The best college ultimate Frisbee players in the country will converge on Madison this spring for the 2010 Ultimate Players Association college championships. In a Monday release, the UPA announced that the tournament, which features 20 open and 20 women's squads, will be held at the Redden Soccer Complex from Friday, May 28 through Sunday, May 30, with the finals in each division taking place at Breese Stevens Field on Monday, May 31.
Madison is home to one of the most vibrant ultimate communities in the country with hundreds of players participating in recreational leagues running year round. The Hodags, UW-Madison's open club, has won college nationals three times 2003, 2007 and 2008. Bella Donna, the women's team, is consistently ranked among the top teams nationally.
The sport is played between two teams of seven with players passing the Frisbee to one another on a field roughly the size of a football field. A team scores when a pass is completed to a player in an end zone. Skilled players can often throw the disc the entire length of the field and since Frisbees often float, there's a high potential for spectacular plays with diving catches. Speed and endurance are valued, as is creative playmaking and team chemistry.
Will Deaver, managing director of the UPA, estimates between 650 and 700 colleges will field competitive ultimate squads for this year's tournament, which will be narrowed to 40 after sectional and regional tournaments.
"Probably the number one factor that secured this bid for Madison was the active ultimate community," he says. "We know we can count on a lot of support and a lot of spectators showing up at the fields that weekend."
Kate Arnold, a local ultimate player who will serve as the tournament director, says local sports fans who are maybe unfamiliar with the sport will be "floored" by the level of play they'll see at the tournament.
"There's a perception that ultimate is a really recreational kind of game," she says. "But especially at the college level, it's a really competitive, intense, athletic sport."
Matt Young, a fourth year medical student and co-captain of the Hodags, says that while a lot of Madisonians have played or watched ultimate, opportunities to see it played at a high level in this part of the country are rare.
"We travel a lot to warm weather locations for tournaments," he says. "So we're really thrilled that our friends and family will get a chance to see us play against top competition."
The Hodags just completed tryouts for this year's team, whittling a field of 115 players down to a roster of 26. Young thinks the announcement will provide motivation over the next seven months.
"There are five or six guys left from the 2008 championship team," says Young. "We feel like the gauntlet has been thrown down."
Madison hosted the college championships in 1991 and the World Flying Disc Federation Ultimate World Championship at the University Bay Fields and Warner Park in 1993. Many local Frisbee die-hards point to that tournament as the catalyst for building the Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association, whose summer leagues take over city parks including Olbrich.