Amherst’s Luca Harwood helps UMass ultimate to runner-up finish at USA Ultimate Division I College Championships

By LUKE WHITEHOUSE

Staff Intern

Published: 06-01-2023 6:27 PM

The University of Massachusetts ultimate team made their mark at the USA Ultimate Division I College Championships in Mason, Ohio over the weekend.

Over 24 Div. 1 men’s teams from all over the country competed over a four-day slate, and the ‘Zoodisc’ squad reached the national final before falling to the University of North Carolina in Monday’s championship, 15-12.

Luca Harwood, an Amherst native, has been a member of the team throughout his time at UMass and was eager to make his mark on the big stage — and fulfill an opportunity to bring a national championship home for ‘Zoodisc.’

Monday’s game against two-time defending national champion UNC, which was broadcast live on ESPNU, saw Harwood notch a pair of goals and assist on another. His tally tied the game 2-2 in the first half, and he scored again to keep UMass within 6-4 later in the opening stanza.

Zoodisc got as close as 7-6 with a Sam Green goal right before halftime, but UNC answered with three unanswered tallies to keep them at arm’s length.

It was UMass’ first national title-game appearance since 1986, when the program won a national championship for the first and only time in school history.

UMass went undefeated into Monday’s title match. The club picked up wins over Utah State, Brown, California and Minnesota during pool play action before edging Texas in the quarterfinals and taking down Cal-Poly SLO in the semifinals, 15-10.

It almost seems as if Harwood has been gearing up for this moment since he was little.

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Growing up, Harwood was introduced to throwing a disc at a very young age – for great reason. His father participated in ultimate many years ago – though it wasn’t as big as it is now. That, and the fact ultimate is very popular in the Amherst community intrigued Harwood.

From the fourth grade onward, Harwood spent his free time throwing the disc around whether it was pickup games at the park or a summer league. When he eventually arrived at Amherst High School, he was ready to play the sport he had grown up with in a more organized setting, with more advanced coaching, and be a part of a true team.

“Throughout grade school I kind of got more into the sport,” Harwood said. “And Amherst High School has a really good program, so it always gave me inspiration [to get better] when I was younger. Seeing that the school takes the sport seriously [almost] made me take it more seriously.”

During his time with the Hurricanes ultimate team, Harwood began to really hone his skills and take significant steps toward becoming a really good player. Every spring, he would take the field and compete for the ‘Canes, but his season was far from over.

In the summers he competed for the Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance. Also known as BUDA, this team was composed of some of the best players in the state and would immediately follow his high school season.

“That was a big part of high school for me,” Harwood said. “It allowed me to take it really seriously in the summer after having a very long spring season. The amount of time that I was [usually] playing just got doubled which was huge for my development.”

As Harwood’s skills began to take shape, his passion for the sport only grew. Although continuing to play would not be at the forefront of his college decision, it was a talking point.

“It was a part of it actually because I wasn’t sure if I was gonna play originally because I just wanted to focus on my academics,” Harwood said. “But I knew that UMass had a team and that it would be there for me.”

After being part of the team for three years, Harwood was introduced to the American Ultimate Disc Leagues’s Boston Glory, Massachusetts’ professional team.

“It was kind of word of mouth,” Harwood acknowledged. “I had a friend who I had played with for years who played for Glory.”

Soon after, members of the Glory attended some of Harwood’s games and eventually he made the decision to become a member following his collegiate season.

“I’m really excited to play for them this year,” Harwood said. “I’m playing with guys on Glory who I don’t really play with a lot because I just used to play with my college teammates so you know, there’s like some chemistry that has to be built there and everything. But I’m really excited. It’s gonna be a blast this year.”

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