Occidental’s men’s and women’s ultimate frisbee teams opened their spring season at the President’s Day Tournament Qualifiers Feb. 1–2. The men’s team, Detox, traveled to California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, taking third with an overall 7–1 record. The women’s team, Women’s Air Corps (WAC), went to University of California, Los Angeles, placing sixth with an overall 5–3 record.
According to WAC co-captain Catherine Lee (junior), both teams performed better than expected at their respective tournaments. Detox broke seed by two places after going into the tournament seeded fifth of 25 teams.
“We expected a good first tournament after having such a strong fall,” Detox co-captain Wally Huron (senior) said. “Considering we’d had only one full week of practice going into the tournament this semester, it felt like a success.”
WAC also broke seed this weekend by one place, after coming in seeded seventh out of 13 teams.
“Three out of our four captains were coming back from studying abroad last semester, so there was a lot of work we were doing to gel as a team,” Lee said.
According to Detox co-captain Ebby Naftzger (senior), Detox and WAC are both looking forward to successful seasons coming off of their strong opening tournaments. After last season, where Detox missed out to Claremont for a nationals berth for the first time in three years, the team’s focus is set on returning to nationals again this year.
“This season, from the beginning, we’re trying a lot harder for everything,” Naftzger said. “We’re working harder at practice, and the leadership is pointing in the same direction.”
Detox coach Nate Warden also said this will be a very strong season for his team.
“Last season’s disappointment has brought a sense of urgency to this year’s team,” Warden said.
The team’s newfound focus was visible at their tournament this past weekend, according to Huron. Detox won their first five games on their way to a semifinal showdown against NCAA Division I Santa Clara University. Although Detox lost 11–7, Huron said he feels that even this result showed a different Detox team than in previous seasons.
“In the past, there were times where we would go down big and we would just kind of fold and the final score could have been 11 to two or three,” Huron said. “Against Santa Clara, we actually outscored them in the second half, which showed this team’s resiliency.”
Based on what he has seen from the team both in their first tournament and in their strong fall season, Warden said nationals is the team’s baseline goal for the season.
Huron said the team feels optimistic about their chances for this season.
“Our ceiling is much higher this year,” Huron said. “If we can go to nationals, we want to be in the winner’s bracket on the second day.”
WAC have also raised their expectations for the season after their results at the President’s Day Tournament Qualifiers, according to co-captain Nora Fujita-Yuhas (junior).
WAC posted a win against number one seed Long Beach State on the opening day of the tournament. Fujita-Yuhas and Lee said the Long Beach game showed the team’s talent this year.
“Winning that game made us realize we’re actually a lot better of a team,” Lee said. “I think us seeing ourselves push through that really set the tone for us, showing us what we’re capable of as a team.”
Last season was a banner year for WAC, as they qualified for nationals for the first time in eight years. However, according to Fujita-Yuhas, this year’s team may be even better.
“In my time at Occidental, this is definitely the best we’ve ever been at the beginning of the season,” Fujita-Yuhas said.
WAC’s successful season last year has put them in the national spotlight going into this year. In its 2020 Division III Women’s Preseason Primer, Ultiworld — an independent Ultimate Frisbee news source — ranked WAC number 20 on their top 25 teams in the country.
Lee said WAC’s stellar season last year and their recognition by Ultiworld have contributed to a different mindset among the team going into the rest of the season.
“Making nationals really expanded what we realized we are capable of,” Lee said. “Now I expect us to play at a level where we are competing to go to nationals.”
The captains said they recognize that making it to nationals requires the team to play at a very high level. As a result, team growth as a whole is central to WAC’s vision of success for this season, according to Lee.
“We really build ourselves as a team together,” Lee said. “If we can really build connections between our teammates, then the results will speak for themselves.”
If both Detox and WAC were to qualify for nationals, it would be a historic event, according to Warden.
“I don’t know if that has happened here in 20–30 years,” Warden said. “It would be a great achievement for the college.”