[stextbox id=”alert” color=”050505″ bcolor=”6cc3f8″ bgcolor=”ffffff” big=”true” image=”null”]School Name: University of Wisconsin- Madison
Team Name: Bella Donna
Captains: Emelie McKain, Jenny Gaynor, Rachael Westgate
Coach: Courtney Kiesow
Year Founded: Early 1980’s
Jersey Colors: Black, grey, gold
2010 Record: 37 -5
How did you get involved with Ultimate at UW Madison?
Emelie McKain: My older sister played collegiate Ultimate at Purdue back in the day, so once I saw how awesome it was I knew I wanted to play competitively in college, from when I was a freshman in highschool in Massachusetts. I knew one person at Wisconsin and she happened to be a captain of the team, so I visited and fell in love with Madison and the Ultimate program here. I tried out, made the team, and the next year was a captain. I’m now a senior and this is my 3rd year captaining.
What is Bella Donna Ultimate all ’bout?
Emelie: We want to introduce as many women to the sport as possible and cultivate their interest and growth. Our A team sets out to win the national title each year and come away from each season ready to strengthen the program for the next. All in all though, we have fun. People on the team love being around each other, are good friends and make every team activity a great experience. When people want to work hard for each other and have fun doing it, success and having a good time go hand in hand.
How did your team do last year? What was the highlight of your season?
Emelie: Bella Donna finished 3rd in the nation last year, tying 2007 for our best finish ever as a program. The highlight of our season was probably winning Centex, our first ever Centex tournament win, and [in the process becoming] the only team to beat eventual national champions Oregon.
Bella Donna was a powerhouse last season with some major victories and eventually losing in a close semi-final. What is Bella Donna going to do differently this year to ensure a championship?
Emelie: We have a core of returners that has had invaluable experience in many high pressure games last season. It is hard to pinpoint one thing as the determining factor in that one game, but mental game is always something every team and individual should improve on, and you can bet we will be. Though we lost a close semi, we return the same work ethic and determination that got us there to begin with. It’s a long road to the end of May, and preparing ourselves the best we can is the most solid way to return strong this year.
Who is your favorite team to play against?
Emelie: I’m pretty sad our region has changed, because I love playing Carleton Syzygy. I personally love playing Carleton because it is always a high energy game but kept spirited and really fun to be part of. As regional rivals, I will never forget my first central region finals. Bella won the first bid to nationals 15-13 over Syzygy. That fast paced, athletic, spirited and insanely talented game was my first real taste of post season play and how awesome it is, and I’ll never forget it.
Tell us about your coach and captains.
Emelie: I’m a captain, along with Jenny Gaynor and Rachael Westgate. With a 5th year, [a] senior, and [a] junior captaining, we bring a range of experience, skills and specialties that can effectively be used to see certain things and provide the most individual attention as possible. Our coach Courtney Kiesow is a UW alum, Callahan winner, previous 3 year captain of Bella and knows Wisconsin ultimate better than anyone. She brings an incredible knowledge base to the team, constantly tweaking strategy and plans every practice with the captains in order to get the most out of our time together.
Are there players on your team who deserve consideration for Callahan, All-Region, or Freshman of the Year?
Emelie: Wisconsin annually puts out several All-Region players and a strong candidate for the Callahan, having 2 winners and a runner up in the past 4 years. This year, I’d watch out for captain Jenny Gaynor, a stud d-line cutter who opens up the field with her cuts and has a range of throws most handlers don’t even have. As a captain and leader of the team, she has a calm but incredibly motivating presence and leads her team without strife.
For All-Region, watch out for all around players like Rebecca Enders, Al Ellis, Rachael Westgate, Sara Scott and of course Jenny Gaynor to control the field whenever on. I don’t want to give up our rookies quite yet, but you’ll know who they are very soon
What players are likely to make big plays for Bella Donna?
Emelie: The big throwers on Bella are Rebecca Enders and Al Ellis. They do what they want no matter what the mark is, and can get it to our huge receivers Sara Scott, Jenny Gaynor and Rachael Westgate all day. All those mentioned will be making plays on D, while Gaynor, Laura Schott and Enders also anchor the offense.
Which Bella players are unsung heroines?
Emelie: As a large team, Bella has many unsung heroes that make our game click. Look for Kelsey Johnson, Erin Newman and Becca Ludford to open up the field with big under gainers and create space in the endzone.
How does your team bring new players to ultimate up to speed?
Emelie: We teach a lot in the fall. Our program has 2 teams, and we always start out the year going over basic fundamentals. As the fall goes on, we teach many of our O and D sets and evaluate growth and potential of rookies, make cuts, and teach even more.
Without giving too much away, what does your team like to do on offense and on defense?
Emelie: We like to play physical man defense and pressure every throw, catering specifics towards different teams and skill sets. On offense, we utilize our big throwers and create the best lanes to throw into, keeping the disc in the middle of the field.
Has your team set any goals for this season?
Emelie: Our goals are always to win nationals, and to overall grow as individuals and as a team throughout our time together. We want to grow the sport at our school and always come away from every successful season ready to improve for the next. Having fun isn’t exactly a goal, because it is a given. The work we put in doesn’t seem like work when you are having the time of your life doing so.
What tournaments do you plan to attend in the spring? Which are you most looking forward to?
Emelie: We are looking forward to getting out of the Wisconsin winter and out to California for Pres Day, Stanford Invite and to Austin for Womens Centex. We always love the first tournament in nice weather so look forward to Pres Day, but Centex has always been the premiere womens tournament of the regular season, and we can’t wait to get back to Austin to defend our title.
What does your team do to get pumped up for a big game?
Emelie: We scream a lot, do quite a few high fives, and pump each other up by being aggressive in drills and being ready to play.
What song would you pick for the soundtrack to your team’s 2011 highlight video?
Emelie: Probably one that comes out in 2011. (Editor’s note: I assume you mean one from this album.)
Bear, ninja or cowboy?
Emelie: I’m a conservation biology major, so I’m going with the Bear.
If you have any interest in UW-Madison and/or our ultimate teams here, please don’t hesitate to contact our captains about them as well as visiting the school, staying with a team member and attending a practice. Also, check out our website for updates on our record, tournament write-ups, highlight videos, all of which you could be involved in!
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire (UltiPhotos.com)