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Sunday December 5th

UNC Pleiades provides students community and competitive frisbee

Sophomore biology and public policy major Alli Reilly throws the frisbee past her teammates during a team practice on Oct. 14 outside of the Koman Practice Complex.
Buy Photos Sophomore biology and public policy major Alli Reilly throws the frisbee past her teammates during a team practice on Oct. 14 outside of the Koman Practice Complex.

Since it was founded in 1995, the UNC Pleiades women's ultimate frisbee team has allowed students to bond together both on and off the field.

The club draws its name from astronomy, as the Pleiades constellation is one of the closest star clusters to earth. Seven women compete on the field during an ultimate frisbee game, which fits with the constellation's nickname, the Seven Sisters. 

Junior club president Emily Przykucki explained that the Seven Sisters nickname also applies to the frisbee team because of the sisterhood it provides. 

Przykucki joined the team as a first-year after seeing an advertisement for tryouts in the Pit. She explained that she was having a hard time meeting people on campus, and considered transferring until she found the Pleiades.

“After two weeks on the team, I deleted my common app transfer portal because I was so happy,” Przykucki said. 

Her experience with the Pleiades is a very common one. Dawn Culton, a senior captain, also described her love for the community that the Pleiades provides.

“Pleiades is definitely where my friends are on campus,” Culton said. “It’s really nice to have friends who you know you’re working really hard toward a shared goal with.”

The Pleiades is coached by Jessi Jones, an North Carolina State alumna and a professional ultimate frisbee player. Despite her busy schedule, where she competes in the Triangle area, she spends an ample amount of time coaching the team.

Jessi Jones, a North Carolina State alumna and a professional ultimate frisbee player, is the head coach of the Pleiades. She coaches the team during a practice on Oct. 14 at the Koman Practice Complex.

“Jessi is one of the most consistent coaches I’ve ever met," Culton said. "She’s incredibly dedicated and she spends so much time on our team.”

Senior captain Ella Juengst added to the praise, as she said that Jones has helped the team reach its current level of success.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without her, and I think she also helps to create that culture of pushing us to be better and having high expectations for us but also taking steps to help us get there,” Juengst said. 

Jones’ perspective has been key for the team — however, the dedication of players has also been crucial. Though Pleiades is a tight knit community, it is also an incredibly competitive team that requires a large time commitment. 

This fall, the Pleiades have been in a unique position with last year's cancellation of the national tournament due to the pandemic. This school year, the Pleiades will compete in two national tournaments  — one in December to replace the one that was postponed from 2020, and another at the end of the spring semester, when nationals are usually held. 

“This semester is pretty unique because we don’t normally have a fall nationals, so we have to balance teaching our new rookies from this semester while also learning those higher-level concepts,” Culton said. 

Before the pandemic, the team competed in the 2019 nationals for the third straight year after winning back-to-back Atlantic Coast regional championships. With these victories, the team was in a great place prior to the cancellation of the 2020 nationals. 

Despite the shut downs, players have a positive outlook for the national championships this year as they look to prove their team’s strength. 

“No matter what happens, we are always there for each other and it's a really special group,” Juengst said. 

Players also noted how welcoming of a community the Pleiades is, especially for those who have never played ultimate frisbee. 

Unlike other sports, ultimate frisbee doesn’t require a lot of prior knowledge, and Pleiades has skilled leaders and coaches to teach rookies. Because of this, it has helped shape the experiences of students at UNC while allowing them to play a sport they love. 

“Pleiades is a group of very competitive athletes who really support each other in anything they want to do on the field and off the field, and I think that is something really special," Culton said.

@dthsports |

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