By Melody Chu
When the UC Santa Cruz women’s ultimate team began its first game of the Sean Ryan Memorial tournament last Saturday, it was 7:30 a.m.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the sky was gray and rain was coming down in sheets.
"It was pretty ridiculous, because when I got up it was still dark," senior co-captain Lillian Berla said. "It takes a lot of commitment and team spirit to play hard at that early in the morning, in the rain."
Fellow team member Hannah Buoye said, "We couldn’t feel our fingers or toes until the afternoon when the sun came out."
But the Slugs, playing at home, overcame the elements and defeated UCLA and UC Berkeley in their first two games of the day.
"The team really came together on those two," co-captain Ali Green said. "The Frisbee is really hard to throw and catch when it’s wet."
The tournament, which was organized and hosted by the UCSC men’s ultimate team, drew 14 women’s teams to Santa Cruz. Like their male counterparts, the Slugs also managed to make it to the championship round, but fell to Stanford, 13-9.
The Slugs were undefeated in six games prior to the finals.
"I think we’re all really excited about how far we did get," Berla said. "We could have taken Stanford, but at this point in the season it’s not actually that important who wins that final game because we have such a long season in front of us."
Green agreed. "I thought our team did a really good job of playing to our potential," she said. "Everybody on the team really did their part to get us into the finals."
According to Berla, the Slugs are still in the process of rebuilding, after a multitude of graduating players left the team with a young core last year. The retuning players, in addition to several rookies, have a long season of traveling and bonding to look forward to.
"When we go to a tournament, we spend between three and 10 hours together in a car," Berla explained. "Because we’re on a budget, we sleep on a floor altogether."
Being a tournament host generates income from entry fees, but the Slugs had to put in extra work to prep the field and to make sure the tournament ran smoothly. Such preseason competitions are particularly useful as they allow for many games over a short period of time, since the team cannot afford to travel just to play in a game or two.
"It’s pretty standard for the host to provide bagels, cream cheese and peanut butter," said Berla, who mentioned that her team went grocery shopping for the tournament and brought in crates full of water for all of the competitors. The Slugs also hosted a BBQ on Saturday after the first day’s games were over.
A welcoming and open environment is part of what the sport is known for. Since ultimate Frisbee is fairly new to the scene, many players-from various athletic backgrounds-don’t take on the sport until reaching college.
"It’s a sport where you don’t have to be the best in shape to be the best player," Buoye said.
And because most clubs don’t receive much financial support, ultimate teams across the nation rely on the hospitality of each other to stay afloat.
So sometimes, it’s nice just to be able to compete at home.
"I prefer playing on our own field," Green said. "It’s nice to have friends come out and watch and not to have to sleep on someone else’s floor."
Green added, "At the end of the day, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. The feeling after you take a shower and lie down on your couch is just complete exhaustion."