Trouble in Vegas: EWo claim25th in Ultimate extravaganza

A 4-5 record at the annual Trouble in Vegas Ultimate Frisbee tournament over the weekend of Feb. 6-8 left the women’s Ultimate A team, known as the EWo, in 25th place overall but not completely unsatisfied.

According to the official Trouble in Vegas Web site, the tournament was “not only the largest college tournament, but the largest Ultimate tournament held ever.” This was the fourth year the team has played the Trouble in Vegas tournament, which has always been an interesting experience for the EWo.

“Trouble in Vegas is a really great tournament; it’s one of the biggest tournaments in the U.S., and there are just tons of Frisbee players all over the place,” senior co-captain Kate McCaffrey said. “You can see how excited everyone is to be playing outside for the first time, especially the Northeast teams, who are stuck inside practicing during the winter.”

Unfortunately for the Jumbos, coupled with a less than ideal performance were some less than ideal weather conditions.

“Vegas this year was frustrating for us,” senior co-captain Marie Alexander said. “We didn’t play as well as we would have liked to, and the weather was terrible. It wasn’t very warm and it rained and hailed one of the days — not exactly what we expected leaving Boston to go to the desert.”

Still, the EWo were nonetheless able to extract some good from the experience.

“There were certainly positive aspects of the tournament,” Alexander said. “It’s a great tournament because it gives us a chance to play outside early in the season and we play teams we wouldn’t normally see at tournaments in New England. We did improve over the weekend and our team was able to bond more, on the field and off the field. It also helped us identify what we need to work on in the next couple months.”

Tufts was in a pool with four other teams: Northwestern, UCLA, Humboldt State and Oregon State. After pool play, the EWo went on to play other Northeast teams including BC and Brown, coming out with mixed results. While a 25th-place overall finish out of 44 women’s teams may seem mediocre at best, as it was the first tournament of the year, the EWo consider it much more of a learning experience and team bonding trip than a litmus test indicating their early-season capabilities.

“I really tried to not make expectations going into the tournament,” McCaffrey said. “I think it’s too early in the season to know what to expect from our team and place demands and put pressure on our girls.”

“This early in the season we’re not very concerned with tournament results in terms of wins and losses or how we place,” Alexander added. “Our focus is on our quality of play and working to play together as a team. We are a competitive team and of course we want to win, but in Vegas and other early tournaments we focus on specific skills and strategies to get the team to where it needs to be in April and May. I wish that we had played better in Vegas, but I am not concerned with our win/loss record in February.”

The EWo, whose season will kick into gear after spring break, practice twice per week in the Gantcher Center and have their own conditioning and strength-training workouts mixed in just as any varsity sport would. With a young and relatively inexperienced roster, a vigorous practice regimen will be essential to getting the team into its desired competitive form.

“Our team is very young this year,” McCaffrey said. “Only two of our seniors have played more than two seasons on the A-team, and we graduated a lot of key players last year, so what we’re working on right now is getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We’re a very quick, athletic team, and once we put some more direction behind all of our enthusiasm, we’re going to be great.”

“I think we need to work on confidence and decision-making,” Alexander added. “It takes time for younger players to make the shift from only playing a few points a game last year to being a go-to player this year. The talent on our team this year is more evenly divided than it has been in the past. We have a lot of solid players instead of having a few stars, so we need everyone to contribute and play a role. We have a lot of talent and speed but we need to match that with smart decision-making and a focus on the basics — throwing and catching.”

The EWo are already eyeing the next big event on their calendars: spring break. The team will be heading to Atlanta for a tournament over the first weekend of break, then down to Clearwater Beach, Fla. for the week that follows, where they get to spend time on the beach and practice a few times. The team will then head back up to Georgia Southern for a tournament at the end of break.

After that, the season hits full stride with competitions nearly every weekend.

The play from some of the less-experienced players in Vegas was a tell-tale sign for success in the future.

“I was really impressed with how well our newbies adjusted to playing at a high level, especially in such terrible weather,” McCaffrey said. “I’m constantly impressed with how much intensity they have on the field. They’re not afraid to bid for Ds or get dirty to make sure that they catch a disc. I think that’s really rare in new players.”