The Occidental men’s ultimate frisbee team, also known as Detox, won the sectional championship April 15 in a down-to-the-wire battle against the Claremont Consortium team, 15–14. The sectional tournament, consisting of four teams total, began with round-robin pool play on April 14, in which all teams play each other once to earn a tournament seed. With the win, Detox earned a spot in the sixteen-team national championship tournament in Rockford, Illinois, which will take place May 19–20.
Robert Zhang (senior) explained how Detox used Saturday, April 14 to scout their competition for the playoffs on Sunday, April 15.
“We sorta just tested out the waters to see what other teams had,” Zhang said. “We looked out for any threats — any potential players we should look out for.”
Head coach Nate Warden expanded on the benefits of the Saturday match as it helps conserve energy and test out defensive looks.
“The beauty of having Saturday seeding games is we had a chance to warm up and scout,” Warden said via email. “On Saturday we probed Claremont with a couple of defensive looks to see what stuck, and had a chance to identify their strengths.”
While Detox tested strategies against Claremont, they lost the pool play matchup 9–6. This was Detox’s second loss against Claremont this season. While other teammates seemed concerned, Zhang said he felt confident about a presumed rematch come Sunday.
“Most of the guys felt like ‘man, we lost to them twice already, it’s gonna be hard to beat them,'” Zhang said. “But I know that the times we played them before, we didn’t play our best players every point or try strategies that we knew would work, so coming in I knew that we were going to do well.”
Detox’s loss to Claremont was their only defeat in pool play, as they beat Caltech and Biola University in the other round-robin games. Their record earned the team the second seed for the single-elimination four-team bracket on Sunday.
Entering their first single elimination game against the third seed Caltech on Sunday, Adam Grammer (senior) explained that their semi-final matchup was not an easy win.
“It was 12–9. Very competitive,” Grammer said. “I think it was 10–9 at one point, so we really had to push to get that victory.”
From there, Detox met Claremont once more in the championship match, with only a short ten-minute break between games. Zhang noted the benefits of such a quick turn around.
“We just came off working hard in the Caltech game so we just transferred our momentum into the Claremont game,” Zhang said.
The championship matchup went back and forth, with neither team taking a lead margin larger than two points, according to Grammer. As both teams approached the game-winning 12-point mark, Detox’s roster depth helped them stay fresh and quick on the field, according to Warden.
“By the end of the weekend, the studs for Claremont were gassed and our seniors were rested and ready with our young guys in rhythm,” Warden said via email.
Even as Claremont tied the game at 11–11, bringing the game to what Grammer said was known as “universe point” (when the next point wins the game), he stayed calm, confident that the team would be able to handle the high-intensity situation.
“Even when they scored to tie it 11–11 — and I’ve been on teams in the past where the team sort of freaks out and gets nervous — but we were very ready to go for that last point,” Grammer said. “I felt extremely confident that we had put in the work this game and that we deserved to win it.”
Zhang said that Detox scored the championship-winning point in a simple drive down the field, clinching their second consecutive section championship. Returning to nationals for the second year in a row, Grammer believes Detox will be able to compete and defy other teams’ expectations.
“We probably will be a low seed based on our regular season rankings —probably 15 or 16 — but we see ourselves as ready to go,” Grammer said. “We’re definitely gonna compete at our best and try to upset some teams. I’m confident in the players we have to pull that off.”
Whatever the outcome, Zhang takes pride in the group that makes up Detox, knowing they have their priorities straight and will do everything they can come game time.
“We’re just a bunch of guys,” Zhang said. “We’re very diverse in all of our majors and what we study but we all come together to play frisbee and we all leave it on the field. No one really slacks off and we all know that academics come first, but when we come to play, we come to play. We do our best.”