“We didn’t expect you to play like that!”
“But your team is so small!”
“We didn’t think that was gonna happen!”
When joined in ultimate’s tradition of the post-match spirit circle, a team full of underdogs and fighters often take these comments in and hope to hear it all the way to nationals.
The women’s ultimate team, also known as Kweezy — a play on the word “queasy” — has been on a productive run so far this season despite a low number of players on its roster that have forced players into multiple different positions. The team is currently 7–6 and is ranked 21st in Division III and No. 1 in their region, the Metro East. Division I and III teams are ranked separately but can compete against each other during the regular season.
Ultimate consists of seven players on the field for each team, making the count of nine players for Kweezy even more staggering — the team typically rosters about 12. The team’s aim is to score on each other’s end zones by throwing the disc down the field. No one can run with the disc, and players have 10 seconds once a throw is received to throw the disc again.
Sophomore organization captain Alicia Menduni has been with Kweezy since her first year at the college and had no prior experience in the sport before joining the team. She said she wanted to join a great group of people and she found it with Kweezy.
“I really had no experience prior to college, outside of, like, a few games in gym class in high school, but I was interested in joining a team coming to college that had a really nice atmosphere and had a great community,” Menduni said. “At the [organization] fair, one of the captains just came up to me and said, ‘Hey do you wanna join ultimate frisbee?’ I said sure and I had really no idea what I was getting into.”
While Menduni did not know what she was getting into at the time, she certainly knows what she is a part of now. Menduni said Kweezy’s community has been very welcoming and that the team fosters an attitude of helping those who are brought in.
“The captains last year and the whole team last year were just fantastic,” Menduni said. “Teaching me everything that I needed to know to get me to where I am today and I’m really glad that I chose to join the team because it’s such a great atmosphere.”
Despite the team’s welcoming attitude and tight chemistry, Kweezy has experienced a drop in players from previous years. However, Menduni said the smaller roster might not be a bad thing for the team.
“The two tournaments that we’ve had this spring season, we’ve had nine and ten players, which is only two or three subs,” Menduni said. “The small team is really great for our chemistry because we’ve been playing against teams with 20–30 people. … We know how we all communicate, we know how each other plays.”
This small-team chemistry goes further than just on the field. Senior co-captain Ellen Chapman said that off the field, the team’s bond is just as strong.
“A lot of people will come in pairs,” Chapman said. “It’s really nice, we’ll walk to practice together, we meet up. We all celebrated one of the other captain’s birthdays in the dining hall the other day. … We all showed up and put a bunch of tables together. It’s super fun and we make a point to see each other.”
Camaraderie is a big part of the dynamic of Kweezy and it can be seen in the team’s play style this season, which has resulted in numerous dominant wins. Senior organization captain Mackenzie Bauer said the team has been more reliant on the team’s chemistry rather than the technical parts of the game.
“I would say, last year, we were very technical and we had certain plays, but this year we’ve kind of just been going with the flow more,” Bauer said. “This past weekend we started doing half man-to-man defense and half zone. … It was working and we were like, ‘Just make sure you’re on somebody.’ On offense we throw it and we make our cuts, but we had to make some adjustments because we were having some difficulties cutting in, so [sophomore] Joe [Mukamal] did a lot of the long throws down into the end zone, which worked.”
To work through low numbers and no formal coaching compared to its opponents, Kweezy has made the team versatile by getting everyone reps at different positions. The team’s motto has been “adapt,” which has been what has helped their team’s success this season.”
Chapman was not able to go to one of the tournaments this season and in her absence, senior co-captain Izzy DeVett came up with “adapt” as the team’s word of the tournament. It has stuck with the team and has become its attitude this season.
“We’re going to adapt and that’s what happens to us a lot because we go and we play these other teams and they have coaches, so they have bigger numbers,” Chapman said. “We just have to see what’s working for us in the moment. It’s always building up the skills and then implementing the skills in any way we can.”
Along with being first in their region, Kweezy has been able to pull off upsets against D-I schools with bigger rosters, including a 10–3 win over Syracuse University and a dominant 13–2 win over Princeton University on Feb. 25. DeVett said that it shows that bigger D-I teams should not look over them.
“It says that people shouldn’t underestimate us,” DeVett said. “We are coming in with these smaller numbers and teams are like, ‘This is going to be an easy win, they’re playing with low numbers, they’re going to be tired,’ but everybody on the field is so passionate about the game that we’re able to bring the competition and step up to these D-I teams. I think that teams are not underestimating us anymore because we’ve shown that we’re here to play and we want to play competitively.”
With such a small number of players rostered compared to other teams, Kweezy has assumed a bit of an underdog role and Chapman said if the team goes to nationals, it will embrace it.
“There’s nothing wrong with being an underdog, we’re just a second-half team,” Chapman said. “[The men’s team] went last year and they played really well, so I think the same could be said for Kweezy. It would just be a matter of taking things as they come and not taking things too personally or letting things hit too close to home. Just remember that once you get to nationals you kind of made it, who cares who wins at that point? You win … you left everyone [in the region] out.”
If Kweezy is able to maintain its grasp at the top of the Metro East until May, they will have an automatic bid for a national’s appearance, something no one on the team has had the opportunity to experience. Bauer said last season was the first time Kweezy earned a trip to regionals in about 10 years.
DeVett said that pushing for nationals is a big thing for her and the team, especially because it is her senior year, but enjoying the rest of the season with her friends is just as important.
“I think we’re just aiming to see where this goes and focus on how great we’re doing and celebrating that,” DeVett said. “If we end up at nationals, that’s awesome, but if not, we’ve played awesome this whole season and hopefully we can continue that momentum into future years.”