Ultimate Frisbee takes second at national championships

Unsung heroes put together a dominant performance on the big stage

Photo/Nick Lindeke
They wore their caps and gowns, took photos with their parents and friends, heard a speech from Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence and received their bachelor's degrees—almost one week before everyone else on campus.
For seven graduating seniors who were members of the Brandeis ultimate Frisbee team, Commencement had to come early and in the form of a small ceremony inside the faculty club. Turns out they had somewhere else to be on Sunday, May 17, when Brandeis would be holding its formal Commencement ceremony: Rockford, Illinois to compete at this year’s USA Ultimate Division III College National Championships.
Brandeis’ team—named TRON after the popular sci-fi movie—had a sterling season. Ranked second in the country heading into the national championships, the team was committed to seeing how they would fare nationally, even if it meant missing the pomp and circumstance of graduation.
“The support this school gives us, it’s meant a lot to me and the rest of the team,” says co-captain Clarence Lee ’15 of Champaign, Illinois. “Nationals were an incredible experience. But in the past it was such a hard decision to choose between nationals and Commencement. The school supports our endeavors in everything, which is amazing.”
TRON finished second in the tournament, falling in the final to Franciscan University. Despite not winning the crown, the result was the club’s best finish in a national competition, and they retained their no. 2 national ranking.
TRON began the tournament with victories over Claremont Colleges, North Park University and Carleton College, before moving past Davidson and Bryant. The final against Franciscan, a 13-9 loss, featured a back-and-forth contest that showcased Brandeis players’ offensive and defensive skills. The standout performance of co-captain Hansen Yang ’16 earned him a spot the All-Tournament Seven.
“Coming into the season we talked about our goals and we decided to shoot for the semifinals at nationals,” adds Lee. “Once we got there, though, we realized we had so much left to give. Our goal at that point was to win that championship. We came close, Franciscan was very competitive and just better than us on the day, but it was so cool to be on that stage with those guys, and I’m hopeful TRON can bring Brandeis a championship soon.”
TRON’s success is a testament to the commitment of its players and their passion for ultimate Frisbee. As a club team, they’re sometimes under the radar on campus, even though their love for the game is quite visible.
But because TRON is a club sport, it doesn’t receive the same funding as varsity programs and team members must personally cover some of the costs for travel, uniforms and equipment. The majority of the 24 players and three coaches who went to the national championship in Rockford made the 17-hour trip with their own cars. Club athletes also do not have access to the Brandeis trainers.
Despite these differences between the varsity and club sports, the members of TRON appreciate the university’s support.
“Some of what we need is subsidized by school through club sports, which does what they can for us, and the administration overall has been pretty supportive,” says Elan Kane ‘17, a handler from Briarcliff Manor, NY. “They just had this whole graduation too, which was pretty cool and really nice of them. In past years, you either missed nationals or missed graduation.”
The players get past the financial issues through their love of the game and their friendships with one another. For Yang, especially, his ties to the team are a combination of both. In high school, he didn’t think ultimate Frisbee was a real sport. But he was converted at Brandeis and is now one of the country’s best players.
“Once I watched it and started playing I thought it was so cool,” says Yang, who’s from Newton, Massachusetts. “It’s super fun and I love it.”
Yang’s teammates feel the same way. And, with their big finish in Rockford still fresh in their minds, they’re eyeing even better results in the years to come.

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