By Joel Hoover
Editor-in-Chief

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part feature on Messiah’s two Ultimate frisbee club teams. The feature on the men’s team–The Mammoth Rebellion–will be in the Mar. 6 print edition of The Swinging Bridge and will also be posted online the same day.

Relatively late in the championship game of a tournament in Lancaster this past fall, Messiah’s Mastadon Revolution women’s club frisbee team had to endure an in-game marathon.

Tied with Gettysburg in a game being played to seven points because of winds in excess of 40 miles per hour, the two teams sluggishly traded possession back and forth, seemingly unable to retain the frisbee due to the wind. Any movement down the field was quickly negated by an errant pass or drop caused by the gusts.

Finally, after 45 minutes of both teams playing for one solitary point, the Mastadons saw a hopeful throw find friendly hands in the end zone for a score. Another point later, they were tournament champions.

Sophomore Darby Gallo was not at this particular tournament, but she is well prepared for the weather of the coming spring season.

“I just bought a ski mask,” she says with a smile. “Literally.”

After two seasons of strong play on the regional level in Division III college Ultimate frisbee, the “Lady Dons” are aiming for an improved showing at Regionals this spring—and even a trip to the National Championships. An impressive fall season that saw them capture two tournament titles and a perfect 3-0 mark in a separate round robin game day has provided a measuring stick for the team in preparation for their spring season, which begins this weekend in Philadelphia.

The tournament victories in the fall were the first for the Dons in several seasons after many close finishes in recent years. What made them even more special were the unique prizes for winning each one: a gold mini Abraham Lincoln bobblehead from their tournament victory at Gettysburg’s “Battlefield Brawl” and a golden hoe farming tool from Lancaster’s “Hucking in an Amish Paradise”. (A “huck” is the Ultimate term for a long pass down the field.)

For what was a relatively young team at the beginning of the fall, the wins were the perfect ways to create appetite for more success.

“We get really excited when we win,” says senior Bri Olson. “Having these glimpses into what it’s like when we do well have been something we’ve built off of. That’s our main motivator to keep doing well.”

In spite of all the victories, the team perhaps took their biggest encouragement from a second-place showing at their last tournament of the fall, where they fell short to host Haverford in the final. The high level of competition was such that first-semester senior and co-captain Angela Martin felt that the team had played very well and learned where they needed to improve.

“I’m so, so proud of how our team did this fall, and we’re looking to carry that over,” she says.

“We definitely have the skill…we just need to improve our athleticism.”

The Mastadon Revolution is comprised of many recruits who found out about the team through the Opportunities Fair at the beginning of the school year, or friends who play for the team. Though experience level has varied for incoming players—Gallo had played in high school and Olson had in her home church’s parking lot, while Martin only found the sport at the end of high school—the college level has provided an opportunity for people to play and improve at a competitive level.

“I think college is the first level where it’s really competitive, and people like that competitive nature of it,” Martin says.

“(Ultimate) in general is growing, and it just so happens that we’re in college as it’s happening,” Olson adds.

The Dons have taken the competitive nature to heart with several good showings at the Ohio Valley Regional Championships in recent years. After finishing 5th out of seven teams in the region in the 2013 spring season, the team made qualifying for the National Championship tournament their goal last season. A bad first day at Regionals—hampered by poor weather—kept them just outside qualification for a Nationals bid.

Though several important seniors graduated from the team, the new players have maintained the intensity and fun spirit that has characterized the club.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘The names have changed, but the tradition remains the same,’ Gallo says. “I feel like that really applies to the team…the girls are here for the right reason.

“They want to try hard and they want to get to know each other.”

And try hard they have—even during the winter months.

With Martin and fellow co-captain Kim Branigan arranging workouts for three days in the week, the players have been vigilant in preparing for the coming season. Though tight gym space and the cold weather outside have hampered the team’s preparation, many players are putting in personal time to prepare.

“I’ve been seeing so many of the girls at the gym on their own doing workouts, even the day of a practice,” Gallo notes.

Many players have also signed up to play in a co-ed winter league at In The Net in Palmyra—a league that has included college graduates and some players who have been playing Ultimate for ten years.

“Outside playing experience is going to drastically improve your abilities,” Martin says of getting involved with the league.

The commitment has been well worth the time for the players, who have become very dedicated to the sport and their own improvement.

“I don’t look at it as just a club sport,” Olson says, a sentiment shared by many on the team.

“Frisbee has become such a huge part of my life,” adds Martin, who plays for various club teams and tournaments in her spare time both during the school year and over the summer.

Apart from the competitiveness on the field, the team has found their own special way of embracing the fair play and joy of Ultimate’s culture.

At the end of—and sometimes during—their games, the team sings special cheers from a book of compiled parodies of well-known songs. “The Wobble”, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” are just a few of the songs the Dons have adjusted the lyrics of in order to create a special frisbee version. The post-game cheer is also preceded by a dance, where the whole team creates mastodon-like trunks with their arms and runs in a circle around the other team.

“We pride ourselves on (the cheers)” says Olson, with Gallo also adding that teams with prior knowledge of the dance sometimes will encourage the Dons to sing to them.

The book of cheers has become such a crucial part of the road trips that leaving it behind is almost disastrous.

“One weekend we forgot our book here, so we had people take pictures (of the pages) and send them to us so that we could still sing,” says Olson with a laugh.

The team’s camaraderie has extended onto the field, where balanced playing time and a sense of perspective runs throughout the entire squad.

“Our coaches and the rest of our players recognize that if someone isn’t as advanced as others, give them playing time,” Gallo says. “One day, our seniors aren’t going to be here and (the younger players) will need to fill their roles. Out of other sports teams I’ve been on, I think this is the best team with the awareness of that and everyone accepting that.”

Such a mentality and opportunity for everyone to play was especially helpful during the fall, where Martin says several players were dealing with various injuries that kept them out of action.

Following this weekend’s tournament in Philadelphia, the Dons will play in another tourney during the last weekend of Spring Break, followed by the conclusion of the regular season at a tournament in Maryland the last weekend of March. Conference playoffs run Apr. 18-19 in Lancaster, and the Ohio Valley Regional Championships will be held in Ohio the weekend after.

Nationals are set for May 16-17 in Rockford, Ill., and Olson is more than willing to miss graduation if it means a chance to play in the biggest tournament of all.

After success in recent years, and even more recently in the fall, the team is ready to take their shot to reach that stage.

“We play intense and feel intense,” Gallo says of the team’s mentality. “But we are content with doing our best.”

And after all the hard work, they still make sure they have a clever song to share.

The Mastadon Revolution can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@messiahladydons). More information on college Ultimate frisbee can be found at usaultimate.org/college/.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Messiah men’s club frisbee: A “Mammoth” love of fun and frisbee | The Swinging Bridge - March 5, 2015

    […] EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part feature on Messiah’s two Ultimate frisbee club teams. This story is also featured in the Mar. 6 print edition of The Swinging Bridge, which is on newsstands now. The first part–on the women’s team, the Messiah Mastadon Revolution–can be viewed here. […]

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