The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday January 24th

UNC Darkside Ultimate Frisbee team cements dynasty status with national championship

Darkside, the UNC men's club frisbee team, poses with its trophy after a national championship victory. Photo courtesy of Brian Whittier.
Buy Photos Darkside, the UNC men's club frisbee team, poses with its trophy after a national championship victory. Photo courtesy of Brian Whittier.

After another dominant season, UNC’s men's Ultimate Frisbee team, Darkside, is back in the spotlight.

The team went undefeated in the fall, taking home its third national title in Norco, Calif., in December. Over its 22 games played, Darkside’s average margin of victory was nearly seven points.

This year's championship run marks a long-awaited redemption. After Darkside won its second title in 2018, it looked to repeat in 2019 but fell to Brown in the finals. USA Ultimate canceled the next two seasons due to COVID-19.

The 2021 season began in September with the Brickyard Invite in Raleigh. Darkside defeated Tennessee 15-5 and Ohio State 15-7 and went on to beat N.C. State 15-14 in the final. A month later, the team traveled to Florence, S.C., for sectionals. After routing Charlotte 15-3, Darkside faced N.C. State once again in the final and won 12-11.

Regionals took place in Axton, Va., in early November. There, Darkside torched the likes of Virginia and Maryland en route to a 13-8 win over none other than N.C. State in the final. Arguably its most dominant tournament of the season, Darkside’s average margin of victory was over nine points.

Entering nationals as the No. 1 seed, Darkside went 4-0 in pool play, defeating Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin and University of California at San Diego. But its quarterfinal saw an unexpected opponent: No. 2 seed Colorado. Colorado had dropped a game to Georgia in pool play, placing the team on Darkside’s side of the bracket.

“Everyone thought we would play (Colorado) in the finals because both teams are so talented and had a lot of promise,” captain Andrew Li, a UNC senior, said. “There was definitely some doubt.”

As expected, the game opened with the teams trading scores. Tied 3-3, Darkside had a Colorado player pinned in his own end zone. Desperate for an outlet, the player zinged the disc horizontally to the other side of the field.

But make no mistake — the Colorado player saw an open teammate. What he didn’t see was Darkside captain Liam Searles-Bohs stealthily creeping back up the field.

When the disc went airborne, Searles-Bohs immediately broke into a sprint, making an incredible diving interception. It’s called a Callahan — when a defender intercepts the disc in the opponent's end zone. Darkside went up 4-3 and eventually secured a decisive 15-10 victory.

“That was probably the biggest turning point in that game,” captain Seth Lee said. “Callahans don’t happen very often in Frisbee games, let alone massive plays like that. It was pretty magical.”

They went on to play Brown in the semifinal, avenging their 2019 finals defeat with a 15-11 win. Their finals match against Georgia? Also 15-11, bolstered by six assists from Anders Juengst, a key facilitator on offense.

Another cornerstone for Darkside’s offense was Alex “AD” Davis, who led the team at nationals with 12 goals. Colloquially known as the fastest man in Ultimate, Davis runs a blazing 4.46 40-yard dash time.

Darkside’s juggernaut offense was also reinforced by its smothering defense, led by veterans Elijah Long and Suraj Madiraju.

“Suraj and Elijah are two really awesome defenders,” Juengst said. “Suraj guards the other team’s best player and makes their life really hard. Elijah is great on both sides of the ball.”

Despite high praise from his teammate, Madiraju humbly credited Darkside’s success to its supportive culture.

“Buy-in is huge on our team,” Madiraju said. “I don’t feel like I’m a bigger part of this team than any of the rookies who didn’t play.”

First-year Henry Chen echoed Madiraju’s sentiments about the brotherhood, adding that being surrounded by seasoned veterans has tremendously helped his development as a rookie.

“I feel very young,” Chen said with a laugh. “And very inexperienced, to say the least. But that also means I can learn so much more. I feel like I’ve already gotten a lot better than I would have if I played for another team.”

Chen, along with several other players, will have big shoes to fill in future seasons, and many questions about the team are still unanswered. Who will replace the special scoring connection that Long shared with Davis? Who will emulate the hounding defense seen from Madiraju?

As players who've graced Hooker Fields as far back as 2015, such superstars will no longer be eligible to compete. But amid the uncertainty, Lee is confident that the rookies’ unseen hours of training will be on full display next season.

“In the fall, a lot of people didn’t get to play quite as much because we were playing the veterans,” Lee said. “It’ll be really exciting to see the work (the younger players) have done — not necessarily what was showed in the fall since they couldn’t play, but seeing where in the spring it’ll take them.”

Sure, the 2022 spring season won’t see leaders like Juengst don the iconic crescent moon logo. But with several new players eager to continue Darkside’s championship legacy, one thing is clear: The torch has been passed, and it’s carrying an even brighter flame.

“Darkside’s not going anywhere,” head coach David Allison said.

@danielhwei  

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.



Comments

The Daily Tar Heel for December 1, 2021

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive