Both of UR’s Ultimate Frisbee teams had the chance to go to Nationals for the first time this winter, with the women’s team (the EZs) and the men’s team (the Piggies) placing 11th and 12th in their respective divisions.
The Campus Times was able to interview EZs captains and seniors Katie Phillips, Mimi Jung, and Maddi (PJ) Lang, and one of the Piggies captains, senior Fritz Howard, about their time at Nationals and the group mentality of UR Ultimate after such an achievement.
What was it like to go to Nationals? Did it live up to the hype?
Phillips/Jung/Lang: It was absolutely unbelievable! It lived up to the hype, but it was also crazy to see how well we fit into that setting. We’ve always treated Nationals-level teams as superstars, so it’s encouraging for us moving into another season knowing that it’s possible and we could hold our own. It was super exciting to play teams we’d never seen before and to be around so many people who are passionate about this relatively niche sport. We honestly can’t quite believe it happened.
Howard: Going to Nationals was so much fun! We definitely bonded as a team, playing and watching and just being in an environment with such high level Ultimate going on. This was the first (and last) time D3 (us) and D1 (teams from bigger schools that are much better than us) had Nationals at the same event, so it was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch teams go crazy. I had a ton of fun for sure!
Has the group dynamic changed at all now that you’ve had such a big achievement?
Phillips/Jung/Lang: We’ve definitely gotten closer as a team and will forever be bonded by this often once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Usually, at this time of year, our new players (rookies) are still settling in and learning the sport. This year, it feels like they’ve been playing with us forever. That’s true both in terms of their abilities on the field and our connection off the field. It really feels like a big group of friends.
Howard: We played some games competitively, but most games we realized that we had the people and skill to win, but we kept making mistakes. Sitting down after the tournament, everyone on the team agreed that they wanted to be even more competitive next year and put in the work to win more of those games. I think they all saw how much fun it could be to play “good” frisbee and want to get to that level. So many people in our Slack have been arranging indoor throwing sessions outside of practice and going to the gym and really putting in the work to be competitive at that level, which I don’t think would have happened at all if we had not been to Nationals. On the leadership side, we’ve arranged to go to a couple more higher-level tournaments this spring than a normal season, and maybe play some of those teams we couldn’t hang with last year — hopefully we can keep that competitive spirit going.
Was there anything you took away from Nationals that you hadn’t gotten in other competition phases, as a player, a teammate, or a captain?
Phillips/Jung/Lang: The intensity of play was unlike anything we had experienced before. Everyone was truly playing their hardest, and we were exposed to strategy both on and off the field that we had never considered before. As players and as a team, we learned a lot about the mental toughness and flexibility required to play at such a competitive level.
Howard: Teams at Nationals played a cleaner, different brand of frisbee than the teams we normally play against, and we’ve been trying to implement that into our team since the tournament. There are some things I learned I needed to work on personally, but most of my energy has gone towards figuring out how to get this team looking like we deserve to be at tournaments like that.
What does it feel like to spearhead a team to such a high level of competition? Has it changed your view of yourself as a captain or your relationship to your team in any way?
Phillips/Jung/Lang: We’re very proud that we were able to achieve this with the team. As seniors, it feels like we are leaving a legacy for future players, and fulfilling a promise to the EZs alumni who inspired and taught us so much. It also means a lot to us to see the community we’ve built on the team. The whole team wrote notes of appreciation to each other before our first game at Nationals, and it was really impactful to see how deeply everyone on the team values each other. We’re really proud to have played a part in fostering such a healthy and supportive team culture for players on campus.
Howard: It felt great to lead the team to such a competitive season! People have higher expectations now, and it’s fun to meet those by organizing things and also by playing. I also just love the team culture we’ve built — almost all of my social life is frisbee-related these days, and that’s how sports teams should be, in my opinion. We’ve always had a fun team that took tournaments seriously, but I think now we have more fun and take things more seriously, and that’s a great environment to be a part of.