This weekend, the men’s and women’s Ultimate Frisbee teams will participate in sectionals and regionals with a trip to Nationals at stake. After some bad weather, the rescheduled Sectionals bracket games will take place this weekend for the women’s team, known as the Alley Cats. Despite not having a coach, both the men and women’s teams can punch their ticket to Nationals if they win the tournament this weekend.
Captains for the women’s team are seniors Meryl Davis and Keara Crook, and junior Odessa Sagli. The captains have a unique responsibility in that they have the role of player-coach.
The women’s team record is 11-8, while the men’s team is 11-3. In the games they played at the Black Penguins Classic 2019 on March 30-31, the men, known as the River Rats, went 4-0 against Eastern Illinois University, Northern Michigan, Western Michigan and North Park. The women’s team went undefeated in that same tournament as well, winning the tournament championship.
In years past, the women’s team have come up just short at sectionals several times and this year’s team is hoping to break that trend.
Both teams are up against some fierce competition. According to junior Adi Siddharth, one of the obstacles for the team will be focusing on themselves and not their opponent.
“We’re going up against some of the best teams in the nation. If we play our game and our style, I feel we can beat anyone in our regional,” Siddharth said.
Junior Carly Gilbert came to Knox with high school experience in frisbee. Gilbert played for a very competitive High School team – which makes her one of the rare Frisbee players with prior experience – and that helped her get accustomed to the big stage.
The women’s team is playing North Park University, one of their rival teams in the region and the favorites to win the tournament, to start the bracket on Saturday, April 27. If they beat North Park, then they’ll advance to the final.
“We have a rivalry with North Park, and their girls are faster than us, but we’re more skilled,” said Gilbert.
North Park is a rival for both the men’s and women’s teams, and they play a speedy style to take advantage of their athletic prowess. That fast play style is not an offensive style that Knox plays against often.
“We have split with them in the past, so our main competition will be North Park. The main thing we have to worry about with them is they’re a very fast team. It’s not necessarily something we’re used to playing against,” said junior Tegan Doherty.
To prepare for that the women’s team has been scrimmaging against the men’s team in scrimmage, asking them to fast break as much as possible.
The men’s team will be facing North Park, along with several other teams, in pool play on Saturday before Sunday’s bracket play. They know that to go to nationals they’ll have to beat North Park and their high-octane style.
“North Park has a lot of tall, really athletic players …They’ll send someone deep on us, and they’re sprint past all of our players,” sophomore Dan Briggs said.
A passion for winning on both teams has created the nerves that are going to come with big games upcoming.
“It’s nerve-wracking this year because both of our teams stand a pretty good chance of all going to Nationals,” Briggs said.
However, Briggs is confident that the nerves won’t get to either Knox team.
Combine the passion with some momentum and you have a recipe for success. That passion to win is something that wasn’t always there last year.
“We’ve all been excited about playing together. We all want to win. I think that’s something that wasn’t there as much [in the past], at least from my perspective,” said sophomore Allison Mollinari.
Mollinari is looking forward to being able to cheer on the men’s team during their games in bracket play on Sunday, as the women’s team will only play on Saturday. With both teams not having coaches, supporting one another is even more critical than usual.
The increasing popularity of sports is noticeable in terms of the roster. The women’s roster has grown from last year from around 16 to 26, while the men’s team now fields a roster of over 30 players. Just three years ago, the River Rats hovered around 18 players. The increase in roster size can lead to constant stability a strong future for the team.
“Looking forward we can really build a program, getting people into the gym earlier in the season to work out,” said Mollinari.
This is the big tournament, and with both teams winners of their last handful of games, there’s reason to hope that both teams can’t advance to Nationals.