Vikes ultimate captures bid to Division 1 national championship
May 3, 2023
VICTORIA – For the third time in history, the University of Victoria women's ultimate team is heading to the USA Ultimate (USAU) Division 1 College Championships in Mason, Ohio. Finishing fourth overall at the Northwest D-1 College Women's Regionals in Salt Lake City, Utah, last weekend, the Vikes earned a coveted spot in the national championships, proving themselves as one of the top twenty programs in North America.
Heading into the final match of the Northwest Regional tournament, the Vikes knew it would take a near perfect performance laying it all on the line to take down American rivals Western Washington University, a team they had previously lost to three times this season.
Down four players due to heat stroke, injury and illness and having already played six games in two days, the Vikes were hanging on by a thread heading into the biggest match of the year. For fifth-year captain Monica Devonshire (they/them), who suffered heat stroke earlier that weekend, sitting out what could possibly be their final university game was not an option—they laced up their cleats and took the field, in fact, all four athletes did.
"Honestly, it was crazy to see everyone step up and pull together as a team to give us the best chance to qualify. Monica is a huge role model, and it was amazing to have them take the field, as well as rookie Breanna Roussin (she/her), who played the entire game on a sprained ankle," said third-year captain, Brynn Freeland (she/her).
Before the game, one of UVic's two coaches, Amira Madison (she/her) was called away due to a family emergency, leaving the Vikes shorthanded on the sidelines. However, unlike other competitive sports, ultimate is unique in its community and rules of play. A self-officiated sport, there is an agreed upon set of rules and standards creating a foundation of trust and camaraderie within the ecosystem. It’s truly the ultimate community sport.
That camaraderie was put on display in the Vikes final match with the community coming through in a big way.
In a pinch, the Vikes asked the coaches of their Canadian counterpart's UBC Thunderbirds to co-coach with Vikes coach Juli Ohsada (she/her) – which they did, alongside the entire UBC women's ultimate team and the UVic men's ultimate team who acted as the sideline support squad.
"For the UBC women's program and our men's team to step up and help was an amazing demonstration of the strong Canadian ultimate community. They cheered us on and brought us water and fuel during breaks; if it wasn't for their support, we couldn't have played to the level we did that day," continued Freeland.
The Vikes went on to defeat Western Washington by a score of 15-11, earning a bid to nationals for the first time since 2015. The final points came in the last minutes, thanks to rookies Roussin (on a sprained ankle) and Georgia Smith.
"Earning our ticket to nationals is an amazing feeling. I started on the team during COVID, and since then, we've just been building our team, bringing people in and working really hard to develop our skills as a team. Honestly, at the beginning of the season, nationals weren’t even on our radar," said Freeland.
"There was so much excitement and so many tears; it's a surreal feeling."
The national championships take place at Heritage Oak Park in Mason, Ohio, from May 26-29. The team has started a campaign to help raise funds for the trip to Ohio; you can support the Vikes here.
About Vikes Ultimate
The Vikes ultimate team functions as a competitive club program open to all eligible UVic students. The team, often in tandem with Vikes Open ultimate, travels the West Coast attending elite-level college tournaments, including Stanford and Santa Barbara. They also fundraise year-round to help pay their way to larger competitions like the Div. 1 College Championships.