After a season with injuries, financial obstacles and hours of hard work, Western’s Ultimate Frisbee team, DIRT, was able to attend and compete in nationals.
The four-day tournament took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin starting on Friday, May 22. The team, led by captains Seth Kotzman and Matt Russell, ended with a 13th place finish in the tournament out of 20 teams.
After being seeded 14th going into the tournament, finishing a place ahead of that exceeded the expectations of the team, team president Aaron Haddeland said.
DIRT’s losses were against University of Central Florida, University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University. Their victories came against University of Cincinnati and University of Maryland, College Park.
“We had a great time as a team overall and had a few disappointing losses that we thought we could’ve been more competitive in, but also had a couple great wins and ended the season with a win,” Kotzman said.
After playing throughout the weekend, the team got more comfortable and played better as the tournament progressed, Russell said.
“I think the difficulty was adjusting to the new teams. They had different offenses and defenses than we were expecting. Pacific Northwest [teams] run a little differently, so adjusting to their playing style was probably the difficult thing [throughout the tournament],” Russell said.
Sophomore Dennis Casio tied in assists for the weekend with Seth Johnson. Casio began the tournament playing on offense but was moved to defense as he improved throughout the weekend, Russell said.
“Someone tried to throw a full-field huck and [Casio] stuck his foot out and blocked it, which was probably one moment of the weekend that stood out to me,” Russell said.
Haddeland was impressed by Russell’s play, although it was nothing unordinary, he said.
“[Russell] was athletic and smart with the disc and played very well all weekend,” Haddeland said. “[Tim Schwisow] played a lot and scored a ton of goals for us. That’s what he does. He’s really fast and he can jump really high.”
The wind added a difficulty factor to the game plan the team was prepared for, Haddeland said. He added beating Cincinnati on a universe point, meaning next point wins, was a great highlight of the weekend.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve had at a tournament ever, just great frisbee going on all around us,” Haddeland said. “When we weren’t playing games, we could watch a lot of good ultimate, and everybody was excited to be there, including us since it was our first time being there.”
Even with the loss of seniors, the team is feeling confident about the leadership that is taking over for the upcoming season, both Russell and Haddeland said.
There will be a leadership void with Kotzman, Russell and Jonah Jolley leaving the team. DIRT will continue on and fill that void with leadership from Haddeland, Johnson, Will Coffin, Zachery Laycock and Zhi Chen, Russell said.
“We expect to be a higher profile team next year,” Haddeland said. “We’re hoping that now with nationals under our belt that we’ll be recognized as an elite team.”
Being a part of such a close-knit team and the many friendships he has built are what Russell is taking away from his time on DIRT.
After a season full of challenges and celebrations, the team has learned many valuable lessons.
“We started out the year with a rough first tournament. We didn’t play well. I was hurt at the beginning of the year. Kotzman was hurt and we had a lot of injuries,” Haddeland said. “Our coach, Todd Sliva, stressed that the team we are at the beginning of the year is not going to be the same team we are at the end of the season.”
Open tryouts begin in the fall and everyone is encouraged to come play no matter their skill level, Haddeland said.