Bender backhands. A delta sandwich. Hucking the disc.
Frisbee talent is expanding (along with vocabulary) as the Michigan State Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team has begun practicing. The women have been fired up since September to refresh their skills, or for some, to learn an entirely new game before competition begins in March.[weather]
Ultimate Frisbee is ordinarily played in warm, sunny weather with flimsy jerseys and shorts, not in the bitter cold and freezing rain underneath soaked sweatshirts. But the MSU Women’s Ultimate team is far from ordinary. Weather is no obstacle for this group of ladies, as they have their sights set on playing hard through the fall and winter to earn a bid to the national tournament this spring.
With an addition of about twenty rookies to the roster, early practices are necessary to increase knowledge and improve competitive skills. Laura Western, a returning player, said that practices have started this early in previous years in order to get all of the players on the same page.
“We start early to be competitive players by the time the spring season comes around,” Western, a psychology sophomore, said. “Some of the rookies are starting to stand out and take specific positions on the field.”
Met with an onslaught of new terms and a different team playing style, the new ladies are still getting used to this “ultimate” sport. While many new girls cannot yet “huck” the disc, successfully throwing it an incredible length, they are mastering all kinds of throws, such as the forehand and the elusive bender backhand.
“It is really amazing to say that I can throw all these different kinds of tosses,” nutritional sciences sophomore Michelle Mingay said. “The early practices will help us out when the season really starts, and it gives the team a chance to bond.”
In addition to actually throwing the frisbee to teammates to make it down the field and score, strategies and plays are implemented along the way. It is not an uncommon sight to see the team huddled around a dry-erase board as the “delta sandwich” or “zone” defenses are explained; old hat to the veterans, often mind boggling for the rookies.
“I am learning a lot of new throws and plays for both defense and offense,” Lyman Briggs no preference freshman Alicia Stolsmark said. “The veterans have been doing a lot to step up and help out the new girls. We are getting to know the playing style of the other girls.”
Without a coach, the team is led by a small group of returning players. These women run the drills and organize the scrimmages at the bi-weekly practices. It is often difficult to run a team successfully with several leading voices, but these ladies are getting it done.
“I wish we had a coach, because it is tough to be the “bad guy” when you are dealing with your friends,” zoology senior Allison Rober said. “It would be awesome to have someone else handle the work so we could all just concentrate on playing the game, but splitting up the duties doesn’t make it so bad.”
Practices are held twice a week, and the women often run breathlessly onto the field after coming right from work or class. In addition to drills and intense scrimmages, track workouts and “Navy Seals,” a program that strengthens legs, arms, and abs, are implemented and led by Rober. These ladies drag themselves back to their homes and dormitories exhausted from practices, but it is not in vain. A bid to the national tournament is a huge goal, but a smaller one is to run those Wolverines from Ann Arbor into the Frisbee ground.
Competition is already in high gear this fall. The team sent a squad of ten to Rochester, New York, over Halloween weekend. Led by four veterans, MSU finished with a record of 3-2, including a victory over tough-to-beat Bucknell University. Western is confident in the potential of the MSU team to develop competitively from the performance at the tournament.
“Scrimmaging against your teammates can only teach you so much, which is why tournaments in the fall are so valuable,” Western said. “This weekend, the newbies probably learned more in one day than in the last couple weeks of practice.”
The early practices are helping the women’s team become skilled enough as a whole to compete against strong teams across the nation. Before moving practices inside, the team is looking ahead to playing in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the annual Romp in the Swamp Tournament.
“The early practices are definitely paying off,” said Stolsmark. “[Over Halloween] weekend, we ran zone defenses and the delta sandwich. Without early practicing, we would not have been able to run these more complicated styles of playing.”
The dedication of this group of ladies is second to none. Wind, rain, and bitter cold cannot keep them off of the Ultimate field. Think seasonal sports are tough? Try playing one that lasts all year long. This spring, the MSU Women’s Ultimate Frisbee hopes to be rolling over the competition, whether it is scrimmaging between each other or against squads from across the country.
“I am so pumped for the spring!” Stolsmark said. “We will be unstoppable.”

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