Men’s ultimate club team earns trip to regional tournament

Chase Gunn (sophomore, small business management), left, and Max Dawson (junior, criminology and geography), right, compete during a scrimmage April 8. (Aleda Johnson/ The Penn)

For the second time in team history, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania men’s ultimate Frisbee club team qualified for regionals.

The club team has been around since 2003 and is currently enjoying its greatest run of success. In 2012, the team qualified for the regional tournament, but this year’s ranking is the highest it’s ever been.

“My sophomore year our two captains were seniors,” co-captain Colin Ward (senior, communications media) said. “That was the first time we qualified for regionals.

“I thought that was the perfect tribute for them.”

Now, for Ward, the team was able to qualify in his senior campaign.

“My other captain [Jared Barnett (senior, geography and regional planning)] and I are both seniors, [and] we also have a few other guys who are in their last year of play,” Ward said. “It is the perfect way to go out.

“All year, every guy on this team pushed themselves every day at practice, off the field and at every tournament. I’m so happy we were able to earn this together.”

IUP finished fifth out of seven teams with a 2-4 record on the day at sectionals, held at West Virginia University’s campus in Morgantown, W.Va., to qualify for the regional competition. Sectionals serve as the first round of playoffs, with the top six teams moving on to the next round in Toledo, Ohio.

Also competing in the two-day tournament were the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University, Edinboro University, Carnegie Mellon University and West Virginia University.

IUP, whose team name is the Kodiaks, defeated the Shippensburg Goats 10-9 to clinch its regional appearance. Down 8-5, IUP stormed back for the victory, the team’s second consecutive win over Shippensburg.

IUP also defeated West Virginia 15-5 while dropping a narrow 10-8 decision to Edinboro.

“Qualifying for regionals is a huge achievement for our team,” Ward said. “Being that it is only the second time we’ve made it as a club gives it huge significance as well.”

This school year, IUP traveled to tournaments at Edinboro, Gettysburg College and West Chester University in the fall, but inclement weather allowed the team to compete in just two tournaments during the spring.

For Ward, however, the high point of the season was when the team won their final game April 13 to solidify their place at regionals.

“We played a lot of great teams and showed a lot of heart,” Ward said.

In that final game, the Kodiaks were playing the second game of a back-to-back against Shippensburg.

Using the wind to their advantage in the second half, IUP used a strong defensive effort to tie the game at eight.

“The second half is where the magic happened,” Caleb Stam (senior, interior design) said. “I have never seen us work together so well when it mattered most.”

After it was determined that a soft cap would be applied and the first team to 10 would win, the Kodiaks continued their comeback when Barnett threw the length of the field to Max Dawson (senior, criminology), who caught the disc to tie the game up at nine.

The Goats went for the win, but Barnett’s diving interception gave possession back to IUP. Barnett then passed to Alex Thomas (senior, MIS and decision sciences), who made a miraculous catch and then called timeout, according to Stam.

Out of the timeout, Ward threw the disc to the back of the end zone, and Thomas again came up with the catch for the game-winning score.

“With unmatchable excitement, we chanted IUP over and over again while embracing each other,” Stam said about the postgame celebrations.

The team, which has no coaching staff, faces stiff competition in Toledo with the likes of Ohio University, the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University and two-time national champion Pittsburgh in the tournament.

“An eighth-place finish out of 16 teams would be a big achievement for us,” Ward said. “Due to our team size and lack of coaching staff, our progress takes smaller steps.”

Ryan Peterson (sophomore, criminology) is an avid ultimate player and officially joined the team for the spring semester.

“Being new to the team and having a lot to learn doesn’t equal a lot of playing time,” Peterson said. “But just being on the sideline doesn’t mean that you’re [not] involved in the game: Maintaining a positive attitude, saying where players are while we are on defense and yelling cheers when we score points are just some things we do on the sidelines.”

The Kodiaks urge all players, young and veterans, to turn in their best games at regionals. IUP is seeded 14th and is set for matchups against pool B foes West Chester, Penn State and Miami University in Ohio.