The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Ultimate teams prepare for sectionals, regionals

The days are getting nicer and spring fashion is in full effect, which means at least two things: some students reveal their muscle definition and Clevelanders finally get to actually enjoy a cigarette outside. After a winter of training, the Grinnell Men’s and Women’s Ultimate teams have firmly established themselves as a part of the former.

Their winter training, in addition to a stronger team mentality, not only contributed to the team’s great looking calves, but to their most successful season ever.  Over Spring Break, the Grinnellephants, as the men’s team calls itself, won the High Tide tournament in Savannah, Ga. It was their second win this season.  The women, known as the Sticky-Tongued Frogs, placed third.  

“We’ve finished fifth and third in the past but we’ve always had trouble playing through Sunday and winning it all,” said Men’s Co-Captain Tom Elliott ’11. “So this was an opportunity for us because we saw the teams that we’re there and we knew we had a shot at doing really, really well and at the end of the day we came out on top. It was a really incredible experience.”

Although the women ended up losing in the semifinal, it was their highest finish ever at this tournament.

“We played pretty well and pretty consistently the whole weekend which was nice,” Christine Grummon ’11 said. “We wish and felt like we could have done a little bit better in the semifinal game but overall the week went really well a lot of fun.”

The High Tide Tournament is one of the team’s most important tournaments of the year because it provides the team with an opportunity to see teams that they wouldn’t normally compete against.

“It’s a mixture of teams from around the country,” said Women’s Co-Captain Hanna Liebl ’10. “Its generally really good competition for us because here we play really big state schools and we get beat, so it was nice to play some smaller schools.”

Also, the structure and length of the tournament gives the team plenty of chances to gain valuable game-time experience.  The first day includes a ‘hat tournament,’ a non-competitive kick-off in which players are put on random teams in order to meet some of the other players. The next two days are pool play and the final day is bracket play.  

“Especially with first-year players, you just get so much better,” Grummon said. “People got a lot of playing time you could even just see it at the beginning of one day to the end. People get more confident and they make upfield looks where maybe they might have given up the disc to a more experienced player before. Playing that much frisbee everyone just gets better field sense.”

However, the most exciting moment in the tournament concerned just one familiar opponent. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is Grinnell’s unofficial rival, although in past years the rivalry has been fairly one-sided. In Elliot’s experience, neither team had ever beaten the Blackcats, as UWM team calls itself, although animosity was certainly felt equally.  However, both teams were able to claim victory over UWM.

“I’ve been here for three years and I’ve probably played them eight or nine times and we’ve never beaten them,” Elliott said. “And we were up two at the very end [of the semifinal match] and then they brought it back to 12-all game and we punched the last one in. It was Andrew Otto [’10] throwing to Glen Clark [’10] so it was two seniors—great moment.”

“Hate losing to that team, love beating that team,” Casey Fergus ’12 said.

Both teams had a loss and then a win against the Blackcats, and when the win came, a certain amount of respect came with it.

“Usually they’re not the most spirited team which is frustrating sometimes, but they were a lot nicer and cooler so we, kind of, made friends with them,” Grummon said. 

The team attributed their success in the final games of the tournament to their legs. 

“What separates this team from the team of two years ago that got third at High Tide is that in that semifinal game, and then again in the final, we had legs and the other team didn’t so we just ran through them,” Elliott said.

“One of our goals this year has been we want to put ourselves in a position to win the tournament on the last day,” Fergus said.  “But the team is strong enough and deep enough this year that we were able to put ourselves in that position and then we really clicked on that last day—some of the best ultimate we’ve ever played as a team ever, probably.”

Both teams said that in years past, they were beat by teams that were able to just outlast them but this year, the team made a conscious effort to improve their fitness level, even though it wasn’t pleasant.

“We had a lot of people come out for indoor which is surprising because indoor frisbee is terrible,” Grummon said. “Not to turn anyone off the sport but playing frisbee indoor is not as much fun as playing Frisbee outdoor. When we’re indoor its harder because frisbee gets last pick for gym space so our practice schedules are pretty crazy and we don’t ever really practice at the same time or in the same place.”

This year’s training was initiated by the captains and seniors, but the process started earlier than that.

“It’s a great team and this is a high point because all these seniors are really good leaders and they’re teaching our first years at a remarkable pace,” Elliott said. “The first years are as good as I was second semester sophomore year.”

Both of the finishes over Spring Break energized the team heading into the post-season. Last year neither team made it out of the Sectional tournament, although the year before both teams made it out sectionals to make Regionals. 

“We’re expecting to qualify out of sectionals,” Liebl said. “There are some really strong teams in our sectional, Iowa State and [University of] Iowa are both very good teams but we have a shot at beating Luther and a shot at beating Drake so we’re hoping to come out strong at sectionals.”

The sectional tournament will be held Saturday, April 24. But both teams have already been successful in establishing the foundations that will allow them to successful for years to come. 

“The sky’s the limit as to where we can go next year,” Elliott said. “We’ll maybe have 14 guys but they’re all going to be guys that you can put in on game point. It speaks a lot to the seniors right now and the seniors of the past two years. They have really molded this team into something better than it was when they got it.”

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