Following impressive postseasons last spring, Middlebury’s ultimate team, the Pranksters, are looking to revamp the team this fall to prepare for the spring 2023 season. Unlike last year, when the Pranksters competed in a fall tournament to make up for the lost season of spring 2020, this year looks set to be a return to normal for the men’s and women’s squads. The fall season, played with much lower stakes, represents a chance for the first-year class to gel with the rest of the team.
On the women’s side, field captain Mady Lander ’23 wants to stay the course as they look to defend their national title.
“We were definitely feeling the target a little bit in the spring following our win last fall,” Lander said. “We’re out there to have fun and create a space where everyone can grow as a player, whatever titles come with that are just a bonus, and the past doesn’t dictate what’s going to happen this year at all.”
One unknown for the team is their new offensive and defensive strategies, something dependent on the new recruits joining them from the class of 2026. Lander and Raymond are looking to emphasize inclusivity in the team culture this fall and hope the new first years can help fill the shoes of the departed senior class.
Lander also cited loosening Covid-19 restrictions helping the team ease back into practicing together again. Whether on the field or apple picking at Happy Valley Orchards, the Pranksters are looking to use the fall as a great opportunity to gel as a team and tweak their game before a tough competitive season in the spring.
Field captain Malachi Raymond ’24 knows just how important team bonding can be.
“Time with the team off the field has huge benefits once we cleat up,” Raymond said. “I’m looking forward to having some team dinners and other events to just get to know everyone and have fun so that when we get on the field, we flow even better.”
This bonding could prove vital to a team that just graduated some of its most impressive players in program history — Leo Sovell-Fernandez ’22 and Walker Frankenburg ’22, among others. The loss of key players, and the defeat to Oklahoma Christian University in the semifinals last spring, however, has not weakened the team’s resolve. Raymond wants to go about business as usual, a strategy that yielded a National Championship in 2019, as well as two deep runs last fall and spring.
They plan to work on a new offense that he hopes will make the team more aggressive as they try to compete with Division 1 opponents to improve their game.