Bay Area Sweep

by | December 13, 2010, 10:00am 0

The Wildcard – Bay Area Polar Bears (Mixed Champions)

How much does a Polar Bear weigh? It may come as a surprise, but that question is in essence what led to the Polar Bear’s success this year. The question itself is an inside joke amongst the bears. Used during team dinners at Las Positas College, players of the future Bears would do a team ro-sham, the loser of which would have to use the question as a pick up line on the waiter/waitress or some other unsuspecting victim. How much does a Polar Bear weigh? Enough to break the ice.

The Lei Out team that started it all - Photo by Christine Laszlo (

With connections to Bay Area teams YR/End Phase and LPC, the Polar Bears were born at Leiout 2010, a beach tournament held in January at on the beaches of Santa Monica, California. As if by some inside joke, with no intention of competing in the series, the Bears formed simply out of friendship and a desire to have fun. With the aid of warm ups to the tune of Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus (according to captains An-Chi Tsou and Greg Marliave) the Bears found their way to the finals, taking 2nd, much to even their own surprise. “At the end of a great weekend we thought, hey, why not bring this team to the series?” says Tsou and Marliave. “Of course there were a few roster changes, including the addition of some talented Cal and Carleton players, but the core of that team stayed with the Polar Bears for the series.”

Of course, the Polar Bears didn’t rest on their Lei Out success and stroll their way to the series. While their founding was sudden, the Bears trained with serious intention to make it to the Club Championships and do well there.

Greg Marliave gets up at the Club Championships

The Polar Bears would go on to compete in a regular season, battling with the year’s top mixed teams at the Emerald City Classic and Labor Day. The Bears suffered a couple loses, notably at the hands of Slow White and District 5 at ECC, but they went on to win the Northern California Sectionals over FunK (15-5) and the always strong Mischief (13-10).

Northwest Regionals saw several tough games for the Polar Bears, but none came as hard as the loss to Mischief after giving up an early lead. “It was a tough loss to Mischief where we gave up a significant lead late in the game,” explains Tsou and Marliave. “We didn’t want to let that happen again. It gave us motivation to work harder and it translated to the field against D5. It didn’t hurt that by the time we were playing D5, there was a championship title at stake.”

After winning the game to go against Seattle’s Swagger (15-9), at Northwest Regionals, the Polar Bears would go on to the Club Championships. In Sarasota, the Bears fought their way to four wins on Thursday, upsetting District 5 15-8 in the third round.  Though the Bears suffered one loss to Minnesota’s Drag n’ Thrust on Friday, they were still in Championship contention. On Sunday, the Bears toppled District 5 once again in a windy final.

Regardless of the quick turnover rate of mixed teams, how is it that the Polar Bears were able to form and play to a Championship in one year? Talent, yes. But more importantly, chemistry.  The Polar Bears didn’t hold a formal tryout, but instead relied on their friendship and team to pull them through rather than experience or strategy. Through team sky-diving and wakeboarding trips, the Bears were able to incubate and hone that sense of friendship that would carry them through tough games, support each other and better understand themselves as a team.  Watch any of their videos online and their unique bond becomes evident. Tsou and Marliave agree: “There is no doubt that team chemistry off the field helped with our success on the field. As with every other club team, we had to deal with people learning to play together. However being a tight-knit team helped motivate people to work hard and play well together, which may have given us an edge over other teams.”

While the mixed division is sometimes viewed as a tepid ground for consistency, the Polar Bears were able to show that the most important element isn’t necessarily talent, but team culture, a tenant reflected in established teams like Fury and newer squads like Revolver.

Will the Bears make the trip to Sarasota again? “We have a while until next season,” says Tsou and Marliave. “[T]here are a lot of good teams. We look forward to working hard when the season arrives.”

Polar Bears RAWR! - Photo by Nancy Kerns

Next Page: Inside Bay Area Ultimate – The Start of an Era

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