By Jesse Vineyard/GCU Staff
It’s something that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but it exists nonetheless. The record may not display it, but Grand Canyon University Ultimate Frisbee continued to make improvements with their play at PleasureFest, hosted by Arizona State University, over the past weekend.
The Lopes started strong with wins in their first two games – 13-5 over the University of Arizona, and 10-9 against Northern Arizona University, but were unable to find the win column the rest of the way, finishing at 2-4 overall.
Despite the four straight losses to finish, the Lopes saw an uptick in competitiveness from their previous tournament. Looking back at how GCU played at New Year’s Fest in late January, Lopes’ team captain Micah Gross said that nerves were visible for the team before their first games, causing the team to start in a funk. At PleasureFest, the reverse happened where the Lopes took away two straight opening wins with a faster and more focused effort.
“Our expectation of gameplay was much more than it was in previous tournaments,” Gross said. “We came out much harder than we did [at New Year’s Fest] and there wasn’t that lull that we had to start. We knew that we were a better team than others, and I think our performance showed that.”
Saturday consisted of four games, so as the day went on, mental fatigue started to set in. The Lopes played their third game of the day against University of Colorado-Denver, losing 13-4. They finished the day against host ASU, falling closely, 11-9. On Sunday, GCU played two more close games, but it was the University of New Mexico – 13-8 – and Utah Valley University – 12-8 – coming away as the victors.
Mental endurance was a theme as the players and staff recapped the weekend’s events. Lopes’ co-captain Adam Barth stated that staying focused for four contested games in one day can be a battle. Yet, just by the indication of the scores, the team has seen enough improvements to feel encouraged for the coming practices and tournaments.
“Being close is a testament to us improving as a team,” Barth said. “I’m just proud of how far we have come. There were a bunch of little things that I was able to see we were able to improve on from the past tournaments.”
Those little things are both on the offensive and defensive side of the field. It seems like a lot, but breaking the key points down into smaller bits has been the job of Lopes’ Assistant Coach Nate Page.
Page, who also plays professionally for the San Diego Growlers of the American Ultimate Disc League along with Lopes’ Head Coach Josh Kohl, focuses on the defense for the Lopes. Within the games, Page stated that turning defense into offense and scoring points off the turnovers was an issue, especially with seeing many looks from the opposition that the team was not used to playing against. But as a whole, there were many more chances created – enough of which for Page to feel optimistic going forward.
“We definitely have some guys who are stepping up,” Page said. “Overall, the D-line is really starting to click and get a lot of turns on defense. It’s good to see all these different looks, because it shows us where we are, and what we need to work on in practice.”
Next for the Lopes is the Trouble In Vegas Tournament March 24 and 25 in Las Vegas. Here, the Lopes will see much of the same teams as they have before, but also a potential step up in competition. While there won’t be a set list of expectations, GCU will be looking to bring together the improvements from the last two tournaments, and ultimately make this one its most successful.
“Trouble In Vegas is one of those bigger tournaments throughout the year,” Page said. “People like going just because it is Vegas, and they want to have a good time. But we’ll be there to get some quality wins and continue to build for sectionals and regionals.”