Thanks to Adam Restad for pulling together this article! There will be a plethora of articles coming in the next several days!
The small school with little over 1500 students tucked between the Walla Walla onion groves and folded hills has grown a monster. This year Whitman College makes its first trip to nationals led by standout youth players turned college contenders Jeremy Norden and Jacob Janin.
Last year saw the Sweets play hard at the of the DIII nationals tournament, falling only a few points behind Carleton GOP in the final. Graduating only a handful of players the now experienced team came together quickly in the 2011 season. Captain Jeremy Norden makes sure there’s a focus on playing loose, positive and goofy. As a team without a coach Norden and co-captain Chris Hansman call lines to play “whoever is having a good day.”
The Northwest has always been a beast of a region, formerly holding at least seven or eight teams that on any given year could run deep into the college nationals bracket.
The collegiate regional redraw certainly helped thin the field in the dominant Northwest, pulling out the top California teams. This is not to say that without the regional redrawing the Whitman couldn’t have made it. The Northwest still held its regional dominance with 3 teams ranked in the USA Ultimate top 20 mid-season. Oregon, UBC, and Washington made big finishes at almost every tournament they attended, making the Northwest look comfortable to claim at least three bids to the show.
But, the Sweets started making waves of their own by going undefeated at the Stanford Open and getting huge upset wins over Harvard and the University of Washington at Stanford Invite this season, finishing second in their pool behind Mamabird. 2011 would be the year of the Onion. The small Walla Walla college would not be underrated and did their part to finish the season ranked 19th in the nation and claim that fourth, essential bid for their Region.
At the Northwest Regional Tournament Whitman came in with two tournament victories already on the season and a wealth of elite tournament experience the school’s players had never felt before. They posted 8 (game to 11) easily against the ever present UBC T-birds. Jeremy Norden and Ben McGinn’s size and throwing ability breezed Whitman over the lower seeded teams in the tournament. Their entire squad looked comfortable handling and attacking the disc despite heavy rains and cold weather.
It came to the game to go after a 12-15 loss to Washington but Whitman held their nationals fate within their grasp all game, beating back national hopefuls Oregon State to claim the fourth and final bid with a 15-10 victory.
I have been working toward this moment since I decided I was going to apply early decision to Whitman College in the Fall of 2006. The team agreed that making division one nationals was our goal this season and ever since that meeting the team has gone above and beyond all expectations.
~Jeremy Norden, Captain
Club Ultimate started at Whitman College in 1982 when a group of students attended their first tournament under the team name The Intuitive Leapers. The most notable member of the original squad was Jay Janin (Whitman College Class of 1984, current coach of the University of Oregon’s Ego, and father of Whitman’s very own Jacob Janin). In 1993 the team rebranded as The Sweets and the following year they hosted the first ever Onionfest, an annual co-ed club tournament hosted on campus in Walla Walla, Washington. This past April saw the 18th Onionfest, with over twenty teams from around the Northwest. Since Whitman’s club Ultimate team has been known as The Sweets we have had some prominent players come through the system including: Jay Janin (85′), Andy Neel, Justin Gardiner, Sean Peterson, Patrick “Colby” Gilman 99′, John Scripps ’00, Paul Leow ’01, Damon Leichman ’02, David Wellington 03′, Eric Shaw 06′, Matt Schoonmaker-Gates 06′, John Leoffler (08′), Micah Jarnot (08′), Mike MacCully 08′, Will Davidon 08′ and Dan Shaw 08′ too name a few. Although countless skilled players have played Ultimate for The Sweets, in past the team never had enough depth (and/or focus) to make it to the big show. Things have been different in 2011 as The Sweets have built a relatively deep squad (at least by Whitman ultimate standards) that has focused just enough to get the bid to Nationals in Boulder.
All photos courtesy of Tim Olson Photography