[stextbox id=”alert” color=”050505″ bcolor=”6cc3f8″ bgcolor=”ffffff” big=”true” image=”null”]School Name: North Park University
Team Name: Lost Boys
Captains: Cameron Hodgkinson, Grant Blankenship, Jon Kratowicz
Year Founded: 2001
Jersey Colors: Black, Green
2010 Record: 16-15
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get involved with Ultimate at North Park?
Cameron Hodgkinson: I am a senior at North Park University, majoring in Business and Economics with a concentration in Management. I was born and raised in the city of Chicago and chose to attend North Park because of family ties and the prospect of playing baseball at the collegiate level. I played baseball my freshman year, but when I wasn’t playing baseball I hung out with friends that were on the Ultimate Frisbee team. After my freshman year, myself and 3 other friends that didn’t play ultimate decided to join our friends and the ultimate team in the fall of our sophomore season and have never looked back.
What is Ultimate at Northpark all about?
Cameron: Although I have never played Ultimate at another school, I feel that Ultimate at North Park is different, mainly because we are a faith based institution and try to implement our faith in our game and the way we play. The team was started in 2001 by a group of friends and they decided to call the team Extend, with the main purpose not being about winning, but about extending Jesus Christ’s love to the ultimate community, hence the name. Over the years as the team has gotten better, it is more difficult to keep this the main purpose, but I do believe we try our best to show other teams and players what it means to be a follower. Another word to describe our team is “brotherhood.” We consider our teams a family, and we all have each other’s backs and try our best make everyone feel welcome. Over the few years I have played, there have been a number of players that join with no intention of playing because they love the game of Frisbee, but playing because they love the community that the team offers.
How did your team do last year? What was the highlight of your season?
Cameron: Last year was the most disappointing season in North Park Ultimate history. Coming off a 5th place finish at the Great Lakes Regional’s the previous year and with a strong core of players coming back, we had high hopes that we could at least make a run at another 5th place finish at regionals. In our second game of the spring at Mardi Gras after we knocked off the Hodags we were pumped and thought we could coast the rest of the way and be fine. The rest of Mardi Gras and the next few tournaments proved we weren’t as good as we thought, as we went a combined 8-10 before sectionals got underway. If that wasn’t bad enough, the week before sectionals, five of our core group of players got into some social trouble on campus and were suspended for sectionals. Saturday didn’t end well and we were forced to have to win all four games on Sunday to get the last seed to Regional’s. The first two games went our way, and we were up on Wheaton College 11-4, and 14-11, but gave up the lead and ended our season by losing 16-14. A disappointing loss to end a disappointing season.
The LOST BOYS has had a history of being a powerful D3 school. At Mardi Gras last year you beat the Hodags on Universe point. Tell us about that game and about how your team and program has developed into the brink of contending with some of the nation’s top squads.
Cameron: The game at Mardi Gras against the Hodags was amazing. To clarify we were up by two when hard cap came on, which guaranteed us the win, so the last point they scored didn’t matter, but did make it look like we did win on Universe. The game was probably the most efficient game I have ever seen our offense play. We never got broken and the one break they gave up was the difference. When we did turn it on offense he hustled on defense until we got the turn. There are three plays that I clearly remember, and are what I believe to be the difference makers. I can’t remember the order, but after we had worked it down the field, we turned it on the goal line, but on the first throw the Hodags had, a handler swing floated in the air, and our dead side handler defender, Erik “Skinny” Gustafson dove into the end zone for the D and the Callahan! Another stellar defense play came after another turn of ours. The Hodags worked it to down the field to where they were maybe 15-20 yards away from scoring, when Christian Gieseke was following his cutter, who had just cut live side, out but turned to poach the lane and was able to dive back across and D a pass for an incoming cutter. The final play, which occurred when we were up one and wanted to get the lead to two, was a pass down the line from Rob Hirsch to Grant Blankenship. I remember watching the pass and thinking to myself, “Shoot, there goes a great scoring opportunity,” thinking Grant had no chance at it, but at the last second a great layout resulted in an amazing catch and the two point lead. It was an awesome feeling beating them and then watching them do sprints on the muddy fields after the game. Throughout the day as word spread we beat them, random players from other teams would come up and congratulate us, which made it that much better, but at the same time, I learned a lot watching the Hodags run sprints at the end of the game, because they were disappointed in the loss, and the next day when we lost to Indiana on universe point, we started to try and find reasons and plays to blame the loss on. Their dedication is something I hope our team can learn. As for being a team that has developed into the brink of contending with some of the top squads, I believe it just comes down to playing your game, having fun, not getting down on yourself or your teammates, and playing defense. We are not the prettiest team to watch, but we play balls to the wall on defense and execute on offense.
Who is your favorite team to play against? Tell us about a memorable game.
Cameron: My favorite team to play against would probably have to be the University of Illinois. The first year I played, we played two close games against them at sectionals and regionals, but I believe the biggest most memorable game, that formed this love of playing them occurred the year before I played at sectionals 2008. The Lost Boys had just upset Notre Dame in the semis and got to play Illinois of first. I saw the most layout D’s and catches I have ever seen in one game, and we took half 8-3. Needless to say, Illinois battled back and won on Universe Point on a catch that both the defender and offensive player jumped to early, but the Illinois guy was able to recover and caught the disc right before it hit the ground. That was the game that I believe put the Lost Boys on the map. [Below] is a link to that tournament, with the second to last game being the Illinois game.
Tell us about your coaches and captains. What do they bring to your team?
Cameron: Our team doesn’t have any coaches, but the captains are all third year players with two seniors and one junior. We have a good mix of the ability to coach, the ability to get the behind the scenes work done, and someone who is there to encourage no matter what. I will say I am not the best at encouraging and keeping moral up when times are bad. If people are not doing what they are suppose to I am not afraid to hide my anger, but after, the other captains are great at bringing everything back and putting a good spin on things.
Are there players on your team who deserve consideration for Callahan, All-Region, or Freshman of the Year?
Cameron: On the Lost Boys, I don’t believe there are any Callahan contenders. We have 4-5 guys that could make an All-Region team in Cameron Hodgkinson, Erik Gustafson, Grant Blankenship, Neal Johnson, and Chris Burlet, but none that could contend with the likes of Grant Lindsley and Brodie Smith. Cameron and Erik are two of the better rounded players on the team, and two of the better offensive players, with the ability to make big defensive plays. Grant is one of the fiercest defensive players, especially when guarding handlers, but needs to work on his offensive game if he is to be All-Region. Neal is probably the most athletic guy on the team, but needs to trust his throws and teammates, but if he stays dedicated and in shape he will be a force to be reckoned with. Rounding out the All-Region candidates is the guy who has been playing ultimate for the longest Chris Burlet. He doesn’t have the size to be a Callahan candidate, but is probably our most trustworthy cutter, always plays within himself, and somehow when he goes up against players 3-4 inches taller than him, he comes down with the disc 80% of the time. There is one freshman by the name of Eric Warehime, who has the athleticism and dedication to become FOTY, but needs to spend time this fall and winter learning the game and making throwing second nature, but if he does he could make some noise.
What player is most likely to make a huge play as a thrower? As a receiver? On D?
Cameron: Cameron Hodgkinson is the player most likely to make a huge play as a thrower, with either Neal Johnson or Chris Burlet coming up with the big catch downfield. If we ever need a big D, there is no one I would rather turn to than Jon Kratowicz. He is always getting injured making plays, but when he is healthy, I am not worried about his receiver touching the disc.
Who’s a player you have to watch more carefully to see how valuable he is to your team?
Cameron: Grant Blankenship is probably the player on our team that is always making the small plays, whether it is working the disc up the field with short passes on the money, or hustling his butt off on defense to make sure his guy never touches the disc.
How does your team bring new players to ultimate up to speed?
Cameron: In the fall, we hold a classroom session to teach the new players the basics of ultimate, and then go outside and basically play. The first week we do focus on throwing, but our belief is that players learn more by being in game situations, which is why we do quite a bit of scrimmaging. This also helps us notice who is actually committed to the team, because in order for players to get better at throwing they need to do it on their own time, and if their throws don’t improve we know who has been practicing extra.
What does your team like to do on offense and on defense?
Cameron: Well, on offense we have traditionally ran a horizontal stack, with a lot of our scores coming on deep hucks, but after many of us played club this past season and noticed the success teams had running an effective vertical stack, we are transitioning into more of a vert stack offense. As for defense, we love our zone. If there is any wind, and sometimes without wind we will throw our zone to try and combat up field movement from other teams. If we don’t throw zone, we do a lot of help defense and call switches as often and effectively as we can to make defense that much easier.
Have the LOST BOYS set any goals for this season? What are they?
Cameron: Last fall, we didn’t do a very good job of developing rookies, so our first goal was to develop all our rookies to the best of their ability and get them plenty of playing time. As for the spring season, our goals are to improve on last year’s horrendous season and make it to regional’s, and give our team a shot to make it to nationals, whether it is DI or DIII nationals.
What has your team been doing this fall to prepare for the spring season?
Cameron: This fall our team has been doing plenty of scrimmaging and throwing, trying to get the rookies an idea of how the game is played and trying to teach them to see the field and understand when and how to cut and throw. Our belief is the throwing and catching is easier to learn than the idea of field spacing and cutting, which is why we are focusing on those with scrimmages more often. We have attended 3 tournaments already; with one more planned the weekend of Nov. 6-7 in Ohio.
What tournaments do you plan to attend in the spring? Which are you most looking forward to?
Cameron: As of now, the plan is to attend Mardi Gras, our own Chicago Invite, and then possibly a spring break trip with tournaments at both ends of the week (maybe Frostbite?) Mardi Gras is always a fun tournament and a few of us have friends down there, but I would have to say I am most looking forward to the Chicago Invite. I am on the tournament committee, and love to watch everything we have been working on the previous months fall into place the day of. Also, I believe the tournament is going to be held at a different site, which from what I have heard is very nice (turf field with lights for a showcase game on Sat. night, but don’t mark my word on the change).
What does your team do to get pumped up for a big game?
Cameron: To get pumped for a big game, we have a few cheers, but I think the one that gets us most pumped is one that sounds like an African chant that we repeat and get louder and crazier as it goes on, and by the end its all of us screaming our heads off ready to tear the heads off of the other team, figuratively of course.
What song would you pick for the soundtrack to your team’s 2011 highlight video?
Cameron: “Monster”- Kanye West ft. Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross & Bon Iver
Bear, ninja or cowboy?
Cameron: Cowboy by far, but if I could add another we love Indians!
The Lost Boys have been at D3 Club Championships a couple times in the past and has placed very well. Tell us about being a top D3 school. Do you plan to attend this year?
Cameron: Being considered a top D3 school is something I am very proud of. It is a great feeling when we go out and compete with top D1 schools that have 30,000 more students than we do, but at the same time it is somewhat frustrating being such a small school, because we have to work that much harder to find players to come out and become a Lost Boy. As for us attending D3 Nationals this year, it all depends on how this new system for USAU is going to work. I have heard that if we declare for D1 and don’t make it to D1 regionals we cannot compete in D3, but if we are able to go to D3 Nationals and are not going to D1 Nationals, expect to see us there.
Who’s going to win the 2011 USA Ultimate College Championships?
Cameron: I expect Carleton to come back after losing to Florida last year in the finals and win this year.
Who’s going to win the 2011 USA Ultimate D3 College Championships?
Cameron: D3 Nationals is going to be between North Park and Wisconsin- Whitewater.