THE AIR SQUIDS ARE HEADED TO NATTIES!
This past weekend, November 12th-14th, the Air Squids went back up to San Luis Obispo to compete in the Southwest DI College Men’s Regionals to secure a spot at Nationals in a month. 15 teams from the Southwest region came to compete, including teams from Arizona, Nevada, and California. Entering the tournament, California Polytechnic State University (SLOCORE) was the 1st seed, and the Squids entered as the 3rd seed, with the goal of breaking their seeding to make it to Nationals. Even though they had the 3rd seed, the UCSD Air Squids were not ranked in the top 25 teams in the country while UCLA, UCSB, SLOCORE, and Stanford were. Led by a strong core of senior players, they were ready to put their name on the map.
Pool play began on Saturday morning when the Squids were up against Cal State Long Beach (Pyramid Scheme), where the Squids came to a swift victory, picking up where they left off at sectionals winning 15-4. Then the team came up against a much tougher opponent in UCLA (Smaug), in a crucial game where the winner would make it to the Semifinals and the loser would be sent down to the second-place bracket. In a tough matchup, the Squids looked to beat UCLA to prove doubters wrong and assert that they belonged in the top 25. With the wind proving to be a major part of this game, the game went into hard cap, meaning double game point was going to decide the game. After a long point with many turnovers, UCLA scored to win the game. With this loss, the Squids were sent into the second-place bracket where they would have to win their next 5 games to make it to Nationals. After the tough loss to UCLA, the Air Squids took on Arizona State (Prime) and beat them 15-9.
People were doubting any team could win four straight games on the second day in regionals, but they have also never seen these Squids before. Bright and early on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. they took on University of Arizona (Sunburn). Even though the sun was beating down, the Squids put on their sunscreen and beat the Arizona Sunburn 15 to 10. Arizona was a very physical team and spirits were very high. It was hard-fought and set the tone for the following games.
UCSB (Black Tide) was up next. This was a rematch from sectionals that they had been waiting for. UCSB came out hot and locked down the Squids’ offense, carrying much of the momentum in the first half, at halftime the score was 8-6. However, the Air Squids turned it up in the second half and outscored Black Tide 9 points to 3 to secure the win. With 3 hard-fought wins under their belt, the Squids felt ready for redemption against Smaug (UCLA).
The Squids came out strong against Smaug, going up 6-2 after two insane back-to-back points by Jimmy McGuinness (Spud). The Squids wanted a fight so they let LA score a few before halftime making the score 8 to 6. The second half was competitive and well fought, with many long consecutive points with huge plays from the Squids. Most of the Squids played through injuries and cramping throughout the game. In the final point of the game, Stefan Samu (Dent) walked through the Smaug defense to end the game 14 to 12 and keep the Squids’ hopes for Nationals alive and well. Finally, the Squids faced their final opponents of the tournament, “some no-name private school” ~ Max Gibson (Agapito) (Stanford).
Stanford started strong against the Squids quickly going up by 2 at the start of the game. The Squids fought back with some insane scores by Spud, Bryce Lozinski (Ledger), and Krishna Gomatam (Oogway). The game was very back and forth with Squids stepping up BIG. Jacob Rodriguez (Gimli) and Daniel Pryke (Yurt) were all over the field on O and D. Squids got up 10-9 after a majestic full bid from Wesley Bowen (Quaffle). Soft cap was reached during the next point. Yurt ended the game with an insane bookend sequence with a fantastic D to keep the point going followed by a disrespectful sky. The Squids had done it! After winning five consecutive win-or-go-home games, the Squids pulled off the impossible. The sideline players mobbed the endzone and celebrated on the field in a frenzy of jubilant, jumping, and joyous Squids. Emotions ran high as the veteran Squids had their hands and knees on the ground, tears streaming down their faces out of pure elation. The Squids haven’t felt a high like this since the 2013-2014 season where they also played on the national stage. With “natties” coming in just a month, yet another uphill battle begins.