By RACHEL MASON
Two years ago, both the University of Mary Washington men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams made it to the Atlantic Coast Regionals in Statesboro, Ga. for the first time.
However, in 2005 UMW was thrown into a ring full of big schools, like the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. They were a small team from a small school playing state school monsters.
However, with a fresh season ahead, both teams are striving to become a bigger competitor of the Blue Ridge Region.
“The more we play, the more addicted we become. We inspire each other to play harder. I have faith that we are going to go far this season,” said Meghann Slattery, senior and captain of the women’s team.
This year the women’s team is dreaming big. It was only a few years ago during the 2003-2005 season that the women only had seven players, according to senior and captain Jill Dubbs. They want to push past what they did in 2005, and fight their way to Nationals.
To help them prepare, the women’s captains have started instituting track workouts outside of practice. Dubbs reminds the players that they will never get better if they are not willing to put in the extra hours outside of the Monday, Wednesday and Friday practices.
Just like any other sport, ultimate requires tough training and dedication to succeed on an elite level. Players are constantly cutting for a clear pass or chasing the offense across the field.
“There’s a common misconception among college kids that ultimate is not a competitive or athletic sport; it’s balls-out athleticism,” said senior Andrew Eaton, captain of the men’s team.
The women were scraping money together for the season’s first tournament, the 2007 Hellfish Bonanza at James Madison University, on Feb. 17-18. This would have been their first debut in the competitive circuit. However, the women will be at their recently planned scrimmage at Georgetown University, while the men’s team will be playing at JMU.
There they will compete among 16 teams, which include, according to senior and captain Connor Maloney, the men’s two biggest rivalries, JMU and Richmond. On the field the teams face their teams like competitors, but after a day of games the teams unite at parties that are held in empty houses, barns, lodges or anywhere that fits the teams and their beverages.
“You don’t just go to a tournament hating a team. You socialize with them,” Dubbs said.
After the Hellfish Bonanza the men’s team will play at UVA on Feb. 24. UVA is famous for their impressive rulebook knowledge. Although most ultimate teams are known to be laid back, some teams are rigid about rules to eliminate the less experienced opponents.
“The guys are just a little more clean-cut,” said Maloney, referring to the UVA ultimate team. “Our personalities are a little different.”
After the UVA tournament, the men will compete in Ultimax on March 24-15, which is their last tournament before Sectionals. The women’s schedule is tentative, since they have to be accepted to all the tournaments. They hope to play at Huck of the Irish on Mar 11-12 in Baltimore, Md. and at Fool’s Fest in Fredericksburg on March 30-April 1.
The most crucial tournaments will be Sectionals, Regionals and Nationals in late April and early May. The men have not been to Regionals since 2005 and the women have not broken out of Regionals ever. The teams’ biggest feat is being able to play at the level of big schools like UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University and UVA.
Unlike UMW Ultimate, which opens its fields to anyone who wants to play, the bigger schools run ultimate like a varsity sport with tryouts and cuts, according to Eaton. At a small school like UMW, the ultimate teams cannot afford to cut people. Maloney recognizes that the men will have to train harder if they want to make it to Regionals.
“It’s really important for us to push ourselves as hard as we can physically, because when we have the most fun is when we’re bettering our bodies,” Maloney said.
There is no denying that a quaint liberal arts school will have to put up a tough fight against dominating state schools. However, both teams are ready to throw themselves into a competitive spring season.
“They have talent,” Dubbs said, referring to the big schools. “That’s what I’m trying to establish, a legacy of building, instead of just settling for an okay team.”