Santa Barbara Invite 2024: How to Watch, Tournament Preview

The first major event of the season.

Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2024 college ultimate season are presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

This year’s Santa Barbara Invite is packed with the beginnings of storylines to follow throughout the college season. The women’s division field is one of the strongest the tournament has ever seen and figures to be practically a Royal Rumble of championship contenders. The men’s division, meanwhile, features a couple of teams in the upper crust, a few more looking to break through to that level, and some major western regional grudge-play.

UC Santa Barbara Burning Skirts at the 2023 Santa Barbara Invite. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – UltiPhotos.com

Tournament Profile

  • Date: January 26-28
  • Location: Goleta, CA
  • Weather: Low 50s to low 70s with minimal wind
  • Top 25 teams: 10 women’s division, 9 men’s division (8 D-I, 1 D-III)
  • Schedules & Results

Streaming Schedule

 

All Ultiworld Standard and All-Access subscribers will have access to watch the live broadcasts from this year’s Santa Barbara Invite, where we will have two games in each broadcasting round.

The broadcast schedule can be found below:

All times are PT.

Friday, January 26

7:00 PM: BYU v. UC Santa Barbara [W] | BYU v. UC Santa Barbara [M]
8:30 PM: BYU v. Cal Poly SLO [W] | BYU v. Cal Poly SLO [M]

Saturday, January 27

8:00 AM: UC San Diego vs. Utah [W] | UBC vs. California [W]
9:45 AM: Victoria vs. UC Santa Cruz [W] | UCLA vs. Northwestern [W]
11:30 AM: Carleton vs. Washington [W] | Stanford vs. Victoria [W]
3:15 PM: UC San Diego vs. Northwestern [M] | BYU vs. UCLA [M]
5:00 PM – California vs. Utah [M] | UBC vs. Oklahoma Christian (M]
6:45 PM – Oregon vs. UC Santa Cruz [M] | Victoria vs. Stanford [M]

Sunday, January 28

8:00 AM: Women’s Quarterfinal | Men’s Prequarterfinal
9:45 AM: Women’s Semifinal | Men’s Quarterfinal
11:30 AM: Women’s Final | Men’s Semifinal
1:15 PM: Men’s Final | Men’s 3rd Place Final

Tournament Preview

BYI CHI vs. Cal Poly SLOCORE at the 2023 Santa Barbara Invite. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – UltiPhotos.com

Women’s Division

Wow – what a field! The impending clash at SBI promises a showcase of talent from seven out of the top 10 preseason ranked programs in the nation. Anticipation runs high as these teams prepare to unveil the progress they’ve made during the fall season.

In It to Win It

While predicting the victor is a challenge, the 2023 semifinalists, #4 UBC Thunderbirds, are the early favorites. They boast the return of polished powerhouse players like Anna Goddu, Mika Kurahashi, and Madison Ong, all of whom are nightmare matchups for even the best defenders. It is rare to see them stateside this early in the calendar, as they often don’t appear until March at Stanford Invite. It is easy to interpret their early arrival as a sign that they see championship potential in this year’s roster, and with all of their returning talent, they could hit the ground running in California.

#5 Stanford Superfly enter the fray with a strong lineup from their remarkable 2023 campaign and add the dynamic Dora McCotter-Hulett and fearless Harper Baer to their roster. Notably overlooked for a spot on the U20 Team USA rosters, Hulett’s height and speed positions her as an ideal candidate to capitalize on Esther Filipek’s deep shots. Baer is coming in from a gap year after not one but two runs with the U20 National Team. Perhaps the team with the deepest stable of horses at the tournament, Superfly should be able to grind down their opponents and run away with most of their games in the second half.

#6 Oregon Fugue  will also be a strong contender to take the crown of the first leg of the Southwest Triple Crown Tour as Ezra Weybright has emerged as one of the best players in the division. Add in transfer Acacia Hahn and standout freshman Mara Hindery-Glasinovic, and Fugue could be due for a huge tournament. Getting in talented recruits is one thing; getting familiar faces with great chemistry with your core is unfair! Fugue should have no problem integrating their new talent, so don’t be surprised if they look way ahead of schedule.

Or could #7 Carleton Syzygy be in a position to make a splashy 2024 debut? Even accounting for some unfortunate preseason injuries, don’t count them out. Tori Gray might be the best defender at the tournament, Aria Kischner can do it all, and perhaps most importantly, freshman Chagall Gelfand has a case to be the best young prospect in the entire country, but only headlines a really deep rookie class that is as good as any in the division. They are also the tournament’s reigning champs, mostly tearing through the competition last year before getting a test in the final from Stanford.

Potential Upstarts

Tournament hosts #10 UC Santa Barbara Burning Skirts are looking to rebound after a ‘rebuilding’1 year in 2023. Julia Hasbrook will be the centerpiece of the offense. She is a deadly gunslinger with plenty of weapons like Devin Quinn, Laura Blume, and Ella Khoury downfield. A Friday night showcase against #9 BYU CHI, who enter 2024 looking to build even further on the huge progress they’ve made over the last couple of seasons, will offer an immediate indicator of what the ceiling for both teams will be this spring. Former D-III star Sophie Havrenek will also make her Skirts debut.

#8 Washington Element may take a slight step back this year after losing 2023 Callahan winner and 2021 Player of the Year Abby Hecko. Or they might take a slight step forward: it’s wise to trust in the evergreen Seattle youth pipeline – Lauren Goddu, anyone? – to keep them competitive even against the rest of the tournament’s top teams. They have a number of potential breakout players, giving them a compelling ceiling. But they also have a history on being very developmentally focused in the regular season.

And after a brilliant 5+ year run from #13 UC San Diego Dragon Coalition, they slipped a bit last year and did not make Nationals. Can they find their way back in 2024? The roster looks good enough on paper. They have picked up WJUC selection Margot Nissen who should immediately slot in as a center handler that will pair nicely with the athletic phenom Abbi Shilts. The first and primary questions about them will be about their depth.

Any of the above teams – save BYU, who per university policy will only play Friday and Saturday – are capable of finding their way to the tournament final, which would be a major statement to start the year. And even beyond them, we could see big things out of #15 Victoria Vikes, #24 UC Davis Rogue, UC Santa Cruz, or some of the other attendees. What a marvelous way to kick off the season.

Men’s Division

Same Showcase, New Result?

Even though it will be irrelevant for the results of the tournament, the annual #4  Cal Poly SLO vs. #5 BYU CHI showcase game should pack the stands. Usually how these games pan out is Cal Poly hanging tough for the first 10 points or so, and then BYU’s athleticism and unrelenting defensive pressure degrade CORE – and it’s really all not that close at the end of the game. This year however, the formula may not hold true.

In theory, Cal Poly should be even better than last year. They’ve got a bonafide superstar in Calvin Brown as well as the deepest breadth of talent that we’ve seen from Cal Poly since 2019. Anton Orme, Kyle Lew, and Alex Nelson all should be considered top 25 players in the country and they’ve got plenty of lesser known horses than can also get buckets. Add in a strong recruiting class, and Cal Poly looks to be quite fearsome this season.

BYU on the other hand, might look worse on paper than last year with Jacob Miller and Luke Yorgason graduating. But it seems like those who underrate BYU year after year, consistently get burned for doing so. Last season, they lost both Jordan Kerr and Joe Merrill from the roster and Bryce Merill as head coach, and entered the season ranked outside the top 10. They ended up crushing our expectations and earned another #3 ranking at the end of the year. So without predicting a change in the result outright, expect a closer game this time around than usual, and an electric spectating environment at the field Friday night.

Next Best in the Southwest? 

SLO may have rightfully earned the moniker of 2024 preseason favorites, but there are four other teams in the Southwest this year that will fight to be the second team out of the region, all of whom will begin that campaign this weekend.

  • #14 California Ursa Major graduates D-line anchor Vikram Deepak, but other than that they retain most of their main contributors from last year. They also pick up Dylan Pearson and Mitchell Gibson as two freshmen who are already good college players.
  • #17 UCLA Smaug will be on a revenge tour this season after missing out on Nationals last year. They are similar to Cal in that they did not graduate many of their key guys, but they should be hungry to get Riley Kirkman-Davis to Nationals in his fifth year. Adding club and UFA star Pawel Janas to the coaching staff is also a fun added dimension to the team.
  • #23 UC Santa Cruz Slugs start the season on the back foot thanks to an injury to Selim Jones and the graduation of a critical senior class. Toby Warren, Kien Warren, and Mario Ambrose are going to have to carry a heavy load to return to last season’s form.
  • UC San Diego Air Squids, meanwhile, don’t have the recent track record of the other teams listed here, but they could get it done this year. The Air Squids are athletic, well-coached, and eager to get to the big show. Keep an eye on what they can do this weekend, because we might see a serious challenge from them down the road.

Another Bloody Northwest

Beyond BYU, the Northwest bring a lot of intrigue to the table in what figures to be a very competitive region. Leading the pack, at least in our pre-season estimation: #7 Oregon Ego. Losing Itay Chang and Dan Ritthaler isn’t nothing, but they’ve recruited well the past few years and should be in good shape. Even without Mica Glass (who, it seems, won’t be cleating up with them for this tournament) they have plenty of power, including Julian Saunt, Chander Boyd-Fliegel, and Gabe Nobis. Oh, and get ready for the Raekwon Adkins show. The rookie can hang with the best of them.

#16 Washington Sundodgers could be in the mix at the top of the region with Ego if they can put together all of their talent.  Jack Brown should be among the finest downfield threats in the nation. He’s flanked by exciting returners like Delano Muongchan and Martin Le, as well as a good crop of freshmen. If they can’t put it together, they could lose their place in the pecking order to an interesting #18 Utah Zion Curtain side. They could be due for a huge bump in quality from last year to this year. Will Selfridge, Grayson Rettberg, and Oscar Brown – all new this year – are a nasty young trio who could be one of the country’s best offensive groups for years to come. And what can we expect from the Justin Podnar and Devon Bringeland-Powell-led British Columbia Thunderbirds?

 


  1. they still made the bracket at Nationals 

  1. Jake Thorne
    Jake Thorne

    Jake Thorne is a staff writer for Ultiworld with a focus on the college division. He is a graduate of Cal Poly SLO, where he played for four years. He now lives and works full-time in sales for a fintech company in San Francisco.

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