Whitman Sweets Strive to Utilize Youth, Depth

Mitchell Smith

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Photo by Tanner Bowersox

The Whitman College Sweets is similar to other Whitman club sports in that it has no paid coach, the team is affected by the lack of funding, and members must find motivation within themselves to compete every day. There is one major difference though; the Sweets, the men’s Ultimate Frisbee team at Whitman, finished last year ranked in the top 20 in the country of Division I Ultimate.

However, with graduated alumni, this year’s team is different, and the Sweets are forced to make changes to match last year’s achievements. Star power fueled the Sweets’ success last year, but those players are gone, leaving room for everyone on the field to become equally involved.

“We’ve underlined a new philosophy where we’re all equal threats,” said senior captain Nathan Sany. “It’s exciting because if you use everybody, you have a better chance at going far in tournaments.”

Sany pointed out that if a team relies on one or two players to carry it, as was the case at times last year, those players can become tired and ineffective over the course of a tournament. Typically, in order to finish on the podium in an Ultimate tournament, a team must win between seven and eight games in one weekend.

“It’s nice to have everyone be trusted with the disc … It just makes sense. I’m really excited for that,” said Sany.

Because the season doesn’t start until the spring, the Sweets have been using the fall and winter months as a time to make sure that everyone has the skills to be trusted with the disc in their hands.

“This fall has been about getting the new players experience in offense and defense and also teaching people forehand and backhand throws,” said first-year Reed Hendrickson. “It’s helpful for the older guys too because they get to work a lot more with their disc handling and throwing.”

This will be Hendrickson’s first year playing on an organized ultimate team, so the emphasis on disc skills has been very beneficial to him.

The off-season has been about a lot more than just throwing and catching, though. Hendrickson also cited the importance of off-field learning about positioning and strategy.

“If you’re playing high-level Ultimate and you don’t know how to run the offense, you’re going to be very lost and mess up your entire team,” said Hendrickson.

Sany has been impressed with the way the less-experienced players have handled learning these higher details of the game.

“[The first-years] are jumping into match-ups with players who are really good, and they still want to learn and want to be students of the game,” said Sany. “To try to figure it all out and keep coming out is really hard to do.”

Junior Peter O’Rourke has noticed the work of the younger players as well.

“We have great freshmen … They’re really coming on strong so far,” he said.

While the younger players may be the future of the Sweets, the older players, including the large group of seniors this year, will be responsible for replacing much of last year’s good talent. So far, though, they seem to be up to the task.

“There are some upperclassmen that are stepping up and doing a great job for the team,” said O’Rourke. He mentioned junior Elliot Moskat and senior Ben Cohen-Stead as two upperclassmen who will play a bigger role this year.

These upperclassmen have helped fuel two top-six finishes in recent preseason tournaments, especially impressive because the tournaments each featured more than 20 teams. However, these tournaments are about more than just simple results; they give the Sweets a chance to understand each others’ tendencies while practicing in game situations against strong competition.

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Photo by Tanner Bowersox

“They’re about having fun and getting people game experience,” said O’Rourke.

Sany also cited the varied competition as a breath of fresh air.

“We were so tired of playing against each other. It was nice to see new teams out there,” he said.

As long as the Sweets can continue to adjust to their new style of a more well-rounded game, they should be able to continue the success the team has had in recent years. The goal is clear; while last year’s team fell one win short of Nationals, this version of the Sweets aims to make that final tournament.

“We’ll be an in-shape, aggressive, physical team that’s not going to be scared of anyone,” said O’Rourke.