Oregon Fugue looks to go back-to-back in ultimate national tournament

The Oregon Fugue ultimate team has become a national powerhouse. After winning the D-1 National College Women’s Championship title last year — its third title since 2010 — Fugue looks to continue this victorious pattern at nationals this year in Raleigh, North Carolina this Friday through Monday.

Oregon is ranked No. 1 and has been placed in Pool A. Other competitors in the Ducks’ pool include No. 8 Colorado and No. 12 California. Oregon will begin competition on Friday against Colorado and Colorado College, then continue against California and Virginia on Saturday. If it competes well within its pool, Fugue will advance to the championship bracket.

Senior captain Jesse Shofner said nationals, which consists of four days of ultimate frisbee, is the best tournament of the year. Two of those days include single-elimination competition, a time when the pressure to compete is turned up a notch.

“At that point, there is nothing like playing for your season — you’re playing or you’re done and that’s when Fugue thrives,” Shofner said. “We’ll get in some sticky situations sometimes… and that’s when we take care of business — maybe not in the prettiest way, but we’re not going to go home. We’re not going to end early.”

The other teams going into nationals with the best chance to threaten Fugue’s back-to-back titles are No. 2 British Columbia, No. 3 Stanford and No. 5 Whitman. This season, the Ducks fell to British Columbia two of the five times they played. Stanford will also be a tough competitor for the defending-champion Ducks; however, they defeated Stanford 12-9 in the lone matchup of this season, and 13-11 in last year’s national championship game. Whitman is looking to bounce back from a quarterfinal elimination last year. This season, the Ducks beat Whitman four of the six times they played.

Even with this stiff competition, the Ducks are confident in their abilities and looking forward to some tough match-ups. Fugue has placed in the top three every year since 2009 and isn’t going into this year’s nationals expecting anything less.

“We’re pretty focused on winning,” team captain Alex Ode said. “At this point, we know how much potential we have, so to not win would probably be a letdown.”

“It’s just really grueling; everyone’s there to battle,” said Ode. “It’s the last tournament, so everyone is giving it their all, and you’ve got to make it through a lot of stages to make it to the final game. It’s just really high intensity, really high energy. It’s usually really hot, which is a challenge for us — it’s really fun though.”

Oregon is the only team that has played in the finals each of the past four years. As the Ducks take that championship experience into this year’s tournament, the other teams heading to nationals are keyed in on taking the powerhouse Ducks down.

“In some ways, other teams in the country don’t want to see us succeed,” Ode said. “And so, a lot of times at Nationals, people are rooting against us because we’ve been so successful.”

“The target is always on our back… but when we are in it, there’s not a question that we can’t win,” Junior Gabby Aufderheide said. “When it comes to the game, it’s going to be nerve-wracking, but going in I have full confidence in this team.”

Follow Kylee O’Connor on Twitter @KyleeTheMightee