Ten Cincinnati Natives Return Home for 2014 College Championships

Posted: May 29, 2014 02:04 PM

Mason, Ohio (May 29, 2014) - For many of the teams at the 2014 College Championships, Cincinnati is a strange, foreign place that only a few of their players can accurately place on a map. To teams like Michigan and Pittsburgh, it’s just another nearby city. To other teams, like the University of California-Santa Barbara, it might as well have been on the other side of the world. For several of the women in the tournament, however, Cincinnati is home.

A core group of the players on Ohio State Fever, as well as one of the top players on Oregon Fugue, were born and raised in the Cincinnati area. Many of them got their start playing the sport with Youth Ultimate Cincinnati (YUC), the organizer of local youth and high school leagues in the greater Cincinnati area. All of these players have worked tirelessly throughout the season to get their teams to the College Championships, and they all had the opportunity to play against each other in the women’s championship final on Monday.

Out of the 20 women on Fever’s roster, no less than nine hail from Cincinnati. Together, these natives of Ohio’s Queen City anchor a deep Ohio State team that came into the College Championships ranked first in a field of 20 teams from across the country and Canada. Many of them attribute their success on the field during their college years to the experience gained playing in the YUC leagues and with other youth teams in Cincinnati.

Seniors Caitlin Harley and Corinne Murphy both started playing for the area’s club under-19 team, Cincinnati Belle, during the summer and at Sycamore High School during the school year. Harley says it was her experience playing with Belle that first got her interested in the sport and led to her spot on Fever.

"I was a pretty new player, but just getting introduced to the ultimate culture and going around to the different tournaments was a blast. Once I got to OSU, I started looking to play again."

For others, the part of ultimate that drew them to the game was the strong sense of community the sport fosters.

"All my friends were on my high school team," sophomore Malika Smoot said, referring to her time at Clark Montessori High School. "It was sad to leave and go to a large school and not have any friends. But I knew I liked ultimate, so I joined the team and made more best friends."

Freshman Olivia Bayer and junior Stevie Miller agreed. "The ultimate community is so accepting of everybody, both in Cincinnati as well as in college," Bayer stated.

Members of Fever who did not get involved in the sport until they came to college noticed the benefits of getting an early start in high school.

"Everyone who played in high school had a base set of skills that the rest of us had to learn," senior and primary handler Paige Soper said. "They already knew what a backhand and a forehand were, and how to throw them, and that definitely helped them a lot."

Emmy Schroder agreed. "I definitely feel like I missed out on a few years of fun."Another Cincinnati native, Bethany "Becks" Kaylor, left the region for college and now plays for Oregon Fugue, one of the most dominant programs in all of college women’s ultimate. Though still a junior, Kaylor has been one of the many star players on Fugue’s roster and was a key contributor throughout Oregon’s season. Unfortunately, she re-broke the fifth metatarsal in her foot during a practice in April, which required surgery and kept her on the sideline for the entirety of the College Championships. Unable to play, she kept contributing by cheering on her teammates from her mini-scooter on the sidelines. Reflecting on her journey to the College Championships, Kaylor expressed how important Cincinnati was to her development as a player, with its many opportunities for youth to gain experience playing ultimate before college.

"In the spring of my eighth-grade year, my brother’s team needed another girl for a tournament, so I decided to go play," Kaylor recalled. "My dad kind of begged me to, actually. I had a great time, and I was hooked since then."

Playing in YUC leagues only whetted Kaylor’s appetite for competitive ultimate, and she quickly jumped to the Youth Club Championship circuit, which allowed her to compete every summer with other girls from the Cincinnati area and against teams throughout the Midwest.

"That team was just a blast. I think that’s where I finally started getting serious about playing Frisbee, because I was playing against girls from the top programs in the country, like Seattle and Amherst. The experience I got on that team, and with the under-20 team at the World Championships, also put me at an advantage going to college, too. I met other members of the Oregon team on the under-20 team, so I kind of knew a couple players going into it."

Many others in the Cincinnati area are also taking advantage of a vibrant youth ultimate scene. YUC’s high school league has 30 teams and over 500 participants, making it one of the largest high school leagues in the country. Additionally, summer ultimate leagues in Cincinnati include another 500 players, aged nine to adult. There are also strong Cincinnati teams participating in USA Ultimate’s youth division, including some of the nation’s most unstoppable teams in the high school circuit such as Holy Family Catholic. Together, these opportunities have made Cincinnati a Midwest Mecca for ultimate.

For these Cincinnati girls at the College Championships, making it to the national tournament is far from the last step in their ultimate lives. Ohio State senior Liz Gates, together with many of her teammates, are looking forward to continuing to play ultimate in the future, intending to join the ranks of Santa Maria, the mixed club team in Columbus, Ohio. While Kaylor’s plans for the future aren’t fixed just yet, she knows one thing – there will be ultimate in it.

"I can’t imagine my life without Frisbee," she said with a smile.

Have any questions or comments? We welcome community feedback and discussion made in a respectful manner. Please refrain from profanity or personal attacks, as such public comments negatively reflect on our sport and community.