Brandon Lamberty and Igor Smola are the most recent Temple players to join the Philadelphia Phoenix ultimate frisbee team.
Since 2012, the Philadelphia Phoenix have played professionally in the American Ultimate Disc League, which has four divisions of 23 total teams in the United States and Canada. Zack Eskin and Steve Ng, who both graduated in 2013, 2014 alumnus Elliott Lamborn and 2016 alumnus Sam Peezick are former members of the Phoenix. This year, Temple coach Himalaya Mehta was named a captain of the Phoenix during his first season as a member.
Lamberty, a sophomore political science major, and Smola, a senior mechanical engineering major, practiced for Temple on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8-10 p.m.
During the Owls season, which ended in late April, they also practiced for the Phoenix on Wednesdays. They joined the Phoenix after open tryouts in December.
“I think it’s a different mindset,” Lamberty said. “The frisbee is still frisbee, but there’s people around and there’s volunteering at events and helping people out so that we can get our name out there.”
This summer, Lamberty and Smola will play home games for the Phoenix at A.A. Garthwaite Stadium in downtown Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and travel to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Ontario, New York and Washington, D.C.
Smola is most excited to compete against Darryl Stanley, who coached the Philadelphia Spinners in the now-defunct Major League Ultimate in 2016 and now coaches the DC Breeze. Smola worked with Stanley at tryouts and clinics and is eager to cross paths with him when Philadelphia travels to face the Breeze on June 30.
“When I first started playing frisbee, he was a role model to me,” Smola said.
For both Smola and Lamberty, ultimate frisbee was originally something they did for fun, but it has now become a serious sport.
Smola started playing during his sophomore year to get back in shape after his freshman year, he said.
Since then, Mehta has noticed significant improvement in Smola’s game.
“He has really good closing speed and is a threat deep,” Mehta said. “He started playing only three years ago, and he was still growing into his body. He started doing things that I really liked. He’s one of the most selfish players in a good way, in that he wants to be the one that scores. He wants the frisbee.”
Lamberty began playing ultimate frisbee during his freshman year of high school as an alternative to playing soccer. The frisbee team at Stoughton High School in Wisconsin was in its first year when he saw a flyer and decided to join.
Lamberty has now been playing frisbee for six years, and Mehta thinks his experience makes him as valuable as some of Temple’s veterans.
The team voted Lamberty as a captain and club president for next season on Wednesday night.
“He came in as a freshman with a lot of experience already,” Mehta said. “His big calling card is that he has huge throws, he can bomb a backhand at least 80 yards and he’ll do it often. He has big creative throws, and he can make a lot happen on the field because of where he can place the frisbee.”
Smola has seen Temple improve since 2014, the team’s first year with a coach. The Owls advanced to the Ohio Valley regionals in each of the past two years and have played high-ranked opponents like the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Minnesota, which are both in the top 10 of the USA Ultimate rankings.
Both Lamberty and Smola enjoy the competitions against local rival Villanova. Temple and Villanova play together in the Eastern Pennsylvania section of USA Ultimate. Both teams have reached the sectional final in the last two seasons, with Villanova winning both matchups.
Lamberty and Smola played for Temple at a regional competition in Columbus, Ohio, on April 28 and 29 to end their college seasons. The team placed fifth, one spot behind Villanova.
“It’s a much more strategic game because we know [Villanova], and we know what they are gonna do,” Lamberty said. “We play with three of them on Phoenix, and a lot of us are friends. They are pretty good guys, so it’s cool to just really go at it with them.”
Lamberty and Smola will travel the country playing ultimate frisbee, but they still have to work to earn starting spots.
“Being on a pro team is cool, and it’s good recognition,” Lamberty said. “There’s a lot of guys who made the team, so it’s not like it’s the final step. There’s a lot more we can do to become the very best players.”