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UCLA women’s ultimate Frisbee flies to national championships, placing 13th

Members of the UCLA women’s ultimate Frisbee team are pictured running on a field. The team placed 13th at the first national championships it had competed at in five years, as previous games were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

By Sarah Nachimson

June 8, 2023 1:09 a.m.

UCLA women’s ultimate Frisbee had the chance to take its shot at a national championship for the first time in five years.

The competition, hosted by USA Ultimate – the league’s Olympic affiliate governing body – took place over Memorial Day weekend in Mason, Ohio. The Bruins, who qualified after winning five of seven games at regionals earlier in May, earned 13th place out of the 20 teams competing.

Since UCLA does not have a varsity ultimate Frisbee team, the club team is the school’s highest level of the sport.

For seniors on the team – including co-captains Tanya Bearson and Sydney Monte-Sano – the tournament gave them a chance they had missed out on during their first two years when the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2020 season short and caused the 2021 season to be canceled.

Coach Cheryl Prideaux said the cancellation was particularly disappointing because she felt that year’s team was capable of making it to the national semifinals.

Bearson added that the COVID cancellation was disappointing for her as a freshman player.

“It was really hard having those early seasons cut short because our team was so strong,” Bearson said. “I was worried that that would mean that we would never get the opportunity to go (to nationals).”

Bearson, who played on an ultimate Frisbee team in high school, said the league gave club teams two chances to qualify for last year’s championships in an effort to make up for the season lost during the pandemic. However, the Bruins failed to qualify for nationals both times.

Monte-Sano, who joined the team during her freshman year, voiced her excitement for nationals this season. She said the possibility of nationals had seemed uncertain at the beginning of the year because many of the previous year’s seniors had graduated.

Prideaux added that 13 of the team’s 22 players this year were new, so the focus was on coaching them and building their confidence. The team struggled for the first few tournaments of the year, Monte-Sano said, adding that it was hard to keep up morale when losing its first games.

However, Monte-Sano said when the team ultimately qualified for nationals, the feeling was incredible.

“Making nationals was pretty awesome. I think that was a great day, because we had to win our last two games that day to make it,” Monte-Sano said. “Something clicked, and we just knew we could make it and we even weren’t in our heads. We were just playing and having so much fun.”

Bearson said the nationals tournament gave the team the chance to show how much it had improved. UCLA defeated Binghamton University – which had previously upended the Bruins in the first tournament of the season – to secure 13th place.

Even though UCLA later lost to North Carolina State at nationals in the second round, Bearson said she was proud of what they have been able to accomplish this year.

Both Monte-Sano and Bearson, who will graduate this year, said they hope the younger players will continue to grow next year.

“They just got so much better, and it blew my mind how they stepped up into these big leadership roles and roles on the field,” Bearson said. “I’m really excited to see how people step up next season.”

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