Frontier Regional’s senior-laden ultimate team had potential for big season

  • The Frontier Regional School ultimate team practices during the preseason earlier this spring. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • The Frontier Regional School ultimate team poses for a photo during preseason practice earlier this spring. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • The Frontier Regional School ultimate team gets together for a photo in 2019. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2020 1:55:10 PM

It was expected to be a statement spring season for the Frontier Regional ultimate team.

The Red Hawks, buoyed by a standout senior class, had high expectations and were eyeing a deep run at the state tournament. That came crashing to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tri-captain Sam Felton-Emrick said the team, which competes as a club sport at Frontier, had been gearing up for this spring for several years.

“It was tough,” Felton-Emrick said. “To have the one season where we were finally getting to that pinnacle, competing at states and making a name for ourselves … definitely tough. Our goal since middle school was to get to the state tournament and get to play all the best teams in Massachusetts. To not be able to do that during our senior year, it’s unfortunate.”

Felton-Emrick and fellow captains Tenzin Tsundue and Owen Walkowicz were joined by classmates Ethan DeMaio, Samuel Battisti, James Morgan, Gabe Jones-Thomson, Ben Morse and Noah Babb to form the core of a veteran roster. Gabe Kaufman, who was Frontier’s co-coach with Isaac Weitzman, said 2020 was expected to be the best year in program history. Both coaches are Amherst Regional alums.

“We took over when this senior class this year were sophomores, and they were really the core of the team even back then,” Kaufman said. “This year was going to be their final season to really showcase their talents. They had made strides each year, and worked really hard to have a really great final season. It’s unfortunate they were not able to have that happen.”

Felton-Emrick has been on the ultimate team at Frontier since middle school. Back then, the squad consisted mostly of middle school players, but over his tenure there, the team built up a following and grew in numbers.

“When we played in the beginning, it was basically a fun club team that played local teams,” Felton-Emrick said. “What makes it so cool is this was something we built up. It wasn’t handed to us, we developed it over time. And we didn’t have much guidance, we had to rely on ourselves for a lot of it.”

Felton-Emrick said he hadn’t played ultimate before joining the team. A soccer player in the fall, he was looking for a spring sport, and decided to give it a try in lieu of tennis or baseball.

A good portion of the senior class this year also played on the soccer team, and the team’s overall athleticism eventually translated to the ultimate pitch.

“It was amazing to see how we kind of developed tactically and as a team how we meshed by the end of it all,” Felton-Emrick said.

Weitzman agreed.

“They were also friends and a close-knit team,” he said. “A lot of the players are multi-sport athletes. And soccer and Frisbee, those kind of go together.”

The technical parts of the sport required coaching, but Frontier’s improvements were evident during the course of the past few years, according to Kaufman.

“The biggest thing for me is turning athletes into ultimate players, you have to work on their throwing,” he said. “That’s a technique thing, not based on athleticism. So we made a point of improving throwing skills and reading the field, learning where to be out there, how to move and cut. The fact that these guys were athletic and in good shape, that made some parts of the game easier, but they were really able to start developing their skills the last couple of seasons.”

As for the future of the program, Felton-Emrick said he isn’t quite sure what Frontier’s ultimate team will look like now that the majority of the roster has graduated. He’s hoping a younger crop of players step up and keeps things rolling.

“Obviously I hope it continues but that’s up to the guys,” he said. “We had to handle funding. I had to collect money to buy uniforms, pay to get us into invitationals. I could see it continuing but it’s tough. You have to find a group of people who are passionate about the sport and keeping it alive like we all were.”

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