Amherst Invitational Ultimate Tournament returns after two-year hiatus

  • Amherst’s Nomi Zeidenderg reaches for a catch against Northampton at JFK Middle School. The Hurricanes are hosting the Amherst Invitational at the MacDuffie School in Granby for the first time since 2019 this weekend. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst’s Tae Weiss tracks the disc in for a score against Northampton at JFK Middle School. The Hurricanes are hosting the Amherst Invitational at the MacDuffie School in Granby for the first time since 2019 this weekend. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst’s Eva Lagrant leaps for a catch against Northampton’s Ellie Finkel at JFK Middle School. The Hurricanes are hosting the Amherst Invitational at the MacDuffie School in Granby for the first time since 2019 this weekend. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Amherst’s Becky Marshall attempts a throw in front of Northampton’s Ciana Cunningham at JFK Middle School. The Hurricanes are hosting the Amherst Invitational at the MacDuffie School in Granby for the first time since 2019 this weekend. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Louis Douisville Beaudoin and the Amherst Regional boys ultimate team are aiming for their third straight Amherst Invitational championship this weekend. It’s the first time the tournament has been played since 2019. The Hurricanes are hosting the Amherst Invitational at the MacDuffie School in Granby. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • The Amherst Regional boys ultimate team is aiming for its third straight Amherst Invitational championship this weekend. It’s the first time the tournament has been played since 2019. The Hurricanes are hosting the Amherst Invitational at the MacDuffie School in Granby. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • The Amherst Regional boys ultimate team is aiming for its third straight Amherst Invitational championship this weekend. It’s the first time the tournament has been played since 2019. The Hurricanes are hosting the Amherst Invitational at the MacDuffie School in Granby. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 5/6/2022 2:37:07 PM

AMHERST – Becky Marshall heard the Amherst Invitational happening essentially in her back yard for years. One year, her family walked over to watch.

Now the Amherst Regional senior is one of the target receivers on one of the nation’s best teams playing in the Amherst Invitational for the first time since her freshman season.

“One of my first introductions ultimate was I live right over there,” Marshall said, pointing across the field before practice Thursday. “Having these more public events helps tell people that we exist, I guess.”

The Amherst Invitational is the nation’s oldest high school ultimate tournament. It began in 1992 but hasn’t been played since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s part of the total delay and end of all competitive ultimate for two years. It’s part and parcel. Nothing’s really happened that’s normal for two years in Amherst high school ultimate,” Amherst girls coach Dan Kaplan said. “This is a big competitive stage for these kids, but it’s part of the fabric of a season. This is the first normal season in two years.”

Almost normal, anyway. The event is usually hosted on the fields behind Amherst Regional High School, but  it will take place this year at the MacDuffie School in Granby on Saturday and Sunday.

“We’re wondering what kind of spectator presence there will be. There’s a lot of things about it being in Granby that actually make it a better spectator event,” Amherst boys coach Joe Costello said. “The first thing I think of is the quality of the fields is just way better than what the high school was able to provide. So it’s safer for the athletes in that respect, I guess. Also the fields are close together. We can fit all of the fields that we need for a big tournament in one place.”

Pool play begins Sunday at 9 a.m., while the knockout rounds begin Sunday at 11 a.m. The girls championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, while the boys will follow at 3 p.m.

There are three divisions: the girls division, open division 1 and open division 2. Nine teams make up the girls division, while there are eight teams in each of the open divisions. Historically, the Amherst Invitational represents a milestone on the national high school ultimate calendar and attracts some of the best teams in the country. Due to pandemic-related concerns, it’s more of a regional field this year.

Teams will come from as close as Amherst, Northampton and Hadley’s Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School to as far as Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and Columbia, New Jersey, with several central and eastern Massachusetts squads sprinkled in.

“We still draw a lot of talent in the Northeast,” Costello said. “This year is not a great year to have teams flying from wherever.”

Amherst’s boys team is the two-time defending champion, winning in 2019 and 2018. The Hurricanes are the No. 5 team in the country according to Ultiworld.com led by Louis Douville Beaudoin, who was selected for the USA Ultimate U20 national team for the 2022 World Junior Championships.

“I've gone out and watched many of the finals, and that was sort of like a glimpse of what this team can look like, and how to be on it,” Douville Beaudoin ssaid. “And to be able to play with these guys on that stage is really cool and makes it a little bit more meaningful that I've been watching it for years.”

Columbia (NJ) is the only other team ranked in the top 25 by Ultiworld (No. 21), but Lexington and Four Rivers have been featured in the rankings.

It’s the first high school tournament the Hurricanes will play in this season after participating in some college and club events this spring mixed in with games against other high schools in the region.

“That’s a new experience for us, in a way, to see what we can do playing at that level,” Douville Beaudoin said.

The Hurricanes girls team is in a similar position. Only its seniors have ever appeared in an Amherst Invitational before, and they were on the junior varsity team in 2019. Amherst won the girls championship in 2019, which ended a relative drought for the Hurricanes.

On paper, Amherst is the best team ranked No. 8 in the nation, but Northfield Mount Hermon is close behind at No. 11. Four Rivers also appears in the Rankings at No. 20.

“It’s definitely something we need and feel ready for,” Amherst’s Nomi Zeidenberg said. “I’m so excited to play at a different level than just casual games.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
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