Section: Sports

SERF competes at Division III Nationals, focuses on future

SERF competes at Division III Nationals, focuses on future

SERF in a mid-game huddle | Bill Jelinek Photography

The word ‘serf’ holds a different meaning on Kenyon’s campus than it does beyond the Hill. Specifically, Kenyon students associate SERF with the flying plastic discs and acrobatic moves that embody Ultimate Frisbee.

Co-captain Liam Savona ’25 and his fellow teammates find much of their time at Kenyon occupied by frisbee. “Despite playing a pretty silly game, on SERF we take what we do fairly seriously (importantly, different from taking ourselves seriously),” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “[W]hen we’re not actively playing, working out, planning, watching film or traveling to a tournament, I guarantee it’s on our minds. Frisbee is the main conversation topic at every social interaction; we chat about strategy and playing time and event planning at every waking moment.”

SERF’s nearly single-minded focus on frisbee paid off, as the team qualified for the 2023 USA Ultimate Division III College Championship, held in Obetz, Ohio, from May 20 to 22. Playing under an hour and a half away from their home fields, co-captain Ethan Wagner ’25 described a sense of pride in playing for the Buckeye State in an email to the Collegian: “It gave us a little home field advantage and some extra incentive to represent Ohio in the best way possible.”

The 2023 tournament also offered Wagner his first chance to compete on the national stage, a chance he relished. “Even though SERF went to Nationals my Freshman year, I was injured [with an ACL tear] that year and was unable to compete,” he said. “This just made this Nationals experience even sweeter.”

Though a sprained ankle put Savona on the sideline for much of SERF’s playoff berth this year, the chance to watch his friends and teammates perform made the tournament even more special: “While it really hurt to have to watch all my best friends enjoy that moment, I think it also allowed me to appreciate it more fully. Natties was super cathartic and served as a celebration of all the hard work we put in up to that point.” 

After going 2-1 in pool play with victories against Berry College (Ga.) and Occidental College (Calif.) on the first day of competition, No. 8 SERF punched its ticket to the quarterfinals with a 15-11 victory over the University of Rochester (N.Y.). Unfortunately, SERF’s run came to an end against No. 2 St. Olaf College (Minn.) in a tightly contested game. “Even though we ended up losing 15-13, it was still the most exciting game of Ultimate I’ve ever played in,” Wagner said. “Having all of the parents and Blu-Ray cheering us on from the sideline created an electric atmosphere that I will never forget.” Savona was proud of the season the team put together, as SERF ultimately finished tied for seventh place in the country: “[W]hen we have the best competitive season the club has seen in over a decade and make it to quarters at nationals, it means a lot.”

For Savona, SERF’s camaraderie is what makes the team special. “One of the things that makes the Kenyon Ultimate community so strong is the collective commitment to building a community rather than just a club,” he said. “Everyone really cares about making it feel like a family, and so it does; this kind of thing doesn’t just happen without intentional engagement and effort.” 

Wagner credited the relationship that SERF and its sibling team, Blu-Ray, have developed as a key foundation for the team’s success. “Kenyon Ultimate is made special because of how tight knit SERF and Blu-Ray have become,” he said. “A lot of other college Ultimate teams don’t have as good of a relationship with their counterpart team as we do. SERF and Blu-Ray compete in mixed tournaments together and weekly scrimmages to go along with any off-the-field events.” For Savona, the relationships that he has formed with alumni from both programs stay with him to this day: “Many of my favorite people I’ve ever met are SERF and Blu-Ray alums from the past couple years; it’s hard to quantify the kind of positive impact the community has had on me and so many other people.”

Though some Kenyon students may be intimidated by the barrage of flying discs that criss-cross the Ransom and Peirce lawns some afternoons, both Savona and Wagner emphasized that the Kenyon Ultimate community is open to anyone. “Some people come in like me, having already developed a passion for Ultimate, and encourage their friends to give it a shot,” Savona said. “And even for people who have never played, the team is an automatic group of friends so they end up joining since it’s fun to hang out with people who go out of their way for you.” 

With SERF’s run at the 2023 National Tournament in the history books, Wagner and Savona are looking forward to the coming season. “I’m excited to teach our first-years about how to play Ultimate Frisbee and what it means to be a part of SERF,” Wagner said. “After graduating a very talented class of seniors, it is imperative that we develop the first-years into polished players to try and fill in any gaps.” 

Despite the challenges SERF may face, Savona believes that a new crop of frisbee fiends can help bring Kenyon Ultimate back to the national stage: “[T]he new first-years have shown up in droves thus far, with many future studs among them. It’s hard to go into this year with lofty expectations given last year’s performance and the significant turnover, but I think a good fall season and large recruiting class will have us primed for another strong showing in the spring.”

Sports Editor Micah Arenstein ’26 is a member of SERF.

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