In a game where Charles Murphy ’23 played with one hand in a thick cast, Andover Ultimate Frisbee gained its largest victory in the 2021 season, defeating Concord Academy 15-1. The team’s record now stands at 5-0.
The most important aspect for Head Coach Scott Hoenig was the fact that the team was able to play with another school, something he never could have imagined in the winter.
“I actually don’t think my excitement about the game had anything to do with the score at all. It was so much more about how we played, both as a team and also as individual players… I think during that game and after that game, I was just super excited about the fact that we were able to play at all. Back in January, we had no idea if we’d actually be able to have any kind of a season at all, and then [Friday], when we were out there, it was a beautiful, sunny day,” said Coach Hoenig.
Coach Hoenig attributes a part of Andover’s success to a tradition that the team performs before every game. According to him, prior to each game, Andover forms a focus circle, which helps the team foster a positive mindset before the game.
“Before the game, we always circle up and we always do a focus circle, where we close our eyes, take deep breaths together, try to center ourselves and prepare ourselves mentally to play, and try to put everything else away from us, and just focus on the fact that we get to do that, and focus on the fact that we are very fortunate and we get to come out and we get to play ultimate here. [We] try to put ourselves in a good, positive mindset, because when we are in that kind of a positive mindset when we’re really feeling the joy of a game, that’s when we play our best, that’s when we have our best sportsmanship, that’s when we have our best enthusiasm, and it’s when we have the most fun,” said Coach Hoenig.
When Concord used the split-field offense, a strategy Andover hadn’t faced yet, it handed Andover a challenge the team had to deal with it. Co-Captain Kam Saalfrank ’21 believes that Andover’s ability to overcome a new tactic was thanks to the preparation as well as the in-game advice given by the coaches.
“We’d gone over [split-field offense] a little bit in practice, so we were a little prepared for it, but it was something completely new that we’ve never played before. But I think it’s definitely a testament to Coach Hoenig and Coach [Cormier] and their ability to teach us on the fly. After points, when they would sub us off, one of them would have a whiteboard in hand with a marker, drawing out plays and positioning, and how we can counter what they’ve been running. We also made a lot of halftime adjustments that let us overcome whatever they threw at us, whether it be zone, horizontal, or stack,” said Saalfrank.
According to Coach Hoenig, the victory would not have been possible without the sideline players, who helped the team by counting stalls, giving encouragement, and calling out whatever they noticed. One of these players was Josephine Banson ’22, who has been sidelined for most of the season due to an injury.
“Because of [Covid-19], some teams want to have particular adjustments to the rules and Concord Academy asked to have a stall from the sideline. We had a couple of sideline players who were injured and not able to play in the game, and they stepped up and they helped out by counting the sideline stall for one. And for another, our sideline players, including Josie, were really helpful for… calling out encouragement and cheering on our players, and also helping to call out things like when the disk is up, or when there [are] turnovers, or helping identify particular situations on offense or defense,” said Coach Hoenig.
By going to practices and helping the team from the sidelines, Banson feels like she is still a part of the team despite her injury.
“I think the coaches always made it really clear that [I am] still part of the team, so I’ve still been going to the games. I’ve been part of the team in that way. Even though it’s a shame that I can’t play, it’s still nice being in that team environment and fostering that kind of atmosphere,” said Banson.
Andover will look to cap off an undefeated season at home against Pingree this Friday.