KNOXVILLE– Over the weekend the Johnson University Ultimate team competed in the Western Southeast D-III College Men’s CC tournament in Huntsville, Alabama.
The team went 4-4, placing them fourth overall and claiming the final spot along with Union, UAH, and Samford to advance to D-III Regionals.
Seniors Jack Downer and Riley Scheyder have acted as the captains and coaches of the team for the last year in addition to being two of the main founders of the three-year-old team.
“Starting the team was an organic process,” Downer said, “Me and a couple buddies were really into playing pickup around campus, which had already been established. We wanted to be competitive so we decided to start a team.
“In the beginning there was a steep learning curve. Several guys who were seniors at the time, like Micah McCrotty, gave Riley and I guidance as we figured things out. After a year of being a non-USAU (USA Ultimate) registered team, we registered and started going to this regional tournament.
“This is our second time here, and we have the largest team from probably the smallest school. As it is right now, we are a club sport at Johnson. Because of this we have to put a lot of our own money into things like traveling and jerseys, but through that the commitment from our team has been amazing.” Downer said.
“I think building this team has been the greatest experience I’ve had at Johnson,” Schedyer added, “The main emphasis being the community aspect of the team. This year, that community was challenged because our coach, Eric Hayes, moved away from Knoxville. So we established a leadership structure where there would be two senior captains and two younger captains who would take their place the next year.
“This has been an incredible year, but also a challenging one. Jack and I have had to lead as captains and coaches. I think the only reason it’s worked has been the community attitude of the team and their desire to make it work,” Schedyer remarked.
Staff sponsors Stuart Large and Brian Tucker act as the bridge between the University and the team. Tucker spoke of the support that follows the team wherever they go.
“I think it’s really cool that we have support when we play at home or when we have tournaments at UT, but we also have consistent support in away games and tournaments, even those in different states. Students and family travel to see the team play, and I think a big reason for that is the community focus of the team and the fact that we really have a lot of fun and try to keep up the morale and attitude of Christ. For this tournament, I think we’ve done well and we’ve also been able to pray with the other team at the end of every game so far,” Tucker said.
Both Downer and Scheyder will be graduating at the end of the month.
“It’s very bittersweet leaving,” Downer said, “It feels like it’s our baby, but I know we’ve been doing something right because there’s already this wave of great players and leaders. We’re leaving it in good hands.”
Junior captains Ross McSherry, Travis Hedger, and sophomore captain Blake West will be succeeding Downer and Scheyder in leadership roles.
McSherry spoke of the team’s expectations going into the fall semester at Johnson.
“We have a lot of young talent that have really matured over the past year and we’re excited to see how they’ll mature going into next season. I would absolutely say I’m proud of the team for this weekend; they’ve pushed themselves and represented Christ well,” McSherry said.
Due to a conflict with Johnson’s graduation weekend, the team may not be able to travel to the Regional tournament. However, their high spirits and success in Alabama have ended their season on a very good note.
Students and faculty are encouraged to attend the Ultimate tournament being held between the classes on Founder’s Day this Thursday at the athletic field.
Students interested in joining the Ultimate team next semester should contact Ross McSherry at Ross.McSherry@johnsonu.edu or look out for a sign-up table in the Gally Commons lobby during the first week of school.