When Tanis Trainor and her Frisbee-playing friends first heard in December that Portland had secured an expansion franchise in the all-female professional Premier Ultimate League, their reaction was similar.

“Hey, they’re coming, that’s close!”

Trainor, it should be noted, lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

So after driving nine hours Friday and spending the night with a buddy, Trainor joined 100 other athletic women flinging, chasing and catching spinning plastic discs Saturday at an open tryout inside the Maine Athletic Complex on Riverside Street.

They are all hopeful of earning a roster spot on Portland Rising, one of four new franchises that have expanded the Premier Ultimate League to 12 teams, spread through the eastern United States and Colombia. The league will begin its second season in April, with games running through June.

Portland is the league’s only franchise in New England, so skilled players came from far and wide. A Syracuse University freshman showed up, as did a master’s degree student from the University of Vermont.


“There’s a lot of talent in this room,” said Maddie Purcell, who at 29 is one of the team’s co-owners, along with Chloe Rowse, 26, of Falmouth.

Purcell, from Brunswick, can sign up to 27 players but the game-day roster is limited to 21.

“We could take a couple of practice players, too,” she said. “We haven’t ruled that out. It’ll depend on the mix that we end up with, but we’re pretty excited about what that mix looks like.”

The sport of Ultimate is played between teams of seven on a field 70 meters long. Physical contact is not allowed and players police themselves under a policy known as Spirit of the Game. The object is to pass a flying disc from player to player until reaching the opposing end zone. Games are broken into 12-minute quarters. Action is fluid with only brief stoppages.

“It’s fun and it’s such a welcoming community,” said Trainor, 26, who at 6-foot-1 rose above most of the Rising hopefuls. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

Most of those in attendance Saturday appeared to be in their 20s. Emily Pozzy, a junior at Portland High who recently turned 17, doesn’t meet the age minimum of 18 but she recently was named to the U.S. national team that will compete in the World Juniors Championship in Sweden in July.


Pozzy said four local high school players attended the tryouts.

“I could still, theoretically, be a practice player, if I make it that far,” Pozzy said. “But I just wanted to come to tryouts for fun. I knew it would be fun with a lot of high-level players.”

Purcell and Rowse already have a coaching staff in place along with five athletes selected for a players council. Anne Lightbody, a Falmouth native who is a professor of engineering and earth sciences at the University of New Hampshire, is the head coach. Courtney Verhaalen, who has deep roots in the Ultimate scene in Boston, is the assistant coach.

Three of the five players council members are from Maine: Caitlin O’Connell and Kate Powers of Portland and Mohdis Baker of Westbrook. The other two, Hannah Baranes and Alex Ode, are from Massachusetts.

“These are people who represent what we want the community to be,” Purcell said. “So setting a professional standard, dedicated to training, grateful but not satisfied, exemplifying the values of Portland Rising.”

Several other women with longstanding ties to the local Ultimate community toted clipboards to help rate the players, each of whom paid a $35 fee and received a reversible Premier Ultimate League practice jersey with a number pinned on the back.


Before and after three hours of scrimmages and individual drills, all 102 players gathered in a wide circle, arms over one another’s shoulders. Rising isn’t only the team’s nickname, it’s also a theme important to the coaching staff and two owners, who carefully made note of uplifting words and actions.

Invitations to further tryouts next weekend will go out by Tuesday and the field will be winnowed once more in early February before the roster is announced in early March.

Portland Rising is scheduled to open its five-game season in Tennessee against the Nashville Nightshade on the weekend of April 11-12. Three home dates are on the weekends of May 2-3, May 16-17 and June 6-7 at a venue to be determined, possibly Fitzpatrick Stadium or Deering High School.

“We’re still working on that,” Rowse said.

On the other end of the age spectrum from Pozzy was 63-year-old Lisa Lane, who lives in Waldoboro and decided to try out after reading a Portland Press Herald article about the new team.

“I’m addicted to disc, but I really don’t know how to play Ultimate,” said Lane, who explained she once played a version of the game on roller skates while living in Boston a quarter-century ago. “It’s totally new to me. And throwing to dogs has made me very one-sided.”


Jes Heil, 33, is an oyster, scallop and kelp farmer from Portland has been playing competitively since 2006. She applauded Lane’s efforts.

“She’s here and she’s rockin’ out and having a great time,” Heil said. “I think that’s the coolest thing. She’s never played before and decided to take a chance and show up. If that’s not guts, I don’t know what is.”

Katie Janosik, 29, is a mother of three from Cumberland out to prove to herself that parenthood and high-level athletics are not incompatible.

“There’s a mindset out there that, ‘Oh, I have kids, I have to be done playing Ultimate,'” she said. “I say that’s rubbish. I think that time off actually gave me a lot of mental clarity for my game, so coming back I felt great.”

Whether fans outside of immediate friends and family come out to watch remains to be seen. Lightbody, the 42-year-old head coach, is optimistic.

Maine has a great Ultimate community and I know that they will come out, but I also think that the community at large will also enjoy seeing a good spectator sport, particularly one played by women,” she said. “It’s really fun.”

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