This is the success story of a small school in Texas. Midwestern State University. The school of apathy. The school where if you aren’t greek, you’re a geek. The school in a town with nothing to do except hit up a country dance “club” on Wednesday nights. Midwestern is a school where if you don’t find your niche, you become a statistic and transfer within two years to a larger school. Luckily for me, I found my niche in 2011 when I helped create the Ultimate team, The Cavalry.
I had played Ultimate in high school, so when I came to college in 2010, I expected to join a team and continue playing the sport I had learned to love. Freshman orientation came and I quickly realized the only Ultimate that happened here was playing 15 on 15 out in the quad. No one called fouls, there wasn’t a brick mark and everyone hated me for being a tryhard. I was an outsider to people who claimed to play the same sport as me. Things quickly changed.
As a team who started four years ago with no clue what the sport was about, it’s humbling to have the title as the second-best D-III team in Texas.
There were about ten other regular quad-goers who wanted change the Ultimate scene on campus along with me. We made a team, not knowing anything about USAU, tournaments, practices, strategy or even the importance of a force-flick-mark. We were helpless. On top of everything, our city averages winds around 15 miles per hour. We had to learn the basics with wind in our faces.
Somehow, we signed up for a tournament hosted by Sam Houston State. We played against UT’s B-Team, Texas State, TCU and some random mixed team that was there for fun. Being the scrubs that we were, it was as if we were newborn foals thrown into an arena, pitted against lions.
The biggest thing that shook us up was not knowing the rules. You know that one guy on everyone’s team who doesn’t know the rules, but enjoys playing nonetheless? Our entire team was that one guy. Pick after pick after pick and we still had no idea what we were doing wrong because we were too prideful to ask what a pick was. That was the epitome of our team. In fact, one player from an opposing team tried telling us the importance of the force and I told him something along the lines of, “We know what we’re doing, man.” We didn’t know what we were doing. Ignorance.
Fast forward to 2013. Since we’re a small school in the South Central region, there were no Sectionals. Just an automatic bid to Regionals where teams fight for a spot for Nationals. That entire season we had two wins, one by forfeit and one against a team that was somehow worse than us. At Sectionals, we lost every game except the last place game… and that was because the opposing team forfeited after taking half on us. We sucked. We were the team that yelled at each other when things went wrong, we didn’t trust each other with the disc and constantly caught ourselves (myself, specifically) calling moronic fouls and not retracting them no matter how ridiculous the call was.
2014 Regionals had a similar result. Our attitudes were better as a whole, but we only snagged one win and managed to score a measely 27 points on Saturday before Sunday was rained out. Our entire season record was 3-12. We scored a total of 97 points and gave up 180. If my math is correct, that’s an average score of 6.4 to 12.
Now it’s 2015. We lost our best handler from last year due to graduation, good recruits from last season have transferred elsewhere and others quit because the game isn’t as fun as it was when they joined. Some players show up to practice 30 minutes late, while others leave 30 minutes early. We’re lucky if we have a ten-person practice. Tournaments get cancelled because of weather which only leads to more people becoming less interested in the sport. Injuries occur which lowers our numbers.
But the team went on.
Every single challenge this team faced, it approached it head on. From the beginning of the season, we had a goal of being that darkhorse team. The underdog which could make some noise come playoff time. Our seven committed players lead by example. Our seven committed players turned into eight committed players, which turned into nine players, which turned into ten players, which eventually transformed itself into having 14 players dedicated to making this team a contender.
Once a newborn foal in an arena of lions. Now we’re recognizing we’re a cub in its maturation USAU changed the Conference Championships on the South Central in 2015. They made Texas its own section and the remainder of the South Central region its section. With this news, we recognized we needed to step up big to earn a bid to Regionals to squeeze in to complete our dream.
The last tournament of the season, we manage to go 4-2, with a win over a team in our region, University of Tulsa. We waited patiently for Regional bids to be allocated and distributed. Boom. What was expected to be an original two-bid section is now converted to a three-bid section. All we have to do is take care of business at Sectionals and we’ve met one of our goals for the season: Make Regionals.
We battle our section and finish second behind Rice University. Second place. We made it to Regionals. Past the first round of playoffs and I couldn’t be prouder. Our record to this point in the season is 9 – 9, with a total point score of 158 – 172. An insane improvement from the years past.
Most might not consider a .500 record with a negative +/- a successful season. But for a program on the rise, let me tell you, it’s fantastic. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and this season has been We don’t stand a chance at Regionals. We’ll be battling against powerhouses like John Brown Ironfist, Truman State JujiTSU and Rice Cloud9. As a realist, it’s easy to say we will get creamed.
But success stories aren’t built on realism. Dreams aren’t met by being realistic. No, being realistic actually crushes dreams. As a team who started four years ago with no clue what the sport was about, it’s humbling to have the title as the second-best D-III team in Texas.
It’s taken hours of practice. Hours of recruitment. Thousands of throws. Hundreds of dollars. Dozens of injuries. Countless sacrifices. But it’s all worth it. This team has been built from ground-zero, and I was a part of this journey. If we go 0-7 at Regionals, I couldn’t be prouder of how my career at Midwestern State has gone. We’ve made it to the tournament before the Big Dance. Every single team has the same goal in mind: Make Nationals.
Will we make Nationals over the other juggernaut teams? Who knows? We weren’t expected to make it this far, who’s to say we can’t make it one more round. If you’re looking for a team to root for during the South Central Division-III Regional Conference Championships and you love Cinderella stories, look no further than Midwestern State University Cavalry.
C-A-V-S. Cavs, Cavs, Cavs.