Friday, 11 May 2012

Ultimate Southern Regionals

Sportsmanship and athleticism dominated the day at this year's Ultimate Frisbee Southern Regional tournament, held at the Westminster School in Adelaide on March 10-11.

The five women's teams played four round-robin games over the weekend, followed by a single elimination series.

Honey, who split their team for the tournament, battled itself in the semi-finals. “Smart Honey” beat “Fit Honey” 10 to 6 for the second place spot while SaFire (Adelaide) beat Squadron (Melbourne) 14 to 7 for the fourth place spot. Fit Honey captured the third place spot by beating SaFire 15 to 7.

The final game was close—after 30 minutes, Melbourne's Sporting Team Box Athletico United (STBAU) and Smart Honey were tied 5-5. But STBAU pulled away to win 14-7.

Karen “KP” Baker of STBAU felt it was a tough game, but they “hope to keep playing well and ramp it up from here”. STBAU won Southern Regional last year and placed third in the 2011 National tournament.

The Australia Flying Disc Association has been holding open tournaments since 1982 and the women's division was added in 1994. The regional tournaments are organised by unpaid volunteers like Donna Nicholls, who spent the past week organising lunch and other logistics. With sunny, mild weather, the conditions were perfect. St Johns was on standby but no injuries that required evacuation.

The overall spirit of the competition was strong. Mel Tea, winner of the “Spirit: Most Valuable Player” award was laughing as she shared her chocolate prize with her teammates on SaFire. “All teams were well-spirited. They were really competitive, but with good sportsmanship.”

Tea serves as a mentor for new players like Jenna Arman, who began playing last year. “We've been drilling so long. When you play it's absolutely glorious.” SaFire has been practicing together since January and placed fourth in the overall rankings.

Squadron, the fifth-place team, had many new players like Kim Wong from Singapore. Wong is a fast runner but this is her first official tournament. Wong credits STBAU for mentoring her team. Squadron.  Squadron won the women’s team spirit award.

The abundance of sportsmanship was accompanied by a high level of athleticism. Stephanie Mulcher of Fit Honey won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. She has been playing five years, and trains six days a week as a member of the worlds-level Firetails. She believes mindfulness is the secret to success. But balance is also important:

“Friday is beer day.”

Team Honey played exceptionally well considering their team was split. On Monday, Honey will announce the names of their combined National squad for 2012.

Lauren Castillo, on the Smart Honey team, said it was “good getting the feeling of [playing in] a final.”

Her wish for Honey?

“I would love to see Honey place in the top three, but ultimately I'd love to see us win.”

There will be tough competition, particularly from STBAU. There is a depth of experience on the STBAU team, which has nine Firetails players. Chloe McDonald, who has been playing five years, including in Junior Worlds in Vancouver (2008) and Germany (2010) claims to be addicted to the game.

“I have frisbee stuff all over my room and I'll keep playing until I get injured.”

Her goal for the National tournament?

“To play well.”

Team Box and Honey will look to face-off against contenders such as Wildcard (Eastern Region) in the 2012 Australian Ultimate Championships in Newcastle 22-25 April. This weekend, Wildcard again won the Eastern Regional tournament. The Northern and Western regions did not hold regional-level tournaments, but have nominated teams to advance.

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