On April 16 and 17, Vortex, St. Olaf’s competitive ultimate frisbee team that plays in the women’s division, played in their regionals tournament at Carleton College. While the competitive spirit is always alive and well with Vortex, the stakes were especially high at this tournament, as the team needed to do well in order to qualify for nationals.
The team kicked off the tournament facing St. Ben’s. Vortex took the field at 9 a.m. ready to brave the wind and 22 degree temperatures in gloves and beanies. On the sidelines, players and spectators alike wrapped themselves in blankets to stay warm while cheering on their team. Despite the difficult conditions, Vortex came out ready to dominate, holding St. Ben’s scoreless in the first half while scoring eight points of their own. The game ended with a final score of 15-2, earning the Oles their first victory of the tournament.
Vortex then took on Winona State University’s Bad Monaz in an early afternoon game. This game proved to be tougher than the first, with a heightened level of physicality and the teams remaining within one or two points of each other for the majority of the game. Vortex pulled through for the win though, ending the game with 10 points to Winona’s eight.
With one game left to play, the Oles took on Macalester College. Vortex dominated the game and won 11-2, ending day one of the tournament undefeated.
Returning for day two, the stakes were high. Vortex and the Carleton College team, Eclipse, took the field at 11 a.m. knowing that the winner would advance to nationals. However, this wouldn’t necessarily be the last chance, as the losing team would play one more game to fight for the final nationals spot. Vortex and Eclipse vied back and forth for a full 90 minutes, with spectators running up and down the sidelines to catch every point, layout, and interception. Leina Goto ’25 and Emily Mulhern ’24 showed up big for the Oles, helping the team rack up eight points. It wasn’t quite enough to earn Vortex the win though, as a final push from Eclipse brought the scoreline to 8-10 and the Carls clinched their spot at nationals.
Vortex had no time to dwell on their loss though, as they had only a 20 minute break before their next game, facing Winona State again. Win, and the team would be headed to their first nationals tournament since 2019, as the 2020 and 2021 tournaments were canceled due to COVID-19. Lose, and their season would be over.
As soon as the game began, it was clear that it would be a heated battle. At this level, ultimate frisbee is self-refereed, meaning that it is up to the players to enforce the rules and resolve disputes. This requires a level of cooperation between the teams and an overall commitment to playing a fair, good-spirited game. In a game like this one—with a ticket to nationals on the line—intensity levels are high and stoppages are frequent, as every play and point counts.
The first half of the game was much like the teams’ previous match-up on Saturday—the teams vied back and forth for points with no clear leader. Scoring was also made more difficult by heavy winds, as many promising passes ended in the disc sailing out of bounds.
However, by the time the second half rolled around, it was clear that Vortex had the momentum. Determined to ensure that their final year on the team would end in a trip to nationals, a group of senior Oles—Elsa Anderson ’22, Anna Clements ’22, and Anna Mulhern ’22—anchored the team and served as key playmakers in Vortex’s final points, leading them to an 8-5 victory over the Bad Monaz. As Clements caught Anderson’s final pass in the endzone to seal the deal, players sprinted onto the field to celebrate with their team.
Overjoyed fans–Vortex alums, parents, and friends alike—made a tunnel for the team to run through as they celebrated their victory and upcoming trip to nationals, which will take place May 21 through 23 in Milwaukee, Wis.