Girls’ Ultimate Owns New York, Boys’ Ultimate Falls Short

Stuyvesant’s girls’ ultimate frisbee team took first place in the State and City Championships, while the boys’ A team took third place in the city and the boys’ B team took sixth.

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The girls prove their mettle while the boys settle. The Sticky Fingers, the co-ed ultimate frisbee team, saw varying results this season. The girls took first place in the State and City Championships, while the boys’ A team took third place in Cities after climbing to the quarterfinals at States and the boys’ B team took sixth place.

The girls' team had six wins and one loss at States, losing to their longtime rival, Ethical Culture Fieldston High School. However, they ultimately placed first overall after winning against Brighton High School and Beacon School. This was a momentous improvement from last year’s second-place finish. Despite having great results, the season still had its share of hardships. When asked about the team’s challenges this season, both senior and co-captain Emma Chin and coach Chia-Yi Hou agreed that their largest obstacle was filling the gaps left by graduating seniors. Coach Hou commended not only Chin, but also the rookies for stepping up from the very beginning of the season. “It’s amazing how much [the rookies] have improved since the fall, and to win both the City and State championships this spring was just the icing on the cake,” she said.

Sticky Fingers is a no-cut team where players with no experience can join, so teaching the game from scratch and practicing patterns is no easy feat, especially when they only have three months to do so. Chin credits the team’s success to its mental toughness and cohesiveness, despite having more than half the team comprised of rookies. “Our grit has gotten us through multiple tough games, and the support we have for one another is something that I as a captain always love to see,” she said. Coach Hou’s main goals for next season is to find more students of all grades who are willing to join the team as well as to share her love of the relatively unknown sport with many others.

Meanwhile, the boys’ season was full of stumbles and mishaps. The team is split into A and B sections; the A team is more experienced while the B team works on improving the skills of the younger and more inexperienced players. Like the girls' team, many of the seniors made up the A team last year, so their absence was felt by all of the members. Senior and co-captain Thomas Zhao indicated that a lack of mental preparedness was one of the challenges that needs to be addressed, saying the following: “We would not be focused coming into some games, and that would set the tone for us to not play well.” Coach Devon Huang also thinks that it was the pressure that got to the players. “We have this history of doing really well. And so from that aspect, we are constantly the team that has the target on our backs and everyone’s trying to beat us. It’s hard for the current players to have to replicate that success year after year. They feel more of a burden than I’d say, other teams, do because of the fact that there is this standard that Stuy Sticky Fingers has to live up to. And if we don’t reach the top, then it feels like we’ve let our alumni down,” he said.

At the Spring Fling tournament, the A team grabbed third place by beating Westfield High School, a longtime rival. The Youth Cup tournament was another success, as the Sticky Fingers won the finals by a large margin. The real struggle for the A team was during the quarterfinals at the New York State tournament against Poly Prep Country Day School. After making a fierce comeback from a four-point deficit in the final minutes of the round, they took the unofficial win, and it looked like they would move on to the semifinals. Unfortunately, the tournament directors gave the team the wrong information about the remaining game time as the game was supposed to end 15 minutes earlier. The Sticky Fingers forfeited and gave the win to Poly Prep, dashing their hopes to advance into the semi-finals. Zhao vividly remembers his team expressing “frustration and maybe even a little bit of anger at the entire ordeal...I thought of my team. All those kids thought they made an effortful comeback that paid off...only to find out that ultimately, it counted for nothing,” Zhao said.

The games that followed were played with the burden of the previous loss heavily weighing on their minds, shown by their loss to Abraham Joshua Heschel School, a team they had easily beaten before. Looking back at the entire season, however, Zhao attributes the significant improvement in their game to the team’s overall positive attitude, especially coming from the younger teammates. As a case in point, Zhao cited sophomore Leo Xiao as “already one of the most versatile handlers on the team, with exploding, yard-seeking hucks and ankle-breaking cuts,” he said. Many of the younger players like Xiao will be key to keeping the A team going for seasons to come, as they still have a long way to reach their full potential. In terms of goals for future seasons, Coach Huang hopes that more people will be interested in the game that he has been coaching for so long. “This is a family [to the players]. This is the most important group of people in their lives,” he said.

The boys’ B team placed in the semifinals in the City league, which was a drastic improvement from their season last year when they did not make the playoffs. Junior and co-captain Simon Wu calls the B team this year “overachievers.” Starting with only six returning players, Wu’s hardest challenge was to recruit new players, many of whom were freshman, and teach them the game. This year, only two seniors will be leaving, and Wu said, “[I hope that] next year, [the team] will be back at it again with another run, hopefully making it well into playoffs.”

Ultimate, as a whole, is still relatively unknown to many, with some not even considering it to be a sport. Played in a similar fashion to no-contact football but with a frisbee, Ultimate is unique in that it is self-officiated, requiring no equipment beyond the frisbee. Hence, it is economical and fairly easy to understand. Though sometimes considered to be simple, Ultimate has an extraordinary depth and sophistication that even players at the professional level desire, allowed for by the multitude of complex plays. For example, the frisbee can be thrown in many different ways, including the backhand, forehand (or flick), and hammer (disc starts out tilted and eventually turning upside down). Other throws like the scoober (throwing the disc upside down) and thumber (medium-range throw using your thumb as the primary source of power to throw the disc upside down and then level) can also be utilized based on the distance and disc landing position you want to achieve. Even as an overlooked sport, Ultimate has served as a haven to people who love the game, and the camaraderie that results from a tight-knit group continues to grow. As Coach Huang put it: “People who decide to genuinely play the sport are high-character people who really learn the conflict-resolution aspect [of the game], and these are the ones who are going to succeed in life. But there’s also something else that our sport really focuses on—community, and we want to build a team that plays for each other.”