Both of UR’s Ultimate Frisbee teams, the Piggies and EZs, attended the 2021 USA D-III College Ultimate Championships from Dec. 17-20 in Norco, CA. This was the first time both teams made it to Nationals, having both qualified and raised funds within a week.
Senior Fritz Howard, one of the Piggies captains, provided CT with a general overview of how the event went for the team:
“There were 16 teams, split into 4 pools of 4 — you play everyone in your pool on Friday. We went in seeded 14th, and at the bottom of our pool. Only the top three teams from a pool advance to the championship bracket (top 12 overall). We lost our first two games on Friday, and then won the third in a really exciting and close game to make the bracket! We then lost the first bracket game pretty badly and played some consolation games to seed us between 12th and 8th. We played looser lines and lost those games too, but against teams that we really felt that if we played well and confidently, we could have beaten them. When we weren’t playing, we were watching the D-I tournament, with some amazing teams and players I’ve been watching film on for years.”
EZs captains and seniors Katie Phillips, Mimi Jung, and Maddi (PJ) Lang also provided information on how Nationals proceeded for their team:
“The setup for the Women’s D-III division was the same as the men. We went in seeded 13th and third in our pool. We lost our first two games on Friday, and won our third game against Puget Sound on a 20 minute Universe (U) point (when the next team to score wins) for the opportunity to play in bracket play! We lost against Occidental in the first play off game which left us to fight for 11th place. We won our final game against Lehigh (seeded #5) to finish the tournament off by breaking seed by 2 and winning two games! We are extremely proud of our record given the breadth of players on our team and multiple injuries going into the tournament. We finished up the weekend watching the finals, feeling honored and excited to take everything we learned back to Rochester.”
When asked about how the experience of Nationals has affected his team, sophomore Blaine Dillingham had this to say: “Going to Natties was both an incredibly fun team bonding event and also a warm slap in the face of realizing how far we can go. There’s a buzz on the team now. From the captains down, everyone has a greater intensity to them. We’re a relaxed group of guys, and we still joke around a lot at practice, but ever since we got a taste of that California Meliora, the Piggies want blood. The captains expect a higher level of focus from us in drills, and they don’t have to repeat themselves in asking for it: We’re all drinking the Kool Aid because we want to experience playing amongst high level teams again.”
Phillips, Jung, and Lang held similar sentiments and a lot of pride for their team. Concerning Nationals results, they were excited to finish at 11th in the country, breaking their initial seed by two. In addition, they also noted that their team “had no graduated students playing for [them],” instead being comprised of players from all class years — including seven members who picked up Ultimate with the team at the start of the Fall 2021 semester — and that “most teams [they] played had several alumni returning, with one team being made up of almost entirely alumni players.”
Overall, the teams’ improvement this year has been palpable to players and spectators alike, both in seed and in group cohesiveness. Phillips, Jung, and Lang touched on this effect, noting this: “We’re proud of the depth we’ve built on our team, which allowed our rookie players to have equal playing time to the most experienced players, and promises a strong future for our program.”