The 2012 version of Portland Schwa made a return to the Club Championships, a triumph for a reconstructed program and roster in a vibrant region for Ultimate. Tapping into their proximity to perennial top college team Oregon Fugue, the roster nabbed the athletic Alex Ode, helping them qualify for the final tournament of the club season.
Once there, however, Schwa struggled, going winless in Sarasota.
“It brought us closer together despite our losses and It taught us that we need to work a lot harder if we’re going to stack up to that next tier of teams,” said Schwa captain Emily Flanders.
Portland is hoping the correlation between adding youth and on field success holds up. The team’s outgoing class is packed with veterans, like Trisha Thoms, Katie Kern, and Tova Peltz, many of whom have left for the new area Women’s Masters team, Stormborn. The team also will be without talented thrower Natalie Wu and strong athlete Arthi Padmanabhan.
Their incoming rookie group, however, is rife with former and current Fugue talent.
“With the addition of Alex Ode last year we formed a relationship with Fugue which brought us a lot of talent this season,” explained Flanders.
That includes some of Ode’s teammates on last year’s top college team, like Adrienne “Adie” Bovee, dangerous cutter Kimber Coles (2nd team All Region), and Fugue coach Katie “Nij” Weatherhead. Oregon alums Malina Wiebe and Aubri Bishop strengthen that connection as well.
In addition to the crew from Eugene, Schwa recruited more talent. Alexa Dix and Jen “Poof” Sanderson come over from in-region rival Seattle Underground. Cate Roscoe brings her strong experience and skillset, along with Liz “Knuckles” Nichols, Kelly Hansen, and Tiffany Henderson. One of the biggest difference makers, however, is former Bella Donna leader Emelie McKain; she was selected to the All-Region team four times as a handler for Wisconsin.
“Emelie McKain brings great perspective to Schwa. She’s a great player with an elite college background,” said Flanders of her new teammate. “Despite being ‘fun-sized’ she makes big plays and knows how to win.”
This turnover marks a change in Schwa’s makeup, as they grow younger and potentially more athletic, particularly with the type of players typically produced by the University of Oregon.
“Portland Women’s Ultimate has been going through a lot of changes over the past few years. With the formation of Stormborn, the women’s master’s team in town, we lost a few valuable older players,” said Flanders when asked about the team’s transition. “With this loss, we’re seeing the next generation in players like Sarah Read-Brown, Kelsey Colpitts, Meghan Miller and Jenny Tibbals (to name a few) step up to fill their shoes.”
The team is not only integrating new talent into their self-described “scrappy” style of play, but are excited about the new and more expansive roles some of their returners will be taking on. Coach Danny Quarrell returns for his 3rd season with Schwa, joined by Mike Knapp, giving them an established system to build upon. The team affectionately calls the pair their “bro-ches”.
The results of this newer and younger Schwa have been mixed so far. They’ve beaten teams like Underground, San Diego Safari (twice, including once by seven points at Colorado Cup), and Phoenix. They’ve even had some games where they have competed with the top teams, but they have not found consistency against that level of competition. With the competitive Northwest looking like a three-bid region and the potential Club Championships field looking even deeper than last year, they’ll need to develop in that area.
“We’re learned how to play with more confidence and it definitely shows this year,” Flanders said of the team’s development process.
The exciting thing about Schwa is that their makeup has the look of a team that will be much stronger in the Series than in the regular season. Their youth could overpower their inexperience and their extensive turnover could finally settle in.