Pat Donovan in action at the 2011 USA Ultimate college championships.
The Wisconsin Hodags have been among college ultimate's top clubs over the last 10 years, winning national titles in 2003, 2007 and 2008. But since most of the sport's action takes place in warmer climates during the winter and early spring, Madison ultimate fans rarely get a chance to see them play.
The hordes that showed up at Reddan Soccer Park for the 2010 national college ultimate championships are evidence that there's an avid and knowledgeable fan base in town. And there's speculation that the Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association's summer league will top 4,000 participants this year.
Dave Wiseman, a senior chemistry major who's played with the club for four seasons, hopes the Hodags can tap into that enthusiasm. "This year's team is a little different from years past in that we're interested in dividing up the work to hit targets for the program, and that includes directing some of our energy to outreach," he says. "I want the sport to grow, and I want youth in the area to learn about ultimate and what the Hodags are about."
To that end, the club - currently ranked fifth in the country - is hosting a tournament this weekend with some solid squads from around the Midwest. The tournament and a Saturday night fundraiser at Union South will benefit the Someday Foundation, a nonprofit that assisted Hodag Pat Donovan and his family when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last summer. Donovan's disease is in remission, and he is expected to suit up this weekend.
The tournament takes place at Stoner Prairie Elementary in Fitchburg all day Saturday and Sunday. If the weather cooperates, expect competitive games.
"We would love to show the city what the Hodags are up to," says Wiseman.