, California. Entering the tournaments, CUT and Syzygy were seeded 9th and 3rd out of all participating teams, respectively. 

CUT and Syzygy’s participation in collegiate athletics has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Syzygy’s Ada Wright ’22 emphasized COVID-19’s complicating effect on logistics, “with the pandemic creating an added component of trying to coordinate travel, close contacts and positive tests.” But she also spoke of silver linings, adding that last season’s restrictions made “this season’s practices even more valuable and players all the more pumped [to] compete.” 

CUT also dealt with pandemic-related adjustments, most visibly in their forfeiture at the 2021 National Championships. According to CUT rookie Will Troop ’25, CUT’s successful regionals performance in November led to high morale heading into nationals.

“In the days leading up to nationals, both offensive and defensive drills were running smoothly,” Troop said. “Really, we were just firing off on all cylinders.”

However, CUT’s journey at Nationals came to a premature end when members of the team tested positive early in the tournament. In accordance with tournament regulations and safety precautions, CUT had to forfeit the remainder of the tournament after playing only one game. “Having to drop out of nationals was really heartbreaking, especially given the fact that, due to expanded eligibility, alumni were able to return and play with us,” Walsh said.

Sawyer Blair, ’23, echoed Walsh’s sentiments: “Forfeiting nationals was devastating not just on a personal level, but seeing the way super and super-super seniors’ chances at redemption stripped away from them, that was heartbreaking.” 

Able to ward off positive tests, Syzygy’s nationals experience was more positive but still marked by challenges. Due to the pandemic, rankings had been on pause for the past two years, resulting in Syzygy being ranked first going into nationals. Allie Fridkin ’23 explained that the ranking was a “big weight to carry, especially considering it was based on performances almost two years before nationals were held.” Moreover, she articulated that due to alumni presence, Syzygy went into nationals “with very little practice as a full team.” Syzygy ended up placing third out of 20 teams.

Going into the Stanford and Smoky Mountain invites, both CUT and Syzygy competed this season without alumni for the first time. For Syzygy, unlike in the Fall 2021 season, freshmen were now eligible to play in tournament settings. Therefore, each team would be constituted solely by current Carleton students. Moreover, both invites were CUT and Syzygy’s first opportunities this spring to face off against more competitive teams from across the country. Given the fact that both tournaments were season-opening events played in new team configurations, CUT and Syzygy players adjusted their goals accordingly. 

CUT Coach Timothy Schoch defined the team’s goals in terms of what he called “controllables,” advocating for “focus on parts of the tournament experience within team control: the energy, competitive fire, rest and prep.” On a more technical level, he urged “the offense to establish good positioning and the defense to execute preplanned game plans.” Fridkin emphasized that Stanford could serve as an effective test ground for Syzygy to “flesh out their capabilities as a team” and a chance for “everyone to contribute everything they could and support each other.” 

What perhaps stood out most across both teams was the palpable excitement to compete again. Wright stated that “despite not knowing what to expect, people were really excited about going to Stanford and seeing our sets against new people.” Walsh stressed that CUT “tried to play with no expectations and were just grateful for the opportunity to play together and excited to have as much fun as we could.”

When asked about his expectations headed into Smoky Mountain, Blair spoke succinctly to what seemed to be a shared sentiment among both teams’ players. 

“I’m feeling excitement mostly,” Blair said. “Excitement to find out what we need to work on and where we are strong, as well as simply an opportunity to grind with my teammates.”

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