Spring sports preview: Amherst girls ultimate holds the crown

  • The Amherst Regional girls ultimate team has found widespread success in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. This year’s crop of Hurricanes is looking to continue that tradition. Gazette file photo

  • CAROL LOLLISNina Wolff Landau,of Amherst, runs to catch the Frisbee during the Ultimate final game which Amherst won against Watchung Hills. Carol Lollis

For the Gazette
Published: 4/7/2016 7:35:23 PM

The Amherst Regional girls ultimate team looks poised to continue its success in the Pioneer Valley and beyond.

But other programs in the area are making strides to challenge the Hurricanes.

Amherst coach Josh Nugent’s focus this year, after winning a fifth consecutive Northeastern championship and a seventh straight Amherst Invitational title, is to keep his team sharp and competitive, not complacent.

“One of the main reasons we’re so dominant in the Northeast is because ultimate is still a small, growing sport, and a lot of people don’t start playing until they’re in high school or even in college,” Nugent said.

At Amherst, players start early. Nugent’s team, which fields 11 seniors, is comprised of players who have been around the sport. This allows Amherst to have Junior Varsity A and B teams that act as a “good feeder system,” Nugent said.

Nugent will stick to his long pass attack led by senior Josephine Coppinger, Amherst’s main handler. Coppinger was selected for the Under-20 U.S. national team this year. Amherst also boasts many athletic defenders who will use their fast, man-to-man coverage skills to stifle opponents.

Nugent expects to push the Hurricanes as they overcome the loss of five seniors from last season. He plays the varsity team against boys teams and women’s college teams throughout the season. He also sends only the JV teams to the state championship at the end of each season. The varsity squad ended the 2015 season undefeated against high school girls teams. They were 16-7 overall.

“I have an obligation as a coach to develop them to the best of my ability and push them out of that comfort zone,” Nugent said.

Pioneer Valley Performing Arts is making a push to challenge Amherst. The program has won two straight Division 1 state championships.

Rookie PVPA coach Gabe Reif experienced Amherst success firsthand, having played and coached for the Hurricanes in past years.

“I’ve played in Amherst for so long so I really only know the Amherst way of playing ultimate,” Reif said. “My understanding here at PVPA is they’ve been a competitive state championship team for many years, so I don’t think I’m bringing a new level of focus or intensity.”

Another up and coming team in only its fourth season of existence is Northampton. The Blue Devils won their first tournament ever at the Pioneer Valley Invitational last season. They ended the season with a 17-7 record and a second-place finish behind PVPA in states.

“I see Amherst in our sights next year,” Northampton co-coach Sheldon Snodgrass said. “I respect them tremendously. This year is a building year.”

 Amherst Regional

COACH: Josh Nugent, seventh year

Last Year’s Record: 16-7

Last Tournament Appearance: 2015, won Northeastern Regionals

Returning Starters: Seniors – Josephine Coppinger, handler; Izzi Tripp, cutter; Livy Weld, cutter; Elende Connor, handler.

Other Returning Players: Seniors – Fernanda Brena, cutter; Aoife Dahill-Baue, cutter; April Weintraub, cutter; Juniors – Katy King, handler; Shira Yeskel-Mednick, cutter.

Newcomers: Seniors – Ella Douglas, handler; Mia Hartl, handler; Rebecca Livingston, cutter; Gina Pryciak, cutter; Juniors – Manali Rege-Colt, cutter; Sophomores – Augusta Fricke, cutter; Leija Helling, handler;

Outlook: After five consecutive Northeastern Regional Tournament titles and seven consecutive Amherst Invitational titles, Nugent looks to keep the team’s success going. The Hurricanes will push for another undefeated season against high school girls teams with their same strategy of long passes and man-to-man defense.


COACH: Gabe Reif, first year

Last Year’s Record: 11-5

Last Tournament Appearance: 2015, won state Division 1 championship

Returning Players: Seniors – Alex Swetland, Isabel Ahlstrom, Kate Nelson, Kiara Badillo, Maggie Barron, Rachel Huggett, Renata Pepi, Tess Matthewson; Juniors - Ailis O’Sullivan, Izzy Oram-Brown, Savita Diggs; Sophomores – Liana Heath; Freshman – Phoebe Lloyd;

Newcomers: Juniors – Emma Coles, Emma Fraizer, Madeleine Fordham, Olivia Larossi; Sophomores – Eliza Eaton, Nyasia Garcia;

Outlook: With a new coach, PVPA looks to build up its skills and intensity. PVPA has won two straight Division 1 state championships.


CO-COACHES: Sheldon Snodgrass, fourth year; Clarissa Lyons, third year

Last Year’s Record: 17-7

Last Tournament Appearance: 2015, second at Division 1 state championship

Returning Players: Seniors – Rosie Haynes, Georgie Lellman, Emma Landsman, Hannah Finn-Erb, Lexi Farrington, Molly Hornsby-Finch; Juniors – Julia Snodgrass, Olivia Pruett, Olivia Shawn Merrigan, Nellie Sanders, Phoebe Jessup; Sophomores – Claire Babbott-Bryan, Lili Lieberman-Bachman, Ayla Osgood;

Newcomers: Freshmen – Mary Andrews, Rachel Levitt;

Outlook: The Blue Devils will look to build off its most successful season since the program started three years ago. A strong junior class will lead the way. The coaches are building a middle school program to teach the game to younger players.

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