By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
Days, weeks and months of practice finally came to fruition. This time, it wasn’t for scrimmages – it was the real deal.
Heightened competition was present for Grand Canyon University Ultimate Frisbee at New Year’s Fest in Phoenix. Wins were hard to come by, but in their first sanctioned tournament as a competitive team, the Lopes still found positives and plenty of lessons to be learned.
“Coming into a tournament that we practiced for four, five months now, it was different,” Lopes’ Captain Micah Gross said. “But everyone was willing to rise to the challenge. Losing isn’t easy, but we learned a lot as a team.”
Over a two-day span, GCU played seven games in a round robin-style format against other schools from around the west coast, including Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. Starting with the first matches on Saturday, the Lopes found themselves with challenges against established programs. GCU played four games on Saturday, and only came away with one victory: a 13-5 win over ASU’s C team.
Nerves were visible as the team would admit. Much of it could be attributed to growing pains as a first-year competitive team, but the Lopes took their first games and turned them into lessons for Sunday.
“Saturday, we went through this funk that we just had a hard time getting out of,” Gross said. “Just some fundamental things we struggled with. After Saturday, the nerves started to calm down, and we were able to figure ourselves out.”
GCU matched up with the tournament’s No. 1 seed, University of Colorado, for Sunday’s first game. It was Colorado coming away with an 11-4 win, but the Lopes parlayed their best effort of the tournament into back-to-back wins, defeating ASU’s C team, 11-3, and Arizona’s B team, 11-9, finishing the weekend with a 3-4 record.
An increase of intensity was emphasized after Saturday’s games, and that turned into the key for victory on Sunday.
“We came off a really good game against a really good team,” said Gross, who tallied 11 assists on the weekend. “Yes, we didn’t win, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still play hard for the next game. You can always bring intensity on both offense and defense – no matter what the score is.”
Josh Walsh led the Lopes with 13 goals on the weekend, but got plenty of help in the way of balanced scoring from the rest of the team. Austin Anderson added six goals while four others had five. Adrian Aguilar and Brandon Watabe helped with seven assists and six assists, respectively.
From here, the Lopes won’t play again until the PleasureFest tournament in Tempe March 10 and 11. GCU will see much of the same competition that they saw in this spring opener. Until then, the Lopes will continue build a culture they want and need to be successful.
“One of the biggest things we talked about was we’re trying to build a competitive culture,” Gross said. “This tournament was a bit of a wake-up call for the players who may not have fully bought in yet. Even though we might have lost, we see it as valuable because other teams are really good at showing you where you need to improve.”