By Melody Chu
Playing on a second-string sports team is usually a disappointment. However, the UC Santa Cruz ultimate Frisbee B-team sure knows how to take it and run, especially when they get to beat up on high school students.
The Slugs won two of six games in an unofficial tournament they hosted last Saturday. One of their wins was an exciting come-from-behind victory over UC Berkeley, while the other was a sound trouncing of an Alameda County high school team.
“It was a very laid-back tournament,” B-team captain Brian Grefenstette said. “We decided to host it because there are no good tournaments for non-A-teams.”
Stanford, Santa Clara University, San Francisco State and Santa Rosa Junior College all fielded teams for the get-together, but the most interesting opponent had to be the youngsters from the Alameda Continuing Learning Center (ACLC), whose team is affectionately known as “Dark Meat” (as opposed to the freshman “Fresh Meat” team).
“A lot of them are double our size, so it’s a little intimidating,” ACLC junior Kyle Popelka said before playing the Slugs. “But if you keep control of the disk, size doesn’t really matter.”
The ACLC team dropped all their games, but since the results of Saturday’s tournament were not reported to any official ultimate league—it was more important that everyone got a chance to participate and play—the losses will not affect school rankings.
Two-year UCSC veteran Will Miller recognizes that the Slugs’ main focus is garnering experience.
“Winning is still important, but it’s about building as a team,” Miller said. “When someone comes out, we make them a part of the ultimate family.”
The nationally ranked A-team takes its game seriously, practicing three to five times a week and traveling across the state for tournaments, but many of the B-team members enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere. The two teams haven’t really practiced together since cuts were made in November.
“Every good ultimate team has a B-team,” explained coach Nat Robinson, who played on the A-team before graduating in 2004. “It’s a ton of fun for people who can’t put in all the time or are not natural athletes.”
Robinson continued, “For a lot of these guys, it’s good to be a part of a team, or they would end up sitting in their rooms on AIM. Now they are outside getting exercise.”
The best players usually move on to the A-team after each season, making it difficult for the B-team to field a consistent group year after year. With the exception of Grefenstette, a grad student in the physics department, and super-senior Pat Lynch, the entire team is composed of freshmen and sophomores.
Since good talent is always welcome on the B-team, the team is open to walk-ons year-round.
College Ten freshman Russell Wynne joined ultimate just two weeks prior to the tournament, but got in the game on Saturday. Wynne, who had played soccer and baseball in high school, explained that the overall attitude of the ultimate team was surprisingly welcoming.
“I was expecting to get hassled because I didn’t know the [rules of the game],” Wynne said. “But everyone was really cool. They’re a very nice group of guys.”
Fellow freshman Kevin Yoshimoto agreed that the team was welcoming to newcomers.
“It’s about the people you meet,” Yoshimoto said. “No one is really intense enough where they will try and hurt other people [on the field]. It’s a nice balance between athleticism and talent.”