Univ. Communications – When most people think of Ultimate Frisbee, they picture a laid back game played by casual friends on the quad or the beach. While this may have been how Ultimate got its start in the early 70s, since then it has undergone an incredible transformation. Ultimate is one of the nation’s fastest growing sports, with almost 5 million Americans playing at least once per year. The University of Rochester Ultimate Team, the Piggies, started in the mid 1980s as a small club that would take seven to 10 guys to tournaments. Since then, Ultimate has become an official club sport at many universities, with a national championship in the late spring of every year.
Much like the sport itself, the Rochester Piggies have transformed over the last few years into a larger, more serious team with an active roster of about 25 members. The team is also becoming increasingly competitive; they earned a 16-4 record last fall, including a huge win over Cornell University, a division rival and a previous National contender.
Often described as a hybrid between football, soccer, and basketball, Ultimate is played between two teams of 7 players on a small scale football field with two end zones. A team must complete a series of throws to move the disc into the opposing team’s end zone. Once a player catches the disc, they cannot move and have 10 seconds to throw the disc to a teammate. If the offense does not complete a throw, the other team gains possession of the disc and must follow the same rules to score. These rules create a high speed game that combines the scoring principles of football with the endurance of soccer.
During the 2012 spring season, the Piggies traveled all over the East Coast for tournaments, starting with the massive High Tide Tournament in Brunswick, Georgia. High Tide is a three day tournament that takes place during spring break and attracted around 100 open, women’s, and mixed teams this year.
The Piggies finished 5th out of 32 teams at Shippensburg University’s Steakfest Tournament, and went undefeated at the Roll Call Tournament held on the National Polo Fields outside of Washington D.C. The Piggies strong showing this year has been aided by the presence of teammates who played competitively in high school, including sophomore Matt Bandes.
“When I first got to college, I was a little bit disappointed with the Piggies, as they weren’t as competitive as I’d hoped they would be,” said Bandes, who played Ultimate all four years of high school. “But over the last year we’ve changed our mindset and work ethic, and now there isn’t a doubt in my mind that we have a shot at nationals. They’ve become my family.”
Despite the changing nature of the team, the Piggies still retain the spirit the team was founded with. At a tournament in Montreal this fall, the Piggies won both a hotdog eating contest and a competition to see which team could make the craziest diving catch, known in Ultimate slang as a layout contest.
“To me, Ultimate is unique because it encourages humor and goofiness,” said Eli Witkin, a junior and current co-captain of the Piggies. “Our team can be playing at its absolute highest potential and still be having a great time out on the field.”
The Piggies ended the 2012 spring season on a high note, placing 4th overall in Sectionals and advancing to Regionals. While the Piggies were eliminated in the first round of championship play (with a one-point loss to Yale), they placed 11th overall. The team, which is only graduating three seniors, is optimistic about competing in both tournaments next year.
All University of Rochester students are welcome to join the Piggies, which typically taps new players in the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. Those interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org. The University of Rochester also is home to a competitive women’s ultimate team, girls interested in playing should contact Captain Kathryn Haapala at email@example.com.
Article written by Blake Silberberg, an intern at University Communications and a member of the Piggies. Silberberg is a junior majoring in political science.