Ultimate frisbee team loses in sub-ultimate conditions

Andie Goldmacher and Nathan Zelizer

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The Ultimate Frisbee Team’s season ended on Tuesday as they fell 15 to three against Poly Prep in the Ivy Preparatory League playoff semifinals at Randall’s Island. The team’s captains, Gabe Hernandez (12), Henry Wildermuth (12), and Orion Lehoczky Escobar (12) were all optimistic heading into Tuesday’s game, Hernandez said.

The team’s most important quality is its spirit, which is the frisbee term for sportsmanship, Coach Chris Nelson ‘09 said. “Our team is often the loudest on the sideline, and the players not only cheer for our team but for other teams if they do a really cool move.”

The school hosted two weekend tournaments, which provided good opportunities for everyone to play, Nelson said. The weekend tournaments operated round-robin style, so every team that attended got to play all the other teams there, Nelson said.

Through tournaments, practices and weekend conferences, the team was able to come together, Paul Wang (11) said. “The senior captains and Coach Nelson really brought the team together.”

Nelson is a former Horace Mann student and ultimate player. He uses this experience to relate to the players and show the importance of being respectful. “Even though we are fierce competitors, Nelson values being respectful which brings us together,” Wang said.

Nelson has been impressed by the team’s optimism and resilience, he said. “Even though we have faced some strong opponents, our team has hit our stride with all of our players growing and developing chemistry on the field and becoming a fundamentally solid team.”

The group came together through their daily practices and training during spring break, which allowed them to spend more time together and learn to struggle and succeed as a unit, Hernandez said.

The team has faced and overcome many challenges this year, Nelson said. “The team had to learn a lot of difficult offensive and defense strategies.

One of the largest challenges to the sport is that there are no referees. “Since there are no referees, players had to learn the rules on their own, which can create a large mental load on the players,” Nelson said.

An additional challenge for the team has been its height difference compared to other teams. “A lot of other teams, such as Poly Prep and Regis have tall kids,” Hernandez said. “Even though they do not play as well as us, they can still beat us because of height.”

When the team is not playing in a windy environment like Van Cortlandt Park, players that are taller and can jump higher have the advantage, Lowell Finster (10) said.

The team has successfully overcome all of their challenges with the help of Nelson and the seniors, Wang said. “Coach Nelson gives everybody playing time, which has been very helpful.”

Many of the players learned from each other to improve their skills. “Even if two players are rookies on the team, they helped each other by asking questions and learning together,” Nelson said. Both rookies and returning players have shown massive improvements, Wang said. “Julia Robbins (11) and Daniel Lee (11) have both taken on a new role and improved a lot,” he said.

Nelson along with other players credited the senior captains for much of the team’s success. “Our captains and other seniors are very good players that taught us the values of ultimate and are great mentors,” Wang said.

The grade diversity of the team has greatly contributed to its success. “The younger players are really impressive and are paving the way for the future,” Wang said.

The team has a very strong senior and junior class and a lot of sophomores have stepped up as well, Nelson said. “We even have freshmen learning the game this year too, so everyone is coributing.”

First year players like Abigail Morse (10) practiced their skills outside of daily practice. “Our coach always encourages us to do our throwing homework,” new player Abigail Morse (10) said.

Morse described the frisbee team as different from other teams she has been on because of the increased chemistry on the field, she said. “Whenever we come off the field we discuss what to improve from the last point; and as a result, I have gotten to know the other players better through the common goal of improving,” she said.

Tuesday’s game was met with a lot of unforeseen challenges, Finster said. “It was different for the team to play on Randall’s Island since we are not used to a turf field, and there was a lack of wind, which was difficult because this allowed us to throw farther than we could during practice in Van Cortlandt,” he said.

The team had a rough start to the game and did not score in the first half, but came back and scored three points during the second half. “Going into the game, we should have had a different mindset. Even though we had the necessary skills, our own mental spirit was down when we didn’t score,” Morse said.

Though the team did not come out victorious, Nelson applauds their work. “The team brings a great spirit and camaraderie to every practice and event that I will miss during the off season,” he said.