The Western Washington University men’s club ultimate team has won its first Northwest Regional championship and will be making its first appearance at the national tournament in team history.
The tournament will begin Friday, May 22, and the championship game will take place Monday, May 25, in Milwaukee, Wisc.
WWU’s club ultimate team, also known as Dirt, qualified for the national tournament after winning the Northwest College D-I Regionals in Walla Walla.
“We’re really excited about it,” coach Todd Sliva said in a phone interview. “The program has always been well known and respected within the college ultimate scene. This accomplishment really solidifies WWU as a top-level program right on the level with anyone else. We’re excited to have something to show after all the hard work.”
And that hard work started four years ago for Sliva.
Sliva played on WWU’s club ultimate team for four years and graduated in 2009. He took a year off before rejoining the team as head coach. The players who were freshmen in his first season as head coach are now the seniors on the team Sliva has been building since taking the reigns.
The team is led by two senior captains: Seth Kotzman and Matt Russell — two players Sliva has coached since his first day at the helm of the club.
A turning point in the season for Western took place in the Cascadia DI Conference Tournament, the precursor to the regional tournament. In the tournament, WWU defeated the University of Washington, the No. 8-ranked team in the nation en route to a fifth-place finish.
Since that game, WWU has taken its momentum all the way to the national tournament after topping the No. 3-ranked University of Oregon, which also qualified for nationals, in the northwest regionals.
“We have a talented group of guys,” Sliva said. “They play with the spirit of the game in high regard. That’s what this team embodies and they believe in the system we have in place.”
WWU is one of 20 teams who qualified for nationals and will be the second smallest team in the tournament, Sliva said. But the team has high expectations heading into its first appearane at nationals.
“Our goal is to finish in the top three of our pool and see where we can go from there,” he said.
The 20 teams will be divided into four pools of five teams for a group stage. The top three teams from each pool qualify for the pre-quarter round, where a 12-team, single-elimination tournament will then decide the national champion.
With a couple big wins under its belt already, Sliva and the team are excited to make some noise in its national appearance.
“It’s outstanding to make it to nationals and we’re peaking at the right time,” Sliva said.