This weekend the Cornell Ultimate team will travel to Saratoga Springs to compete in the Metro East College Regional Championships. The Cornell men’s team, the Buds, has a long-standing reputation as being one of the top teams in the nation, and is hoping to continue its success this year.
The Buds were founded in 1973, and are the longest continuously running ultimate program in the country. Over this time the team has qualified for nationals 16 times — three times in the last three years.
This weekend is the second of three qualifying tournaments that make up the road to nationals. Two weeks ago the team competed in Conference Championships, earning a second place spot and a place at Regionals. 16 teams from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey qualified for this weekend’s tournament, with the winner moving on to play at nationals in Colorado at the end of May.
There are 21 players on the Buds roster this year, who come from a variety of backgrounds.
“Tryouts are the entirety of the fall,” explained senior captain Adam Salwen. “The focus is on fundamentals, as we have a mix of new players who have played in high school as well as those who only played other sports.”
“More and more players are coming in with high school experience,” added Neil Butler ’11. “More high schools have ultimate programs, which is translating to a better level of play at the college level.”
The team is coached by grad Colin Gottlieb, who played for Colorado when that team won the National title and has also captained one of the country’s elite club teams.
As well as recruiting rookies, the Buds’ reputation attracts graduate students who played as undergraduates, and are looking to continue playing ultimate. Despite the range of experience, all of the players’ dedication to the team is apparent.
“Every year a lot of players join club teams over the summer and into the fall,” Butler said. “It’s a higher level of play and a big time commitment, but a great way to improve. We have alumni that are playing on some of the top teams in the nation.”
Until recently, club teams were the highest level of play for ultimate. The recent creation of a professional ultimate league, however, has caused controversy among the ultimate community.
“There are two Cornell alums in the newly formed pro league, the American Ultimate Disc League,” Butler said. “[The league] ha
d a pretty good opening day…it’ll be interesting to see what happens with it.”
All eight Ivy League schools support both men’s and women’s teams, with Princeton, Columbia and Yale all competing this weekend in the same region as Cornell.
“We usually beat them pretty handily,” Butler said. “Last year, we were also able to beat Harvard at nationals.”
The Buds played in four tournaments in the spring season before competing at Conference Championships.
“Our first was Queen City Tune Up in North Carolina,” said captain Bo Li ’11. “We had a tournament in Philly, one in Georgia, and one at UConn.”
“For spring break, we drove down to Georgia for the tournament, and then spent the week in South Carolina for training,” Salwen said. “ It’s a great chance to get a lot of ultimate in. Spring break is fun, you can quote me on that,” he added.
The team has struggled with injuries this year, with many of the starting players having to sit out at least one tournament this season. The Buds’ loss in the finals against Buffalo at Conference Championships was the first time since 2008 that they had not placed first at the tournament.
“Our biggest competition this weekend should be UConn,” Butler said. “But now we’re also seeking to avenge our loss against Buffalo.”
Li said the team hopes, “to have everyone healthy again for Regionals this weekend,” Li said. “As nationals fall on the same weekend as Cornell’s graduation, all of our seniors have skipped graduation for the last three years. We’re hoping to continue that tradition,” he said.
Cornell’s B-team was also able to qualify for the regional tournament this weekend.
“The Shake is Cornell’s mens’ B-team,” explained senior captain Dan Coll. “But it differs from most B-teams in that we maintain a competitive atmosphere and travel to play other A teams in the area.”
This is the second year that the Shake qualified for regionals. Last year the team placed higher than any other B team in a regional tournament in the country.
“We have such a good A-team that our B-team is held to better standards,” added senior captain Andrew Turgeon. “This leads to better overall playing, and we’re able to compete at the same level as most A-teams.”
The Shake competed at Conference Championships in the developmental league two weekends ago, and its success there earned the team the right to play at DI regionals this weekend.