As Oliver Fay walked off the field on a chilly championship Sunday in Brooklyn, New York, he was clueless that it would be his last time on a field in a Marist shirt this season.
After coming heartbreakingly close to a Division-III National Championship Tournament appearance in 2019, Marist’s club ultimate frisbee team, also known as FOXU, had their sights set on reaching the national championship in the 2020 season. It began with a two-day tournament in Brooklyn in early March to open the season, where FOXU would face a tough field in their first litmus test.
After six games, Marist left the tournament with a 6-0 record and took home their first trophy of the season. Up until their 15-13 championship game win over Williams College, FOXU had won every game by at least four points, a wide margin in a sport that only plays to 13 points.
“We had won the tournament last year, so we were pretty tense,” said Fay. “The first day went pretty smooth and the second day was also pretty smooth, until the finals when we faced a team who was pretty well matched with us. But we were able to power through and we won. After the tournament, expectations were as high as they ever were.”
For most of FOXU’s roster, college is their first and only experience playing ultimate frisbee. For Fay, he has years of experience and values the background he has in the sport, which was formed prior to playing in college.
“I started playing competitively in middle school,” said Fay. “I had always been throwing around a disc but the first team I was on was in middle school around ten years ago.”
Fay grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, a town of approximately 37,000 that’s known as a hub for ultimate frisbee and its roots to the sport. It’s home to the sport’s creation and development through Amherst College student Jared Kass in 1968.
“Ultimate frisbee is like our main sport here,” said Fay. “It was all around me growing up. We had a middle school team and our high school had three teams for men and women. We had practices five days a week, we had games close to us and on weekends would often travel to tournaments in places like Georgia since we were ranked number one in the country.”
When choosing schools, Fay found the opportunity to join his brother, Noah, at Marist College and join FOXU. Marist was an up-and-coming team in the Metro East region and played in tournaments across the Northeast in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Brooklyn. It was a no-brainer for Oliver since the Fay brothers have been playing together since middle school and have developed a clear on-field chemistry.
“We pretty much know what each other is thinking at all times,” said the Amherst native. “Our gameplay goes together smoothly for sure.”
After deciding to become a Red Fox, Fay had an immediate impact on Marist’s team. He led the Red Foxes to their first D-III Metro East Regionals Tournament win in school history in his freshman year. He was also selected to the All-Region First-Team in his sophomore season.
“I know I’m going to play well,” said Fay. “I don’t have that many personal goals. I just want to try to get the team to play really well.”
Prior to this unfinished season, Fay was nominated to be a team captain. He has been credited by teammates for his leadership, knowledge, and ability to make others better when on the field.
“Coming onto the team, I had no prior experience in ultimate frisbee,” Fay’s teammate Josh Roth said. “Having Oliver on the field changes the game. Whether you score or make a turnover, he always has advice to make you better. On top of that, he can catch anything in his area and can throw the disc anywhere on the field.”
Leading up to this past season, Marist was looked to be the favorite to take the region after a one-point loss in the final to Hamilton College. The Red Foxes returned nearly every player from that roster and looked to take the program on its deepest run in its history this year. FOXU entered the season as a top-20 team in Division-III ultimate frisbee, and were the highest nationally ranked team in the Metro East. Along with Fay, the team returned two second-team All-Region players in Andrew Muscadin and Noah Fay.
About a week after Marist’s triumph in Brooklyn, the NBA decided to suspend its season due to the coronavirus. Then the NCAA canceled the upcoming NCAA Tournament. And then the NHL suspended its season. You get the idea. As each shoe began to drop, his realization that his junior season may be slipping away hit Fay head-on. He forced himself to prepare for a long wait for redemption; much longer than expected.
On March 27, USAU postponed both the Division-I and Division-III National Championships. They were scheduled to take place in late May.
“It was pretty disappointing, but it wasn’t that much of a surprise,” said the team captain. “Our playoffs were two weeks out from March Madness and you could see the pattern of things getting canceled. It sucked, but what can you do? I’m fortunate because I’m a junior so I have one more year. I feel bad for the seniors on our team who had the same expectations and passion but won’t get to play again.”
This past weekend would have marked the start of the 2020 Division-III Metro East Regional Tournament. Instead, Oliver Fay is in Amherst and must wait another year for a chance to send FOXU to its first-ever National Championships appearance.
“I think we could have won it all this year,” he said, proudly. “In the fall, we beat the team that won it all the year before. Even if we weren’t the best team, if you put us on the field with one team and it’s one game, win or lose, anything can happen.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar