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School Name: University of Arizona
Team Name: Scorch
Captains: Laura Prelsnik, Courtney King, and Jessi Rick
Coaches: Jeff Grobe and Gretchen Kiehlbaugh
Year Founded: 2002
Jersey Colors: Red, White, and Blue
2010 Record: 17-16
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved with ultimate at Arizona?
Laura Prelsnik: I have played sports my entire life, and after playing three sports all throughout high school, I knew I couldn’t go to college and solely be a student. I needed a team and a competitive sport. I was approached by the captains at one of the club recruitment events and they encouraged me to tryout. After our first fall tournament, I was completely hooked and our teammates were all incredibly nice. Courtney and myself started together as freshman on Scorch, and are now into our second year as captains, along with Jessi who started a year later.
Courtney King: I was approached by one of the vets in my dorm and she persuaded me to come try out a practice. I was really just looking for a club to join and the Ultimate ladies were so nice, helpful and most of all, patient.
Jessi Rick: I came to college planning to try out for the club soccer team, as soccer had been my sport for almost my whole life. However, I met Courtney one night in the dorms and she explained the Ultimate team to me, and how patient, kind, and awesome they were. I decided to give it a try, and just like Laura, I was hooked after my first tournament. The sport gave me everything I was looking for– an outlet for energy, a competitive sport, a team to be a part of, and most of all, wonderful friends.
How did your team do last year? What was the highlight of your season?
Courtney: We came in 6th at Regionals. The highlight of my season was probably the overall atmosphere of the girls. We only had about 6 returners to the A team, the rest were mostly sophomore and freshmen rookies but they gave so much heart and spirit to the team; they really made it a not only intense but fun season.
Who is your favorite team to play against? Tell us about a memorable game.
Laura: One of my favorite teams to play against is the Psychos from UCSD. Our games against them are always decided by a couple points and filled with a lot of spirit and sportsmanship. They’ve always been a strong team and it’s always fun when we get a chance to play them.
Tell us about your coaches/captains. What do they bring to your team?
Laura: Court is honestly one of my favorite people to play with. We’ve played together for the last four years and have been able to push each other to play at our highest level. She is such an inspiration to the younger players on the team because she has both the skills of a handler and a cutter, which makes her incredibly versatile on the field. Ever since Jessi was a freshman on the team, she has had such composure when the disc is in her hand, which is hard to come by for a rookie. We’ve been able to watch her grow into an amazing cutter and I can’t wait to see how well she’ll handle captaining this year. As for our coaches, Jeff Grobe is one of the best-known players in Mixed Ultimate and it is an honor to have played with him in Club and to him as our coach. This is his third year with us and we couldn’t ask for a better coach. He is always full of advice, has incredible patience for all of us crazy girls, and is very level headed as a coach. Grobe knows the strategy of the women’s game and has been able to successfully pass that knowledge onto everyone on the team. We’re so happy to bring in Gretchen as an assistant coach this year. She is also an incredible player who I’ve had the honor of playing with in Club. Her and Grobe compliment each other so well when coaching. We can’t wait to see how much Gretchen will bring to our coaching staff this year.
Are there players on your team who deserve consideration for Callahan, All-Region, or Freshman of the Year? Tell us about them.
Laura: Some of our key players who deserve some consideration are Courtney, LP, Jessi, Erika Keim, and Gerene Garcia. Erika, aka Beast, is also a very versatile player who isn’t afraid to use her body. Gerene is a transfer student who we’ve had the pleasure of picking up for her 5th year of eligibility, and we know we’ll see some great plays from her this season.
What player is most likely to make a huge play as a thrower? As a receiver? On D?
Laura: As throwers, many of our young players are taking it upon themselves this fall and really trying to hone their skills with the disc. As handlers, Courtney and myself are two of the main handlers on the field. As for receiving, really any of the ladies have been able to step it up to make a big play when needed, but Jessi, Courtney, and Abby McCallum have all made some awesome grabs in the past. On defense, I’d say Jazzy, Dani, and Beast are all able to throw their bodies out for a D.
It’s easy to see when someone throws a huge huck or gets a layout D. Who’s a player you have to watch more carefully to see how valuable they are to your team?
Courtney: Jazzy’s intensity always on D, Marissa’s (Raka) composure as a handler at such an early start, Charyse’s attitude always, Dani’s sneaky D’s … I could go on.
How does your team bring new players up to speed on ultimate?
Courtney: We have an amazing coach who can really layout the basics in a comprehensible manner for even the newest of players. I believe that is how we were so successful last year because we had a coach who could communicate exactly what he wanted to see and the girls were patient and willing to give it a go. I also commend the returners for their patience with rooks; we started off doing very basic skills but they were all more than willing to help out with whatever they could.
Without giving too much away, what does your team like to do on offense and on defense?
Jessi: Much of our offense is based in the horizontal stack, with our inside cutters being primary cutters and the outsides being secondary cutters. On defense, however, we like to adapt to our opponent as much as possible, and have many different defensive options at our disposal, with some of our favorites being zone (for windy days).
Has your team set any goals for this season? What are they?
Laura: Our main goal of the season is to make it to Nationals in May. We have a long way to go, but if we work hard enough as a team and prove how much we want it out on the field, we’ll hopefully make it there. Our other goals are overall team sportsmanship and knowledge for the rules so that we can fairly backup our calls. It’s tough to play teams that don’t always know the rules or play by them, so we want to be a good example for other players by displaying spirit in all aspects of the game.
What has your team been doing this fall to prepare for the spring season?
Jessi: For Scorch, the fall season is almost exclusively dedicated to working with the rookies, teaching them the wonderful game of Ultimate and everything that they need to know to be successful ultimate players.
What tournaments do you plan to attend in the spring? Which one are you most looking forward to?
Courtney: In past years we’ve gone to SB Invite, Stanford, PresDay, and Centex and we hope to be invited to all this year.
What does your team do to get pumped up for a big game?
Jessi: Our team is a big fan of dance parties, cheers, visualization, and enthusiasm via email before we leave for a tournament. For about a week prior to any tournament, our email in-boxes are bombarded with pump-up emails about anything and everything for the tournament. Closer to the tournament, the night before and morning of the tournament, we are encouraged to visualize ourselves catching and throwing the disc, making smart plays, and making amazing plays, in order to get ourselves in the necessary mindset for our games. The dance parties and cheers come in once at the fields, as we use the music and our own voices to get our energy levels up for our games.
What do you think about the USA Ultimate college restructuring ?
Laura: Truthfully, I wasn’t totally happy about the restructuring because it makes our Regionals competition much harder than it already was. By combining most of the Southwest teams with all of the top teams in Northern California, it makes our region that much stronger, therefore making it incredibly more difficult to make it to Nationals, since there is still a limit on the amount of bids a region can receive. At last year’s Nationals, 4 of the 5 teams in our new region finished in the top 10, showing just how strong our teams are at the highest level of play. By only allowing, at most, 4 teams from one of the strongest regions to play in the college championships, we are diluting the competition at Nationals. However, one of my friends on our men’s team talked to me and made me realize that we’ll just have to work that much harder this year to be get one of those bids to Nationals, and we can’t blame the restructuring if we do not succeed. Now, it’s pushing us to play at our highest potential, so we’ll see what happens come May.
Which team has the best shot at winning the 2011 USA Ultimate College Championships?
Jessi: Good question! At this point, we all have a shot…
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