By Eric Mistry
Seniors Hannah Bauman, Carla Eckland and Kelly Helbach have never attended Block Party. The past three years, they’ve been at Nationals for ultimate frisbee instead. This year, they’ll be missing Block Party again, for the same reason. It’s been a successful season for both the men’s and women’s teams so far this year, despite lackluster weather conditions that have affected both practices and tournaments.
The women’s team, the Sticky Tongue Frogs, recently participated in a combined conference/regional tournament, where their teamwork and hard work translated to winning a berth in the national tournament yet again.
“Making Nationals was a kind of validation for all of the hard work we’ve put in and all of the hard work the team has put in and just how motivated everyone has been,” said women’s team co-captain Hannah Bauman ’13.
The men’s team, the Grinnellephants, recently won their conference tournament for the third year in a row, and is looking forward to Regionals, where they have a chance of their own to snag a spot at the national tournament.
“Regionals is going to be very tough,” said men’s frisbee co-captain Gio Danforth ’13. “There’re three teams ranked ahead of us, and they’re all very good teams. We’re also all competing for only one spot at Nationals.”
The weather has been complicating the competition for the Sticky Tongue Frogs and the Grinnellephants. The long winter and copious precipitation have affected both of the teams.
“We’ve had some issues this entire fall and spring with weather; we got rained out of several tournaments and snowed out of several tournaments this spring. That made it really difficult to assess where we were at as a team in terms of competition,” said women’s co-captain Carla Eckland ’13.
The men’s team also saw a variety of tournaments canceled for weather-related reasons. This makes it more difficult for the men to gain a place at the national tournament, as teams need to play a certain number of tournaments to gain extra bids. Practice space and time has also been an issue, but the teams continue to do their best to work hard despite the conditions. The men’s team has moved practices to the nearby Ahrens Park, while the women continue to practice on Mac Field.
Even with these difficulties, the frisbee teams have a great deal to be pleased about. Both teams boast a strong section of younger players, and all of the co-captains agreed that the first-years played a crucial role.
“We’ve got a very deep team this year,” said men’s co-captain Eric Streed ’14. “A lot of first years are playing really big roles. … At different tournaments along the way, different [first years] have just exploded, which is great to see.”
This effect was especially prominent in the fall.
“We were down a lot of juniors in the fall due to study abroad and swimming, so it often ended up that five of the seven guys on the line were first years; they stepped up well and we’re continuing to see the effects of that,” Danforth said.
A similar situation occurred for the women.
“We also saw a lot of first years.” Bauman said. “We’ve got a huge roster with 35 girls, considering only seven play at once.”
Looking forward, the men are preparing to take on the competition at Regionals, while the women continue to practice for Nationals. The national tournament takes place in Milwaukee, which will help Grinnell by allowing seniors to make it home for Commencement instead of having to choose between the tournament and Commencement. Additionally, the weather conditions should be close to what the Grinnell teams are used to dealing with.
Both teams are optimistic for the rest of the season and for the future of the team.
“With the weather and so many new people coming out, it’s been kind of an underdog season all year,” Eckland said. “We’ve just really come together. It just shows how important sidelines are to keeping the mentality and focus up; that’s what got us to Nationals and helped us do so well in the last four years.”