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Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021

Ultimate frisbee competes in first ever fall season

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Colman Bashore ’24 lays out for a catch during a Pranksters victory over Bates.

Middlebury’s ultimate frisbee team — known as the Pranksters  — are recognized for their national acclaim and vibrantly-colored outfits. This fall, the Pranksters are competing in the first ever fall collegiate frisbee season, which makes up for the lost season of spring 2021. 

Leo Sovell-Fernandez ’22, who captains the men’s team alongside Walker Frankenberg ’22, Ben Morris ’22.5 and spirit captain Max Hanscom ’23, said the team was relieved to compete again.

“We played against each other for so long, so to be back together at a tournament, all on the same united Middlebury team, was really, really exciting,” Sovell-Fernandez said. “It is surreal to finally have the Pranksters in a tournament again.”

Along with the excitement of competing again, Sovell-Fernandez highlighted the new level of intensity he has observed on the practice field this year. 

“There are definitely some expectations for us as the defending champions of the national tournament,” Sovell-Fernandez said. “Ultimately though, we have a process-based approach, where, regardless of where our season ends, we want to play our best game last and enjoy it along the way.”

Middlebury finished the 2019 season as the No. 1 seed heading into the Division III National Tournament, which they won via a handy 15–12 victory over the U.S. Air Force Academy in the final.

The women’s side, who finished fifth in the national tournament in 2019, are also hoping to replicate their past success.

According to Claire Babbot-Bryan ’23 — who captains the team alongside Jennie-Bob Bizal-Clark ’22, Raechel Zeller ’22 and spirit captain Molly Gallagher ’22 — the pandemic impacted the club’s momentum. 

“We have a great group of players who are excited to be back out there, which I think shows we have a really resilient program,” Babbot-Bryan said.

Both teams have enjoyed excellent starts to their season, with the men’s team unbeaten thus far in tournament play. 

The Pranksters are navigating limited collegiate experience on their teams, with the sophomore class competing for the first time and the junior class owning little competitive experience. However, both Sovell-Fernandez and Babbot-Bryan have the utmost faith in their young players. 

“Four to six of our starters are either sophomores or first-years, so we have a lot of trust in them,” Sovell-Fernandez said.

Another point of pride for the Pranksters is the emergence of two fully fledged “B” teams. Luke Robins ’22.5 and Dan Frazo ’23 captain the men’s second team, while Grace Sokolow ’24 and Kacey Mazzone ’23 captain the women’s second team. The introduction of the “B” teams represents a significant growth in interest in the sport over the last few seasons, as the Pranksters previously only had a competitive tournament roster along with a handful of practice players. 

Having successfully advanced through sectionals, the men’s and women’s teams now turn to the regional tournament, which will occur in two weeks. Beyond that, both teams are eying the national championship in California. 

Although the Middlebury Pranksters are one of the most established and dominant frisbee teams in the country, Babbott-Bryan said that all the captains are even more proud of the team’s welcoming atmosphere and tight-knit community. 

“Frisbee is governed by [the] spirit of the game, which means there are no refs,” Babbott-Bryan said. “This means that players are asked to step up and play with integrity, which results in an awesome team culture.” 

“The Pranksters are just a group of people who love to hang out,” Sovell-Fernandez added. “And we happen to be pretty decent at tossing a disc around too.”

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