It’s easy to compare the Oregon men’s club ultimate frisbee team to something from another planet due to the way its white discs zoom back and forth with eye-opening precision, as if a magnetic pull was involved.
They have the name to back it up too: Ego.
The past five seasons Ego has finished in the final four of the USA Ultimate D-1 College Championships. A season ago it made it to the finals with just 14 healthy bodies able to compete.
“The story of the season for us was that we were a really small team,” Janin said. “We had a whole handful of people quit right after Christmas break. It was a big surprise.”
Oregon holds its annual tryouts in the fall with final cuts made in November. However, last year’s squad of 27 shaved down to 18 men before winter practices began. It varied from personality problems, money and commitment issues, according to head coach Jay Janin and captain Will Watkins.
“If things are good, we usually have 18 or 20 returners,” Janin said. “In a good year, we’re only picking up six or eight guys.”
The team’s roster was thin for the first time in Janin’s eight years as coach.
It affected how the team practiced, with players taking less rest then they’d get normally. During games, Ego’s strategy was constantly tuned to pick when it wanted to attack and when to slow the game down to rest the sidelined players.
“We didn’t win very many games in blow outs,” captain Chris Strub said. “Even against teams we knew we were better than we let them get points because we didn’t want to waste our players energy on defense. It was an offensive strategy.”
And it was incredibly successful. Oregon blew through its first two tournaments without a loss. It wasn’t until its 18th game, in the final of the Stanford Invite, when Oregon came up empty handed.
In the championship tournament held in Milwaukee, Ego played seven games in three days before its eventual demise to North Carolina for the national title.
“You play a bunch of points and the chances of getting hit, tackled, mis-planting, or someone just going down is pretty high,” Strub said. “Especially when you only have 18 who are getting more playing time than a regular team.”
Ego recently began practicing with the goal to return to the title game and claim its first national championship since 1992. This time, with a full roster.
“This year we got a lot of new players, they’re all really talented – we only knew of a couple of them (before tryouts),” Janin said. “I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
While half the team is new to Ego, the culture hasn’t altered a bit. Where pajama pants and snapback hats are unquestioned practice uniform, affable sideline chatter is boundless, and comradeship is obvious.
All they need is a disk.
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