Varsity Ultimate Frisbee falls in a hard-fought game to Heschel in DiscNY semifinal playoffs

Varsity Ultimate Frisbee falls in a hard-fought game to Heschel in DiscNY semifinal playoffs

Niki Pande and Sophie Q. Li

Varsity Ultimate lost a tough semifinals DiscNY playoff game against Abraham Heschel School this Monday, their last game of the season, with a score of 4-13. 

The team’s strengths during the game were decision making, strategy, and understanding of how the game is meant to be played, Rohan Buluswar (12) said. Additionally, they played cohesively as a team—not crowding but creating space for plays and not blocking teammates, working together, and communicating, he said. 

During the game, the team’s plan was to play smart and try not to drop the frisbee, and they also had some specific strategies, co-captain Sareena Parikh (12) said. “We set a stack and the person at the front of the stack runs deep with the frisbee and we try to get a deep shot,” Parikh said 

The team started with a horizontal stack offense, where there were three players in the back and four in the middle layer, Tuhin Ghosh (12) said. In this strategy, teamwork and coordination were essential as the players in the middle layer were moving in pairs. Later, they transitioned to a vertical stack method, he said. In the horizontal stack method, the cutters line up in a horizontal line on the field, while in the vertical stack method, they line up in a vertical line, Alex Nagin (12) said. 

Another strategy the team employed during the game was a two-three-two zone defense, where there were two players in the front, three in the middle layer, and two in the back, Buluswar said.

“If it weren’t for a few small errors we had made, [the score] definitely could’ve been a lot closer,” Buluswar said. The team tended to get impatient when they approached the end zone, perhaps from the heat outside or the pressure during the game, leading to unforced drops, he said.  

Heschel was a challenging team, as they have many athletic players who are tall and fast—two ideal qualities for Ultimate players, Buluswar said. They were undefeated this year and last year, they were ranked 6th in the state, he said. “They’re definitely one of the favorites in the league to win.” 

The biggest challenge during the game was trying to crack Heschel’s zone defense, co-captain Ghosh said. They often prevented cutters—people who make catches—from getting open. “If we were up against any other team, we would’ve had a shot of getting into the finals,” he said.

Even against overwhelming odds, the team kept a high level of intensity and fought hard during the whole game, Varsity Ultimate coach Chris Nelson said.

A highlight of the game was the team’s 3-point winning streak, which brought the score from 5-0 up to 5-3, he said.  

The team qualified for the playoffs based off of their record during the regular season, Ghosh said. By the end of the regular season, the Lions and Regis were tied for fourth in the league, he said. Thus, they played a tiebreaking match to determine who would make it to semifinals, with the Lions winning the game on universe point. 

One player that stood out during the game was Sam Singh (11), Buluswar said. “He made some incredible catches that other people did not think were gettable.”

Devin Allard-Neptune (12) also excelled, Ghosh said. She was reliable to have in deep space—near the Lions’ endzone, where she would block any long shots made by Heschel—, found open spots to receive passes, and prevented throws. She was strong in both offense and defense, he said. 

One memorable moment during the game was a momentum shift during a short field turnover, Nelson said. Ghosh threw a long throw and Allard-Neptune jumped above two defenders to catch the pass. 

At the end of the game, team captains Ghosh and Allard-Neptune were recognized during the spirit circle, Nagin said. “Players from both teams acknowledge a MVP and a Spirit MVP on the other team. During this game, Devin and Tuhin were acknowledged for their athleticism and playing really hard on the field.” he said.  

Leading up to the game, the team had a week of fun practices, but they stayed focused on the upcoming game, Nelson said. 

In particular, the team did dump resets at almost every practice. “A cutter is moving to the open space to try to move the frisbee further down the field to the endzone you’re trying to score in. but if the defenders on the other team are doing a really good job, you wanna dump it to the person behind you and then restart the play.” 

For the first game of the season, the team played Heschel and lost with a score of 4-14, Buluswar said. Since then, the team has improved significantly. Their league record was 5-3, and their overall record was 6-4, he said.

The team has a bright future, Ghosh said. “The juniors have a lack of experience but a lot of spirit and knowledge about strategies,” he said. “All they really need is the practice COVID took away from them,” he said.

Nagin really loves ultimate frisbee because it emphasizes unity not only among the team, but among its opponents, he said. “You acknowledge face to face with your opponents what they did well, and you shake each other’s hand and congratulate each other.” he said.