Ultimate frisbee combines strategy, sprinting, espirit de corps

Kate "Shredder" Laemmle ’20 makes a forehand throw, or “flick huck,” versus Mount Holyoke at the New England Regionals in 2019.
Kate "Shredder" Laemmle ’20 makes a forehand throw, or “flick huck,” versus Mount Holyoke at the New England Regionals in 2019. (Photo courtesy Banshee Women’s Ultimate Frisbee)

By Sophie Fulara ’21 

Ultimate frisbee has grown into one of the largest team sports at Brandeis. With more than 80 players between them, the women’s team, Banshee, and the men’s team, TRON, have created a distinct community on campus. 

Ultimate is a sport played with a flying disc by seven-member teams. The goal is to score the most points by catching the frisbee in the end zone. A “cutter,” or receiver, breaks into the open to catch the disc from a “handler,” who has mastered throwing a frisbee.

Unlike most sports, ultimate has no referees. Games rely on a shared trust that promotes sportsmanlike conduct, what players call “the spirit of the game.” When a play is in question, players come to a consensus among themselves.

“You don’t want to cheat since that would ruin the fundamental point of the game,” says Banshee team member Katya Hirsch ‘21, who plays under her frisbee nickname “Rubix.” 

She was given the name, a common practice among collegiate frisbee teams, when she joined the team as a first year, never having played the game before. 

"I felt that people genuinely wanted me to be there before they even knew me,” Hirsch says. “Everyone is really supportive and welcoming.”

TRON tri-captain Andrew “Toro” Marshall ’21 describes the challenge of the sport. 

“Game play is continuous, kind of like hockey,” he says. “There can be long stretches without a break, and we have to be focused for that whole time to succeed as a team.” 

A significant factor, he says, is the wind. “Games played in 25-mph winds vs. 5-mph winds look completely different,” Marshall says. “It is crazy how different they are. We always have to be ready for either condition.“ 

TRON plays in Division III of the USA Ultimate collegiate league. They are nationally ranked (#22 according to Ultiworld), finishing second in the championship tournament in 2015 and 2016. Along with Banshee, Tron plays in tournaments, such as the Lobster Pot in Maine this fall. During the regular spring season, the team is scheduled to play in three tournaments plus postseason tournaments.

Banshee, which plays in the Women’s Division, is nationally ranked (#23) and competes in a New England region that is one of the nation’s most competitive.The club was ranked in the top 20 nationally last spring and missed making nationals by only one point. 

The men’s and women’s clubs regularly get together to host combined “Transhee” events such as joint scrimmages, dinners and parties.

Banshee Co-Captain Kate “Shredder” Laemmle ’20 said her club strives for an inclusive atmosphere. "I want to make sure that these girls who are all very empowered are improving as a team and as a community, while feeling like they’re in a comfortable environment,” she says.

What she loves about ultimate frisbee is that the game is “both mentally and physically demanding,” Laemmle says.

“During a normal tournament day, we play four to five games, running around 20 miles,” she says. “An incredible amount of strategy is involved in our plays. Both cutters and handlers are constantly sprinting, switching back and forth to offense and defense. 

“Handlers have to make pinpoint throws to a speeding target a short distance away, or pinpointing a runner 70 yards down the field. Cutters are making sharp turns to lose their defenders, or making diving catches in the end zone. 

“I am often diving on the ground to make catches or to swat a disc away from the person I am defending,” she says. “I never leave a day with a clean jersey.”

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Categories: Students
Date: February 20, 2020