Prior to last weekend, the Neuqua Valley Nightmare U-19 girls ultimate team had never played a game.
Certainly its 13 players, hailing from Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Evanston, Lyons Township and even Gregory Middle School in Naperville, had played Ultimate, but the team was constructed just seven weeks ago.
While they practiced twice weekly, they didn’t play an official game until last Saturday’s USA Ultimate Youth Club Championship (YCC) in Blaine, Minnesota.
Despite being a new team, Neuqua Valley took seventh place in the YCC, which is the largest and most elite youth ultimate tournament in the country.
“We came into the tournament seeded 11th so I think that we exceeded expectations,” Neuqua Valley coach Jody Kissane said. “It took us the first two games just to get some team chemistry. Our first game was against (Delaware Valley) and we just went from there.”
It didn’t come easily for the Nightmare, but they hung on to beat Minnesota Superior 11-9 and BUDA Boston 10-9 to advance to the quarterfinals. Seattle’s DiscNW team won the title.
“It was a great experience and I think we surprised ourselves a little bit,” Nightmare co-captain Kelly Crowley said. “Ultimate requires a lot of trust from your teammates and we didn’t have much time to get to know each other and prepare for this, so I’m proud of how well we did.”
The Nightmare was also the first girls team from the Chicago area to compete in the YCC, and only Allison Radike (Bradley) and Paige Passaro (Illinois State), both Neuqua Valley graduates, aren’t eligible to play on next year’s U-19 team.
“We could essentially have 11 of them back next year,” Kissane said. “The plan is to send another U-19 team with more players and do even better.”
The Nightmare also sent U-16 boys and U-19 boys teams to Minnesota.
The U-19 team finished in 23rd place, while the U-16 squad tied for seventh, although they also beat the other seventh-place team (Cincinnati Flying Piglets).
“Since we beat them on Saturday, I guess you could say we were sixth place,” Neuqua Valley sophomore captain Ben Swiatek said. “Most of our guys played on the JV or freshmen team this year, but I was on varsity. We had quite a mix. I’ve been playing for four years where some of the guys were only in their first year but did quite well.”
The U-16 boys team was a young one with nine of its 21 players 14 years of age or younger.
“I was really pleased with the results,” U-16 coach Joe Simonelli said. “I think we did better than what people expected from us and it was exciting to see these guys play so well.”
The impact the Neuqua Valley club is having in ultimate is immense. It’s the first high school club to compete in the YCC.
“Ultimate is growing across the United States and I’ve never seen as much high school participation as I’m seeing now,” Neuqua Valley Ultimate president Arnoush Javaherian said. “The fact that we were able to give so many kids an opportunity to play on a national level this weekend is pretty amazing. I’m proud of where we’re at and we’ll only get better.”