Fans applaud as Portland Rising players are announced before the start of a tournament at Fitzpatrick Stadium last summer. Portland Rising is Maine’s first professional Ultimate team and features women, transgender and non-binary athletes. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland Rising waited more than two years for all the typical franchise firsts. Now those firsts are coming fast.

Last Saturday, the team began play in its first full season as a member of the Premier Ultimate League, a professional Ultimate league for women, transgender and non-binary athletes. One of 12 teams in the league, Portland Rising will play the first of three consecutive home games at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium when it hosts the Atlanta Soul.

Ultimate is played 7-on-7, with the players passing a flying disc while trying to reach the opponent’s end zone. The game consists of four 12-minute quarters, and draws elements from football, soccer and basketball.

The team was supposed to debut in the 2020 season, which was lost to the pandemic. Last summer, the Rising’s season consisted of hosting one weekend tournament in August.

Portland is scheduled to host the Columbus Pride at Yarmouth High School on May 14. The Rising close out the home schedule on May 28 against the Nashville Nightshade. Tickets for home games are $20 for adults and $15 for youth and students (ages 5-18) when purchased in advance at the team’s website. Tickets purchased at the gate are $25 for adults, $20 for youth and students.

Saturday’s come-from-behind 17-14 overtime win in Texas over the Austin Torch was the first road game in the Rising’s brief history. Portland trailed 8-3 at the half and was down 14-12 with 1:30 left in regulation before rallying to send the game to OT.

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“It was 90 degrees. Kind of different than what we’ve been practicing in,” said team co-owner Chloë Rowse, who also is a player for the Rising. “It’s been an adjustment for sure. This kind of feels like our first real season.”

The Rising have a new coaching staff, with co-head coaches Ryan Cardinal and Eva Fury and assistant coach Ethan Fortin. The team also has a new general manager in former player Mohdis Baker. A Portland native and Deering graduate, Baker coached Ultimate at her alma mater Bates College.

“I get to see a different side of the team I didn’t see previously,” Baker said. “It’s fun to be backstage.”

Chloë Rowse, co-owner of Portland Rising and player on the team, competed in Ultimate for Colorado College and Team USA after learning the sport in Maine. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Portland’s roster of 28 players (16 made the trip to Austin for last weekend’s game) includes 10 players new to the team this season. Sixty players took part in tryouts earlier this season. That group was whittled down to 40 who were invited to a second tryout before the final roster was chosen, Baker said.

“We were inside, we were masked, but we had players from all over New England at tryouts,” Baker said.

That level of interest in playing for the team emphasizes the growth in Ultimate, Rowse said. A Falmouth native and graduate of Waynflete High, Rowse played along with a handful of girls on a club team made up mostly of boys.

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“The level of play is really incredible. We have players who won college championships and played on Team USA,” Rowse said. “There’s so much joy and dedication I’m feeling, and I’m feeling from my teammates.”

Baker noted Yuge Xiao, Sophie Knowles, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Olivia Hampton and Josie Gillett as players who could have an impact on offense this season. Defensively, the team is led by Rowse, Hannah Baranes and Sarah Judd.

Portland Rising looks to make an impact in the community as well as on the field, Rowse said. Tuesday, the team worked with the Natural Resources Council of Maine to organize a plogging event (picking up trash along the trail while jogging) at the Eastern Promenade Trail. The team also will plan events to help grow its sport, including a 3-on-3 Ultimate tournament from 3-5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Wainwright Complex in South Portland.

“We really want this team to be involved in the community,” Rowse said.

In the past, players in the Premier Ultimate League made around $900 for the season. Rowse said salaries this season are to be determined and will depend on how much money the team brings in. Baker thinks there’s already a solid fan base in the Portland area. She watched the season-opening win with friends and fans at a watch party held at Mast Landing Brewing in Westbrook, and said the energy and excitement grew as Rising mounted and completed its comeback.

“There are a ton of Ultimate fans here, and sports fans who may not know about Ultimate but will come out and support the local team,” Baker said. “They come out and watch, and if the wind is carrying (the disc), they might see some cool layout (catches). There’s a ton of opportunities for highlight reels.”


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