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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Ultimate rush

    Graduate student Jen Pashley swings back to throw a forehand against a desperate San Luis Obispo opponent this past weekend at the Rincon Vista Sports Complex. UAs Ultimate Frisbee team, the Scorch, is composed of dedicated athletes that respect the sport that many may laugh at.
    Graduate student Jen Pashley swings back to throw a forehand against a desperate San Luis Obispo opponent this past weekend at the Rincon Vista Sports Complex. UA’s Ultimate Frisbee team, the Scorch, is composed of dedicated athletes that respect the sport that many may laugh at.

    You’d never seen this many people throwing Frisbees in your life. Even if they weren’t actually Frisbees.

    Ultimate players from across the Southwest converged on Arizona’s Rincon Vista Sports Complex for one of seven regional tournaments held across the country this past weekend. Twelve women’s teams from Southern California, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona – including UA’s own squad, the Scorch – competed for two berths in next month’s College Ultimate Championships to be held in Boulder, Colo.

    “”It’s been perfect,”” said Andrew Dacks, who helped organize the event with Tucson Ultimate Incorporated. “”There’s been a little bit of wind which has made things more exciting.””

    And Ultimate players definitely care about which way the wind is blowing. As he gave a run down on the tournament and his favorite sport, Dacks held forth about upwind strategy, downwind strategy, committing errors in the wind, which kind of defense to use in the wind and other details of Ultimate you never knew could possibly exist for a sport revolving around tossing a disc. He made it clear that this wasn’t just a game of fetch in the park. It’s not just Frisbee.

    Literally, it’s not Frisbee. The Ultimate Players Association only uses discs made by the company Discraft. Frisbee is the brand name for the product made by Wham-O.

    Figuratively, it wasn’t Frisbee either. This was epic Ultimate. Throngs of players, nearly 250, crowded the fields in uniforms of shocking pinks, canary yellows and, of course, Arizona’s own red and blue. Flocks of discs floated along almost summertime breezes during the down time as players loosened up, cooled down, warmed up, ready for game after game after game. Spectators like Dacks moved up and down sidelines with the disc in pulsing clumps screaming at the tops of their lungs, jumping in unison when discs crossed into the end zones. At times it was Ultimate bedlam. These athletes love their sport.

    “”I’ll be playing till I’m 87,”” said Scorch team member Julia Tenen. “”I’ll be laying out for discs until I can’t walk anymore.””

    Ultimate is a full-sprinting, non-contact sport played seven to a side. Teams score points by moving the disc up the field into the end zone. Anyone who catches the disc has to stop and then has 10 seconds to pass it to another teammate or turn the disc over, so the game progresses at a rapid clip. Ultimate is pretty much sprinting, jumping and diving for discs for 90 straight minutes. Since Ultimate is mostly played at tournaments, most squads will play three or four games on any given day. It’s a total workout.

    “”I wanted one of those odometer things to attach to me so that when I was running I could calculate how many miles I was running all weekend,”” Tenen said.

    Ultimate also abides by what is called “”Spirit of the Game.”” Players officiate the sport themselves, even at its highest levels, a tradition that has created a tight-knit Ultimate community across the country. If teams don’t get along, the game doesn’t continue.

    “”It’s the philosophy of how to go about playing the sports. It’s about respecting your opponent. You need to respect their calls. Respect their game,”” said Scorch coach Lisa Shipek. “”Spirit of the Game makes Ultimate really unique. The camaraderie between the teams is different than other sports. A lot of friendships form.””

    Added team member Caitlin Wright: “”The community is awesome. My roommate and I were moving. We put out a message on the listserv and within two days we had everything we needed.””

    The Scorch entered the weekend hoping to win their first ever trip to the national championships. The team opened strong, losing only once on Saturday, a 10-8 squeaker against eventual regional champion UCLA. The Scorch kept their hopes at a championship berth alive into Sunday, but lost 13-8 against Colorado, ending their season.

    “”It’s tough, but I don’t think I’m disappointed,”” Shipek said. “”It was their best tournament of the year this season.””

    As the once bustling crowds winnowed away and the last two teams took the field, some Scorch players stuck around to watch the final game and shared a few reflections about their experience and the game they love.

    Tenen, a senior, said the end of the tournament was “”bittersweet.””

    “”I definitely was crying at the end, just knowing that it’s my last time playing with this team,”” she said. “”I’ve put sweat and tears into this team on and off the field. It’s definitely sad to leave, but I’m leaving on a good note.

    “”I played my heart out for this team,”” she added.

    Another senior, Erin Gray, felt the same.

    “”(The tournament) was great,”” she said. “”Knowing that we’re not going to nationals is hard. That part’s sad, but it’s mostly positive.””

    Gray said that even though it was her last year with Scorch, she planned to continue playing Ultimate.

    “”I’ll be playing forever,”” she said.

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