c/o David Sweet

c/o David Sweet

After going undefeated at the D-III Women Metro East Regionals, the Vicious Circles (Vish) — the Wesleyan University non-cis male Ultimate Frisbee team — A-team has clinched a coveted spot at the 2023 USA Ultimate D-III College Championships, colloquially known as Nationals. The National tournament will be held in Obetz, Ohio from Saturday, May 20 until Monday, May 22, and will feature fifteen teams in the Women’s division. The Vish A-team will bring 23 members to the tournament.

“I’m excited, and it feels surreal right now,” A-team Captain Tenley Abbott ’23 said. “I don’t think it’s hit that we’re going to Nationals just because we’ve talked about it as more of an abstract thing over the course of our time at Wesleyan.”

In a given competitive season, Vish creates two teams distinguished by the players’ levels of commitment: A-team and B-team. Unlike B-team, which tends to veer from highly competitive Ultimate playing, A-team had set their eyes on Nationals before the onset of the spring season. After a series of tournaments conducted throughout the spring semester, Vish A-team advanced to Nationals for the first time since 2019. For many members of the team, this accomplishment signifies a new era.

“We’re all stepping into a very historical moment in Vish’s history,” Chloe Pacetti ’26 said. “We haven’t been to Nationals in four years, so it’s weird to be getting introduced to Vish, but also Vish being introduced to this new higher level of commitment and competitiveness, so that’s all exciting.”

The team earned their ticket to Nationals after a hard-fought upset 8–7 against Ithaca College, who were leading by three points at the half in the final game of the Regionals tournament. The tournament, held in Saratoga Springs, NY on Sunday, April 30, concluded in a universe point—a match point only called when two teams tie at the end of the allotted game time. According to A-team Captain Adina Chasan-Taber ’23, this narrow victory represents a significant moment for current and future team members.

“Having this huge comeback means a lot for the program,” Chasan-Taber said. “It means a lot for people who are joining it and who are looking for this environment. Showing that we’re real contenders and that we’re hardworking is appealing for people who played frisbee in high school and want somewhere that they’re gonna get to play, especially when you’re looking at D-III schools.”

Much of the current competitive season traces back to the 2021-2022 academic year when the A-team lost a bid for Nationals to the University of Rochester and Vassar College in the fall. Similarly, the spring semester season ended abruptly after a tough couple of games at the Sectionals tournament in New Jersey. Afterward, the A-team captains utilized the summer to generate goals, discuss action steps, and set expectations for the following year. 

Unlike the year prior, the A-team captains spent the fall 2022 semester orienting new players to Vish’s style of play and team culture by using tournaments to assess team strengths and dynamics. During the winter break and entering the spring semester, the Vish A-team participated in a series of strength workouts and conditioning regiments.

As the Vish A-team continued to play in tournaments throughout the spring semester, they started winning their games, boosting their confidence in the process. Ultimately, Vish A went undefeated, 6–0, in the Sectionals tournament located in Fort Ann, NY from Saturday, April 15 until Sunday, April 16. The team continued this success throughout the Regionals tournament. According to Nora Jacobsen ’25, much of this accomplishment has come by maintaining a fun, competitive level of play among all team members.

“Something that we were talking about at the beginning of the year is that for a lot of people on the team, playing a hard-fought game that’s competitive with a goal of winning is really fun,” Jacobsen said. “There is this culture of having fun this year, but it’s okay to be competitive. We want to be competitive and we all came with that energy, and it felt like that was a new side for Vish.”

Pacetti, who started playing for Vish A at the onset of the academic year, attests that this competitive play stems from a delicate balance in team culture on and off the field.

“What’s so special about Ultimate and what has always drawn me to the sport is [that] it is very much the social and the athletic coming together,” Pacetti said. “Everyone’s been able to dial in, everyone’s super dedicated and wants to get better, but it’s also that the on-field chemistry is so good, and I think that just comes from how much everyone cares about each other off the field.”

Many members of the Vish A-team described their excitement following the recent news, citing the team’s growth and adaptation since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as a testament to their strength. 

“I think that this is a product of working the past two years since COVID-19,” Abbott said. “We’ve been rebuilding the team and rebuilding A, specifically competitiveness-wise.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought numerous challenges to the Wesleyan frisbee community, particularly concerning onboarding and participation. Although she entered Vish at the beginning of the academic year, Kayla Harrison ’26 is well aware of how the pandemic impacted Vish, bolstering her admiration for the A-team’s recent successes.

“I’ve talked to older members of the team and people who have been around the Wesleyan frisbee community for longer, and I know that COVID-19 hurt Vish’s participation and also frisbee experience because we weren’t able to continuously replenish the skills in a certain way. I think that this was also really important that we did this year because this is the last year that we have anyone who knows what the school was like pre-COVID-19,” Harrison said. 

The Vish A-team consists of players from every class year with varying levels of Ultimate experience. As such, this eases establishing on-field chemistry while also ensuring that the team remains large and capable relative to other competitive Ultimate teams. To Chasan-Taber, A-team’s roster is directly related to its drive, work ethic, and on-field successes.

“The depth of our team, which I think is something, especially when we were playing other teams these past couple of weekends, has stood out to us. Buy-in translates directly to skill and fitness, and our team is really deep,” Chasan-Taber ’23 said. “We have a lot of talented people, and we’re really lucky that we have so many lines of people we could put on that are all strong.”

The A-team captains have been incredibly strategic about weekly practices, using each week to hone in on specific skills or structures common throughout the sport. This approach enabled the captains to map out the semester before the beginning of the competitive season. By strategically scaffolding the season this way, the captains ensured that each player was equipped with valuable knowledge of the sport regardless of how the season ended.

“Something we said at the beginning of the season was that we wanted to make it to Nationals, that’s our ultimate goal, but our process-based goals are what we want to learn these systems, and we think that if we have those down, we will be able to make it to Nationals,” Chasan-Taber said. “If we don’t make it to Nationals, we’ve achieved those goals and we will be happy with our season. We had our system goals and we had solid focuses. It wasn’t just Nationals, Nationals, Nationals.”

Ultimately, these practice plans, workouts, and drills have instilled a consistent drive that the team has used to enrich their season. To Natalie Sweet ’25, this effort significantly determined on-field success and group unity.

“You can see the intensity on the sidelines, the intensity at practices, seeing how every Monday we have a 30-minute workout that’s sometimes really intense, but seeing everyone put their all into it because we want to become this whole so badly,” Sweet said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s about winning or the stats, it’s about the amount of effort that we all collectively put in.”

Numerous A-team players have highlighted the value that the captains have added throughout the season, citing their flexible leadership, methodological approach, and ongoing dedication as integral determinants of team success.

“Our captains are some of our best players: they’re captains, they’re coaches, and they’re designing our entire routine and workout,” Leza Rooks ’26 said. “Every single thing that we’ve done, every single play that we’ve learned has all been designed and run and taught by them…they’re really impressive people.

Despite this high praise coming from several team members, Captain Margaret Heffernan ’24 maintained that the team thrives through comradery and mutual support.

“We try to emphasize that anyone can be a leader and that people can give feedback to each other and help each other out,” Heffernan said. “I think that everyone took that to heart this season and people want to step up and help us on this road to Nationals. I never feel like I’m burdening someone when I ask them to do something because I know that they genuinely care and want to help us.”

As they prepare for Nationals, the team is navigating numerous logistics, such as booking flights, finalizing accommodations, setting budgets, and clarifying details. With the tournament costing $85 per player, the team has started a GoFundMe page to fundraise for their Nationals trip. Although members of the team voiced additional stress from the quick turnaround between Regionals and Nationals, many have seen the tight timeline as a means to bolster an already strong team dynamic.

“Even though I think it feels scary and daunting with all these logistics, the biggest feeling of joy is just how Nationals feels to us, and it’s awesome to see everyone putting in the work,” Sweet said. “We’ve had some players create the GoFundMe and others create thank you postcards. A lot of people have taken on a lot of work.”

Despite the logistical challenges and additional planning, Chasan-Taber emphasized maintaining the team’s high level of play as they gear toward their final tournament of the season.

“We’ve achieved our system goals, and right now it’s about keeping them in check, improving them as much as possible, making the little tweaks we need, and getting more touches on the disc,” Chasan-Taber said. “We have systems that work well, and now let’s make them work even better.”

As they continue to finalize logistics, the members of Vish A met on Sunday, May 7 to generate a list of expectations for their upcoming Nationals trip. Although the team noted their excitement for the tournament and their next steps, many players have expressed contentment with already achieving their goal.

“When we think about future years, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but I do think that for me, there’s a feeling that this goal has been satisfied,” Mack Bunnell ’26 said. “It’s not a big deal if we don’t go to Nationals next year or the year after that, but it would be nice to go and give other people the same experience that we’ve had…it feels like now there’s this formula for success and we need to carry that on.”

Nonetheless, many first-year members of the Vish A-team are excited for the future, viewing the often daunting task of passing down the torch as particularly worthwhile.

“I’m super confident and excited for the future, and I’m just excited to bring people into a community that I felt so welcomed into as a freshman, that helped me find my place at Wesleyan, and I think passing that on and sharing that and bringing in new people would be special and rewarding,” Maggie Brown ’26 said.

Until that process truly takes shape, however, many members of the Vish A-team are looking forward to their time at the upcoming Nationals tournament. After a tremendous amount of hard work in cultivating a fun-loving, competitive, pride-filled, and successful season, the team is excited to represent Wesleyan at the national level.

“When we go to Nationals, we are representing Wesleyan on the national stage, and they should take that as a compliment,” Heffernan said. “We are representing this higher education institution. We’re all smarty pants and we also happen to play [Ultimate]. I think that’s awesome.”


Oliver Cope can be reached at ocope@wesleyan.edu.

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