Seattle Tempest to Host First Western Ultimate League Competition on Friday

The Tempest will play against an all-star team of other WUL players from around the west.

After its inaugural 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Western Ultimate League will finally get onto the field Friday as the Seattle Tempest will play a showcase game against a collection of WUL players from cities around the league.

“We planned to have at least this one game back in March when we got up and running and started selling season tickets to the Cascades games and this one Tempest game,” said Xtehn Frame, Seattle Tempest owner and General Manager. “We mailed them out and everything, so this has been on our schedule the whole time. But, The West team hasn’t evolved until just recently and I think that’s why there was a lot of uncertainty about our opponent would look like. No other WUL team has returned to training the way Tempest has this season. It’s possible that Tempest could have organized a game against a club team or tried to scramble together a WUL team, but instead it pulled players from around the league.”

Tempest is treating this home game like they would their standard WUL and AUDL games, with a full array of team staff, broadcast, and stat takers.

“The West,” as the non-Tempest players were marketed on WUL social media accounts Wednesday, features players from Los Angeles, Arizona, Utah, and San Diego, as well as a few players who were not listed on WUL rosters but are able to play in the game. “We asked players who would be interested in coming and presented it as an opportunity that was not formally part of the season, but a one-off showcase opportunity,” said Felicia Yang, the WUL commissioner and a Los Angeles Astra player who will be suiting up for The West.

Fans might recognize names like Jamie Eriksson, Kyra Khoroujnikova, Bert Cherry, and Helen Eifert on The West roster, and will be introduced to talented players who are not yet household names but will be impact players for their WUL franchises. Alyssa Weatherford, who was announced on the 2020 Seattle roster, will not be playing for Tempest but instead will coach the WUL side.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with a group of new people and adults,” Weatherford said. She is the owner, founder, and coaching director at Seven Hills Ultimate Club, a youth program, and also coached in the Asian-Oceanic All-Stars tour in 2018, so they have experience pulling together a team that hasn’t played before.

The West team plans to arrive very early to the stadium to meet each other and talk about the ruleset and strategy. “There’s a GroupMe,” Weatherford said, “and I’m trying to ask the players what they’d be excited to bring on Friday and trying to come up with a basic offensive strategy that sets people up to do those things that they’re excited about, and then the same thing on defense.”

Many of the players will be meeting each other for the first time in person. Some had met on the Open Side video series, but not in person. To reduce costs, travel players are being hosted by the local Seattle players, adding to the camaraderie and celebration of the game.

Seattle recently announced its roster, combining young rookies like Abby Hecko, veterans playing pro for the first time like Calise Cardenas, and Tempest mainstays like Qxhna Titcomb, Steph Lim, Charlie Mercer, Charlie Eide, Lexi Garrity, and Ari Lozano.

Though the league announced that its official WUL Winter Cup will take place ahead of the 2022 spring season, Tempest has been practicing — alongside its partner team in the AUDL, the Seattle Cascades — for months.

“We started back in the middle of April,” said Pam Kraus, one of the Tempest coaches. “Just gauging our 2020 roster’s availability and interest in trying to get a game this summer going. We started with just training. We were very conscious of everybody’s weariness around COVID, and everybody was just starting to get their vaccines back then. So we did distanced training once a week for maybe like 3-4 weeks…we were super conscious to make sure that we were preparing our bodies and also being safe COVID-wise. Then at some point as we learned more about what the WUL was going to be able to do and what Tempest as a team and an organization was going to be able to do, we realized that we were going to be able to pull off for the summer just the one showcase game.”

Since signing its official roster, the team has had eight weeks of practice leading up to this game.

“Many of our players are ramping up for the club season right now,” Kraus added, “so this is an opportunity to do something before that club season got into full swing for a lot of our players.”

Creating the look of an all-star game, the West team will be wearing their teams’ white jerseys, with Tempest wearing dark. It will be fans’ first experience seeing WUL jerseys on the field since they were put up for sale in early 2020.

“To see this group of players,” Yang said, “we haven’t all played together before, which I think is pretty clear, but I think everyone’s coming in with a lot of skill and a lot of excitement. It’s such a fun, experimental opportunity.”

Similar to the Premier Ultimate League, players will call their own fouls, but observers will make active up/down, in/out, and offsides calls. The game will also be timed rather than played until one team scores a pre-determined point total.

Though the outcome of the exhibition game does not matter, the players involved could not be more excited to get on the field. “I want to be a part of everything that’s happening with this league,” Yang said. “I did a lot of starting it and putting it together, and I think after a year and a half of, one, cancelling our inaugural season, and two, rebuilding the board and restructuring in the offseason, getting to finally see a product in person — even if it’s not a league formal event — I think it’s going to be really fulfilling to see the players that are really excited, all the work that’s gone in to the leagues and all of the teams existing as is to have an on-field product and have something that’s actually our sport to get to watch is super exciting.”

Check Tempest social media accounts right before the game for the streaming link. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 PM pacific and is free to watch online. “There have been virtually no women’s division streamed games because the women’s divisions keep getting cancelled,” Yang said. “So this is one of few opportunities to watch women and non-binary players play so far this year.”

“I’m excited to showcase some really high level ultimate for the world and certainly for our western half of the country to enjoy, participate in, and celebrate,” said Kraus. “We’re certainly not back to normal–we’re still in a pandemic–but it feels nice to be able to have this step towards normalcy again, while still being super safe, to be able to do this for our community.”

  1. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years, but now spends his time playing pickup and coaching de Toledo High School in Los Angeles. You can reach him through e-mail (rubin.alex14@gmail.com) or Twitter (@arubes14 or @dthsultimate).

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