This week, I joined the thousands of players and coaches whose seasons have been cut short in the heartbreak and excitement of College Regionals. I feel disappointment, but I also feel extremely thankful.
From the first point of our first game, I knew it would be a battle. Rather than coming out flat, we came out on fire. For the first time all season, we responded to being broken twice in a row with poise. When we needed to break to win on universe point, we responded by increasing pressure and generated a turn. We started off the most important tournament of the season in the most perfect way possible: we earned an emotional universe point win over the overall one seed, Iowa State, and won one of the best games of ultimate I’d seen from either team this season.
The momentum continued all day. I was ready for a break after our last point against Minnesota. I tasked the girls with our normal post-day throwing assignment and watched Carleton and Nebraska finish out their final game of the day. After Carleton won, an opposing coach came up to me and said, “Robyn, you might want to go check on your girls.”
“Aren’t they just throwing?” I responded.
“They were just throwing, but not anymore,” she said.
I turned around to look two fields behind me. To my shock, my team was taking turns laying out for throws hovering a foot above the ground after day one of Regionals! We cannot afford to have any more of our players get hurt at this point in the season.
I walked back to our field and thought of a million things I wanted to say. On my way over, I observed the other teams. Whether they were taking their cleats off, packing up their things, or laying on the ground, a lot of them looked exhausted. On the other side of the spectrum, my players were energized, laughing as they taught rookies how to lay out properly on the cushiest, nicest grass I’d seen all season.
What did I do? I removed my backpack and extra layers and proceeded to the front of the line. I turned to Rachel Okerstrom, who was throwing beautiful backhands into the wind, and simply said, “I’m next.” I joined right in laughing and laying out. I wanted to remember this moment forever.
After we lost in finals to Carleton, we stayed at our field for over an hour just talking about our favorite experiences from the season. While my girls laughed, cried, and shared love for each other and the team in a circle, I could not help but think: I must have done something right to be here.
Not everyone can be part of a team like this. A team that despite losing in finals and falling short of the big “milestone goal” to qualify for nationals, felt overwhelmingly thankful to share the past nine months together. I witnessed countless tears of joy, laughter, and thanks. I did not sense that any tears were out of disappointment. It was not just me; as a team, we did many things right to get to this point.
To the teams who have yet to play this weekend, I urge you to take in the experience and enjoy Regionals. Enjoy the exciting points just as much as the easy ones. Remember where you started and witness how much the team improved this season. Only 16-20 teams (depending on your division) qualify for Nationals, but every single team accomplished something great this season. For most of us, Conferences and Regionals means the end of the season, and that is okay.