The Oklahoma Christian University Ultimate team won the Division III national Ultimate championship. Oklahoma Christian beat Middlebury University, the defending champions, 15-12 on Dec. 20, 2021, in Norco, California. This is their first national title in their first full season of competition.
Oklahoma Christian dominated in their inaugural season. The Eagles won four of their five tournaments and 29 of 31 games over the course of the seaosn. The team took first place in both the Ozarks Conference tournament and the South Regional tournament. The only tournament Oklahoma Christian did not win was their first of the year, in which they placed second.
Junior Elijah Johnson said the team’s growth led to their success.
“We knew what we were capable of with the roster we were able to build over the past couple of years,” Johnson said. “To see it all come to fruition is something special.”
The Eagles went undefeated in the national tournament. Senior Kyle Henke led the way in the championship game with five assists and two goals. Evan Card scored four goals and Elliott Moore added six assists. Caleb Lance caught the game winner from Henke to solidify the victory.
“It obviously means a lot to everyone involved,” Johnson said. “The work and dedication everyone showed with the mindset of ‘why not us?’ really propelled us forward.”
The team faced challenges as a new program.
“Many of the teams we played against doubted us,” Johnson said. “On top of that, there are some who are against the scholarship program Oklahoma Christian offers.”
Johnson said some Ultimate programs dislike Oklahoma Christian’s scholarship program, some full-ride, to play Ultimate. The team experienced backlash as a result of signing players like Kyle Henke and Elliott Moore.
“That backlash we got was made worse with us winning nationals, but made it all sweeter proving to the entire Ultimate world that we belong,” Johnson said. “It’s just so rewarding going against all the hate.”
Henke said the scholarship program has advantages for the players.
“It is just cool being a part of this team and the excitement,” Henke said. “Being a scholarship program gave opportunities to guys that otherwise would have zero chance of being here right now.”
Ultimate became the first club sport in Oklahoma Christian history to win a national title and the first team, NCAA or club, to win a national championship for Oklahoma Christian since 2012, when men’s golf won the National Christian College Athletic Association title.
“Hopefully this helps Ultimate keep gaining respect around campus,” Johnson said. “We are a special group with a ton of talent and we are proud to bring home a championship to this school.”
Another national tournament is approaching in the spring semester, and Johnson said the team is setting their sights on another title.
“We enjoyed this one for sure, but we are looking toward the next one,” Johnson said. “We can be dominant in the sport and we plan to do so.”