By Cyrus Gutnick
Emblazoned by its new attitude of “confidence not cockiness” toward each opponent, the No.2-seeded UC Santa Cruz men’s ultimate Frisbee team beat No. 1-seeded University of British Columbia in the Northwest Open regionals held in Davis, Calif. The Slugs swept the tournament and advanced to the nationals, which will be held in Boulder, Colo. from May 16-18.
The UCSC men’s ultimate team, always a force to be reckoned with, faced an even tougher regional competition, as its region has four of the top 15 teams in the nation. To prepare, senior co-captain Danny Karlinsky wanted to ground the team before his last appearance at the Northwest Tourney.
“I said how earlier in the season we had been very cocky and strutted around like we deserved to win because we had an extraordinary team, but we needed to win because we earned it,” Karlinsky said. “Cockiness versus confidence: we wouldn’t come in to any game against any team on any point and say we deserved it — we would earn it.”
The new attitude required a new strategy that the Slugs’ coach, Daryl Nounnan, implemented to slow them down and help them keep their focus because according to Nounnan, good decision-making is as important as good throwing or receiving.
“We had a big turnaround when [coach Nounnan] implemented a new rule,” senior co-captain T.J. Smith said. “Before we were allowed to throw, we had to pump fake or wait a second. [We] may lose a ‘quick throw’ opportunity, but it helps to make good decisions and to remain calm with the disc during aggressive play.”
To throw is only a part of the offensive drive. The receivers are the ones who need to come up with the disc in the end zone to put the points on the board. With a 10–0 sweep of the Davis Tourney and playing in heat upwards of 95 degrees, the Slugs’ receivers showed their worth throughout the weekend.
“As a team we are in very good shape. We have five receivers who are unguardable,” Smith said. “Our receiving core is huge for us on offense.”
Coach Nounnan recognizes the leadership ability embedded in the Slugs’ offensive athletes as well as the necessity of a powerhouse defense. The offense scored a total of 52 points and the defense allowed 31 at Davis.
“Offensively, we have a core of players that have played together for several years now and have steadily improved their skills, consistency, and playmaking ability. They really anchor the team, especially offensively,” Nounnan said. “Defensively we have added a lot of speed this year, and have several new players (freshman and transfers) that play the kind of shutdown defense that is necessary to succeed.”
Nounnan has been the head coach of men’s ultimate for the past three seasons, finishing the past two seasons in seventh place and fifth place respectively. He coached his alma mater UC Davis’ ultimate team for one year in 2001, and then captained and coached various club team including Rhino, Kaos, and Revolver among others over the last 16 years.
With the collaboration between an experienced coach and determined players, the Slugs hope to overcome the difficulties of making the jump from competition at sea level all the way to one mile high when they play just east of the Rockies in Boulder, Colo. for the national competition. As many members of the team as possible will arrive early to acclimatize their heads, lungs, and throws as oxygen is scarce and discs cut through the thin air, traveling farther than expected. The rest will have to be all business on the go.
“We will try to do the same stuff and not really introduce anything new,” Karlinsky said. “When we get our schedule for nationals we will do some scouting and come up with a game plan for day one. After that we’ll just have to rely on what we have worked on all year while figuring out [those] few things on the fly.”