[stextbox id=”alert” color=”050505″ bcolor=”6cc3f8″ bgcolor=”ffffff” big=”true” image=”null”]School Name: George Washington University
Team Name: The Hungry Hungry Hippos
Captains: Oksana Balytsky, Liz Merritt
Coaches: Eric Ashcroft, Sean Shannon
Year Founded: 1999
Jersey Colors: Black and yellow
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved with Ultimate at GWU?
Oksana Balytsky: I was a swimmer in high school, but I came to college wanting to try a new sport. I played Ultimate informally with friends before college, so I was familiar with it, but I honestly had no idea how structured and intense it could be. I was looking for a competitive but fun sport to play in college, decided to give Ultimate a shot, and was hooked ever since.
How did your team do last year?
Oksana: Our team did well last year. We had the goal of making it to Regionals, and we achieved that goal.
Who is your favorite team to play against?
Oksana: Our favorite team to play is [St. Mary’s College of Maryland] SMUT. They were the team to beat in order to go to Regionals. We were very evenly matched, and we definitely came together as a team and played better than we’ve ever played before. It was a great feeling winning that game and knowing that everyone did their part and contributed to such a fantastic win.
What has your team been doing this fall to prepare for the spring season?
Liz Merritt: GDub Women’s team lost a lot of seniors last year, so this year has been all about recruitment. We are proud to say we have gotten about 15 new players into Ultimate, and our team is really coming together nicely. This fall we have been focusing on learning the basics and starting to perfect them. Now that our rookies understand the basics, we are ready to get more specific in the spring season.
What do your coaches and captains bring to your team?
Oksana: Our coaches (Eric Ashcroft and Sean Shannon) are 2 GW alumni who played on the men’s Ultimate team when they were in college. They both work really well with our girls and maintain a very positive and encouraging attitude throughout every game. Liz and I, the two captains, have been friends since freshman year, and I’d say we work extremely well together. We sometimes have different ideas of what we should focus on for a particular practice, but we always find a way to compromise and both end up bringing a positive and fun attitude to our team.
Are there players on your team who deserve consideration for Callahan, All-Region, or Freshman of the Year?
Oksana: Zoe Dorian deserves Freshman of the Year. She played Ultimate in high school informally, and she has improved at an incredible rate since September. Anytime our team is starting to get tired, she is still a ball of fire jumping around ready to keep playing. It’s great having a freshman who is as skilled and excited about Ultimate as Zoe.
What player is most likely to make a huge play as a thrower? As a receiver? On D?
Oksana: One of our primary handlers, Charlotte Purcell is definitely likely to put a perfect deep huck into our endzone for a score. As a receiver, Liz Merritt is an amazing cutter and will get that disc even when it seems out of reach. On D, another senior, Cori Hanson will sky some girl and get an awesome 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 she is to your team?
Oksana: One of our freshman, Kaite Anania, is a player to watch. She hasn’t gotten too much playing time just yet, but she has definitely had some awesome moments on the field and we expect her to develop into a key asset to G-Dub Ultimate.
How does your team bring new players up to speed on Ultimate?
Oksana: We spend a good portion of the fall semester teaching our girls the different aspects and elements of ultimate. We’ve done pods where they rotate and we teach them a different skill such as catching, throwing, etc at each pod, and we’ve had a few white board sessions where we draw out and explain what Zone is and how Ho stack works. Once we’ve covered the basics, we feel that the best way to learn is to just do it, so we run a lot of different drills incorporating all the skills we just taught.
Without giving too much away, what does your team like to do on offense and on defense?
Oksana: On offense, we’ve been running a vertical stack and it’s been working pretty well. We recently introduced Ho stack and hope that with a little more practice, it’ll get to the level we want it to be. On D, we’ve thrown zone on teams and have shut them down. Our cup is very strong and is only going to get stronger, so we’re pretty excited that Zone D has clicked with our new players so quickly.
Has your team set any goals for this season? What are they?
Oksana: Our goal for the fall season was to retain as many girls as possible. We had a huge graduating class, and with a few girls abroad, we were left with only 7 returners. We all knew that we needed numbers to keep the g-dub women’s team alive, and we could not be happier with our recruiting efforts. We have about 15 new players, and they are all so eager to learn and excited about Ultimate. For the spring season, our goal is to make it to Regionals, and then our reach goal is to make it to day 2 of Regionals. We have definitely set the bar high, but we feel that if things keep going as well as they’re going, we have a great shot at having an amazing year.
What does your team do to get pumped up for a big game?
Liz: A few days before the tournaments, we normally have some type of get together as a team outside of practice. I personally love team dinners, thats my favorite! Just before a big game, we like to get our girls ready with a few intense drills to draw our focus and energy together. Our cheers also play a big role in getting everyone psyched up. It lets us get loud and intense, which prepares us to run our hardest on the field for our teammates.
What song would you pick for the soundtrack to your team’s 2011 highlight video?
Liz: Party and Bullshit is my personal favorite warmup song. (Editors Note: we assume you mean the Ratatat remix. The ultimate in roadtrip music.)