UMass ultimate frisbee reflects on national quarterfinals run

By Anthony Chiusano

The Massachusetts club ultimate frisbee team creeped into last year’s College Ultimate Championships and was “just happy to be there” en route to losing all of its games in pool play. In 2015, the results were much different.

The Minutemen returned to the national tournament this year as the No. 9 seed and won Pool D before falling to Florida State 12-10 in the quarterfinals Sunday morning.

“It was definitely an amazing experience,” UMass co-captain Ben Tseytlin said. “We’ve grown so much this year and our goals were set much higher than they were last year.”

The four-day tournament began Friday with two days of pool play in which the Minutemen finished on top at 4-0, including victories over higher-seeded North Carolina-Wilmington and Colorado.

Following pool play, UMass moved on to the championship bracket where it lined up to play the No. 6 seed Seminoles with a trip to the semifinals at stake.

Although the Minutemen embarked on an early 3-1 lead, Florida State fought back in what became a tightly contested battle up until the final whistle. The game included five lead changes and seven ties before the Seminoles went on a 4-2 run to close out their victory.

“It was a dogfight throughout the entire game,” UMass coach Tiina Booth said. “We went out to an early lead, we then traded points and hung in there… It came down to a two-point difference, and that’s how sports go.”

Despite the team’s exit from tournament play, Booth said she was happy with the Minutemen’s development this season and pleased to see further success in nationals. In 2014, UMass entered the 20-team tournament as the No. 19 seed.

“Last year was kind of getting our feet wet and we were just happy to be there,” Booth said. “This year, we had a different attitude going into the regular season and into the tournament.”

UMass co-captain Max Perham said this year’s tournament success stemmed from the Minutemen’s execution down the final stretch of games. In last year’s pool play when UMass was swept in the opening stage, the Minutemen lost three games in sudden death overtime.

“Last year, we were not able to finish games,” Perham said. “It was a little heartbreaking last year to work so hard to get there and not be able to perform at the level we wanted to. This year, we showed up and faced teams that have given us trouble all season and really just showed that we deserved to be here.”

While Perham said the Minutemen answered any questions on whether they deserved to be ranked in the top 10, he added that he thought the team’s ceiling was higher than reaching the quarterfinals.

“I do think that our ceiling was finals, I think we could’ve won the whole thing,” Perham said. “So in that respect, it’s a little disappointing, but at the same time, knowing where we came from, I’m so excited that we made it as far as we did.”

Reaching the national tournament posed a challenge beyond on-the-field performance for UMass, as the team worked toward financing the trip throughout the season.

While the club did receive some university funds, the majority of financing for regular season and postseason tournaments came directly from the players or through fundraising and donations. For nationals, it cost $1,912 for the team to register – not including airfare, hotel stay and other expenses.

Among the fundraisers the Minutemen ran this year was a gear sale and multiple trips to clean up the Mullins Center following events on campus.

“We’ve been very good about fundraising this year,” Tseytlin said. “After a sporting event we would spend a couple of hours cleaning up all the trash and would get a couple hundred dollars that we would put toward the team.”

As for what to expect for next season, Tseytlin, who will be a senior, said UMass will use its quarterfinals loss as motivation for a deeper run in the 2016 tournament.

“I don’t know if we exceeded expectations (this year) because our goals were set so high,” Tseytlin said. “It definitely motivates me and the rest of the team to push way harder for next year because now we know what it takes.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.