Frisbee: Lancaster Fish vs York Ultimate

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When you think of quintessential Roses sports Ultimate Frisbee isn’t exactly one that instantly springs to mind, but performances this weekend from both teams have proven that this certainly isn’t a sport to take lightly. If you’re picturing the frivolous flinging of plastic discs on a balmy summer’s day at the beach then think again; this is Ultimate Frisbee – an intense, fast-paced and challenging sport that seems to rival rugby in its share of blood, sweat and tears.
Described as a cross between netball and American football, Ultimate Frisbee involves passing the disc in the hope of catching it in the other team’s ‘end zone’ – players are not allowed to move with the disc and they have a limited amount of time in which to pass the disc to their teammates. With players constantly running around to find open spaces whilst trying to dodge their marker it’s definitely an exciting sport to watch; there’s a great deal of jumping and diving involved, and with such competitive and driven players there’s a lot of heart-in-mouth moments.
Despite players frequently coming off the pitch with an array of war wounds, what makes Ultimate Frisbee really stand out is the sense of morale and good sportsmanship in which the game is played. It’s completely self-refereed, if there are any problems or potential fouls the game is stopped and the teams work it out amongst themselves. However heated things can get in the game between the teams, at the end they have what can only be described as ‘circle time’ where the captains will chat about the match and give feedback on the game to the other team, then they will sometimes play games like ‘look up look down’ and ‘ninja statues’ to ease tension between the teams and to encourage team bonding. They go on to show their respect for each other by ending with a chain of high-fives done in variously bizarre ways; you definitely wouldn’t see anything like this at the end of a football match but it’s a refreshing attitude to have in such a competitive game, and I believe there’s a lot that other sports can learn from this.

This year was a difficult one for the Fish at Roses, and although the scoreboard wasn’t often in their favour they fought hard and their determination to give York a good game never wavered. The indoor games on Friday drew a relatively large crowd and the excitement and tension from the teams was contagious. Lancaster appeared strong in the first open game as energy levels were high, but unfortunately York were the ones to score the first point exceptionally early on in the game. Many players on the York side were a good few inches taller than the players they were marking, meaning that they had an advantage with overhead throws and they definitely made the most of this – going on to score another 7 points to rival Lancaster’s 2 in the first half of the game. The Fish seemed to change their tactics and the risky throws we saw in the first half were replaced with shorter throws and much more running around. Lancaster tightened up their game by marking more efficiently and had some great opportunities to score points. York however remained consistent, they appeared more experienced and at times made it all look too easy. The game ended 5-11 to York, but this does not deny that Lancaster played well. Like any sport, Ultimate Frisbee requires a great deal of skill as well as a degree of luck, and this first game at Roses definitely emphasised that.
The women’s indoor game on Friday night was much more successful for Lancaster. Despite captains from both teams ironically being on crutches and unable to play, it was a great game to watch and there were clearly some very experienced players on both sides. It was Lancaster that had the upper hand throughout the first half, scoring some impressive points with assists that showed how cohesive they are as a team. When the score reached 3-0 to Lancaster the York team appeared to fight back, relishing the mistakes made by the Fish to claw back a couple of points. Their final efforts were not quite enough, and although the final point went on for a ridiculously long time Lancaster’s ladies were triumphant over York with a 3-2 win. The low scoring in the women’s game just goes to show that both teams defended extremely well – they remained focussed and their passion for the game was evident.

Unfortunately Lancaster’s luck ran out in time for the mixed game where York played extremely well and left the Fish looking tired. There were a number of unlucky drops, and despite spurts of energy and a number of impressive catches from the Lancaster side they unfortunately were not quite up to the same standard. A key moment of the game which epitomised the commitment of the Lancaster players was when Derek Cheng did a spectacular running dive into the corner of the room in an attempt to catch the disc, collided into the wall and got tangled up in the curtains. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to their devotion even if they’re on the losing team. The game ended 4-10 to York; Lancaster’s red war paint dripping as if they had all suffered multiple frisbee wounds to the face.
Saturday’s outdoors games allowed both teams far more scope for play – on a much larger pitch and with a larger team (7 players rather than 5 indoors). Unfortunately on a football pitch far away from the rest of the Roses buzz the games lacked the audience needed to spur on the teams and build an exciting atmosphere. Motivational cheers and comments from the sidelines however were frequent, some of my personal favourites being “Josh you’re a beautiful man!” and “Tim your stubble is very attractive!” The open game showed some particularly impressive defence from Lancaster captain Reece Stanton, but unfortunately it was not quite enough as York took a 6-0 lead at half time. After picking up some pace, Lancaster scored their first point with a classic ‘will he won’t he’ moment as Tim Rhodes looked as if he had missed the disc but then scored with a diving catch in the end zone. Despite some moments of brilliance, the Lancaster Fish lost 15-3 to York – a well-deserved win from a side that played consistently well and certainly knew what they were doing.

The mixed outdoors game later that day was a similar story for Lancaster. Both teams appeared quite tired which led to some missed opportunities and careless mistakes, and the Lancaster side seemed to be let down by their end zone structure. Using promises of the pub as motivation, Lancaster kept on fighting and didn’t seem to give up at any point in the game. The York team had some really great moments that you couldn’t help but applaud, and although there are clearly experienced players on the Lancaster side, unfortunately as a team they weren’t quite good enough to beat the seemingly expert coordination of York Ultimate. The game ended 15-3 to York again, and as always both teams were respectful and did not dwell in the outcome – a testament to the good-natured ethos of the sport.
When talking to Lancaster captain Reece Stanton after the games played over the weekend, he said:
“I think we did really well. York have, in context, got a much stronger team than us… they’ve been playing consistently better throughout the year, at the BUCS tournaments, regionals and nationals, so the result at Roses was expected. We wanted to come in to it and give them a really good fight, and I think everyone on the team did that. We gave them a much tighter game than we have at regionals, so I’m happy with how everyone played.”
In answer to where the Fish will go after the results of the Roses weekend, Reece claims:
“We’re in a great opportunity because most of the club are beginners, which will mean in two years time those beginners will be the elite of the frisbee team and they’ll be owning it at national. In the next two years at Roses they’ll really demolish York; I won’t be here but I know they’ll do absolutely great.”

For those of you sticking around in Lancaster over the next couple of years make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the Fish. Despite an unlucky year at Roses this year I firmly believe they’ll go from strength to strength.

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