By: Emily Hemphill
The women’s ultimate frisbee team, Mary Massacre, has set the bar high for this semester with the goal of reaching the national tournament. This goal is spurred by the team’s loss in the regional championship to the University of Richmond last semester.
“We’re kind of shooting for the stars,” said Ellie Heil, a senior geography major. “A lot of people in their comments on a mid-season survey said that they want to go to nationals at the end of the semester after we were so close last semester. So that’s why we’re kind of ramping it up this semester to hopefully get there.”
The team has included an additional practice this semester, so they are on the fields four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Thursday nights are especially demanding, as they play under the lights from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., despite the freezing temperatures. On Wednesdays, they focus on fitness and conditioning, as players are running almost the entire time during a match.
The women’s coach, Kai Jensen, a 2018 UMW graduate, explained that last season was more of a focus on fundamentals and a rebuilding period for the team due to the influx of newcomers.
“With a very high ratio of new players to returning players, and even a lot of the returning players that we did have, their first experience with ultimate was during COVID,” said Jensen. “During that time, the practice was really limited due to all the restrictions, so they didn’t really have a lot of actual game time experience.”
According to Jensen, the team needs to work on the basics like accurate throwing, catches, advanced skills and creating chemistry with one another on the field. Jensen believes that this is the way to get to nationals this season.
“Once we have a team that is at a certain level, we can build relationships, build connections between players so that we can anticipate each other, we can be dynamic on the field, we can switch off players, we can create poaches [and] we can create a different defensive system that will make an offense think twice about their set plays,” said Jensen.
Increasing their practice times and even adding a study hall on Tuesday nights are just a few of the ways that the group has changed their play and mindset this season. The study nights provide a space for players to dedicate time to their schoolwork so that practicing four times a week does not become too much of a burden on the students academically, according to junior Natalie Brennan, a biology major.
“It’s about more than just winning and nationals for the women’s ultimate frisbee team though. They maintain a supportive and encouraging environment that welcomes people of all skills and experiences,” said Brennan.
The group holds various bonding experiences throughout the season such as “ladies’ night” and “Friendsgiving” along with other events hosted with the men’s ultimate frisbee team.
Additionally, the teams hold their own spirit week during the semester where members of both teams do fun activities. These have included singing for a stranger on campus, preparing a five-course meal for the team, wearing clothes inside out for a class and creating a music video with a teammate. The week concludes with a formal for the men’s and women’s teams.
“Frisbee, unlike other sports, focuses more on high spirit rather than high competition,” she said. “That’s what was most shocking about it to me. It’s a competitive sport, but above all, it’s about having fun and sportsmanship.”
A new practice schedule is not the only change the women’s ultimate frisbee team is undergoing this semester. New uniforms have been ordered to refresh the outdated ones that will bear a new design, as well as the names and numbers of each member of the squad.
“Now’s the perfect time to do it,” said Heil. “Especially because our team is so new. It’s not like any team that Mary Massacre has ever seen before. So it was time for a little upgrade.”
Plans for a team shop are also in the works. Mary Massacre merchandise ranging from t-shirts, sweatshirts, long sleeves, track pants and even bucket hats will be available for purchase.
The team still has a couple of more weeks to get in some late-night practices, as their first tournament is on Feb. 19 and 20 in Martinsville, Va. Though the University of Richmond will not be in attendance, Mary Massacre will be playing other tough schools such as Georgetown University and Catholic University.