Eau Claire’s Ultimate Ultimate Frisbee Team
Brit Gartner, co-captain of UW-Eau Claire’s women’s ultimate Frisbee team, SOL Ultimate, said the word describes what the team brings to every game.
“It’s our style of play,” Gartner, a senior special education major, said. “We like to have fun when we play, but also be intense and competitive.”
And those elements of the game have certainly helped to expand the relatively new Eau Claire club sport.
SOL started up in 2005, when women interested in playing ultimate frisbee wanted to branch off the men’s team, Gartner said. A few girls had been playing on the original team, but wanted something of their own, and after the typical paperwork start-up, SOL was formed.
Meredith Bray, another of SOL’s co-captains and a junior drawing major, said she has played ultimate since her freshman year of high school, and enjoys it even more at Eau Claire.
“It’s not a hippie sport. It’s a very high level of energy and takes a lot of stamina and endurance, because Frisbee is pretty much constant sprinting,” she said. “ It’s tough, but it’s a lot of fun.”
But most importantly:
“It’s not Frisbee golf.”
Ultimate Frisbee is a sport somewhat like football, Bray said. For each team, there are seven players on the line. The players pass the disc up field, but are not allowed to run with the disc, and therefore need to continue passing it. Unlike football when a player fumbles, if a player drops the disc, the game doesn’t stop. The other team can pick up the disc right away, and the game continues on. Bray said that because of this, ultimate Frisbee is a lot quicker than a football game.
Other differences between ultimate Frisbee and more traditional sports is something the women refer to as ‘spirit of the game,’ where the women essentially serve as their own referees.
“You do have to have spirit, it’s heavily based on sportsmanship,” Gartner said. “You’re making a lot of your own calls, and it’s still highly valued if you have a good relationship with other teams, which is different from a lot of sports.”
Bethany Mitch, a junior advertising major and fellow co-captain with Gartner and Bray, said that sportsmanship being rather essential to how the game is played adds to the enjoyment of playing.
“I feel like every ultimate team around the nation is just like a family,” she said. “Every team knows most every team, especially within your own region. It’s a close community, ultimate in general.”
The name SOL stands for seven on the line because when the team first started, there were only enough women on the team to fill the number of places on the field, Mitch said.
But now, the team is gaining members.
Gartner said that in the past few years, the team has usually featured a roster of about 20-22 women, some of whom come in to the sport with a lot of practice, others who have no experience in ultimate Frisbee at all.
Every year, Eau Claire’s ultimate frisbee teams host the Chillout Tournament, and this year’s took place at South Middle School on Oct. 22 and 23.
This year for the women’s division, 10 teams came to the tournament. SOL raises funds through the entrance fees that other teams pay to play, the cost of which is $200, Gartner said.
One of the things that sets the Chillout Tournament apart from other tournaments, Gartner said, is that the Eau Claire teams throw a free dinner for all the other teams.
The Chillout Tournament continues to grow. This year, UW-Madison and Carelton College were in attendance, two of the most prestigious women’s teams in the North Central region, Gartner said.
With the turnout they saw, the women were very excited about coming in second place at the tournament, just behind Madison.
A week before the Chillout Tournament, the women competed in another tournament, No Wisconsequences, a tournament co-hosted by UW-Madison’s ultimate team the Wisconsin Hodags and Cultimate, an ultimate Frisbee tournament management company. SOL finished seventh out of 26 women’s teams.
SOL has also competed in large tournaments outside of Wisconsin, including Sentex, a tournament in Austin, Tex. which Mitch called one of the most competitive outside of regionals and nationals.
Last year, SOL took 32nd place, and this year they jumped to 22nd, which essentially places them within the top 25 teams in the nation, Gartner said.
While the team has yet to make it to Nationals, they’ve come close, Gartner said.
“We’ve lost what’s called the game to go several years in a row,” she said. “Last year was the first year we were one spot behind that game. Otherwise, we’ve been on the verge to going to Nationals consistently which is kind of amazing for a smaller Div. III school that just started a few years ago, which definitely adds to the respect we’re given by other teams.”