In 2016, a Rice sports team came within inches of winning its third straight national championship. It wasn’t the baseball team, the soccer team, or the football team; in fact, this team isn’t even recognized by the NCAA. Torque, the women’s ultimate frisbee club team, is largely unknown despite being one of Rice’s most successful sports teams. After years of championship-caliber play, Torque has become one of the most respected ultimate teams in the nation.
The team, which competes in college frisbee’s Division III, plays a new and rising sport. In this seven-on-seven competition, a team tries to move the frisbee into its end zone by passing and cutting. Running with the disc is not allowed. There are no referees, so teams make their own foul calls. “[Ultimate] is a lot like soccer, a little like football and a little bit like basketball, ”former captain Kelsey Nanneman, a Sid Richardson College senior, said.
Torque began competing as a Division I team. In 2014, it moved to Division III in order to compete with schools more comparable to Rice in size. In its first year in the division, Torque won the national title. The next year, the team defended its title by winning the national championship yet again. After that, however, the team’s senior leaders graduated. According to Nanneman, after losing those seniors, this past season was the team’s first real test.
“We said we wanted to get back to nationals and win nationals but there was this underlying skepticism,” Nanneman said. “We lost so much talent.”
Despite the doubts, Torque again advanced to nationals. The team made it all the way to the championship game before falling to Carleton College. Nanneman said that the season was a success despite the loss.
“I think that the fact that we came so close actually revived into the captains the sense that we can get [to the championship],” Nanneman said. “It showed that it’s not dependent on a couple of players; as a team we can make it there.”
The championship game appearance was not the team’s only accomplishment at the national competition. Torque earned the Spirit Award for the team’s sportsmanship throughout the tournament. According to captain Emma Wine, a Martel College senior, the team’s attitude is equally important.
“We are really wanting to instill the team with even more of a sense of positivity this year,” Wine said. “[We want to] keep the team super invested in each other and be really intense about not just winning, but having fun while doing it.”
Speaking on behalf of her co-captain Julie Doar, Wine said she strongly encourages students to give ultimate a try, insisting that previous experience is not a prerequisite for finding success at this unique sport. As a freshman, Wine was not participating in any sports and had no experience with frisbee; however, after finding her niche as a sophomore, she said she is thrilled to be a member of Torque.
“I would not be half as happy as I would’ve been if I haven’t found frisbee,” Wine said, “I’ve made so many friends [and] so many connections. I’m in better shape than I’ve been in my entire life, and beyond Rice, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to keep playing.”
As for this year, Wine said is confident in the team’s ability to reclaim the national championship.
“We’re going to win nationals,” Wine said. “That’s what’s going to happen and it’s going to be great.”
If it can build upon last season’s success, Torque may be able to prove Wine right.