Oregon grad Jesse Shofner becomes first woman to play in pro ultimate frisbee league

Courtesy Oregon Fugue and UltiPhotos

Jesse Shofner dominated each one of her four years on Fugue, Oregon women’s ultimate frisbee team.

In addition to being Fugue’s team captain for two years, she led the team to national championships in 2013 and 2015, won the 2016 Ultiworld college player of the year and was a member of the All-Star Ultimate Tour in 2015 and 2016. Her recruiting video from 2016 has nearly 50,000 views on YouTube.

Those are just a few of Shofner’s many accolades. So it comes to no surprise that she’s having unprecedented success professionally.

Shofner, who graduated from the University of Oregon in the spring of 2016, was recently selected to the 28-person roster for the Nashville Nightwatch, making her the first female player in history to make a full-season American Ultimate Disk League (AUDL) roster.

Shofner tried out and attended training camps with the Nightwatch, a semi-pro team, for a few months before finally being offered a spot on the team.

“As a female playing in a predominately male environment, I was curious just if I could do it. If I could hold my own,” Shofner said.

During her first game against the Jacksonville Cannons, Shofner settled right in, scoring two points and helping her team play a hard-fought match.

“The body of work over the course of three months that she showed left every single one of the coaches with full confidence in her to make the right decision on the field with the disk in her hands,” Nightwatch head coach Ryan Balch said in an interview with ultiworld.com.

Shofner was greeted by a few friendly faces at her first match in Jacksonville. The University of Southern Florida women’s ultimate frisbee team made the trip from Tampa to watch her play. Shofner says the support from both males and females in the sport has been “breathtaking.”

According to Shofner’s former Fugue teammate, Gabby Aufderheide, there are “mixed attitudes” about the AUDL in general, because of the lack of opportunity for women to play. There are no women’s teams and it is understandably difficult for women to make a men’s team roster.

Shofner’s Fugue teammates at Oregon have been happy to see Shofner continue to build the Fugue legacy as she makes a name for herself in the professional world of ultimate frisbee.

“It was really awesome to know that people believe that she’s talented enough to play in the league,”Aufderheide said. “It’s cool to say that she was my captain and she’s been a big player in the Oregon community. To see her on the national stage like that is always awesome.”

Despite her success, Shofner says playing against men is no easy task. The most difficult part, she says, is defending cuts. Shofner works diligently to minimize her mistakes.

“Learning how to minimize your weaknesses and emphasize your strengths is part of the game in any facet, but especially in this environment for me,” she said.

With all the success that Shofner has had, she says that none of it would have been possible without her former Fugue teammates and longtime coach Lou Burruss.

“It prepared me for every facet of future play coming out of college and in my life,” she said. “I would not be the person I am — with the thought processes that I have, with the relationships that I have, any of it – without Fugue, without the University of Oregon women’s team.”

Follow Kylee O’Connor on Twitter @kyleethemightee