Sweets Earn Spot in Stanford Invite

Tristan Gavin

After graduating several key seniors last year, the Whitman men’s ultimate Frisbee team, the Sweets, did not get an invitation to the power-packed Stanford Invite, a Bay Area tournament held yearly to showcase the best teams in the country. Although their personnel losses led the Sweets to be overlooked nationally and snubbed from one of the top collegiate tournaments, the Sweets earned their own invitation over the past weekend by winning the Stanford Open, the precursor tournament to the invite.

The Sweets huddled up at a recent practice.  Photos by Brennan Johnson.
The Sweets huddled up at a recent practice. Photos by Brennan Johnson.

By the end of last season, Whitman had earned its rank amongst the top 25 Division I schools in the nation, despite being a Division III school in all intercollegiate sports. Whitman competes using a vastly smaller student body than most of the premier programs, like the Wisconsin Hodags, Oregon Ego and Texas Tuff, the current top three teams nationally according to Skyd Magazine. This year, Whitman entered the season unranked, having to reaffirm its status as a premier program nationally.

“We lost a lot of seniors last year. We knew our success wasn’t going to depend on one person stepping up, but on everyone playing their part on the team,” said senior captain Peter Burrows.

The team managed to come together in the Bay Area this weekend and emerge as the champions of a 30-team tournament. Whitman rallied from a loss in pool play to Las Positas College to handily beat Occidental College and UC-Santa Barbara and reach the semifinals, where it narrowly edged out University of Victoria (British Columbia) 12-11. In a final match that showcased the Sweets’ unyielding focus and commitment to a well-honed game plan, Walla Walla’s best summoned the energy to beat UC-Santa Cruz in their eighth game in just two days.

The weekend marathon of games took a physical toll on the team and it took effort from all of the Sweets and a few alumni to maintain enthusiasm.

Nathan Sany '14 and Jacob Janin '13 mark up on each other during a scrimmage.
Nathan Sany ’14 and Jacob Janin ’13 mark up on each other during a scrimmage.

“I’ve never been part of a more cohesive team effort. Everyone killed it,” said sophomore Russell Arkin, who was one of many players who filled an important role in the Sweets’ first tournament of the spring.

” [Junior] Eddie [Hill] and Russ [Arkin] had standout tournaments and stepped into bigger roles to tap into the potential that they have always had,” said junior Nathan Sany, who played a new role himself. Sany battled through painful bursitis in his heel to play an unfamiliar handler role in the tough, windy weather of the Bay Area.

Players were able to rise to the occasion because the graduating seniors left voids to be filled.

“Unlike other years, there are not set expectations for any players, which means everyone gets a chance to grow into their own,” said Sany.

The team is not without great talent, but strong performances from players like Hill and Arkin allowed standouts like senior captain Jacob Janin to play comfortably within the team.

“Jacob Janin had an incredibly average tournament, but even on his average day he is better than everyone else,” Sany joked about his talented teammate, who toured with the NexGen all-star club over the summer, showcasing his talent against the best club teams in the nation.

The team will take little time to recuperate before heading back to California for the Stanford Invite, which they qualified for with the first-place finish.

The competition in the tournament will be tough, but not anything Whitman hasn’t seen before.

When healthy, the Sweets are capable of going toe-to-toe with any team in the nation. Just one week prior to the Stanford Open, the team played University of Oregon’s Ego, the second-ranked team in the country, on universe point in a scrimmage in Eugene, Oregon.

“There’s always someone who brings the fire when we need it. There’s always someone who steps up at the right time,” said Burrows.

The Sweets hope to bring the fire to the Stanford Invite March 9-10, where they will kick-start their spring break with a chance to earn a bid to the Division I Nationals.

“Let’s go, Sweets!” said Sany with a boyish grin.