WU Contra prepares for approaching College Series
Contra began on Wash. U.’s campus 20 years ago. Statistically, 2011 has been one of Contra’s strongest seasons; its current record stands at 13-4 and the team has been ranked as high as 24th nationally thus far.
Ultimate Frisbee is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport; yet, the team participates in 4-7 tournaments a semester. Many tournaments are organized by the participating teams without imposed structure or direction from a larger governing body.
“It’s much more about the participants themselves holding themselves accountable to the rules of the game, the structure of the tournament and communicating with other captains [and] other teams,” sophomore Jacob Zax said. “It definitely encourages teams to build connections with other teams.”
Without a separation of teams into the NCAA’s three divisions, Contra is matched up against schools much larger than Wash. U. whose varsity teams compete in Division I athletics. However, team members explained that most Ultimate squads have a range of talent; although some members enter college with formal experience, others start their collegiate Ultimate careers with only a general athletic background.
“Very few people are formally trained in Ultimate from a young age…there’s no little league for Ultimate,” sophomore Scott Schwartz said. “You can tell almost every team is a really diverse group in terms of their skills and athleticism.”
Contra is organized into A and B teams. Contra B is a more informal group for students generally interested in the game, while Contra A is the equivalent of the team’s varsity squad. Its season culminates with the College Series, a playoff-like series of tournaments organized by USA Ultimate. Contra members are enthusiastic about the talent of their team this season and hope to advance farther than ever before.
“This year is definitely our strongest year,” junior captain Evan Winograd said. “The final goal is to go to nationals and play well. The team has never been to nationals so it’s something we’re definitely pushing hard for and definitely involves a lot more work put in.”
In preparation for the College Series, Contra has increased its number of weekly practices. Team members are also expected to dedicate time to training outside of the team’s organized sessions.
“It’s pretty common to see multiple Contras on Mudd Field or in front of the library just throwing around,” Schwartz said. “It’s casual, but it’s important [because] we like playing, we just happen to throw all the time.”
Team members pointed to Contra’s close-knit community as one of its greatest strengths.
“There’s really a ton of love on the team, it’s such a community,” Zax said. “There’s really a sense of the ‘Contra culture’, which is really strong and welcoming and supporting. This team especially has a fantastic group of guys.…I think we all feel that this is the year for us in terms of, ‘it might be the best that we’ll ever be’.…We think we are good enough to go to Nationals; we want to do that for each other.”
Tomorrow, Contra will begin play in the Huck Finn tournament, its last before the College Series. Although the Huck Finn is held in Missouri, most of Contra’s tournaments require team members to travel long distances. Trips in the past year have included Charlotte and Atlanta.
“Since we’re so far into the season at this point, we’re just refining our defensive schemes,” Winograd said. “We’ve done a pretty good job of running our offense efficiently so we’ll just keep working on offensive flow and making sure we don’t have any kinks.”