By: Chase Gardiner/GCU Staff
A historic time to be a semifinalist.
Grand Canyon University Ultimate Frisbee opened up regular season play in historic fashion at the New Year Fest Tournament. With an overall record of 5-2 in the tournament, the Lopes achieved their first spot in a championship bracket in program history, ultimately finishing in third place.
“As a young program that wants to compete, it can be tough going into games with confidence, especially knowing how good the competition is and how our teams have performed in the past,” explained Lopes co-captain Micah Gross. “However, we’ve worked really hard and kept a competitive mindset, and being able to beat some of these teams that we know are very talented really helps to reinforce that we are on the right path. A third-place victory goes a long way to improve the team’s overall confidence.”
For Gross, it’s no surprise that the Lopes’ competitive mindset is now translating to on-field success. In fact, the Lopes have spent several years making a concerted effort to cultivate a culture of competitiveness that is finally paying off.
“One of the most unique aspects of the team this year is – hands down – the competitive culture,” explained Gross. “In previous years, the team had problems with things like practices feeling optional, and the competitive spirit was missing. This year, we have a ton of athletes that have really bought in and made that competitive shift, and you can see the culture starting to pay dividends on the field.”
While a competitive culture has been great for building the Lopes’ overall confidence, it has also translated to tangible change during matches.
“One of the big things in the sport of Ultimate is that the sideline can act like an eighth player,” said Gross. “Over the weekend, our sideline was incredibly engaged, and you could see that it really helped to push our team higher. In the past, our teams had struggled with checking out if we were down, but the team just kept fighting this time around, and it clearly made a difference.”
While the word “competitive” is clearly in GCU’s vocabulary, the word “comfortable” is not – despite jumping out to their best regular season start in program history.
“Although we did great overall and our offense was really flowing all day, a big takeaway for the team came on the defensive side,” said Gross. “We definitely need to improve on capitalizing when we get a return to improve our chances of winning matches. New Mexico was really great at doing that, and they ended up winning the whole tournament, so it’s something that we will need to focus more on as we move forward.”
The Lopes have nearly a month to prepare for their next event, the SoCal Mixer Tournament February 23 & 24 in Claremont, California.
Want to support the GCU Club Ultimate Frisbee team? Make sure to check out their schedule!