Women’s frisbee flies to nationals

by Mark Heller

A regular game of ultimate Frisbee consists of seven players on the field for each team at once.
A regular game for the Minnesota women’s club team has been lucky to have seven players on the team at one time.
But the team has survived this year, and has not only been good enough to compete shorthanded, they’re now good enough to play in the national tournament in Colorado this weekend.
Minnesota (8-5 on the season) narrowly lost 13-9 to Wisconsin in the central region college championships, despite playing six-on-seven the entire game. The loss meant Minnesota finished third — only the top two teams advance to nationals — behind Macalester and Wisconsin.
For unknown reasons, however, the Badgers club team opted not to go to nationals, so Minnesota snuck in.
Minnesota is the first team ever to make it to nationals and take only seven players.
“We’re very fortunate to have the chance to go,” junior co-captain Sarah Hagen said. “I heard (Wisconsin) had some injuries and couldn’t put a team together, but I don’t know their exact reasons. But we certainly wouldn’t pass it up.”
For a team in its third year of existence, they certainly shouldn’t have passed it up. Not after last season, in which they couldn’t compete because of a shortage of players.
For a sport that requires as much physical fitness as ultimate Frisbee does, Minnesota has had to make several adjustments on and off the field to try and cope with its severe lack of depth.
“First thing, we make sure we have fun out there,” junior Beth Volden said. “A lot of teams get very serious and grouchy at each other if they screw up. We hang out outside of practice so we can all become friends. Everyone has fun and still wants to play so we don’t lose more people.”
On the field, Minnesota has created a zone defense in the shape of a cup. Two players with longer arms surround the opponent holding the disc and force the person to throw it one way. Three players are responsible for the middle part of the field, 20 to 40 yards downfield. The sixth plays deep downfield to guard against the long throw.
“On offense we’ve had to work a lot harder,” Volden said. “They have the extra (seventh) defender to guard one of our better people with two of theirs.”
Double-teams, fatigue and injuries may not have been so difficult to overcome if the team was able to sell its sport to the rest of the University.
“There are so many I’ve talked to that say ‘I’d like to be in a sport,’ but there’s no time or they just don’t know how to get involved,” junior co-captain Darci Fredericks said. “We’re going to try and do a heavier recruiting effort when we get back (from Colorado).”
Playing in Minnesota makes it tougher to keep people coming back. Practices are outside in the fall, but when the long winter comes, the team moves inside. This has been a detractor for some people, since ultimate is primarily an outdoor sport. By the time spring comes back, most people are gone.
But seven people have hung around this year, and will soon reap the benefits of their commitment this weekend at nationals. No doubt the team will be forced to play six-on-seven at some point this weekend, but they’ve proved this year that numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“(Playing shorthanded) has almost been to our advantage,” Fredericks said. “In some ways it psyches some of the teams out and in some ways psyches us up. We know we have to play hard and we know we have to play together. It gets us excited to play and revved up.”