A familiar face has returned to compete at a new level in this year’s D-III Championships. The Grinnell Sticky Tongue Frogs captains Bethany Clarke and Kirsten Nelson took a break from studying for finials to share their teams story of commitment, snowstorms and that wonderful realization of, “Wow, we’re really good.”
Grinnell is a fairly regular qualifier for the National Championships out of the competitive North Central region, but something was different this year. The Stickies swept their Regional Tournament with ease, managing to grab a win over a team that they have never managed to beat in recent history, last year’s runner up Carleton Eclipse. Even though it was the fourth and last game of the day, the captains said that they were able to win that game by playing hard for “one point at a time.” Ultimately this 0-0 game strategy lead to Grinnell grabbing a 12-5 win over Carleton and automatically qualifying for the finals the following day.
Clarke and Nelson greatly attribute their team’s success this year to the level of commitment that their players were willing to put in. Playing their second season with two teams, the Sticky Tongue Frogs and the Grinnelenor Roosevelts, players were able to self-select which team they wanted to be on based on how much time and competitive spirit they wanted to put into ultimate. By offering a second team, “the ‘Svelts,’ with a less intensive practice schedule but an equal amount of fun, the Stickies were able to foster a really high level of commitment within their players. Clarke spoke of one wintertime practice that had been rescheduled to the indoor field at 9 AM on a Saturday where they still had a great turnout—and then they started off the practice doing sprints. The captains say that it was these kinds of moments that really exemplified the immense amount of time, energy and love that the team was willing to give, and in exchange they had a fun season and a third place seed for this weekend at Nationals.
Psyched for the tournament, Clarke and Nelson are grateful that the underclassmen on the Stickies will have the chance to play with and learn from strong teams and incredible players from across the country. Specifically, the captains hope to see poetic justice, win or lose, in their Pool Play game against Claremont. From opposite ends of the country, Grinnell and Claremont last played in the D-III Championships of 2012, when Claremont was able to come out with a title. Four years later and now ending their college careers, Clarke and Nelson are extremely proud of their team’s accomplishments this season—no matter what this weekend may bring. A small but fierce team, Grinnell is coming into this tournament with a strong sense of community and a lot of hard work–and this weekend may very well bring them glory.