A perfect leap into the air. A flawless fake. A definitively masterful throw. The disc slices through the air and one of Black Tide’s soldiers makes the winning catch against Stanford at the Division I Southwest regionals; the University of California, Santa Barbara men’s Ultimate Frisbee team is going to Nationals.
While some teams simply had to worry about placing third in regionals to make it to Nationals, Black Tide had one shot: to win Southwest regionals. This was due to the number of bids they received, which is assigned based on an algorithm much like the National Collegiate Athletic Association football system. The team—led by senior and political science major Hunter Corbett and Coach Tyler Bacon—received dismissals by a premiere Ultimate Frisbee magazine, Ultiworld, which wrote the team off as “extremely energetic” and a “faceless legion of soldiers.” Despite being the underdogs, Black Tide will be heading to Milwaukee, WI from May 22-25 to compete with the top teams in the country.
“This whole year, nobody’s really given us much of a chance,” said Corbett. “In Ultiworld they’ve really been talking us down most of the time, and just saying we’re an energetic team that barely squeezes by and now we’re at nationals; we’ve proved them wrong. We’ve had this mantra that they gave us zero chances, and we’ve kind of been running with that. Black tide is the only team that matters, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
However, Black Tide does boast impressive pedigrees, both as a team and from their captain. Since their creation in 1984, they are the only team to achieve three consecutive wins at nationals twice. Corbett has played on the team all four years. In addition, he simultaneously plays for the National Men’s U-23 team, the local Santa Barbara club team The Condors, and The Los Angeles Aviators American Ultimate Disc League. He brings natural talent and familiarity with a high level of play to the team, as he tries to lead the younger players by example.
“Being captain has been awesome, said Corbett. “These guys are an amazing group this year, like I said younger players. Nobody thought we were going to be able to do it and we all just had the same goal in mind and stayed cohesive as a team. Nationals is going to be a big feat, these teams have been playing together a little bit longer; they’re a little bit older than us. We are not a favorited team, but I think that can be used to our advantage as kind of the dark horse. We’re really just going to focus on ending other teams’ seasons.”
Despite being a young team, Black Tide has pushed forward with a strategy of explosive defense and structured offense, according to Corbett. As the team fundraises for Nationals, which came with short notice at a steep cost, many people stand as outsiders who do not understand the culture of the sport and its distinct language. Although commonly considered football with a Frisbee or simply not a sport, Ultimate Frisbee has grown in the last several years. One of the most unique elements of the sport at the college level is the fact that they play without referees; those who foul are expected to acknowledge their mistake and stop play.
“It’s a lot of athletes now, there are a lot of pro leagues. “t’s a fast growing sport,” said Corbett. “At the same time it does kind of hold the spirit of the game. It’s just sportsmanship at the end of the day, but we really take pride in that because we don’t have actual referees, we have observers and they step in but you have a chance to talk it out first.” Corbett then laughs, “We’re not a bunch of hippies just out smoking weed.”