The Spidermonkeys, the University of Richmond men's club ultimate frisbee team, qualified for the Division III Nationals after winning the regional tournament on April 22.
Last year was the first time in recent memory that the Spidermonkeys did not qualify for the national tournament after losing to United States Naval Academy at the regional level. Many of the players, including sophomore Calvin Ciorba, carried the loss with them throughout the season, letting it motivate them to just take it one game at a time, Ciorba said.
“It [was] one of the most demoralizing losses I’ve ever faced, and I think all of us who played have been thinking about that loss every single day for the last 365 days,” Ciorba said.
Additionally, to start the season, the team lost to Navy 10-8 in a close battle. Senior Captain Brett Schoppert said that winning the regional tournament felt like a huge win, even though Navy lost to Elon in the previous round and didn’t play in the finals.
“That [Navy] was the team we lost to last year,” Schoppert said. “So I think we were hoping to avenge that loss. But I think winning the region, coming and doing that, for me really righted that ship. It’s okay that we didn’t beat them in the regular season, because we won the region.”
The players from last year recognized that restructuring was required to try and dissipate the toxic culture that had developed. Ciorba said that the team initially held the mentality that they would make it to nationals without putting in the work, and that this year they wanted to focus more on the step by step process to get there.
“Last year we just had an expectation that we were going to win the nationals, and we weren’t even considering the steps we needed to do before that,” Ciorba said.
To start the year, they put in place three guiding principles: showing up, positive intensity and one game at a time. They had these principles at each practice and allowed for the culture of the team to positively develop. The team has become really close, and that not only has there been a lot of investment in the team goals this year, but it is an environment where people enjoy working together, Schoppert said.
Schoppert also talked about the challenges of students who had studied abroad in the spring who came and joined the team, which made it stronger but also forced it to navigate around the new players and the team dynamic that had formed in the fall. Even through challenges that came up throughout the season, the team came together and used the abilities of each individual player to strengthen of the team.
Senior Sam Gilmore said that he and his fellow players were all really close, and that scoring the winning goal at regionals and everyone flooding the field was a moment that he would remember forever.
“People were hugging and crying. It was amazing,” Gilmore said.
Contact news writer Grace Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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