CHICAGO – When those around the team discuss their missing, it involves what they like to call the “Three C’s” – communication, competition, and community.
There’s another one that the Chicago Union would like to have that also starts with a “C” – championship.
“It would mean the culmination of a lot of hard work. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears finally coming to fruition,” said head coach David Woods of the franchise in the American Ultimate Disc League.
It’s a journey that began with the founding of the team in 2012 and has the chance to take a major step at the AUDL Championship Weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. As champions of the Central Division with a franchise-best record of 12-1, they’ll begin play in the league’s “Final Four” on Friday at 5 PM against the Colorado Summit at Breese Stevens Field.
If they win, they’d advance to the championship match on Saturday evening at 7 PM to face either Carolina or New York.
This would continue the rise of the franchise that began under the Wildfire moniker but switched to Union ahead of the 2021 season. That year, the team was able to make it to AUDL Championship Weekend but lost to eventual champion Raleigh in Washington DC.
Another chance to add that elusive title comes this weekend, one that would mean a lot not only to the franchise but the sport itself in Chicago.
“It’s been really cool to see professional ultimate grow like that in Chicago,” said Union captain Jack Shanahan. “I think it’s something that a trophy would really add onto that buy-in and say ‘Hey, we are a legitimate team in this league, we have legitimate contenders, and we consistently now, year after year, have made the playoffs, and proven to become better.
“I think if we were able to go to Madison, beat the Summit and beat whoever the next opponent will be and come home with some hardware, it would mean a lot for the City of Chicago and just kinda show that progress of what we’ve done to achieve that outcome.”
One advantage that the Union will have over the other three teams is proximity and knowledge of Madison having played a number of matches at Breese Stevens Field. On top of that, the team was already in this position a year ago, now knowing what to expect out of the championship weekend.
“It can not be overstated,” said Woods of the team having the semifinal experience from 2021. “Just having the experience of playing in big competition games, it goes a long way. Getting to this point last season for the first time for a lot of these players was the furthest that they’ve gone. It was a unique, a special experience last year.
“However, last year, we had the experience of making it to the game to go to the championship game and just falling short in double overtime. So the players this year are taking away with them that experience. Kinda the slogan within our most recent game against Minnesota was play with a chip on our shoulder; hopefully, that’s a chip that players that were on the team last season are taking with them and one that we will play with this coming weekend.”
If they do so, that fourth “C” could be within reach.