WUFO second in New England

For the first time since 1996, and for the third time in its history, the men of Williams Ultimate Frisbee Organization (WUFO) qualified for their 16-team nationals tournament to be held in Austin, Texas from May 23-25. Playing at UMass-Amherst, WUFO went 5-1 over the course of the two-day tournament to claim second place in the region and clearly establish itself as one of the dominant teams in New England.

Seeded fifth entering the weekend, WUFO had shown flashes of potential throughout the spring season, but had yet to put together a full weekend of consistent play or even play as a full team. That all changed this past weekend.

The tournament format rewarded consistency over the course of the long tournament, with a minimum of six two-hour games and a maximum of 15. The Williams squad relied on a deep core of experienced seniors anchored by captains Jeremy Redburn ’03, Ian Warrington ’03 and Chris Durlacher ’03, along with a strong group of underclassmen anchored by Nick Borja ’04.

The weekend began against traditional rival Amherst. While WUFO has had some close games with Amherst over the past two years, this spring’s Amherst squad faltered in the face of WUFO’s relaxed offense and intense defense. Williams carried the day 13-8. The same chilly offense and smothering defense that was so successful against Amherst would carry WUFO through the weekend and all the way to nationals.

WUFO’s next game was against Harvard, who had knocked Williams out of contention for nationals two years ago in a heated game. The demons were exorcised this weekend, however, as WUFO dominated the game and walked away with a resounding 15-3 victory to advance to the tournament semifinals.

In the semifinal, WUFO faced off against Brown, a traditional national powerhouse. While Brown won the game 15-11, the confidence gained from a close second half carried the team into the second day. To advance to nationals, WUFO would need to win three games on Sunday against the best New England had to offer.

On Sunday, WUFO came out hard against Wesleyan. It was close all the way until half, but the Williams men pulled away in the second half to take the game 15-9. The victory over Wesleyan meant WUFO had to play Harvard again to get to the coveted “game to go.” A repeat of Saturday’s 15-3 drubbing was not to be had, but the final result was never in question as WUFO rolled over the opposition in a 15-10 game.

The victory over Harvard placed WUFO in the second place game, whose winner would be guaranteed the second of three spots to nationals from New England. Facing off against UMass, a longstanding local rival, the WUFO men knew they had to come out flying if they wanted the win. WUFO’s games with UMass over the past few years have been consistent battles, with both teams playing out of their minds and leaving everything on the field.

After surging to an early 4-1 lead, WUFO knew all it had to do was buckle down on offense and a bid to nationals was in the bag. The teams traded points for a while, with Williams taking an 8-5 halftime lead. The tension was high as the men from Williams saw their goal was finally within reach.

As the second half began, WUFO continued its weekend of playing close to perfect offense. After a few amazing catches and throws by standouts Krishna Kannan ’03, Rob Gonzalez ’03 and CJ Bak ’05, WUFO found itself poised to go to nationals at 14-11. After a few nervous throwaways, Williams had a must-win point ahead at 14-13. A few big throws later, Redburn found Borja in the endzone for the last catch of the day – a catch that would take WUFO to nationals for the first time in seven years.

It was a long and not always successful spring season for the men of the WUFO. But after many months of practice and a long battle with the frustrating Williamstown weather, everything clicked this weekend. If the team can continue to raise its level of play, WUFO could make quite a splash in late May at nationals.