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Michigan State Ultimate Women’s Team Sets Big Goals

Ultimate Frisbee
MSU Infamous Ultimate

The club sport relies on intensity, passion and love for the sport to plot for its biggest aim: taking down Michigan.

East Lansing, Mich.- I wanted to get a feel of the intensity the Michigan State Women’s Ultimate team plays with, so I went through a full practice.

And yes, I survived the challenge. Two hours and hundreds of steps later, I was out of breath, although not particularly surprised by the pace of play after watching Infamous Ultimate practice all semester.

After a brief stretching period at the start of practice, the team spent the 90 minutes playing a game called “Galaxy Wars”, a fast-paced activity involving four teams. The goal is to knock over opponents’ cones located in the corners of the field, while protecting the cones in their zone. Multiple discs can be in play at one time, so communication between team members is a priority - teams can score and get scored on…all at the same time.

Once the practice concluded, I got my scouting report from the team’s leadership.

“I think you did pretty well, you have pretty good field awareness,” said junior co-captain Maketa Mattimore. “(Galaxy Wars is) pretty chaotic and aggressive.”

For what it’s worth, I think she was being nice.

Infamous Ultimate retooled this season after losing three of the seven starters from last year’s squad.

“We had such good chemistry,” said senior captain Sarah Angold-Stephens. “Every person on that final line I had been playing with for three years and I knew how they cut, we didn’t have to use words to communicate.”

This fall’s practices have been more of a learning experience, as the rookies look to integrate into the sport and the young veterans take on bigger roles.

“We lost a lot of handlers last year, so I really want to see some people step up,” Angold-Stephens said. “It’s more of a role where you have to think a lot more and understand the game a lot more and dial in your throws.”

While the primary goal of a cutter is to be able to create separation in order to catch the disc, handlers are tasked with throwing the disc farther down field.

Angold-Stephens believes in her team, and thinks it should be able to compete with any squad in sanctioned tournament play.

Those tournaments begin in January. In order to qualify for regionals, a team must play in a certain amount of sanctioned tournaments, and one team from the Great Lakes region will receive a bid to go to nationals.

Ultimate Frisbee
Credit MSU Infamous Ultimate

“Broadly speaking, we should make it to regionals, and we should fight at regionals,” Angold-Stephens. “I don’t think we’re a nationals level team, but I don’t think we should get crushed at regionals. I think we should make every team fight for every point they score against us.”

Mattimore stressed will need to understand how to defend and score using more complex tactics than what the players know now, for it to succeed in sanctioned tournaments.

“We’re going to be learning zone as soon as we get back (from winter break),” Mattimore said. “Usually we see Michigan in the spring, we work to learn how to break their individual zones.”

Mattimore explained to the team, at the end of practice, that a lot of the strategy involved in succeeding in Galaxy Wars translates into breaking zone defenses.

Co-captain Amanda Decker said she would like to see the team improve its stamina in order to play with precision against high level teams in the spring.

“I think conditioning is a huge thing for us,” Decker said. “Kind of like how (Galaxy Wars) is set up, it’s those little movements through very athletic, very skillful players that we need to get used to playing against.”

One of the main goals in recent years has been to defeat archrival Michigan, a program with a larger budget and more players. UM has enough for two teams, divided into an A-team and a B-team.

Last season was the closest that Infamous Ultimate had gotten to defeating Michigan, losing in sudden death overtime, 10-9.

“We fought for that so hard, we looked at what we had scored against UM in the past couple years and we’d never scored more than three points against them,” Angold-Stephens said. “I remember every mistake I made on that (overtime) point, every time I threw it away.”

Ultimate Frisbee
Credit MSU Infamous Ultimate

Despite brutal loss, MSU’s players have found motivation knowing that since the team came so close - it can do it again.

“It was heartbreaking, I’ve personally never worked harder in a game and I think that goes for everyone who was on the field,” Mattimore said. “It feels great now knowing that we were so close and that we can compete with them now and they know that.”

Decker added, “I think that was like the hardest loss I’ve ever had in anything, I would say. To give everything on the field like that and for it to be that close is so rewarding but also it hurts a lot at the end because we were close.”

In order for the team to have a chance against Michigan again this season, it will need to recreate past chemistry.

“I think part of the reason we did have such a good chance at beating them last year is because of the group we had on the team,” Angold-Stephens said. “We had been playing together for three to four years.”

Ultimate Frisbee
Credit MSU Infamous Ultimate

The new-look team will have a chance to build off of last year’s match against Michigan.

“I think we’re definitely going to challenge UM again this year, but I don’t know, it’s too early to say,” Angold-Stephens said.

Mattimore pointed out that eliminating mental errors will increase the team’s chances of having success moving forward.

“We have to work on our throws, we can’t afford little petty mistake turnovers in a game like that,” Mattimore said. “Being more secure as a team, making better decisions on the field, definitely.”

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