Young, talented men’s ultimate team ready for first tournament test at Commonwealth Cup
Liberty University’s men’s ultimate team will compete in the Commonwealth Cup — its first USA Ultimate-sanctioned tournament in nearly two years — this weekend at the Smith River Sports Complex in Axton, Va., on adjacent fields to the Lady Flames’ women’s team.
“It’s been so long since we’ve had competition so I’m excited for them,” Head Coach Kevin Habermas said, noting the Flames had their first scheduled event, the Mid-Atlantic Warm-Up near Richmond, Va., canceled by snow late last month. “You can practice for a long time, but there’s nothing like tournament play. We’ve been going over plays the last couple weeks, just trying to get the timing of all the cuts down so we can execute correctly.”
Seeded 11th out of 15 teams in the men’s field, Liberty will play in the same pool as the AAU travel team Triangle Tourist Boys, who it will play at 10 a.m. Saturday, No. 5-seeded Pennsylvania, which it will meet at 11:30 a.m., the University’ of Virginia’s B team, which it faces at 1 p.m., and No. 2-seeded Mary Washington, which it will challenge at 2:30 p.m.
The University of Richmond, which like Mary Washington is an NCAA Division III program, is the No. 1 seed overall.
The Flames are led by captains Joshua Duke and Caleb Stow as well as fellow seniors Ethan Allison and Justin Jacobs, who can all serve as handlers and cutters on the offensive line.
A number of freshmen, including cutters Jackson Klingenberg, Luke Gappa, and Jon Shirk, and handlers Ian Rankin and Drew Stanford, will be called on to step into leadership roles among the underclassmen.
“There will be opportunities for players to really step up and find their roles on the team,” Habermas said, noting that freshman Alec Graham and junior Matthew Rogers have shown the most promise in the defensive backfield. “We have a really young team, and we are looking for the younger guys to step up in a big way and get their first tournaments under their belts. They should all make a big impact.”
This will be the first of three tournaments the Flames will participate in at Axton this semester, all run by different organizations.
“A lot of teams from as far north as New England and as far south as Florida like to come to Virginia because it’s like a melting pot (for ultimate players),” Habermas said.
After its final two regular-season tournaments, and a hat tournament and alumni game the weekend of March 19-20, Liberty is planning to host the Virginia Conference Championships on April 23-24, with the top four of the eight teams there qualifying for the East Coast Regional Championships back at Axton.
“We are going into this tournament and the next few with the goal to get them as much experience as possible, so that going into the championships, we’ll be able to put together the best team that we can,” Habermas said. “Experience is so important in ultimate, especially since tournaments are self-officiated.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer