This weekend 36 teams will descend upon Martinsville, VA for Virginia Fusion, a Without Limits tournament bringing together the women’s college and club divisions. This year’s lineup features Riot, Scandal, Molly Brown, Nemesis, Phoenix, Brute Squad, Bent, and Hot Metal competing in the Elite Club Division, eight regionally competitive teams competing in the Regular Club Division, and 20 teams from all over the East Coast competing in the College Division.
Building this tournament into a compelling playing and development opportunity has been incredibly exciting, and has only been made possible by the support of teammates and friends. Molly Brown, Brute Squad, Phoenix, and Riot committed to the tournament very early on, making the rest of the recruiting relatively easy. Riot captain Gwen Ambler commented on her team’s decision to attend the tournament, saying:
Riot was interested in this tournament as an option for playing top-level competition from the east coast at close to the teams’ full strength. The past few years we have been surprised by non-west coast teams at Nationals that had not brought their full roster to regular season tournaments like ECC and Labor Day. We have also struggled with overcoming the travel-fatigue of flying to Florida and wanted a chance to push through jet lag and adversity at a tournament before Nationals. When we were comparing Fusion to other tournaments on the east coast, we were swayed by Without Limits impeccable record for running quality events and our confidence in Michelle’s ability to reach out to teams and draw the best possible competition.
One of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) of Fusion has been its timing in the fall. Club teams are largely focused on getting ready for Regionals and Nationals, while college teams are on the opposite end of the spectrum, struggling to recruit and get organized. What makes Fusion so special are the tournament “extras” such as the Skills Clinic and Trade Show. These elements of the tournament create opportunities for teaching, mentoring, and relationship-building between the club and college divisions.
Without Limits’ mission is focused on the continued development of the women’s division through providing quality playing and development opportunities. Molly Brown, Brute Squad, Phoenix, and Riot were recruited as the cornerstones of this tournament because of their competitiveness, as well as their leadership in the women’s division. Nemesis joins these four teams in leading stations at the Skills Clinic, and seven of the Elite Club teams will have tables set up at the Trade Show. Gwen details Riot’s involvement in the “extras” at Fusion,
Growing the sport is important to Riot and one of the reason why so many of our players dedicate themselves to coaching and volunteer positions. The Trade Show and Skills Clinic seem like a wonderful way to help spread our knowledge and enthusiasm for ultimate with others. Far from taking away from our team’s focus for the Series, I anticipate the “extras” at Fusion energizing the team even more. Seeing young players’ passion to learn is always inspiring and has helped our team take pride in being the best we can be.
The college teams are equally excited for Fusion. It is not every weekend that they have the opportunity to play a full slate of games, watch some of the top club teams in the nation duke it out for seeding at Nationals, and then interact with and learn from these high-level players after games are over… all in their backyard. In addition to the 20 college teams who will be competing at the event, a handful of other college players from around the region will be attending the event as spectators and participants in the Skills Clinic and Trade Show. American University captain Fia Ramo gives her outlook on the weekend:
I’m pumped to introduce young players to the potential of Women’s Ultimate. For many new college players, this is their first opportunity to see elite Ultimate being played, and to really experience the greatness of the sport. Plus, after watching and playing tough games, we get to do focused skills clinics! It’s an exciting way to jump-start the Fall. For new girls, the game can be hard to visualize and learn. Fusion is a chance for all players to see Ultimate at its finest, and to have intimate time to learn from experienced players. Our team in particular is going through a big rebuilding year, I think a tournament like this helps us build a new solid foundation for our young program.
James Madison University captain Brady Winsten, who attended the first Fusion tournament last fall, and who brought her team to other Without Limits tournaments this spring, chimes in:
I’ve been looking forward to this tournament for months… I think it’s going to be an amazing experience where everyone on our team, from rookies to senior vets, will be able to learn something that they couldn’t anywhere else. Virginia Fusion combines the elements of elite competition and community building that make the ultimate community so unique and rewarding. The thing I’m looking forward to the most is the skills clinics, hands down. The opportunity to learn from elite players and ultimate legends is invaluable to college teams like mine, whose knowledge comes mostly from un-coached, older generations. We carry the love and passion for the game, but need the high level instruction to elevate our strategies and skills in order to reach our potential. For the veterans, it will be a great opportunity to refine their skills, and for the rookies, it will be the defining experience that gets them hooked to ultimate for life.
The local community has rallied around the tournament as well. Local affiliates of ESPN Radio and CBS will be covering the event, aerial photographs will be taken, and several hundred people from the community are expected to attend. A number of local businesses in addition to companies like Larabar and Emergen-C, are sponsoring the event and participants will enjoy free coffee, product samples, gift certificates, and coupons in abundance.
For a sneak peek at some of the fun that will be happening in Virginia this weekend, take a look at this video clip from last year’s Fusion tournament.
Scores will be updated round-by-round on Score Reporter, and you can follow Without Limits on Twitter (@wultimate).
Special thanks to the lovely ladies of Molly Brown, and to Amber Sinicrope, Anna Luberoff, and Clare Horan of Smith College LunaDisc, for turning the vision for this tournament into a reality.
Photo by Scobel Wiggins