By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
The weather outside may not say it, but for Grand Canyon University Ultimate Frisbee, summer is officially over.
It’s time to get back to work.
The offseason grind was put to an early test when the Lopes squared off with Arizona State University in an early-season scrimmage. The match itself would not count toward any ranking points, but the determination to win was clear. The score was tied at 6 with 15 minutes left, but GCU soon found their groove, scoring the next three points to take their largest lead of the game at 9-6 with 10 minutes remaining. ASU stayed close the rest of the game, but the Lopes held off the Sun Devils for a 13-11 win.
Despite only practicing as a team for no more than two weeks before the game, positivity filled the sidelines after the scrimmage – knowing how much the hard work over the summer paid off. Even if it meant finding and throwing to random targets, each of the returning Lopes committed themselves to 15 minutes of throwing each day over the summer – backhand, forehand, overhand hammer throws – all for the intended purpose of hitting the ground running for the new season.
“Very proud of our team to see all the other people who were able to put in all the work,” sophomore cutter Jacob Vangerpen said. “It’s huge to see everyone get that much better.”
The work to get better has continued off the field as well. The majority of the Lopes have only been back on campus for two weeks, so the team has been able to take full advantage of the time to reconnect, and to build up the young players. Over the course of last season, there was a prevalent theme of creating a winning culture. The seasons before saw a lot of turnover in players not coming back, so there was difficulty in maintaining that culture. Going into the scrimmage, 16 returners dressed for the game, something junior team captain Micah Gross said is a big boost toward the team’s ultimate goal.
“The goal of this exhibition game was to give people who are interested in playing a better look at what we’re about with our competitive culture,” said Gross, a Digital Film major. “We really want to focus on our young players, so we’re going to be leaning heavily on our returners to help out the new players.”
Both Gross and fellow team captain Adam Barth have seen those returners make immense improvements in not just talent, but overall dedication to the team’s success.
“Going into last year, as a team, we were all pretty dedicated, but this year, it’s different,” said Barth, a Government major. “You can tell in everyone’s attitude and mentality that when we show up to practice, everyone is putting in work now. We’ve been putting in work all summer, and now, it has to pay off.”
The full regular season doesn’t start until January. Until then, the Lopes will still be on the field with weekly practices and preseason tournaments. There will be plenty of time to add in the new players and keep working on the finer details of the game, but for now, it’s just good to be back on campus with fellow teammates.
“It feels so good to be back,” said Vangerpen, a Biology major. “They are all my brothers and sisters, so it feels good to hang out with all the friends, and get that rhythm back together. We want to make it sectionals this year, and I really think we can do that.”