When the College National Championship semi-final game came to a close, the Michigan women’s ultimate frisbee team, Flywheel, had shocked its Oregon counterparts, defeating the No. 2 team in the nation 15-9 to punch a ticket to the title match.
For Flywheel, it was about respect.
“Oregon didn’t bring the respect for us, and we brought our ‘A’ game,” junior Kelsey DeLave said. “No one expected us to make it this far, and we had the game of our lives.”
Bringing the same toughness and motivation to the final match against UC Santa Barbra, the fifth-ranked Flywheel team settled for second in the 13-9 loss.
While the outcome was rather disappointing, the Flywheel team sees it as a stepping stone for the future.
“No one expected much out of us all season long” said DeLave, a senior captain next season. “But the difference between us and other teams is how hard we work.”
As practices start up in September, the squad trains up to six days a week, playing on any field available. With wind being a huge factor in ultimate frisbee, the team of 20 braves Michigan winters and even trains in negative-degree weather and up to two feet of snow.
Yet its hard work didn’t go unnoticed, as it started off the tournament season with a bang.
Showing signs that the collective group was a force to be reckoned with at the Michigan Indoor Tournament in January, the Flywheel team went on to win each game and the championship title. It then went on to win the Great Lakes Conference and Regional titles, giving Flywheel a spot in the National Tournament.
Flywheel’s appearance in the national semi-final game was history in the making, as it was the first time any team from the Great Lakes region had made it that far in the tournament.
DeLave credits the team’s chemistry for much of its success, saying that “at Nationals, we reminded one another that it’s just us, and we are playing for each other.”
That team chemistry is something that has been a year in the making. Holding open tryouts the first week of school, any and all were welcome, but Flywheel looks for more than just skill, they look for overall athleticism.
While DeLave played soccer for most of her high school career, DeLave never considered ultimate frisbee until coming to college. Most other members of the team have similar backgrounds and were welcomed onto the team without any prior knowledge of the sport.
Yet that is another thing that separates Flywheel from the rest, according to DeLave.
“We give everyone a chance,” DeLave said. “We start from scratch at the beginning of the season, and have one focus at a time.”
With goals that look to surpass its past success, the Flywheel team will return 13 of its 20 players, with DeLave and senior Paula Seville taking the leadership as team captains.
“We won’t settle,” DeLave said. “We won’t take any excuses.”
While a search for a new coach is currently underway, expect the Flywheel team to remain in contention for a national title in the near future.