In 2009, Ohio University travelled to the College Championships in nearby Columbus, Ohio. Current captain Andy Ball and his teammates were in search of the best competition in the land, knowing that being around such a high level of play would push their team to improve.
The only problem was that Ohio was watching and not playing. At Sectionals just a month before, Ohio had lost three consecutive games to go to Regionals. A particularly painful loss because the team had been the longest-running Regional qualifier out of the East Plains Section, many Ohio upperclassmen checked out.
But Ball and the other members of Ohio’s young core looked toward the future, using the inspiration drawn from watching Nationals as a foundation for a new beginning. “I distinctly remember the conversations we had there,” Ball says. “We started talking about what it would take for us to get to the level of ultimate we were watching and we made the commitment to do whatever it would take. It was a turning point for us as a team.”
The following fall, Ohio came out strong, winning Fall Brawl over a Pittsburgh split squad, and in the spring the team qualified for Great Lakes Regionals. The tournament was postponed after two games, and with the short notice schedule change, only 11 players made the trip to finish the following weekend. Ball and his teammates finished fifth, a performance from which they only drew more motivation. “While we were proud of what we accomplished, it only increased our hunger for success.”
Last summer, Ohio players took the next step toward improvement and committed to playing club. Two players earned trips to Club Nationals with Madcow, and at this point every member of Ohio’s roster has some level of club ultimate experience.
With ten seniors and one graduate student (former Texas player Andrew Foley), this is the year for Ohio to bring it all together. Knowing that practice alone is not enough, Ohio has already travelled south three times in 2011, facing quality competition at T-Town Throwdown (where the team finished seventh, losing to Florida in the quarterfinals 15-12), Queen City Tune-Up (third, losing to Michigan in semis and beating Georgia in consolation), and the Easterns Qualifier (first, beating regional rival Ohio State twice, 12-9 in the final).
Strong results aside, Ohio knows that there is still work to be done. In fact, Ball realizes that the regular season is merely a stepping stone. “For us, the regular season is all about building chemistry as a team and winning as many games as we can for our region. But once the Series rolls around, all the rankings and hype are thrown out the window. It’s just us and the team we are facing, and the only goal it to win.”
If they keep it up, Ohio will be in a good position for its second Nationals trip in three years. This time, the goal is to be playing.
Big thanks to Bryan Jones for his help with this article!