The Ultimate Sport

    Collegiate athletic teams around the nation have some outlandish mascots. UC Santa Cruz is home to the “mighty” Banana Slugs, UC Irvine calls upon the “powerful” Anteaters to defend its name and the University of Southern Illinois is home to an ugly dog called a Saluki­.

    Greg Dale/Guardian
    Graduate student Mike Oesterle’s high-flying moves and sophomore George Lim’s efforts (above) were not enough to help the Air Squids, who came from behind throughout the UPA Open Championships but fell to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals.

    But the UCSD Men’s Ultimate team has a mascot that puts all others to shame: the Air Squids. With the Squids in their corner, the team looked to finish out its season with a bang at the Ultimate Players Association Open Championships in Columbus, Ohio May 26 to 28.

    The Squids started the tournament with a matchup against the University of Oregon, which came out firing and took an early 3-0 lead in the race to 15 points. The Squids refused to quit and stormed back at the end of the match by employing a force middle defense formation that flustered the competition. In the end, Oregon was still able to make the right adjustments and won the match 15-13. Senior cutter Adam Bunn blamed the loss partially on UCSD’s inability to throw deep passes.

    “We came out slow and the windy conditions stopped us from throwing solid hucks downfield for scores,” Bunn said.

    The Air Squids lost a close first match, but their most heartbreaking loss of the tournament came in the second round of pool play against the University of Georgia. The match was again extremely close, with both teams trading points early. Georgia took a late 10-7 lead, but the Air Squids responded with a flurry until the match was tied at 14 apiece. UCSD thought that it had won the match when senior cutter Matt Anderson threw the disc into the end zone, but one referee called Anderson for a “stall,” an infraction in which a player holds the disc longer than the allotted 10 seconds. The turnover allowed Georgia to make an incredible 30-yard pass to Brian Inkrot, who was able to keep his feet in bounds in the end zone, giving the Bulldogs the 15-14 victory. Senior cutter Chris Darrouzet-Nardi attributed the loss to sloppy play and unforced turnovers.

    “We were two very similar teams and we had our opportunities to win the match,” he said. “We just made one more turnover than them.”

    After suffering two tough losses, the Air Squids tried to stay in the winner’s bracket with a win against Brown University, last year’s champions that beat the Squids. UCSD started slowly for the third match in a row, but this time it was able to stay close and eventually overtake Brown, securing a 15-12 win. The Squids were pleased with their win, but thought they could have played much better against an inferior Brown squad.

    “We got the win, but it was a much closer game than it should have been considering how we beat them earlier in the season,” Darrouzet-Nardi said.

    With a record of 1-2 in pool play, the Squids were forced into a play-in round where they faced Michigan State University with a quarterfinal berth on the line. The Air Squids understood the urgency of the match, and had confidence heading in the faceoff.

    Darrouzet-Nardi summed up his team’s focus, and said, “There was no way we were going to lose that match.”

    UCSD was finally able to start quickly, using its deep passing game to perfection and gaining an early 4-2 lead. Michigan answered with a run of its own and took an 8-6 lead into the half. The second half stayed close with both teams eventually tied at 13-13, but the Air Squids proved to be the more determined competitors by closing the game out with two straight scores by Darrouzet-Nardi. The star player finished with seven goals, two assists, three defenses and no turnovers.

    “[Darrouzet-Nardi] was a stud that game and was a huge reason why we pulled out the win,” Bunn said.

    Graduate student Mike Oesterle, added strong play to the Air Squids’ arsenal, matching up against Michigan best player.

    “[Oesterle] was huge for us because he really got our deep passing attack going and played solid defense,” senior Matt Parisi said.

    With the win, the Air Squids earned the right to play a talented squad from the University of Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. Wisconsin proved to be too powerful for UCSD this year, however, and easily scored an easy 15-5 win.

    After the game, senior handler Quinn Kennett said he was impressed with Wisconsin’s play.

    “They had a good game plan, solid depth and played with high intensity,” he said.

    Bunn blamed part of the loss on exhaustion from the earlier matches.

    “We had a lot of injuries coming in and our core rotation was exhausted from playing so many close matches,” he said.

    The Air Squids were unable to match their third-place finish from last year, coming in fifth. Kennett said that UCSD earned a lot of respect across the nation this season with its team play and high intensity.

    “We had a really strong season this year and definitely laid the foundations to be a strong program for years to come,” he said.

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