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Plum Ultimate club team finds its success

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Adam Molinaro had fun but didn't experience much success his first two years playing for Plum's team in the Pittsburgh High School Ultimate League.

“In two years, we only won one game,” said Molinaro, a Plum senior.

“Then we actually learned how to play, and we started winning. We all love the game so much that we had fun even when we lost. But winning is much better.”

Plum has been winning regularly the last two years, qualifying for the PHUL playoffs both seasons.

Molinaro and his teammates finished fifth in the 2013 Division II champion-ship tournament and concluded the season with an 8-2 record.

Ultimate, originally called Ultimate Frisbee, is a seven-on-seven game played with a flying disc.

The object is to score points by passing the disc and advancing it into the opposing end zone, similar to an end zone in football.

Players can't run with the disc and must keep a pivot while holding it. If a pass is incomplete, intercepted or caught out-of-bounds, the opposing team immediately gains possession and tries to move the disc in the other direction.

Touchdowns are worth one point. The first team to total 15 points wins.

“There's a lot of teamwork involved,” said Molinaro, Plum's team captain as a junior and senior.

Many of the 17 players on Plum's roster this season also ran track or cross country, which made them a good fit for Ultimate, a game of speed, agility and endurance.

Ultimate is a club sport at Plum, with the players running the team. Games and practices are held on the high school football field.

Ultimate's roots can be traced back to 1967. The first collegiate games were played in 1972.

The PHUL got started in 2001 and currently includes boys teams from 21 Pittsburgh-area high schools. There are high school leagues for boys and girls.

Plum was one of 13 teams in the PHUL's Division II. It played in Division II's Southeast Division, which also included Gateway, Woodland Hills, Obama Academy, Central Catholic, Bethel Park and Braddock Hills.

Gateway and Plum, with one loss apiece, shared the top spot in the Southeast Division regular-season standings.

An early-season showdown with Gateway went to Plum, which won 15-13 on March 24.

“That was our main highlight of the whole season,” Molinaro said. “We had never beaten Gateway, and we never scored more than five points against them in six years.”

Plum's only two losses in the 2013 season were to Obama Academy, a 15-12 setback on May 5 and a 15-13 loss in the PHUL playoffs May 13.

“(Obama Academy) had some really tall kids,” Molinaro said. “Our tallest player was 5-8 or 5-9, and their shortest was about 5-8. They were too big for us.”

Junior Caleb Tarosky led Plum in touchdown receptions with 17, and senior Dan Szurley made 12 touchdown grabs. Topping the team in touchdown throws were Molinaro and junior assistant captain Alan Yocca.

The defense was anchored by senior Berty Ruan, the team leader in blocks.

Plum's team has come a long way since Molinaro and his friend, senior Lucas Airhart, joined the club as freshmen.

“We all love playing”, Molinaro said. “We just go out there and have fun.”

Also on the 2013 team were seniors Abish Pius and Alex Denny; juniors Andy Marzullo, Jeff Ruffing and Stephen Hemmerle; sophomores Brandon Molinaro, Jake Younkins and Dan Allman; and freshmen Jake Chapla, Jake Susalla and Noah Frederick.

Plum 2012 graduates Aaron Valetta, James Held, John McAleavey, Scott Romanko and Alex Rudolf worked with the team this season.

For more information about Plum's Ultimate team and the PHUL, visit www. pittsburgh-ultimate.org.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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