The majority of Slug athletes can’t claim they’re turning pro in their sport — seniors Greg Cohen and Brett Peterson are the exception. The two current Slugs are now members of the AUDL (American Ultimate Disc League) San Jose Spiders.
After playing four years together on the UC Santa Cruz ultimate frisbee team, Cohen and Peterson made their professional debut in the AUDL in a game against the San Francisco FlameThrowers on April 12.
“I ‘hucked’ one to Brett at the beginning of the game, and at the end of the game he ‘hucked’ one to me and we both scored,” Cohen said. “We’ve played together since freshman year, and I’ve always felt that we’ve had an amazing amount of chemistry.”
San Jose Spiders owner Andrew Zill caught the two UCSC ultimate frisbee stars off guard when he offered them contracts during a local college tournament earlier this year.
“It was shocking,” Cohen said. “I knew there were professional leagues but I never pictured myself getting signed off the bat. I did not think I would be pro this year.”
Peterson had a similar reaction to Cohen’s, but the two could only afford to be awe-struck for so long as they had to begin training for the professional season. The Spiders rarely have the chance to practice with each other because their players are located all over the Bay Area. Players like Cohen and Peterson stay in shape by playing with their collegiate teams, since their season occurs simultaneously with the AUDL’s season. Despite this setback, Cohen doesn’t believe the chemistry of the team is deterred in the slightest.
“I thought there were going to be problems with chemistry,” Cohen said, “but when you get to a certain level of ultimate, everyone knows what you are trying to do. I really believe when [the Spiders] played together it was easy.”
Cohen helped lead the Spiders to a 20-16 victory over the FlameThrowers with three assists and three blocks while Peterson had one assist. Both players scored one goal each, coincidentally on a deep throw from the other.
While they could have been content with simply participating in a professional match, the fact that both players were able to leave an impact on the outcome of the game speaks to their skill set and work ethic. Zach Shamroukh, a freshman on the UCSC ultimate frisbee team, wasn’t surprised when he heard of their performance.
“Both [of them] have big presences on the team, so it makes sense they’re going pro,” Shamroukh said. “They work really hard [and] are leaders on the team.”
Shamroukh talked about the clutch factor Peterson possesses. He said Peterson always seems to be the player who shows up when the Slugs really need a defensive stop or a score.
“It’s a very unique sport and everyone is involved,” Peterson said. “You don’t necessarily need to be athletic. When you have the disc in your hands, your whole team is counting on you.”
Passion drives Peterson and Cohen to continue playing ultimate frisbee beyond the club level at UCSC. Together they join soccer player Anton Peterlin, along with multiple AUDL and Major League Ultimate players, as some of the only professional athletes to ever come out of UCSC. Cohen anticipates increased popularity for the sport in the future.
“It’s a fun sport everyone can play,” Cohen said. “All you need is a disc and some people to run around. I only think it will grow in the future — we had over a thousand fans at our first game.”
While there is quite a bit of hype surrounding the two pro players, Peterson and Cohen can’t afford to get caught up in it. If the Slugs perform well at the regional tournament on May 3 and 4, they will earn the opportunity to return to nationals for the first time since Cohen and Peterson were freshmen. Now, leading the charge in their final collegiate season, Cohen thinks this could be the year they finally attain their ultimate goal.
“I’ve spent four years playing for this team. I’ve dedicated my college life to this team and I would never trade it for anything,” Cohen said. “You have this goal to go to nationals with all these guys, and maybe you’re not friends on the outside of ultimate, but together, with this team especially, I have never been more connected to the guys in my life. We have a great shot at going pretty far.”