Last weekend, the UC San Diego Air Squids drove up to San Luis Obispo to play in SoCal D1 Sectionals. This tournament signals the beginning of the end of season series, which for some teams will ultimately lead to nationals. It’s important not to overlook the first step though, and for the Squids, this tournament would be a chance for redemption after failing to qualify for regionals last year. Out of eight teams spread throughout the SoCal area, five would move on to regionals, but the SoCal region is tough, hosting two of the top 20 teams in the country in Cal Poly SLO Core and USC Lockdown.
The Squids came into sectionals seeded 5th, which put them in a pool with USC, UCLA, SDSU, and LMU. The Squids started off Saturday’s pool play games with a sluggish start. The Squids were able to go even with UCLA until half, but then found themselves overwhelmed by a series of breaks from which they could never recover, eventually falling to UCLA 13-7. They weren’t able to regain their momentum in time to face USC, and would be toppled quickly, only managing to score 3 points to Lockdown’s 13. After a deep breath and with a sense of renewed energy, the Squids readied themselves to face hometown rivals, SDSU Federalis. This game would make or break the Squids’ season, as a loss would potentially send them into Sunday’s 5th place bracket, fighting for the last seed into regionals. Fortunately, the Squids found their stride and took the game against SDSU 12-5, and continued that momentum against LMU, winning 13-1.
Saturday’s 2-2 record seeded UC San Diego into the second place bracket, where the Squids would need to win the first game against UCSB’s Black Tide to qualify for regionals. Games against Black Tide are always energized, and this one was no different. The Squids arrived at the fields fired up and ready to go, and the energy showed through sideline cheers and on field plays. Mazden “Gouda” Mastromauro led the way with 5 goals and the Air Squids carried the momentum through the game, winning 12-7. After securing their place at regionals, the next two games would be a fight for seeding. Still fired up from the previous game, the Squids brought the energy to the rematch with UCLA and took away the game 11-5 with huge contributions from Gouda and David “N.E. Time” Knapp. Sunday’s final game would be against USC for 2nd place, but the Air Squids were never able to get the momentum going as a series of mistakes left the O-line floundering against Lockdown’s defense; Lockdown would eventually take the game 13-6.
Despite the slow start and final loss, sectionals was a great tournament for the Air Squids. We broke seed from 5th to 3rd and got redemption for last year’s disappointments and Sunday’s wins against UCSB and UCLA proved the Squids’ strength when playing at full energy and focus. The Air Squids will look to continue their momentum in two weeks when they return to San Luis Obispo to fight for a bid to nationals.