Footage of it could have substituted for any all-time great sports movie; the makings of it could have replaced any Cinderella story known to man.
When junior Morgan Cofer caught the game-winning toss in overtime to defeat James Madison and give VCU’s women’s ultimate Frisbee team third place in sectionals of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee College Championship Series, thus qualifying the team for regionals, bedlam ensued from a group of girls not exactly used to such hysteria or euphoria.
“You know those scenes where you see everybody is running onto the field just screaming and cursing? Yeah, that was us. We were obnoxious.” said sophomore communications arts major Cassie Ward. “People went nuts; I have never seen our team so enthusiastic.”
The scene was merely the capstone of a crazy weekend for a team, in a tournament they had never advanced too before and that didn’t always go their way.
VCU started off the tournament in demoralizing fashion, dropping a close game the University of Tennessee before losing two more in similar style against University of Richmond and University of Virginia, who are the strongest team in the group and have had a program for 30 years compared to VCU’s two.
Feeling aggrieved by losing games they thought they should have won, the team came out with a predisposed purpose the next day and quickly dispatched Virginia Tech and Richmond, both with the score line of 15-6.
The two victories set up a winner-take-all showdown with James Madison, with the winner guaranteed the third and final place in this weekend’s regional tournament. Both teams battled back-and-forth in a neck-and-neck game before the aforementioned catch, which was assisted by senior and team president Katie Mallory.
“We went into overtime knowing the next point goes to regionals and we got it,” Mallory said. “We have on video us just being in a big clump and falling (while celebrating after the winning score).”
The win will now extend the team’s postseason promenade to at least this weekend, when they will travel down to the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens, Ga. to participate in the tournament’s regional round, just one step away from the ultimate nationals round.
Advancing to regionals is being viewed as a big step for the team, who were founded just two years ago. Indeed the improbability of the team’s comeback in the tournament is all the more impressive when factoring in the team’s loss of perhaps their best player, graduate student Caitlin Newswanger, to a technicality after she recently fulfilled her maximum five years of eligibility allowed for clubs sports.
“It really sucked and we were really upset (when Newswanger was no longer eligible) because she was the starter of VCU women’s ultimate,” Mallory said.
What the team lost in Newswanger, however, they made up for in the two most critical departments of any collegiate sports team: incoming freshmen and transfers. On top of the five hard-working freshmen who have come in, the team has benefited from three transfer students whose collective efforts have paid decisive dividends on a squad that had a mere two substitutes in the entirety of last season.
Those dividends didn’t come easy, however, and were reaped only through a blue-collar recruiting effort that included running information booths at VCU’s SOVO fairs, putting up posters at the Cary St. Gym and other campus locations, and getting the message out through old-fashioned word of mouth.
“I always mention (coming out for the team) to people; I’m a women’s studies major so there’s obviously a lot of females in my classes” said team co-captain Michelle Lore. “It’s kind of one of those things you talk about wherever you go and people are like, ‘That’s really interesting.’ ”
The team will lose many members at the end of this season because of graduation and fulfillment of eligibility, among other reasons, but members say they hope to continue building upon what has turned into a breakout season for the team on the field.
Regardless of results, some of the team’s greatest gains appear to be happening off the field and away from Frisbee. Teammates cite their relationships as tight-knit and often hold dinners at one another’s houses. Some players recently got together and made up their own rendition of a chant from a scene of “Remember the Titans” to drive up team motivation.
“We’re all really good friends and we all get along. It’s pretty awesome,” Mallory said.
Though their opponents this weekend are yet to be determined, participating schools range from schools as far away as Florida and include perennial Frisbee forces like N.C. State and Wake Forest. Team members said they will be going in with hopeful yet realistic expectations for a 2-year-old team facing more storied programs.
They do, however, have one last storyline they’d like to incorporate into their dreamlike season.
“University of Richmond went (to regionals) last year and we want to do better than them,” Mallory said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”
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