After our Centex debacle, we were pleased to still be seeded fourth at Sectionals. It was on our home turf and ten bids to Regionals were up for grabs, so there wasn’t a lot on the line. We were playing for a good seed at Regionals and our pride. We kicked off the tournament with a game against Claremont, who beat us in Austin but was playing without Junior Worlds handler Erika Baken. Claremont had big threats in Carny and Bayliss, who are both smart players that have an advantage in size, but we played confidently and won 11-7. Our next game was against San Diego State, competing in their first College Series. Their style of play was more aggressive than ours but we displayed superior composure and took an easy 13-1 victory. Afterward, we played Occidental and were able to outrun them for an 11-3 win. Nicole Copti made some good plays, but they came in without many subs and they were clearly tired. Our last game of the day was against UCLA, the top seed in our pool. The wind had picked up and the field was rotated 90 degrees from the other fields we had been playing on, creating a clear upwind and downwind. We started off well, going up 3-2, but struggled offensively for the rest of the game. Both teams suffered from many uncharacteristic turnovers, most of which the wind played a part in, but UCLA was able to score upwind when we failed to and we fell 5-7 in hard cap. We took on Long Beach State in the last round of pool play on Sunday. Since we were tied for second in our pool, only the winner of this game would move into the championship bracket. The loser would lose their shot at a top four finish. Guano faced off against her younger sister, Igloo, and showed her that she still had a few things to learn. Long Beach State kept us on our toes, but we hammered out a 9-7 win and moved on to a semifinals game against future College Champions, UCSB. Like our game against UCLA, we scored first, but after trading the first few points, it was all downhill. UCSB was in much better shape than we were, one of several reasons why we just couldn’t hang with them. Ferris hurt her shoulder on a bid in the endzone and spent the second half with the trainer. We lost 7-15 and dropped down into the third place bracket for a rematch against Claremont, this time playing with Baken. They shocked us by taking the lead in the beginning of the game, and forced to claw our way back into it. We came back from a sizable deficit to tie the game as the end approached. An impressive lay out block in the endzone by from Ferris kept us in the game when it looked dicey, but on double game point, Claremont won on a deep shot. The final score was 13-14. When we were standing on the line before game point, we heard UCLA explode in celebration for their upset win over UCSB, which give them the So Cal Section title. I was really happy for them, but it was hard to show it after our game since I was upset with our loss. We played Long Beach again for fifth in a game no one really cared about. My knee had been progressively hurting more and more since halftime of the Claremont game, so I sat out for this game. Score Reporter says we won 15-10. Finishing fifth in Sectionals when we knew we needed to get fourth at Regionals was a blow to our confidence, but somehow it earned us the Sports Club of the Week award. That’s how well they understand what’s going on with us.
We spent the week before Regionals pumping each other up with “Eye of the Psycho” necklaces, motivational emails, and nearly a mullet haircut. Regionals were in Colorado and we knew it would be cold. Most of us fitted ourselves out with clothes that would keep us warm, knowing that living in San Diego hasn’t prepares us well for the cold. In the morning on Saturday, we found out that our pool had some minor changes, and instead of playing Midas first, we would play Cal Poly SLO. It was an easy game and we were able to get away with some sloppy play and still cruise to a 17-5 victory. I had a lot of trouble dealing with my cold, stiff hands and had more drops in the first half than I would have liked to have all day, but I was able to cut it out later on. Once we were warmed up, big plays came out of young and older players alike. Playing in what she knew could be the last tournament of her college career, Meeko was a huge mark. She caused several turnovers through handblocks and eliciting bad throws by shutting down the thrower’s options. Meeko was stunning on offense as well, keeping her composure as a thrower despite breezy conditions, and punching in score after score. This is most likely the reason why she wasn’t heckled nearly enough for wearing a glove. This game gave us a chance to adjust to the cold Colorado weather and get warmed up to play UCSB. I knew my knee was a time bomb and I anticipated would give me trouble at the end of the day, hopefully only on Sunday, but I started feeling the pain during our first game. Knowing it would only get worse, I spent an outrageous amount of time rolling out my IT band throughout the day and took a bunch of Ibuprofen. UCSB is clearly the top team in the Southwest region and had a virtual lock to go to Nationals, despite their shocking second place finish at Sectionals. Our next game was our third matchup with them of the season, so we had a good idea of what would be required of us to contend with them, but weren’t going down without a fight. We began the game up 2-0, but UCSB was unfazed and tied the game up at two points apiece. During the next point, UCSB was nearing the endzone when they threw a high swing pass and Guano jumped up for a D. She got tangled up in the UCSB player and fell to the ground in pain. The trainers evaluated her and diagnosed a bad knee sprain with a possible partial LCL tear. Guano would not return for the rest of the weekend, an enormous loss for us since we relied a great deal on her to handle in the unfavorable weather. Later, her doctors diagnosed her with a torn ACL, a huge setback for someone with such an active lifestyle, but she pushed herself in the following months with her physical therapy and was able to recover remarkably fast. As the game carried on, UCSB ran us to the ground with their superior fitness level, making deep cut after deep cut and moving the disc around with ease. As they tired our starters out, they were able to substitute additional strong players and proved that they were the deeper team. The final score was 7-16, which placed us second in our pool of three. We spent our bye scouting the game between USC and Claremont, knowing that we would face the loser of this game in the first round of bracket play. Claremont strategically rested their strongest players during this game and sacrificed a big loss to USC in a game they decided they didn’t have a shot at winning in order to be at their best when they faced us. This tactic proved to be beneficiary, since our game was indeed hard fought and came down to the wire. Kacto was a force to be reckoned with on defense, letting nothing get past her and never looking tired. Sir Robin had spectacular puts all day and Meeko’s long pulls gave us solid field position time after time. In the end, we got our revenge on Claremont. This 12-10 win placed us in the second place bracket, and was their last game of the day. In one of the semifinals games on Saturday, Colorado surprised UCLA with a one-point win and secured their bid to Nationals, which unfortunately meant that we would be matched up against top-seeded UCLA on Sunday instead of Colorado as we expected. Our teams seemed well matched as we traded points in the beginning of the game, but UCLA pulled away with five straight points and took half 8-4. We surged back to bring the score to 10-11, but UCLA found a weak link in our man-on-man defense and scored on a pass to the open side in the back corner of the endzone on game point and won 12-10. This loss moved us down into the fourth place bracket, which meant that one more loss would eliminate us from Nationals. Long Beach State was the next hurdle we needed to surmount on the track we hoped would lead us to Nationals. Tambler let me sit out this game to save me for our upcoming important games since I was hurting a lot. What was a sunny morning turned into a gloomy, windy afternoon. Once again, sloppy play drew out the game longer than it had to be, but we pulled it together in the end and took a relatively easy victory. In our ensuing game, we faced off against Claremont for the fifth time of the season. We had each beat the other twice, but both teams were thinking more about earning a spot in the “game to go” than their pride, as the winner of this game would have to win just one more game to make it to Nationals. The wind had picked up between games and played a huge role. We broke out our four-man cup and had great success with it. Joule’s mark frustrated even the most seasoned handlers by trapping them on the sideline and not allowing them to swing the disc back across the field. Ferris threw some incredibly accurate hucks to Joule in the gusty wind and repeatedly shut down Claremont’s strongest cutter on defense. We won the game 9-4, but long points with numerous turnovers our legs down before our last and most important game. Everything we’d worked for this season came down to our final game against USC, who had just lost to UCLA by a larger margin than we had earlier that day. The rain began to fall ominously as USC jumped out ahead, scoring the first couple points and making us look confused and tired. We wouldn’t give up that easy though. We scored a couple points, but never cut too far into USC’s lead. Each team played a zone defense that cut off most upfield throws, but USC was able to rely on the athleticism of Lindsey Cross and a few other key players when they did get a longer throw off. Loryn was instrumental in working the disc around through USC’s zone and Ferris made crazy grabs all over the field and in both endzones, helping us produce a slight comeback, but it wasn’t enough. USC ended the game with a score to the front, left side of the endzone and their sidelines erupted onto the field as we walked off drenched and crushed.
Despite the devastation of having our goal within grasp and then seeing it fall away, we did accomplish a great deal over the season. Only a year after our suspension, we made a run at Nationals, which few outsiders expected from us. Next year, we should have a few less doubters, but also higher expectations of ourselves.