I've written a lot about Ultimate Frisbee in the past four years. I've written about Syzygy in Texas and Syzygy in Madison, Syzygy at Carleton and Syzygy in Missouri, Syzygy in California and Syzygy in Colorado. In fact, I think I've put up more blog posts about my Ultimate team, Syzygy, than I have about anything else besides maybe... spring (I'm pretty excited about spring too, apparently).
It's time for one final Syzygy post. An Ultimate Ultimate post, if you will.
Syzygy has been a huge part of my life at Carleton since freshman year. I played Ultimate Frisbee in high school for a year or so, lured in by my good friends on the team, a charismatic coach (who happened to be a Carleton alum - coincidence?) and the prospect of avoiding homework. When I came to Carleton, I don't remember there ever being a question as to whether or not I would play. At the time, Syzygy was loaded with soccer players, so I already knew a good chunk of the team when the season started in the winter.
After having two amazing seasons my first and second year, nobody had any doubt that we would make Nationals again last year. It was just something that Syzygy always did. But then, last year, we... didn't. An unimpressive showing from the Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota teams in winter tournaments led to the North Central region only receiving three bids to Nationals, and when it came time for the regional tournament, we just didn't perform. This came as an enormous blow to our team. But instead of being demoralized by our results last season, we did something truly impressive. We refocused, re-energized, and began making some changes so that this season would be different.
And it was. While I was drawing my way through winter term on beaches in the South Pacific, Syzygy was training hard and breaking hearts and taking names at tournaments all over the country. They ran two sprint workouts a week, lifted, and threw until they could make the disc do exactly what they wanted it to do and go exactly where they wanted it to go every time. This resulted in better results in winter tournaments than Syzygy has ever had before. Seeded 16th and playing with twelve players, Syzygy got second (losing to Central-Region rival Iowa State on universe point) at the Queen City Tune-Up in Charlotte, NC. We got 5th at the Stanford Invite and 6th at Centex in Austin, Texas after winning our pool (we believe a first for Carleton in Texas?) but being knocked out of the championship bracket by Iowa State.
We entered our spring season ranked #2 in the country. I don't believe any of us have ever been ranked #2 in the country for anything before. But by no means did we take our success for granted, and we continued to train hard even when Minnesota refused to give us spring and forced us to practice indoors. At Regionals (which was supposed to be at Carleton but was moved to Iowa due to the five inches of snow that was on the ground here), we fought through wind and rain and fields of mud half a foot deep and ultimately went undefeated and won our Region, beating Iowa State 12-10 in the finals.
Niko Duffy '13, our intrepid student photographer, got some fantastic shots from the weekend:
Last weekend, we entered that National College Championship tournament in Madison, WI as the #2 seed. If it's ever even happened before, one can remember the last time we were seeded so high at Nationals. But somehow - and I honestly can't tell you how - we put that number out of our heads and focused on other things. Our mindset for the weekend was this: we had already won everything we were going to win. By doing well throughout the season and at Regionals, we had won the opportunity to play with each other for one more weekend. We had won the chance to run down each others' hucks, do implausible things with our bodies on the field, split the sidelines and yell "S-Y-Z-G-Y-G-Y GO!", spray paint Syzygy tattoos on each other, and put seven on the line and chase down the pull. Our desire to win this weekend stemmed from our knowledge that the more games we won, the more games we could play together.
And so we won games. We won our games on Friday against Northwestern University and University of British Columbia and we won our games on Saturday against University of Georgia and a UC Santa Barbara. On Sunday, we won our game against University of Washington and then got to play in the semifinals against Ohio State in a stadium. We won that too.
By beating Ohio State, we ensured that we would play the maximum number of games we possibly could at Nationals. Really, this was all we ever wanted. This is what motivated us to get up at 6am for winter practices, to run two sprint workouts a week, to drive for an hour in order to play on an indoor turf field from 10pm-midnight in April when all we wanted was to practice outside.
Ultimately, under light rain and before a stadium filled with our families, friends, alums and CUT buddies, we battled Oregon for the National title. We lost, but we didn't go down without a fight. And the best part? There were smiles all the way through it.
More Niko pictures:
The four days we spent in Madison battling schools 28 times our size* were the best culmination to my time on Syzygy that I could have asked for. Throughout the last four years, but especially this season and this weekend, the women on Syzygy have inspired me with their resilience, compassion, strength, and support. I will leave Syzygy with so much more than a silver medal from Nationals, and for that, I am eternally grateful to my teammates.
*True statement - Ohio state has an enrollment of over 56,000. Carleton's is less than 2,000.