Joel Hoover

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.

After a few years of existence, Messiah’s men’s club frisbee team was ready for a name change.

Founded in 2004 as “Fire and Brimstone”, several of the team’s leaders in the late 2000s decided they wanted something different. With this in mind, they took to search on Wikipedia. Seven random clicks later, they had landed on a page called “Mammut Rebellion”.

“Somebody in the other room was (mistakenly) like, “Mammoth Rebellion? That sounds awesome!” says Mike Stephan, a current senior on the team who knows the story well. A showing of the SyFy original movie Mammoth—a tale of a rampaging, alien-possessed mammoth—later that evening only served to further encourage the club frisbee team that they had a new permanent name.

Eleven years after the club’s original creation, the Mammoth Rebellion men’s frisbee team has retained much of their culture of fun and enjoyment of the sport—something that is shared throughout the frisbee community.

“There’s this culture in Ultimate Frisbee that even though you want to win and be the best, that’s not the end goal,” Stephan says. “The goal is to have fun, and we’re all playing a sport we love.”

“We embrace a fun culture and that’s what we try to convey (to recruits),” adds fellow senior Ethan Peck.

Many of the current Mammoths found out about this culture through the Opportunities Fair and the influence of alums like coach Charlie Hoppes—including Peck and Stephan. The latter also heard about the team on a campus tour and from a friend at another school who had high praise for the team.

Interested players have, for the most part, been people who have never played Ultimate in an organized fashion before. In spite of this, experience level has never been a problem.

“It kind of intimidates a lot of people when we say, “You should play Ultimate Frisbee,’ and they say, ‘I don’t know how to throw, I’ve never played before,’” says Peck. “And we say, “Perfect. That’s how everybody is (when they start).’”

The developmental time for new players often comes during the fall, where the team plays in several regional tournaments and prepares for the official season in the spring. The Mammoths’ fall season also helps them determine their “A” and “B” teams for competitive play and set tactics for games.

The Division III level of Ultimate Frisbee has allowed the team to keep a balance between academics and competing, as they practice two to three times a week. Stephan says that with time and acclimation to the college experience, Ultimate Frisbee became important for him and many others.

“I really do think the community and family aspect of our culture has kept people making it a big priority,” he says.

The success of the team has been a factor as well. A senior-laden group in 2012 and a younger team in 2013 both claimed 3rd-place finishes in the Ohio Valley Regional Championships, which includes teams from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. After seeing the number of D-III National Championship bids for the region rise from one the previous two years to three in 2014—a reflection of the rising competition level in the Ohio Valley—the Mammoths finished 6th at the Regional Championships last spring.

A strong fall season that included victory in a tournament at Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster and several well-played tournaments against Division I competition has left the team aiming for the next step: a bid to Nationals.

“(The fall) was the strongest our team has ever played together…now we’ve just been trying to carry that through,” says Peck, who adds that the next challenge is reaching an even higher level of collective team play.

The process continues for the team this coming weekend, as (weather-permitting) the A and B teams will travel to a tournament in Atlantic City, NJ. The A team will then play in Myrtle Beach, SC over Spring Break on Mar. 21-22, followed by another tournament for both teams on Mar. 28-29. Conference and Regional playoffs await in April.

The Mammoths maintain a highly entertaining Twitter account (@messiahultimate) during their tournaments for fans to follow their games. Reflecting the tight bond of the team, tweets are often filled with player nicknames like “Watson”, “Handsome Rob”, “Good Aaron” or even “Bad Aaron”.

The time commitment? All worth it for the chance to play the sport and have experiences with good friends.

“It’s like taking a short vacation with some of your best friends on a road trip to a place you’ve never been,” Stephan says, calling upon something he read on a frisbee blog. “You do fun things for the weekend, then get back in your car and have a road trip back with some of your best friends. We happen to get to play Frisbee while we’re there too.”

Peck has enjoyed his experience enough to pursue professional Ultimate Frisbee opportunities with the Philadelphia Spinners and Philadelphia Phoenix, who have several Mammoth alums connected to their respective teams. However, he still knows what his—and the team’s—immediate goal is.

“Right now, the focus is Messiah Ultimate and getting us to Nationals,” he says.

Messiah’s Mammoth Rebellion will take their shot at that goal this spring—and savor the team experiences that come along the way.

The Mammoth Rebellion can be found on Facebook (which includes a schedule for the Spring season) and on Twitter (@messiahultimate).

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