Blue Monkey Business: Men’s Ultimate Team Looks Ahead to Mac-Tommie

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Tom Wakin ’16 jumps for the disc during last week’s Blue Monkey practice. Photo by Naomi Guttman ’16

Tom Wakin ’16 jumps for the disc during last week’s Blue Monkey practice. Photo by Naomi Guttman ’16
Tom Wakin ’16 jumps for the disc during last week’s Blue Monkey practice. Photo by Naomi Guttman ’16

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, rain or shine, Shaw Field is flooded with blue- and yellow- clad Frisbee players. Led by team captain Tanur Badgley ‘14, the Blue Monkeys—Macalester’s men’s Ultimate Frisbee team—toss discs, run drills and scrimmages, and throw parties like none other on campus. This fall, sparked by a large turnout from the first-year class, the Monkeys have their eyes set on a fourth straight victory at the Mac-Tommie Cup.

In two tournaments this fall, the Monkeys have enjoyed only mild success, with a 5th (of 8) place finish at the First Blood Ultimate tournament in Winona, MN and couple of tough losses at the more competitive Exit 69 tournament in Maple Plain, MN.

“I’m happy with both [tournaments],” said Badgley. “Our record isn’t very good, but for about 60 percent of our players, it’s their first time [playing ultimate]. I’m seeing growth about every game.”

Likewise, experienced handler Tyler O’Brien ’16 was pleased with the results of the First Blood tournament. “We ended up winning two games in that tournament, and were competitive with some really good teams down there, which was awesome,” he said.

At Exit 69, Macalester faced off against some of the best teams in the nation, including the University of Minnesota’s A team and the Carleton Ultimate Team (CUT). According to O’Brien, “We didn’t win any games there, which was a bit disappointing, but we played some of the best teams in the nation. [We] just got absolutely smoked.”

Numbers Game

As both a historically big team (with more than 40 active members) and an unusually young team, the Monkeys are faced with the significant challenge of acclimating a large group of new players to the Frisbee culture and the rules of the game in the period of just a couple of short months.

Ultimate Frisbee requires knowledge of a variety of offensive and defensive configurations that take time to perfect. The Monkeys run what is called a “horizontal offense,” which relies on three handlers (somewhat akin to point guards in basketball) and four cutters. Handlers make most of the throws while cutters run a variety of routes both up- and downfield to try to shake off defenders.

“Our handler movement could get a little bit better, and obviously you can always improve how you run [the offense],” O’Brien said.

Defensively, the team initially runs a simple man-to-man approach. As the season goes on, however, new players are introduced to a more complex zone defense.

According to Paul Bendernagel ’14, the team has had to reorient its goals to account for the team’s youth and relative inexperience with the game. “There’s a steep learning curve with Frisbee—[but players] can still turn the corner pretty quickly, skill-wise,” he said.

In practice, the team’s leadership of Badgley and junior captain Ilian DeCortes has focused on running more competitive scrimmages along with regular drills. Because of the team’s size, the captains can organize three teams to scrimmage at the end of each practice, which, according to Badgley, “incentivizes winning to stay on, which is kind of a nice competitive aspect that I’ve enjoyed this year.”

For Jamie Goodin ‘17, inexperience with the sport has not detracted from his ability to participate in practice. “I suck, but I still show up to practice because it’s a great group of guys,” he said. “It’s pretty swingin’.”

The Road to Mac-Tommie

After the Monkeys travel to Eau Claire, WI for the Chillout Tournament on October 19-20, they will play in their final competition of the fall season: the Mac-Tommie Cup on Nov. 2. The games (both men’s and women’s) will be played at St. Thomas’ O’Shaughnessy Stadium, and according to Badgley, “the festivities will start around three or four and go until about ten.”

At the game, the Monkeys will be selling banana discs and snapback hats. Admission is free. Badgley hopes to see a strong turnout at Mac-Tommie, in what looks to be a close matchup against the St. Thomas Purple Reign.

According to Henry Fremont ’15, the team has a good shot at again beating St. Thomas in the Mac-Tommie Cup. “I think we’ll win,” Fremont said. “I think if we play well we should beat them.”

“They still have a lot of their key players and we’ve lost some of ours, but we’ll still be competitive. We’ve still got some really strong players,” O’Brien said.