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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Ultimate frisbee: Pursesnatchers earn bid to Nationals

Pursesnatchers team. Photo courtesy of Nora de Rege ’24 and Elise Gautier ’24.

 Macalester’s women’s and gender-inclusive ultimate frisbee team, the Pursesnatchers, played in their regional tournament at St. Olaf College on April 13-14. The Snatchers not only qualified for nationals, but placed first, solidifying their name in Division III College Ultimate Frisbee. 

Ultimate frisbee is a club sport that combines athletes’ love for frisbee with a competitive edge. Seven people on each team flick, whip and move the disk up the field to score in the end zone. Ultimate frisbee forbids running with the disk or holding it for more than ten seconds, so competition relies on keeping the disk continuously moving up the field. Although it’s a club sport for Mac students, both the Pursesnatchers and Macalester’s open ultimate frisbee team, Mac Flat Earth, compete at the DIII level. Each team plays at tournaments throughout the spring semester, which for the Pursesnatchers ended with their run at St. Olaf. 

The Snatchers did not enter the year as a top-ranking team. Really, their season started in the spring semester, when the captains and coaches started to solidify the competitive standard of the team. “We kind of solidified a group of 20 people that we would be bringing to all our tournaments,” Pursesnatchers Captain Nora de Rege ’24 said. “And then we had a consistent set of two to three practices a week, in addition to workouts.” Their first major tournament was the Midwest Throwdown, which happened in early March just outside St. Louis, Mo. The Snatchers placed fifth, only losing one game on the way. 

“We knew we had the skills to [succeed this year], but because it’s never happened on our team, we didn’t know what it would take,” de Rege said. “But then, we’re at Midwest Throwdown, and we’re winning all but one of our games.”

This tournament put the Pursesnatchers on the map for frisbee. Although there were bigger, better teams in the Central Midwest region, after the Midwest Throwdown, Macalester and other colleges started to realize the Snatchers would be a threat. In the next tournament, Old Capitol, the Snatchers continued to excel, going 4-2, winning their group poll and only losing to Purdue University, a Division I team and St. Olaf’s nationally ranked team, Vortex, by only two points.

“That was really exciting because we realized we can actually put up points and can be two points away from winning against a nationally recognized team,” Pursesnatchers Captain Elise Gautier ’24 said. 

The final tournament the Snatchers went to was at St. Olaf on March 13 and 14. Because the Central Midwest is a smaller region for women’s ultimate frisbee, there are no sectionals teams go to afterwards, so this tournament decided if the Snatchers would go to nationals. The first day went well for the Snatchers, winning their pool and beating Carleton College’s DIII team, Eclipse. Eclipse is one of the most well-known teams in women’s ultimate frisbee, so a win against them increased the Snatchers’ energy going into the next day. Placing first in their pool also meant that they had an automatic bid to nationals, so the Snatchers knew going into the second day that no matter what, they had achieved their goal.

“We knew going into Sunday that the worst we could get was third place, which was just a huge sigh of relief,” Gautier said.

The next day, the Snatchers quickly realized they would yet again be competing against St. Olaf, the team that had beaten them twice.

But, despite all odds, the Snatchers beat St. Olaf on Universe point (the final score of the game), solidifying their first place spot in the Central Midwest Region. Not only was this victory monumental for this year’s Snatchers, but it is also a historic win for women’s ultimate frisbee. 

“This is the strongest region in the country,” de Rege said. “And this has never happened before; it’s never happened that St. Olaf or Carleton didn’t earn that spot… it’s the first time in this division’s history.”

But practice and teamwork weren’t the only reasons the Snatchers put on such a stellar performance. It is also because of the way frisbee is played in the Midwest. The Midwest can get pretty windy, making it difficult to throw a frisbee at times. As a result, teams must be wary of which side of the field they are scoring on and if they’re moving upwind or downwind. In frisbee, it’s much easier to score downwind than upwind, so teams have to be careful to make sure when they receive the frisbee, they are working for an easy score downwind and when they defend, they push to make a break upwind. 

“When you first start a frisbee match, you flip the disk, and whoever wins can either decide which side you want to start on, or who wants to start on offense or defense,” Pursesnatchers Coach Mito Imagawa said. “We spend time at the beginning of each game strategizing with the leadership, telling our captains what they’ll want to choose, because the wind can be such a big factor on whether you win or lose.”

By consistently choosing early game positions where the Snatchers can have an upwind advantage, the Snatchers are able to clear certain games by only a point or two. Here, decisive decision making is key and some points (the windier the better) can decide games for the Snatchers. 

The performance for the Snatchers this year is something much more than a bid to nationals. It shows a community and network of individuals working together to create something great. The Snatchers have been at Macalester for a long time now, and the community extends far beyond the current group. 

“We have alumni going back 30 years who are really interested in this…commenting on our Instagram or emailing us randomly…or demonstrating support financially,” de Rege said. “I received a text from a former Snatcher that was like ‘you have generations of Snatchers proud of you guys right now.”

“That’s something I want the players to know too, that there’s a huge community that’s really excited,” said Imagawa. “I’m proud of them as a coach and happy as an alum that the Snatchers are doing so [well.]”

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