Like any collegiate athletic program, the Shippensburg University men’s ultimate frisbee club has faced roster turnover that can change the direction of a team in a split-second.
The program excelled in 2017 and 2018, finishing with a pair of West Penn Conference titles and overall records of 26–7 and 25–9, respectively. Each season resulted in an Ohio Valley regional semifinal appearance, just a game away from the National Championships in Chicago.
SU’s two-year run included victories over marquee programs like Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt University and Carnegie Mellon University.
After three key seniors graduated in 2017 and four in 2018, the club — nicknamed “the Scapegoats” — is in a period of transition.
Over the course of the program’s history, first-year players typically comprise about a quarter of the Scapegoats’ roster. However, the 2019 roster consists of more first-year players than veterans.
“It’s definitely a completely different dynamic than what I was around in my previous years here,” senior captain Jaime Roop said. “We just have such a young roster and so many guys who are eager to really learn the game better.”
The relative lack of experience dampened expectations for the Scapegoats heading into the 2019 regular season. Compounded with a coaching situation that is in flux for the first time in 14 years, the future of the program seemed muddled.
The Scapegoats embraced the change and have adapted. With new training regimens and practice schedules that better fit the overall makeup of the team, the program is headed in the right direction.
“There are a ton of new faces around, and our style of play from the past few years didn’t quite match up with our current personnel,” junior captain and club president Zack Hunsberger said. “So we’ve kind of changed our identity as a team and re-formed it around the type of athletes and skill sets we have.”
The cold and soggy spring has hindered the club’s regular season schedule, as the Scapegoats have only been able to play in one tournament thus far. In late February, SU took 11th place out of 20 teams at the Oak Creek Challenge in Virginia Beach. The Scapegoats went 4–3 on the weekend, including wins over Wake Forest University, Towson University and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).
“Oak Creek was a huge success for us,” sophomore Ryan Kolimaga said. “It was the first regular-season action for all of our young guys, and they stepped up big time. They were a big part of why we finished over .500 on the weekend.”
The club will head down to Richmond, Virginia, this Friday for D-III EastUR, a nationally-recognized tournament that hosts some of the best Division-III teams on the East Coast.
That will conclude regular season play and the Scapegoats then have two weeks to prepare for the postseason — conferences, regionals and, potentially, nationals.
“It’s a really lofty goal, and we’re obviously a young team,” Hunsberger said about making nationals. “But it’s always in the back of our minds. And when we’re playing at our best, anything can happen.”