Air Squids Best in U.S. After Tourney

    Stingy defense helped the Air Squids to win a tournament at UCSB and earn the No. 1 ranking. (Courtesy of Natalie Rohde)

    CLUB SPORTS — After taking a win at its first tournament of
    the young season, the UCSD men’s ultimate Frisbee team is ranked first place in
    the nation and is looking to continue its success. The Air Squids took first at
    a Santa Barbara tournament on Jan.
    24 to 26 that was made smaller, featuring only the top six teams, because of
    bad weather conditions.

    UCSD was ranked five out of the six teams and, being
    unaccustomed to playing in poor weather, was in for a challenging weekend to
    say the least.

    “We hadn’t beaten UC Santa Barbara since the 2005-06 season,
    and we had lost to two other teams in the tournament, UC Berkeley and UC Santa
    Cruz, in November,” senior offensive captain Maclyn Eick said. “We’d never
    beaten Stanford University
    in school history. We knew that we were probably the worst team as far as
    Frisbee skills are concerned and the best in conditioning.”

    According to Eick, the weather was anything but pleasant,
    with severe wind gusts, heavy rain and fallen trees. Under these conditions,
    the Air Squids played their first contest of the tournament against Williams
    University
    , a team that the Air
    Squids were unfamiliar with coming into the tournament. Still, UCSD prevailed,
    winning by a score of 13-8.

    The Air Squids’ second game was against Stanford, a team
    UCSD has never beaten in the history of its ultimate Frisbee program. UCSD took
    care of business once again, relying on strong defense to pull out a 9-7
    victory over the Cardinal.

    UCSD’s next contest was against a UC Santa Cruz team that
    the Air Squids had lost to last November. The Air Squids fell in a 4-0 hole
    early but, once again, their defense stepped up and helped bring UCSD back to
    within one point. However, the early deficit was too difficult to overcome and
    UC Santa Cruz was able to hand the Tritons an 8-6 loss.

    UCSD’s fourth and final game on Jan. 26 was against the Air
    Squids’ main rival: UC Santa Barbara. With all the recent games ending in
    UCSB’s favor, the Air Squids had a lot to prove in their first match against
    the Gauchos. UCSD relied on its endurance and conditioning to pull off an
    emotional 9-5 win.

    “I’ve never beaten Santa Barbara,
    so it’s pretty exciting beating your rival,” sophomore offensive player Eric
    Abhold said.

    Continuing the trend of playing against teams that the Air
    Squids have struggled with recently, UCSD faced UC Berkeley the next morning in
    even worse weather conditions than the previous day. The Air Squids had also
    lost to UC Berkeley last November and were looking for redemption. UCSD’s
    defense once again stepped up in this game with sophomore defender Guy Hughes
    shutting down Cal’s deep
    offensive game and leading the team to a 13-10 victory.

    “Guy Hughes played really well for us,” Eick said. “He got
    scored on maybe once the whole tournament.”

    With a win over Cal
    and an overall tournament record of 5-1, the Air Squids advanced to the finals
    to once again play the rival Gauchos. UCSD showed that its earlier win was no
    fluke as the Air Squids, backed by a strong defense, took an 11-8 victory and
    the tournament.

    As if the tournament win wasn’t enough good news for the
    team, the Air Squids found out the following day that their strong showing had
    earned UCSD the No. 1 rank in the nation.

    “We were really excited when we found out we were ranked No.
    1,” senior defensive captain Mark Johnston said. “We were more pumped up than
    we’ve been since I’ve been in the program. I’ve never seen this team so
    excited.”

    The No. 1 ranking comes during a season in which the Air
    Squids, being a very young team, were supposed to be looking to the future.

    “Coming into the season, the general outlook was that it was
    definitely going to be a building year,” Abhold said. “We are extremely young,
    with our average age being under 20. After this tournament win, we’re not just
    looking at this as a building year anymore.”

    Some of UCSD’s unexpected success can be attributed to the
    new workout schedule that has the team hitting the gym and running the track
    much more than in previous years. The Air Squids have track practice every
    Monday to work on endurance and speed and gym workouts and Frisbee practices
    three days a week.

    “We got a coach this year specifically to help us work out,”
    Johnston said. “Our gym and track
    work has really paid off. We’re much faster and athletic than every other team
    we faced.”

    The tournament win and the No. 1 ranking not only reflect
    the extra work that UCSD has put in this season, but also given the Air Squids
    motivation to work harder and improve their game even further.

    “It reinforced everyone’s commitment to get in the weight
    room and on the track,” Eick said. “We knew that we won the tournament because
    of our ability to run twice as long and twice as hard as the other team, not
    because of our Frisbee skills.”

    The Air Squids will take their No. 1 standing on the road
    with them this weekend to play in an 80-team tournament in Las
    Vegas
    on Feb. 8 to 10, in which they are the sixth
    seed. In a city that thrives on flashing lights and jackpots, the Air Squids
    hope that their own flashy title of Best in the Nation will bring them success.

    “The way the tournament is set up, we start out by playing
    some of the top teams in the tournament,” Abhold said. “If we do well on the
    first day, we can carry it on to the next day. Even if we don’t do extremely
    well, we will be exposed to a lot of different play styles which is important
    for a young team.”

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