High hopes for Lady Sweets after Nationals

Kyle Howe

During the beginning of the summer, the Whitman Lady Sweets Ultimate Frisbee team was hard at work at the Division I College Championships, the first national tournament for the team, where they would establish themselves as a powerhouse Ultimate team.

Photo by Devika Doowa

The team began the tournament ranked 19th, but after a series of tough matches the team ended up 13th overall and earned a 13-12 victory over Central Florida and a 12-11 win against Georgia. The victory over Central Florida was impressive enough for SkyD Magazine to rank it as one of the top three most exciting games.

Playing against such high-caliber teams proved fresh and exciting for all the Lady Sweets, regardless of their previous experience.

“Because of my Frisbee background, playing at a national tournament was something that I was already very used to, but not at that high of a caliber. I’ve played in youth national championships, but being at the college level was super overwhelming and exciting,” said sophomore captain Ari Lozano.

“Before I came to Whitman I did not know Ultimate was an actual sport, so playing against the most talented college teams and players was both exhilarating and inspiring,” said senior captain Corinne Pingul.

Despite being from a Division III school, the Lady Sweets surpassed expectations, putting them in a position to take on more difficult competition.

“We were seeded 19th going into the tournament, and overall came out 13th, breaking seed. Going into the new season, this will mean that we’re expected to be one of the top 20 teams in the nation and will be a team to look out for. We’ll also hopefully be going to bigger, more challenging tournaments all around the country,” said Lozano.

The experience of Nationals should help the team deal with the raised expectations they have created for themselves.

Photo by Devika Doowa

“The team worked so hard to get the fourth bid from our region, so the opportunity to compete with the best college womens’ Ultimate teams in the nation was both a great learning experience and a celebration of how far we’ve come as a program. We played tough teams, but it was great to see our team competing at such a high level, and we ended up doing a lot better than we expected,” said Pingul.

The team demonstrated their talent, rising six places in the tournament. They expect to have a strong year ahead of them despite losing many players who graduated in the spring.

“Although we are losing 10 very talented and experienced seniors, we are looking forward to building on last year’s accomplishments and growing as a program. We continue to push each other, working hard to get another bid to this year’s national tournament,” said Pingul.

The success of last year has already paid dividends for the team by fueling turnout for the coming years, which will be crucial if the Lady Sweets hope to make up for the loss of their graduated seniors.

“Qualifying for D1 Nationals means we are officially a D1 team for at least four years, and to remain a D1 team for more years to come we have to make it back to Nationals. We know what it takes to play a high-level game, and now it’s all about committing to team goals and pushing ourselves to continuously improve. Already, we have a record amount of girls showing up to play, and that enthusiasm will be crucial to developing a killer squad,” said junior Jessica Shatkin.

The one moment that was the most memorable for many of the players was the final match against Georgia, as it was the last match for many of the graduated seniors.

“The most memorable moment of Nationals for me was the very last game we played. Although it was a consolation game, everyone stepped up their game, especially the seniors, who essentially poured the heart out on the field,” said Shaktin. “We won on universe point, which means it’s a tie game and the next point wins, so it came down to the very end.”

This match was more memorable for its emotional value than the actual plays on the field, proving that the Sweets have bonds that extend beyond being mere teammates.

“The most memorable moment was the saddest moment at the tournament. The last point of our last game, right after we scored the winning point, it hit all of us that that was the last point that we would be playing with the seniors as Sweets. A bittersweet moment. We all cried so much in our last team huddle,” said Lozano.

With that tremendous experience behind them, the Lady Sweets now look to this season, where they see nothing but positives ahead.

“Being a D3 school going to D1 nationals for the first time ever was such a huge deal for our team, and it only goes to show that our program will only get bigger and stronger,” said Lozano.

Photo by Devika Doowa