As a former Cal player, I have a love / hate relationship with Stanford. It's mostly love these days though, and in this Callahan profile, I turn the reins over to Stanford alum Gwen Ambler to put Stanford's Callahan nominee Caitlin "Ruggs" Rugg on the spot. Ruggs has been key to Superfly's success this season, and she is also the captain of Slackjaw, a team I helped start four years ago. While we have never played together, I have had the opportunity to play against and watch Ruggs develop as a player over the years, and she is an extremely deserving candidate. Special thanks to Gwen for putting this profile together, and stay tuned for more from Gwen later this week!
Photo Credit: Andrew Davis / Freeheel Photography
There are not very many players who are able to dedicate themselves to ultimate and their teams enough to captain and lead both their college and club team, simultaneously. Caitlin "Ruggs" Rugg (#18) has done both with skill and grace as the star player on Stanford Superfly and the bay area club team, Slackjaw.
She captained Superfly in her fourth year of college eligibility, and is back for her fifth year at Stanford as a "super-captain" player. In both 2010 and 2011, Ruggs was also one of the captains of Slackjaw, leading her young club team to tournaments up and down the west coast, competing with the best women's teams in the world. She has used the experience gained in club--and the practice throwing against tough club marks--to elevate her game in the college division. Meanwhile, she has been able to use the institutional knowledge gained from playing with an established team like Stanford to help add structure to the developing club team of Slackjaw.
Bouncing back from an early college ACL tear, Ruggs has made a name for herself in the college game with her monster throws. It's a short list of women who can throw end-zone to end-zone from a standstill, but Ruggs is routinely able to place pin-point hucks anywhere on the field and is a pivotal part of Stanford's offense with her deep game, break-mark looks, and aggressive handler cutting. She played practically every point in Stanford's game-to-go victory against Berkeley at D-I Southwest Regionals and then helped Superfly tie the finals at 12-a-piece against the prohibitive favorite of the women's division, UCSB. Ruggs has been at the helm every step of the way during Stanford's 25-7 season and she is looking forward to leading the team back to the College Championships for another title.
Stanford Superfly: 2007 - 2011
(Captain in 2010)
Slackjaw Ultimate: 2009 - 2011
(Captain in 2010 & 2011)
Role on Superfly this season
As a supercaptain this year, I’ve enjoyed stepping back and letting the current captains take the lead. I feel like I can focus more on my game rather than constantly thinking about the team. Even so, I live with two of the three Superfly captains, so I’ve still been exposed to many of the issues that I dealt with on the team last year. The most important contribution I can make this year is by leading on the field. Consistency is key for handlers, and I want to be the rock for my teammates.
Historically I’ve been an offensive player, but this year I’m embracing D line as well. I especially love 'fun' Ds like zone and clam. Thanks Robin!
Favorite ultimate memory
Making Nationals in 2009 was cathartic. We hadn’t gone to the show the year before, losing to Oregon in the back door at 2008 Regionals. In Corvallis at 2009 Regionals we saw Oregon in semifinals – the game to go. We had lost to them on double game point in the last 7 encounters. Robin fired us up with a story about some quiche, and we played like a championship team. We eventually got 3rd at Nationals that year. Another highlight, not related to college ultimate, was getting 2nd at Potlatch last year! Our team, AND1 Remix Tour, consisted of a bunch of my best friends from Stanford Ultimate. Dance party time-outs, unstoppable trick plays, and baby-blue baller shorts are the name of the game for AND1. I can't wait for this year!
Highlights from Superfly 2011
Making semi’s at Kaimana was HUGE! We beat the UCSB alumni team in a twenty-minute double game point in quarters. It was amazing to see our rookies running hard and getting Ds on some very experienced elite players. We also made finals at the party; jury is still out on who actually won.
Another highlight occurred during one of our early morning sprint practices. Jamie assigned us a seemingly impossible set of relay suicides. We all thought we were going to vomit after the first set, and we had to do five! But no one complained. During the rest, we spent every last breath cheering on our teammates. The determination was palpable. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team, in Ultimate or any other sport, that works so hard for each other. This is why we are going to win Nationals.
Looking forward to Nationals
As Jennifer Donelly coined: “Spring is for the Rookies”. I’m so excited that our rookies get to see what we have been working towards all year. I’m also looking forward to playing teams from across the country; it’s fun to see what strategies have evolved outside of the west coast.
Much like at Regionals, crazy &*#$ happens at Nationals. Often, players don’t know their full potential until someone tries to take their season away from them. I think this is what I’m most looking forward to: battling with my teammates to prove to the nation what we have known all along. This will be my last college tournament, and I intend to go out with a BANG!
Ultimate role models
Superfly has had a series of strong ultimate women as coaches.
Robin Knowler has trained generations of Stanford Women’s Ultimate players, and I am incredibly lucky to have been a part of Superfly during her tenure. She is one of those coaches who you want to play your hardest for. As I’ve taken on leadership roles in college and club, I realize how well she has prepared me to think about the game and explain it to others.
Jen Burney came onto the Superfly coaching staff as I was recovering from an ACL tear in 2009. Her amazing attitude and quiet support got me through those first few months, and she taught me so much about how to be a supportive friend and teammate.
And finally, Jamie Nuwer has returned to the Superfly scene this year as a coach. I admire her ability to play and coach ultimate while maintaining a successful medical career. As I hope to go into medicine, her perspective on how to balance ultimate with a professional life has been invaluable.
What the Callahan Award means
Historically, Stanford Superfly doesn’t have one 'star player' or MVP. One of the most refreshing aspects of Ultimate is that it inherently requires more than one player to score. My team lifts me up. They make me a better player by pushing me at practice, yelling at me on D, and catching my swilly throws. I’m incredibly humbled that my teammates nominated me for the award. To be honest, the fact that they see me as worthy of the nomination means so much more to me than the national voting. I would be nothing without my teammates.