The ultimate college experience, part two

William Workman (graphic)

This article is the last in a two-part series.

As I hurried out of the air-conditioned Cincinnati airport, I was slowed by a sudden lack of oxygen. The abrupt increase in heat and humidity forced me to focus on breathing deeply for a moment. The team had jokingly toyed with the idea of heat training by running ultimate practices in Victoria wearing full sweat suits. Maybe we should have been more serious about it.

On both flights to Cincinnati, I had done my part for ultimate by spreading knowledge about the sport to the strangers sitting beside me. I usually do this on flights to avoid the dreaded “what do you want to do after you graduate?” This time, I did it because it was the only thing on my mind.

At the fields the next day, I felt a buzz of excitement in the humid air. Our first game against Virginia didn’t go as planned. Maybe it was the jitters brought on by the tournament atmosphere, the heat taking a toll on our unacclimatized bodies, or the fact that we hadn’t practiced as a full team since exams began. Whatever it was, it didn’t do us any favours.

The UVixens faced Kansas in the next game. We pulled away in the first half with only minor issues, such as unintentionally sneaking an extra player onto the field for the beginning of a point. During the second half, we lost the comfortable feeling of being ahead. Kansas threw four points in a row onto the board tying it at 11-11. A game to 13 was now ahead.

After Kansas tied the game, I looked upwards in frustration. I saw a blimp hovering over the fields with flashing advertisements. The screen read “WHAT YOU WANT.” It didn’t make grammatical sense, but the message was clear, and I wanted to win. (I later learned that the blimp was promoting a cable company that allowed you to “tune in to what you want.”) We ended up in the familiar position of universe point, tied at 12. Sudden death. Losing a game on universe point is crushing and frustrating. We had lost in this situation far to many times this season. Two months ago, we lost two games this way in a single day, so with our history motivating us, we scored the point.

On day two, the UVixens stayed calmed and focused, playing our best game of the tournament against Michigan. We took the field for an intense warm up.

It’s not your usual pump up song, but it was exactly what I needed. During the game, the score was close but spirits were high and every player was making an impact. Luke Charlesworth, a player on the UVic men’s team and our substitute coach, was instrumental in helping us recognize and exploit their weaknesses. The UVixens came out on top and we felt incredible.

As the tournament came to a close, the UVixens celebrated our last night together by recognizing the graduating players and captains. There were many tears that evening. It had finally hit us that so many of our players would not be returning next season. Later on, we did what our team does best and had some fun playing pool ultimate with Harvard and Central Florida.

Finishing 13th made it impossible for us not to reflect with some frustration, especially since a three-way tie kept us from a higher placing. Now that the tournament is behind us, it is easier to be proud of our accomplishment and grateful for the teammates that we shared it with. We had a taste of what it is like to play at the highest level and now we want more. Watching the top teams compete in the semis and finals was truly inspiring for our team. There were some amazing plays, some of which made ESPN Sports Centre Top 10.

When I got home the next day, the usual post-tournament blues set in. It is jarring to go from sharing hotel rooms, incredible effort, and wins and losses with 20 people who you love, to being alone and far away from them.

Without the graduating players who have long been the core of our team, next season will be an adjustment. We are losing all three of our superhuman captains, Allie, Danie and Jessie, who have given this team everything. It’ll be hard to adjust. Nevertheless, I feel blessed to have another season as a UVixen ahead of me. September can’t come fast enough.

Follow the UVixens on Twitter: twitter.com/uvixensultimate

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