Ball’s sideline presence fuels ultimate frisbee

Photo courtesy Faith Ball

By Tyger Allen | Herald Reporter

Junior Kayla Devin wakes up in her Bayside apartment on Saturday morning and walks to her closet to find her uniform. She throws on a pair of cow print shorts with a number 19 on the left leg. She reaches for her purple jersey and unfolds it to reveal the words “Rhody Fresh” in white, with the outline of a cow head in the center. Devin pulls the jersey down, completing the uniform.

On the other side of her room stands junior captain Catherine Ball. She puts the same jersey on, but she won’t be playing in the first ever women’s ultimate frisbee game on the turf field. In her legs, a stress reaction occurs when fluid passes through miniscule holes that weaken her bones and make it difficult and dangerous to run.

“It’s a step after shin splints and right before a stress fracture,” says Ball, who must keep a walking pace or slower to prevent not playing ever again.

The ultimate frisbee club, nicknamed “Rhody Fresh,” takes to the field against Worcester Polytechnic Institute for their first game of the tournament. After four straight points by the home team to open up the game, RWU calls a timeout to get their players some rest and much-needed water. The sideline only has four substitutes, while the other seven play. The timeout, although used to help the team, allowed their opponent to regroup and fire back. WPI rallied to tie the game, and from there went back-and-forth until both teams were knotted at eight points.

Ball stands impatiently on the sideline, jogging in line with where the disc is on the field. The pressure she puts on her shins with each stride could push back the date she can return to playing, but her excitement overcomes the fear of missing more of the season. As she watches, she calls out breakdowns in the opponent’s formation and directs her teammates who are working on the field. In between points, she talks about what she notices with her co-captain, Natasha Yankakas, who leads on the field.

The team in purple began to realize how desperate the situation was getting, down by one with only a few minutes to go, and started to work their way down the field to tie the game. As time ran out, the game came down to one final point. WPI picked up the disc to begin their drive, but they were held to their own zone by a tough defense. With patience on offense, a hole was found in the home team’s defense and WPI weaved the disc downfield and scored the winning point.

“I wasn’t that bummed, we had the lead for a while and did better than when we played them last year,” Ball said. “We put up a good fight and I was happy with the way everyone did.”

The team’s next game was against the University of Rhode Island as the field lights began to turn on. With a program that had been around longer, URI scored 13 straight points and kept the young RWU team off the board.

In between the games, Ball throws the disc with her teammates. She takes a step sideways with her right leg, bends her knee, and snaps her wrist to release another accurate throw to her receiver. Even out of uniform, she maintains the throwing technique that has given her team great field position and many points in past games.

The last game the women’s ultimate team played was against Olin College, a team they had not seen before. In an evenly matched game, both teams answered one another until the home squad took a two-point lead with just 15 minutes left. Olin team kept Rhody Fresh on their toes and pushed them back to the end zone twice just a few minutes apart to tie the contest and send it to another overtime game.

Ball runs down the sideline, pumping her team up while the field speakers blast “The Final Countdown.” Adrenaline eradicated any pain in her shins and her voice had become hoarse after a day of cheering on her teammates.

As the home team received the disc, they picked it up and marched down the field, finding themselves at the opponent’s goal line twice. After a defensive standoff by Olin, they turned to offense and found two breaks in the home team’s defense, gaining 30 yards with two throws, which put them in scoring position. An Olin receiver made a cut from the center of the end zone to the left side, where a handler hit her with the game-winning pass, giving Rhody Fresh their second overtime loss of the day and their third overall. Although it was not the way they wanted the evening to go, they were able to prove themselves and establish credibility with other schools.

“It was different being on the sideline, but rewarding at the same time,” Ball said. “When I get back out there, I’ll know exactly what I’m doing after watching it from the sideline.”