An Emerging Star: Ultiworld Sits Down With Angela Zhu (Team USA U19)

Ultiworld's Alisha Schor sat down with rising women's star Angela Zhu, who has dominated at the youth level for years and now plays for Brute Squad.

Angela Zhu celebrates in Lecco, Italy, at the U19 World Junior Ultimate  Championships.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

Ultimate résumé: Middle school IM league in Amherst, MA; Amherst Regional High School (ARHS) Varsity; Boston YCC; USA U20 team for WJUC in Dublin, Ireland; USA U19 team for WJUC in Lecco, Italy; Currently: Dartmouth Princess Layout and Boston Brute Squad
Siblings: Younger brother in 8th grade, currently running cross country. “I’m trying to get him to play ultimate,” promises Zhu.
Other sports: Played varsity and club soccer at ARHS.
On juggling soccer and ultimate: “My sophomore year I wrecked my ankle trying to do both; and there were scheduling issues, which coaches were never happy about.”
Frisbee nicknames: “Nothing really rhymes with Angela. Eva [Petzinger, of Wild Card, Dartmouth, and 2012 Team USA U20] has tried to get Angie Pangie going.”
Position: Originally cutter, transitioned to primarily handling for WJUC.

Alisha Schor: What did it mean to you to be selected for and play with this elite group?

Angela Zhu: It’s incredible, because I think in high school and college you get a lot of players that are really into it. But when you try out for the Worlds team, every single player is completely committed to doing whatever it takes to get to their top level by the time the tournament rolls around. And it’s just so much fun to be on a team where everyone is that excited about playing together, and actively working to bond as a team.

AS: Take me through worlds preparation. What was your mindset going into it? How much and often did you practice?

AZ: Going into worlds is mostly just solo time. You get a personal workout plan in the beginning of the summer. We had a June training camp over a weekend in Seattle, and then a week long training camp in New York before we left. Those were really great, really exciting to not be working out on your own, and to practice with the team. Although, it was terrible scrimmaging ourselves the whole time.

After tryouts, we found out that we made the team in April, and at that point we had our Facebook groups so we could start talking as a team. Then we were divided into pods–groups of three–where we would Skype and have guided discussions with questions that the coaches provided. At the same time were doing our personal workouts. The country is just so big it’s impractical to have practices.

AS: Give me some of your biggest impressions of WJUC. What teams or games surprised you? Does any one moment stick out in your mind?

AZ: Our competition is definitely going to get more interesting in the next few years. Our team was pretty dominant this year, but it was still fun to see how teams had changed from two years ago. For example, we played the U17 Austrian team two years ago [in Dublin] and so now their U19 team was awesome. And the other usual suspects like Canada and Germany, and Colombia obviously, they’re just going to get better.

AS: Well congrats on your win. So you’re back in school now, a sophomore at Dartmouth. What are you majoring in?

AZ: Not sure, thinking about neuroscience, and on the pre-med track right now.

AS: Why did you choose Dartmouth?

AZ: I choose Dartmouth because the academics are obviously really awesome and there are tons of opportunities in that realm. And then more personally/socially, the ultimate community there is just so awesome. They really made my experience what it is. One of my high school mentors went there and so I visited her a few times and hung out. But I wasn’t really sure about it; I didn’t want to just follow my friend there, so I thought about it, but it was kind of on the back burner for a while, so I got in, and I visited again, and compared to the other schools I visited, it was so much of a better fit.

AS: How has the transition been from high school to college ultimate? Any tips for any incoming freshman this year about going through that transition?

AZ: It’s a lot more loose. In high school everything is very controlled–at least at Amherst–your schedule was constantly set. It was like: play, dinner, everybody asleep by 9:30. In college it’s more like, “well we might meet up at some point at this restaurant but then eventually meet up where we happen to end up at night.”

Also, being at Amherst, we obviously always had a coach. At Dartmouth, we have a coach, but for example, he just got married and moved, and it’s the fall, so he’s in and out a lot more. Which I think is true for a lot of colleges. The structure is a lot looser, but it’s fun.

For advice: at most schools, I think, anyone going into college ultimate with high school experience is going to be a big asset. And they shouldn’t be afraid to take on any role the team needs. There’s no use being timid about it.

AS: How about any academic tips for incoming freshmen?

AZ: [Laughter.] Try not to procrastinate? Well, I can’t say anything without being a hypocrite about it I guess.

AS: What are you doing the night before an important tournament?

AZ: I’ll just read a little bit, try to get bed early. Maybe chug a Nalgene before bed. If I can remember, I’ll try to visualize a little bit.

AS: Is Brute Squad your first club team? Have you been able to practice with them much with worlds this year? What does it mean to you to be able to play with them?

AZ: I made most of the practices. I’ve missed two big tournaments–Chesapeake and the Pro Flight Finale. There was also Boston Invitational that I couldn’t make because of worlds. The team has been super accommodating about my schedule so far.

Everyone there is so, so incredible and I’m still in shock that I’m on this team. Because there’s just so good and… oh my gosh. It’s definitely helped watching other players and talking to them when I have questions, you know like, “should I have thrown that flick?” or having them tell me I really need to start stepping out more on my backhand. A lot of things like that, where I can talk to someone who’s probably had the same issue at some point.

AS: Without jinxing it, any thoughts on the possibility of winning both a worlds title and a USAU club nationals title?

AZ: [Laughter.] I don’t know…

Corrections: Princess Layout was previously omitted from Zhu’s ultimate résumé at top. To Zhu’s Dartmouth teammates, this author says, “My b.” The article also mistakenly listed friend Eva Petzinger as a member of the 2013 U23 Team USA. Petzinger played with Zhu in 2012 on the U20 girls’ Team USA.

  1. Alisha Schor
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    Alisha is a PhD student in mechanical engineering at MIT. While working on her degree, she played 5 years for MIT's Smite and captained for 3 of those years. She has also played for Boston club teams Mixed Nuts and Vice.

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