After two long years of Zoom calls, get-to-know-you games and equity discussions, Maine’s first women’s professional Ultimate team finally took flight.

Portland Rising made its long-delayed debut in the Premier Ultimate League on Friday night at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Defending league champion Revolution Pro, from Medellin, Colombia, scored four times before Rising found the end zone, and the visitors never trailed on their way to a 19-15 victory before an enthusiastic crowd of 230.

“I am super excited to be watching a professional Ultimate game in my home state after playing Ultimate myself for many years,” said Bill Yori of Bangor.

Growing up in Belfast, Yori was in junior high when he first learned the game that requires fitness, endurance, coordination and a spirit of competition that calls for players to resolve any disputes without need for a referee’s intervention. Standing next to Yori in a beer garden overlooking the field, enjoying a can of pale ale from a local brewery, Niki Lesniak, 34, of Bar Harbor tried to explain the game’s appeal.

“It’s complex and interesting,” she said. “Ultimate borrows defense from basketball. It borrows offense from soccer and football. A lot of people think it’s something you play with your dog. It’s often under-appreciated.”


In consideration of the coronavirus pandemic, rising case counts in Cumberland County and the fact that some of the Colombia team members are unvaccinated, all players wore masks. Fans were required to do so as well.

Mauricio Moore, coach of the visiting Revolution Pro, said his team of 27 women flew into New York last weekend. They traveled to suburban Boston and found lodging in Bedford, Massachusetts. He said a few of his players were able to get vaccinated earlier in the week.

“It’s easier to get it here,” he said. “In Colombia, it’s hard right now.”

On the field, the players from Colombia (three hail from the United States and one from Germany) quickly showed their experience and skills with sharp fakes and pinpoint passes.

“They have great flow,” said Quinn Campbell, 22, of Newburyport, Massachusetts. “They’re really quick with the disc and they know where to be.”

Campbell spoke from the grandstand while watching a halftime promotion that had fans lining up for one attempt to toss a disc from 20 yards in hopes of dislodging a pair of L.L. Bean boots from atop an overturned bucket. Three fans did so successfully, setting up a closest-to-the-pail competition to determine who went home with a $50 gift certificate.


As for the game itself, the Rising players proved they were no slouches. That four-point gap from the opening minutes remained intact, more or less, throughout the remainder of the 48-minute contest. There were layout catches, a 45-yard scoring completion and leaping grabs that would make any football wideout proud.

Revolution Pro led 7-3 after one quarter, 12-8 at intermission and 18-13 after three quarters. Nine players scored for Rising and four of those, as well as five others, threw the final passes that resulted in scores.

The three-team tournament continues Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader at Fitzpatrick. At 3:30, Portland Rising takes on Austin Torch of Texas. At 6:30 p.m., Austin meets Revolution Pro.

The teams with the two best records (unless point differential is needed to break a three-way tie) play in Sunday’s championship game at 3 p.m.

“This weekend is our season,” said Mohdis Baker, the first Rising player introduced prior to the game, and prior to a 30-second moment of silence following a land acknowledgment meant to recognize and honor the Wabanaki confederacy. “For the Premier Ultimate League, there are only three championship series in three different regions and Portland is the host of one. So this is the time to come watch.”

Baker played at Deering High and Bates College. She’s one of seven Rising team members who played in Maine high schools before reaching the pro level. Her teammates hail from 12 other states as well as the District of Columbia.

“This is just the beginning,” Baker said. “We want to grow this sport and this community for as far as we can see.”

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