After a successful fall season, Alpha Ultimate is prepared for its more important spring season, where it has a chance to climb its way up the College Men’s USAU Rankings and travel to nationals via a series of big tournaments.
The goal for the team has always been to go to nationals, and this year is no different. Toward the end of the spring, NC State will play in the North Carolina and South Carolina sectional, where the top six teams earn a spot at regionals in Axton, Virginia. Then, a couple of top teams from the regional will earn bids to nationals in Milwaukee on Memorial Day weekend.
Alpha expects to compete with the top teams every year, and senior captain Michael Lee hopes for a top-three finish at sectionals and a chance to compete late in the tournament at regionals. However, he stressed the importance of getting these early-semester reps and not looking too far ahead.
“Our end goal is to win nationals,” Lee said. “I’m very much going to take it one game at a time. I don’t want to push and get to the point where we’re overlooking tournaments, because every step along the way is really crucial. Regardless if we’re up 10-0 or down 10-0, I think the next point can directly contribute to our success at nationals. So our end goal is obviously to win that tournament, but the steps along the way are just as beneficial.”
The club wasted no time starting off the year, playing in the Carolina Kickoff hosted by North Carolina at the end of January. Many familiar faces, like UNC-CH, UNCW, UNCC, Tennessee, Georgetown, Duke and Kentucky made the trip, but it was Alpha and UNC that met in the championship.
The Pack flew through pool play, defeating Tennessee, North Carolina Asheville and Richmond 13-6, 13-5 and 13-7, respectively. In bracket play, Alpha beat Duke 15-4 to advance to the semis against UNCW, an opponent NC State has seen many times already this year. This time, NC State got the better of the Seahawks but fell 14-10 to rival North Carolina in the finals.
The Tar Heels are one of the top competitors for Alpha, and in the entire country for that matter, as they are ranked at No. 2. Another top competitor is Wilmington as the Pack often trades wins with both local teams. If the Wolfpack wants to make it to nationals, it will likely have to go through one or both of these teams in the sectional and regional tournaments.
“We’ve lost in games at regionals and choked where we felt we should’ve won,” Lee said. “It's a little more evident to juniors, seniors, fifth-years, how painful the end of the season can be, and I think that’s a really good motivator.
After its second-place finish in Chapel Hill, Alpha traveled to Charlotte for the Queen City Tune-up 2020 tournament Feb. 8-9. Again, the Pack went 3-0 in pool play over Notre Dame, Rutgers and Maryland before moving on to bracket play. No. 10 Georgia topped NC State 11-9 in the semifinals so it finished the tournament in a tie for third.
In the most recent College Men’s USAU Rankings, Alpha came in at No. 13 but has been battling for a top-10 spot this year and was even ranked at No. 7 just two weeks ago. Despite being in a tough region where a lot of top teams are located, it has a decent shot of reaching its goal of traveling to nationals.