Continuity propels Oregon Ultimate Fugue to another championship
On May 25, Oregon Fugue took home another championship trophy at the USA Ultimate College Championships. But this one was less of a surprise, almost expected, after last year’s heartbreaking loss in the championship game against Ohio State.
“In a lot of ways, it felt like a continuation,” co-captain Alex Ode said. “It felt like taking what was ours, that was in some ways taken from us last year. We just made sure to earn it this year. We never slacked in our quest to becoming our best.”
Fugue went 7-0 during nationals including a 13-11 defeat over Stanford in the championship game. The final score of the championship appeared to reflect a highly-contested game. However, the game was marred, by high winds that, according to Ode, created an “equalizer” for Stanford. The conditions were ugly and unlike anything Fugue had seen this season.
“It was a bizarre sort of wind,” co-captain Bethany Kaylor said. “It was the most wind we had played in all year, and neither team played a clean, pretty game of ultimate in the finals.”
Despite the conditions, Fugue’s ability to prevail won them their second championship since Lou Burruss took over coaching the team in 2008.
Fugue will certainly take time to celebrate this season’s triumph, but the arguably truest test of continuity will come next year. Although they came within just one win of doing so last year, Oregon Fugue has never repeated as champions. Next year, Fugue will have to find its way back to the championship without Burruss, an innovative coach who introduced the team, and arguably the rest of college ultimate, to a high-tempo style considered unorthodox at its outset. His departure from the team is one of many things that will have to be considered for next year, but Kaylor believes the team is “sitting pretty.”
“Although we’re losing our coach, we’re retaining most of our core talent,” Kaylor said. “What it will take for us to win next year is not only hard work, but thoughtful work. We will need to constantly re-evaluate where we are, where we want to be and how we want to get there.”
Fugue will lose three seniors: Angela Tocchi, Emily Loo and Ashley Young. Tocchi also believes the team can repeat next year because Fugue’s system has become self-sufficient.
“I think part of the reason we’re so successful is that everyone’s allowed to do what they need to do,” Tocchi said, “and not fit into the system but have the system fit into the team.
Two more seniors, Olivia Bartruff and Rachel Hershey are still deciding whether or not to return. Bartruff in particular was “a scoring machine” in the tournament, according to Kaylor. She led Fugue in scoring this season, including six of the team’s 13 goals scored in the championship against Stanford.
As for co-captains Ode, Kaylor and Jesse Shofner, they will each take a “victory lap,” which is a fifth year to play one last season of collegiate ultimate. The team has yet to decide if any of the three will return as a captain, but their combined experience and leadership will be crucial to next year’s success.
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner