Lady Sweets prep for regional tournament

Riley Foreman

For many on the Whitman Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team, the regional tournament is familiar territory. This year, that’s not all that will be familiar. A total of eight teams representing the Big Sky and Cascadia Conferences will play in Walla Walla this weekend, each competing for one of five bids to the D-I College Championship May 22-25 in Milwaukee, Wis.

Although four of these teams, including Whitman, are ranked in the top-10 nationally, the Lady Sweets aren’t nervous so much as they are excited. For the first time in school history, Whitman will host both the men’s and women’s D-I regional tournaments. The Lady Sweets, who have qualified for nationals both of the past two years, see the home field advantage as a way to share high-level Frisbee with the Whitman community. Junior Brenna Bailey notes how this year will be different than past trips to regionals.

“It adds a new dimension of stakes to the tournament,” she said. “It’s not just about how well we do and getting to nationals; it’s also about showing the school what we do and what we work for. There are so many opportunities for other sports teams to showcase their high-level play on this campus, and I don’t think people really know and no one’s ever really seen us.”

The team, seeded fourth, will play in a pool with the University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and Oregon State, hoping to advance out of the pool to play the winners of Pool A on Sunday. For many on the squad, this year will mark their third consecutive appearance at regionals. While there is certainly some pressure to continue this streak, captain junior Ari Lozano notes how the team stays focused.

“One of our goals for the team is to set our own goals and not be guided or influenced by ranking or seeding,” she said. “We are excited more than anything to host because it gives us a chance to show people on campus what we’re actually about.”

Both Bailey and junior Marlena Sloss recognize the momentum that the program has built in a relatively short time.

“It’s pretty crazy that our grade was the first grade to go to nationals, and here we are with the potential to go again this year and next year,” said Bailey. “I guess we have a lot of pride in the fact that we were the first class to do that.”

The Lady Sweets traveled to Boise over Admitted Students Weekend to play in the Big Sky Conference tournament, in which they won 6-0. Although only one other team from their conference will be at regionals, Whitman will face familiar foes from the highly competitive Cascadia conference, who have also appeared at spring tournaments such as the Stanford Invite and the Northwest Challenge Cup. Over the past two weeks the team sought to practice at the same elite level that their opponents had to play at during their conference tournaments.

“We just had a very different weekend than [Cascadia teams] did,” said Bailey. “We played some great Frisbee, but we need to come back and bounce back from what might have felt like an easier weekend.”

Without the typical travel staples of carpooling and crashing at parents’ houses, the team is trying to find a way to maintain their unique bond. Last weekend they performed a Miley Cyrus tribute at Choral Contest. They also plan to eat together as they would at any other tournament.

“We’re usually all together for the entire weekend, so it’s easy to get the team chemistry going,” said Sloss.

Whatever their methods, the Lady Sweets are proud of the recognition they are building around club Frisbee in the Pacific Northwest. This weekend they hope to share that passion with their peers and encourage anyone with a spare hour to come support their quest for a bid to nationals.

“It’s not easy but we have a good chance to make it there,” said Lozano.

The team’s first game will be played against Oregon State at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 2.