Assistant Arts & Features Editor
The sun broke from the clouds as the UNC Asheville Ultimate Frisbee team sat in a circle to do their post-Sydney Scarbor game stretches. Captain of the team, Jacob Warshauer, led them in the stretching routine, calling out a new stretch in between talk of how the tournament went.
The team finished in fourth place at the Machine Baby Throwdown, a tournament that takes place every year at Wake Forest University. While the Bulldogs went in hoping to win the whole thing, they left smiling, satisfied with how they played.
“We probably could have won,” said Warshauer, a fifth year student at UNCA.
Being a part of the ultimate team at UNCA is like being a part of a family, I’ve learned from my time on the team. A family that’s over 30 players large.
“I joined ultimate because I had at least a little experience and wanted to be on a team,” said Bracket Lyons, a freshman at UNCA and a rookie on the frisbee squad. “Being on the team has widened my circle of friends and people I know more than I ever could have hoped for.”
A wide variety of people comprise the team, all bringing something new and fresh. Some have played the sport since childhood, growing up with it and coming onto the team with a lot of experience. Others like me had hardly thrown a disc before. Let alone played ultimate frisbee at the collegiate level.
“It’s hard trying to teach a bunch of people new things, especially when we have less vets than rookies,” Warshauer said. “Once we can instill some amount of knowledge of the game into them they can feed off of each other and everyone gets better.”
At the start of the semester the veterans on the team took to recruiting. They set up tables at every on campus event they could in hopes of finding new rookies to fill the vacant spots left by the graduates and transfers.
The turnout was much better than anyone on the team could have expected, more than 40 people were at the first practice of the season, more than half of them being new recruits.
Many veterans on the team expected most of the rookies to be gone by the second or third practice.
“It was a fairly surprising turnout this year given that every single year that I’ve been here before we’ve gotten a good 30 to 40 people on the first day and then the next practice it’s 10 less and the practice after it’s five and it ends up every single year being between 18 to 21 people that are actually committed,” Warshauer said.
This gradual drop off of players didn’t happen this year. Instead the team seemed to grow. A player would stop showing up from time to time but for every one it seemed like a new rookie or two would take their place. About a month in the team was set. Friendships were made and a team bond was formed.
The team started with the basics, how to throw and catch.
“The veterans are very welcoming and accepting of everyone. They helped me learn the game from knowing nothing about it and became my friends in the process,” said Laramie Nifong, a freshman from Winston-Salem.
From there the drills got more complex, out and unders, deep and dump cuts.
“The vets understand that a lot of us are new to the game and that there is a learning curve,” Lyons said. “They are super inclusive in different things going on outside of practice and are just all around nice guys and that is invaluable for someone new to a school.”
Rainy weather doesn’t stop the Bulldogs either, they move the practice indoors and train in the areas they can. Every Sunday, Monday and Thursday you can catch the frisbee team practicing, working hard to become the team they know they can be.
The end goal for the Bulldogs as a team is the same as every other team in sports, to win.
“Our end goal is to win nationals,” Warshauer said.
As in many other sports, in order to get to nationals a team must earn a bid by placing high in their regions tournament. Once in nationals, the team must play the best teams from across the country and beat every one of them. The Bulldogs have made it twice in the past three years. They have yet to place top five.
The road to getting that nationals bid is a long one, and it starts by entering as many tournaments during the regular season as possible. Machine Baby Throwdown was the team’s opening tournament. This tournament acted like a stepping stone for many of the rookies who had never played before into the world of competitive ultimate.
“Going to our first tournament I got to spend a weekend with a few teammates, eating, driving, playing Ultimate,” Lyons said. “It was a fantastic experience.”
The morning of Oct. 20 saw cold weather and rain. Despite that, the Bulldogs were all there and accounted for. The team chatted about the drive up as they tossed a disc around. Eventually, warm ups began, soon the Bulldogs would play their first game of the 2018-2019 season.
The first game on the rainy Saturday morning had the Bulldogs pitted against Tennessee, and although the Bulldogs lost the game by one they were happy with their play.
“I felt the team performed very well,” said Wilson Matthews, a sophomore at UNCA and a longtime ultimate frisbee player. “A lot of our guys haven’t played before but they stepped up and took on teams of vets.”
The Bulldogs won their last two games of the day by a combined total of 14 points.
After a long day of ultimate, the Bulldogs met for a team dinner before heading to the hotel. Being on team means spending a lot of time with your teammates during tournaments.
“My favorite part of being a part of the team is the community aspect,” said Paul Ikenberry, a freshman at UNCA from Colorado. “Tournaments are a great team bonding experience.”
The next day had no rain but was even colder than the morning before. The Bulldogs first game was a loss to Lehigh University. The Bulldogs were sure to give many of the rookies as much playtime as possible.
The Bulldogs next game against Radford was a big win which saw many of the rookies taking on a lot more playing time than any other game. After the Radford win the Bulldogs played Lehigh University again and lost, finishing at fourth.
There were no disappointed faces on the UNCA sideline, they came out and played hard and for a team made up of mostly rookies, they were proud of how they played.
“The rookies really showed up,” Matthews said.
UNCA ultimate frisbee means a lot to the players. With this season just starting the Bulldogs have a bright future ahead of them.
“The ultimate team are my only friends,” Warshauer said. “Every bit of joy I find in this world is with playing ultimate with my teammates.”