Lopes learn from experienced competitors
By: Julie Laugel/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
Training with the best in order to be the best.
For the 2020-21 season, Grand Canyon University Ultimate focused on building a community within the team and a foundation for the future by continuing to train and facing tough competition. After practicing three times a week throughout the year, the Lopes competed in two home tournaments and trained with the Phoenix Club, a group of local, experienced ultimate players, before the end of the season.
“Our biggest motivator this season was the sense of community within the team,” said Lopes’ sophomore captain Eli Salmon. “Knowing that we may not have the chance to go to big tournaments or play that much, a big thing the captains focused on was making the players realize that the community we have is something special and won’t just fizzle out when we’re done.”
In their first competitive opportunity of the season, the Lopes hosted Phoenix Club and Flagstaff Club in a round robin tournament, splitting their two games.
“Our freshmen were making good plays – as well as our top seniors and throwers,” said Salmon. “Everyone was on the same page and really wanting it that day, and it showed when we came out on top (in the second game).”
The tough competition schedule continued in their next tournament, where the Lopes battled Phoenix Club once again in back-to-back games. GCU’s high effort and intensity weren’t enough to overcome the veteran Phoenix Club athletes.
“In the first game, we had a lack of focus and fundamental mistakes in the second half that they capitalized on,” said Salmon. “In the second game, our sideline talk and energy was probably the best it’s been this year. We all were realizing it was our last tournament, and there was nothing to really lose, so we just gave it our all.”
During the final weeks of practice, GCU continued to work on their skills by learning from their competitors and training with the knowledgeable Phoenix Club players.
“All of those guys are older, more experienced and have been playing longer than us,” said Salmon. “Having them come out was a really good resource for us to learn and to play against a higher-level team, which we are not used to – especially this year with all of the COVID restrictions.”
After the long year of training, the Lopes believe their new knowledge of the game will put them ahead of the competition for the future.
“We have a really strong foundation for next year,” said Salmon. “We’re going to have a young team, but I think our young players have the commitment level that’s really going to put us ahead against teams in our section. We want to be contenders for that sectional title and get a bid to regionals, so I’m excited to see our practices get to the next level and seeing everyone buying in the same amount.”
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