Playing Chaos Theory this year has been a disaster for most opposing teams. The women’s ultimate Frisbee team has earned its third consecutive bid to the D-III national championship, and will be the favorite to win for the second year in a row. What had been labeled a “rebuilding year” by some has become a shot at the national title in part because of Ana Leon ’16, appropriately nicknamed Calamity.

Friends on her high school basketball team convinced Leon, an Atlanta native, to try the game during her freshman year. She was already familiar with the sport, saying it is “something you played on the playground [in Atlanta] instead of football.” She stuck with the game, finding that a lot of the skills she developed through 11 years of basketball translated. By her senior year, her high school coach invited her to try out for the U-19 women’s team he would coach at the world championships in Ireland. She made the team as a defensive specialist, and it went on to finish second in the world.

At Bowdoin, Leon is able to offer advice to newer players—captain Clare Stansberry ’14 calls her a “baby captain”—because she knows the rules better than most other players. This is important in a game whose players are responsible for refereeing themselves. She also came to Bowdoin with a passion for the fundamentals of defense already ingrained. Mik Cooper ’14 noted that defense takes much longer for new players to learn than offense. 

Leon was already familiar with Bowdoin and Chaos Theory when she began her college search. Her sister, Liz Leon ’12, captained the team during the first year it qualified for nationals. Leon acknowledges that meeting members of the team during a visit, compounded by her desire to go to college far from home, influenced her decision to come to Bowdoin.

Ultimate players generally play one of two loosely defined positions: handler and cutter. Handlers are responsible for most of the throwing while cutters attempt to free themselves from the defense and advance the disk. Leon, technically a cutter, excels at throwing the disk as well, providing her with the versatility to keep the offense flowing.

“Ana is usually a cutter, but she’s easily one of the best throwers on the team,” said Kate Powers ’17. “It’s not too common. It’s something that most people aspire to be. Few have as impressive handling skills.”

Powers also said that Leon is better at adjusting her throws under windy conditions than many other players.

Leon explained that her goal as a player is to become more versatile, and that she models her game after Phoebe Aron ’13, who, among other skills, was known for her ability to throw the disk far upfield.

Teams without cutters who can throw typically accompany long gains with underneath backwards passes to allow the handlers to regain control of the disk. Cutters such as Leon who can look upfield put increased pressure on defenses and allow their team to move the disk more quickly.

Leon’s teammates often describe her uncanny ability to get open regardless of the coverage. 
“Honestly I don’t know how she does it,” said Hannah LeBlanc ’16. “It’s pretty incredible. If I knew how to do it, I would be doing it myself.”

“It’s a lot about setting up your cuts,” Leon said. “You’re trying to get your girl to move her hips so you can swivel around her.”

Leon employs a similar technique on defense, staying on her girl’s hip and denying her the disk. 

She explains how ultimate teams play a lot of “man” defense, while individual defenders prioritize taking a side of the field away from their girl when she gets the frisbee. This makes the next throw more predictable for an anticipatory defense. “Man” defense aims to keep the disk away from the offensive player but also to prevent them from getting into open space on the uncovered side of the opposing handler.

“You can watch her play and see that it’s just so intuitive for her—where to move, where to be—in a way that it isn’t for everyone else on the field,” LeBlanc said. “People can watch our games, not know anything about them and say ‘I just know that Ana’s dominating out there.’”

The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.