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Four ND Ultimate teams foster camaraderie

| Thursday, March 28, 2019

A group of 19 men who make up the Notre Dame men’s ultimate frisbee team, pulled off a major upset, defeating heavily favored No. 8 University of Central Florida while running around in Lowe’s construction tool belts with frosted tips over spring break.

“We beat them while having a lot more fun than them,” senior Connor Buckley, one of the men’s team captains, said. “That was just really fun to be able to beat a top-10 team [and] show that we can stay that competitive but just have a ton of fun doing it.”

Welcome to the world of Notre Dame Ultimate Frisbee, a place where the Jonas Brothers ride high as the greatest boy band of all time and the third floor of LaFortune Student Center is championed as a Holy Land despite many students not knowing this floor even exists.

The club, which is made up of 95 athletes in total, consists of four different teams — a men’s and a women’s program, both consisting of A and B levels. However, the club functions as a single unit in almost all other respects, even going as far as to collectively share a Twitter account.

“We show up on each other’s sidelines, we’re super loud [and] we’re super supportive,” senior women’s captain Meg Cullen said. “It gets in a lot of other teams’ heads when there’s 30 guys just on the sideline yelling and being rowdy, but it’s all in good spirit.”

This distinct, supportive mentality along with the outward goofiness of the team — including but not limited to bringing Will Ferrell cut-outs to tournaments and playing dining hall games ending with the loser dumping his or her drink on their head — led to Ultiworld recently ranking Notre Dame as the ninth-best brand in college ultimate frisbee.

Senior men’s captain Steven Campillo said the team has a reputation as both fun and competent.

“[The] guys teams have won games where the other teams are like, ‘You guys beat us because you were having more fun than us,’ which is an absurd thing to think about in a sport, but it’s something that really propels us to be better players,” Campillo said.

The club recently returned from its spring break “training trip” in Florida, where it scrimmaged other college teams and spent a week doing conditioning, leadership activities and team-building, all culminating with the Tally Classic tournament held the final weekend of break.

Bonding efforts such as these have clearly paid off — many graduates of the team return to campus every year for its “Alumni Weekend,” a rare phenomenon at the club level.

“There will be easily 60 to 80 alumni that come back,” Cullen said. “Some graduated like 15 years ago and they still come back every [alumni] weekend just because there’s just this sense of community and this sense of just being a part of something bigger. That’s what makes ND Ultimate so special.”

However, don’t let the sideline pool-noodle fights cloud the vision of these men and women as athletes. Although the men’s team has come up one game short of making it to nationals three of the last four years, the women’s team qualified for the tournament in both 2015 and 2017, the latter of which saw the team tie for ninth nationally. One of the athletes on that team, class of 2017 alumna Julia Butterfield, went on to help the United States national team win a gold medal at the 2018 World Under-24 Ultimate Championships in Perth, Australia.

“In schools like Notre Dame where there’s so many kids who played sports all through high school, [students will] want to join a team, but maybe don’t necessarily want to do a sport they’ve been playing for 14 years, so I feel like a lot of those people then come to frisbee,” Cullen said.

Senior club co-president and women’s captain Colleen Scott sees success for the team as much more than a simple win-loss record, however. For her, Notre Dame Ultimate is about creating a culture of inclusion as much as one of athletic achievement.

“The people ahead of us were able to create an environment where you can just be authentically yourself,” Scott said. “There’s so many spots on this campus where you feel pressured to be a certain way, especially your freshman year when you have to make friends and you have to fit in. We try to be that one spot where they can just come and be whoever they want to be.”

The men’s and women’s teams will soon be competing in their sectional tournaments in Indianapolis starting April 13, and their regional tournaments in Joliet, Illinois, starting April 27 with hopes of securing a place at nationals Memorial Day weekend.

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