Warmothers Compete With Nation’s Best

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

How many of Swarthmore’s teams would find themselves in a round-robin pool with Northeastern and Southern California?  That was the challenge facing the Swarthmore Warmothers Ultimate Frisbee team at the ninth annual Centex Tournament this past weekend.

Hosted by the University of Texas, Centex is one of the premiere spring college tournaments in the nation.  For the Warmothers, it was the most prestigious event that the team has attended since the 2006 team qualified for Nationals.

When the latest collegiate Ultimate Frisbee rankings were released yesterday by USA Ultimate, the Swarthmore Warmothers found themselves ranked No. 66 out of the 227 teams in the country, Division I and III.

Consistently competing against some of the nation’s largest public research institutions, Swarthmore is currently ranked ahead of Oregon State (71), Duke (73), and Kansas (83) and sits just behind Maryland (60), Michigan State (61) and Boston College (64).  That’s sure not bad athletic company.

Of Division III schools, the Warmothers are ranked No. 7 and they are the fifth-ranked team in the Ohio Valley Region.

“Considering how other small schools do, we have been doing disproportionately well,” senior Kara Stoever said.

The decision to attend Centex was the result of new USA Ultimate policy that will force the Warmothers to compete in Division III Conferences before, with a win, a date in the Division I Ohio Valley Regional.  The Warmothers wanted the opportunity to compete with some of the nation’s best teams as preparation.

So, spearheaded by the efforts of Abigail Henderson ’14, Emily McAfee ’13, and Anna Levine ’12, the Warmothers held a fall fundraising campaign to cover the costs of the trip.

For the Saturday preliminaries, the women of Swarthmore were placed in a pool with Colorado College, Northeastern, and Southern California.  The Warmothers fell to Northeastern in the tournament opener in an 11-10 heartbreaker, dropped their second to 13th place finisher Colorado College, and stayed with Southern California before winding up on the short end of a 13-10 final.

Playoffs were divided into two main brackets, one for teams that consistently compete at nationals and the other for teams, like the Warmothers, a tier below.

The team started bracket play with a dominating 11-6 win over South Florida on Saturday evening to advance into the main bracket on Sunday.  Sunday morning began with a thrilling upset over Dartmouth by a 14-11 final moving the team into the quarterfinals of the draw where they fell to Claremont 12-9.

“The games that we won were the right games to win, so our tournament ranking went up,” said Maisie Wiltshire-Gordon ’13.

The team entered the tournament projected as the 15th seed in the Division II bracket.  With their victories, they finished eight spots higher and tied for seventh.

Elena Kingston ’14 was encouraged by the team’s performance to break seed.  “To finish as high as we did in Division II when were we were seeded so much lower than that was really exciting.”

The team will travel to Manheim, PA this weekend for the Keystone Classic where they will compete in a preliminary pool with Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, and Smith.  Wisconsin is ranked No. 13, Pittsburgh No. 29, and Smith No. 60.

“I think that we learned a lot from last weekend because every game was a challenge,” said Wiltsire-Gordon.  “That was a new thing for us with every game being difficult.  Hopefully we’ve learned how to focus mentally for a string of really hard games.”

Added Kingston, “This past weekend gave us a lot of confidence.  Even though we lost some of those games, we were able to contend in each and every one.  We can play at the caliber of Division I teams even if we may be from a Division III school.”


  1. “How many of Swarthmore’s teams would find themselves in a round-robin pool with Northeastern and Southern California?”

    Interesting point if your comparing Warmothers to the Earthworms or the rugby teams. However, to compare a club sport to our varsity teams is a moot point entirely. They’re frankly not comparable.

    • As a member of the Earthworms, I actually agree with you that it’s not the greatest point to make. Unlike in NCAA Division III, D1 schools can offer athletic scholarships and therefore have access to a much better talent pool. In club sports, the playing field is leveled somewhat since scholarships don’t play any sort of role. This allows small schools like Carleton that are built on reputation and tradition to be competitive year in and year out on the national scene.

      That being said, however, big schools like USC still have a huge advantage over Swarthmore in club sports because they have more people to choose from and can form actual ‘B’ teams in order to develop inexperienced players. At such schools, it also helps that the sport attracts skilled athletes who aren’t good enough to compete in DI varsity athletics. We simply don’t have these luxuries and the fact that the Warmothers have consistently competed against schools of this size despite these disadvantages is still very impressive.

      • Hi Roy,

        I agree 100% with everything you’ve said. And I applaud the Earthworms and Warmothers for their success against club teams from schools thirty times our size! As we see in states with high school athletics divisions built off school size, having a large study body simply means having a greater talent pool. So, I wish the very best for our club teams this year and hope that they continue to have unparalleled success.

        However, I still find the opening of this article antagonistic against our varsity teams — unexpected from the Swarthmore athletics’ hero — although that clearly may not have been the intent.

        I do not find club teams and varsity teams comparable because most varsity teams here do not have the opportunity to play against DI teams, nor would it be fair if they did (as we saw with Columbia basketball). Varsity athletes here — like club athletes at Swarthmore and USC — aren’t getting money, free admission, or easy classes that many DI varsity athletes enjoy. Varsity athletes here are not planning on going pro after college and therefore must also focus on their education. No DI club athlete is planning on going “pro” in frisbee, but there most certainly are DI basketball with that intent, enjoying the scholarships and perks of being a DI athlete.

  2. The Ivy League doesn’t offer athletic scholarships and look what happened back in November between Swarthmore and Columbia. Sure you get into recruiting, but the athletes that a school like USC has in comparison to Swarthmore even in Ultimate shouldn’t even be close. Not to mention the size of the pool.

    And how about the eight-person coaching staff at USC?

  3. I didn’t read the opening line as an attack on anyone, just as a “fun” way to present information that many on our campus probably weren’t aware of…

    Yay Warmoms! Yay Varsity Athletes! Congrats to both for balancing academics and athletics, promoting health and activity in the process!

  4. varsity athlete,

    I agree with you that on the basis of scholarships and class load, the difference between DI and DIII varsity programs is a lot larger than the difference between DI and DIII club programs. It doesn’t seem fair to compare the pools of competition that Swarthmore’s varsity and club sports teams play.

    However, we can compare Swarthmore’s varsity and club teams in other ways–size of the budget? number of coaches? number of articles written about them?

    If that information were available, I think we’d find that the scales tip toward varsity athletics in all of the above. Though Swarthmore undoubtedly supports its club sports teams, our success outside of the framework of being a varsity athlete, to me, is as noteworthy as varsity athletic accomplishments–and should be treated as such.

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