This past weekend, close to 900 ultimate players and fans invaded Martinsville, VA. A huge thank you to Billy Russo (Smith River Sports Complex), Scott Wilson (Comfort Inn), and Jennifer Doss (VisitMartinsville) for their amazing hospitality, and for welcoming our event, and the sport of ultimate to Martinsville! The field site was among the best we have ever played at, and it seemed that everyone in town knew about the tournament. We were fortunate to get a wealth of local media coverage from The Martinsville Bulletin as well as from local affiliates of ESPN Radio and CBS. VC Ultimate had a full lineup of gear for sale, and many players stopped by to chat about women’s ultimate and get their hands on some freshly printed Without Limits’ gear (which will go on sale in the VC online store soon)!
While 36 teams competed in three divisions at the tournament, a focal point of the weekend was the “extra” activities that took place Saturday afternoon. The Elite Club teams set up tables with games, raffles, and giveaways and college players milled around the Trade Show and had the opportunity to mingle with players from their favorite club teams. Wiffle ball, disc golf, and lots of loud music set the tone in the courtyard, and everyone took the opportunity to grab some food from the concessions stand and enjoy each other’s company. Immediately following the Trade Show, players from the various Elite Club teams led 25 different skills stations. College players signed up for two sessions each and capped off their day with 1.5 hours of learning from the best players in the world. Molly Brown player Enessa Janes detailed her first experience at a Without Limits event:
The skills clinic was definitely a highlight of my weekend. Without Limits did an amazing job organizing. We had ample field space, small player to coach ratios, and tons of women signed up to learn new skills. The clinic was organized so that players from all skill levels could participate and learn from some of the top women’s players in the game. Many of the stations at the clinic were coached by pairs of players who had just spent the day competing against one another. It was a really rare and unique way to interact with other club players. I had a chance to lead a Defense 101 clinic with a player from Nemesis and it was so cool to blend our two perspectives on how to think about the game. It was a really positive experience for us both and it couldn’t have happened without the enthusiasm of the participants. The college players signed up for our clinic were rockstars…. At the end of each of our 40 minute sessions they were already incorporating our tips into their game, asking great questions, and were excited for more. I only wish I could coach them on the regular! I had such a good time and hope that the relationships we cultivated this weekend can continue to grow. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested in coaching or learning some new skills.
For me, Enessa’s summary of the weekend brings everything back full circle. Enessa attended the first “tournament” I ran in 2005 when we were college rivals in the Bay Area, and six years later, we are teammates, working together to make our team the best it can be, as well as spreading a love for the game to the next generation of players. Relationships like these remind me of how special the ultimate community is, and why it is so important to be invested in something that is bigger than ourselves.
For the Elite Club teams, the name of the game was playing for seeding at Nationals, and a chance to see some of the best competition in the country as a tune-up before Regionals.
In the Elite Club Division, Riot went undefeated, and largely unchallenged, in pool play. Concerned about their roster size and nursing some injuries, Riot requested to play six games to 13 and also opted not to play in the championship game. They now take a 21 game winning streak into Northwest Regionals, where they will have to knock off Fury and Traffic to earn the 1 seed at Nationals.
Molly Brown, Phoenix, and Nemesis all finished Elite Club Division pool play 5-2, with Molly Brown coming out on top in point differential after a convincing last-round win against Nemesis. Molly Brown struggled on Saturday, losing to Phoenix and getting blown out by Riot, but came back strong on Sunday with important wins over Hot Metal, Scandal, and Nemesis. Phoenix narrowly edged out Nemesis to take the second spot in the championship game, and took control of the game early, beating Molly Brown 15-7 to win the tournament.
Heather Zimmerman had a fantastic weekend for Phoenix, out-hustling her opponents and catching numerous scores. It was a pleasure to watch (and an absolute nightmare to guard) Claire Chastain (UNC-Wilmington), Jessi Jones (NC State), and Leila Tunnell (UNC-Chapel Hill) handle together—Phoenix does a phenomenal job of blending their seasoned veterans with a wealth of young talent. Phoenix will be looking to gain control of the Mid-Atlantic region in a couple of weeks, and they made a statement by going up 8-0 on Scandal in their matchup on Saturday.
Christine Dube and Kelly Johnson of Nemesis proved to be formidable matchups for opponents and after a mixed showing at Labor Day, Nemesis will be looking to take the Central Region title and earn a top 8 seed at Nationals. Despite some disappointing results, Scandal hung tough all weekend, notably missing captain Allison Maddux. Fellow former-UCSB player Briana Cahn is an athletic pickup for Scandal, as is former Fury standout Manu Argilli, who many consider to be one of the best players in the country. Brute Squad continued to work out the kinks, incorporating new players and adjusting to big losses due to injury. No one has counted them out of the title hunt in the Northeast, especially as the Capitals will be bringing a significantly different roster to the Series than they brought to Canadian Nationals. Late additions Johanna Neumann and Marie-France Hivert will give Brute additional firepower, and Lauren Nelson and Blake Spitz were also sidelined this past weekend, but their return should strengthen Brute going into October. Hot Metal and Bent came away from the weekend with a lot more experience under their belts and players like Acadia Klain and Holly Shapiro are the difference makers that could send these teams to Sarasota.
In the Regular Club Division, Sweet T cleaned up shop. A wealth of athletic veterans and players who have competed at the highest levels of the game make this team a darkhorse in the Mid-Atlantic. They won the finals against Baha 14-11. A third bid in the mid-Atlantic would make for a very interesting game-to-go between some combination of Sweet T, Hot Metal, and Green Means Go.
In the College Division, Dartmouth College took home the championship, with Virginia, Penn State, and Swarthmore rounding out the other semifinalists. Virginia was without 5th year captain Shannon McVey and under the leadership of McVey and Devon Ericksen, Hydra will be looking to cement their place among the nation’s elite this season after an appearance at the College Championships last year. Penn State, still on the rebound from their suspension in 2005, will be looking to re-establish their place among the top teams after a heartbreaking loss in the finals of a one-bid region last season. In addition to allowing teams to get some great competition in early in the season, Fusion provided an opportunity for many new players to get their first taste of ultimate, and hopefully many of them left the weekend hooked on the game. Duke captain Meredith Chase expressed her sentiments on the weekend:
The whole weekend was so well organized, especially considering all the amenities it offered–high level women’s ultimate games, trade show, skills clinic, and a solid lineup of college women’s teams. The facilities were great as well, adding to one of the smoothest run tournaments our team has visited. The weekend was a fantastic start to our college ultimate season.
Thanks to all of the teams, players, and organizers who made Virginia Fusion possible. For more information about future Without Limits events, please follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter (@wlultimate).