Scandal has never looked so good
Penn graduate Octavia Payne and former Venus captain won the USAU national championship last weekend
October 22, 2013, 6:24 pm · Updated October 22, 2013, 11:35 pm·
Courtesy of Linda Li | DP
Only after Octavia Payne was pictured in Time Magazine, frozen in mid-air, did her family finally think of ultimate frisbee as a real sport.
But a few weeks later Payne, a 2011 graduate, reached the pinnacle of success in the sport.
Payne and her DC Scandal squad came into the USA Ultimate National Championships in Frisco, Texas as the number three seed behind San Francisco Fury, who had won every championship since 2006, and Seattle Riot.
Thanks in large part to the play of Payne, Scandal defeated both Riot and Fury on its way to the team’s first national championship.
“For me personally, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Payne said. “I have moments when I think, ‘Wow that just happened,’ but it still seems pretty unreal.”
Payne’s journey on the road to the apex of the ultimate community started at Penn, playing for Venus, the Quakers’ collegiate squad. While she was tempted for a time by the crew team, her heart ultimately belonged to Venus and to ultimate.
“The Ve-nuts were by far the best group of people I ever met at Penn and helped me fall in love with the sport,” Payne said. “They and the rest of the Philly ultimate community made my college experience special.”
Shannon Tsai, a 2012 graduate, was a part of that community, playing with Payne on Venus.
“Playing with her was a lot of fun,” Tsai said. “She was goofy off the field, but on the field she’d do a 180 and be the person constantly yelling at me, telling me what to do or where to go and letting me know when I was making bad decisions.”
Payne and Venus went to Nationals in 2009, finishing fifth. That season was the best that Venus has ever done in USA Ultimate competition.
But when it comes to the best moments of Payne’s time at Penn, it wasn’t about the game itself, but about spending time with her friends on Venus and Void, Penn’s men’s team.
“My favorite memory of Venus might be when we sang ‘Love Story’ by Taylor Swift at a … party and saw all the Void boys were singing the lyrics louder than we were,” Payne said.
Still, within all of the fun off the field, Payne fell in love with the game, ultimately deciding to play for Scandal.
Before this year, Scandal always came up short in the big moment, never able to overtake Fury — but this year was different.
“We also had mentally the strongest season ever,” Payne said. “In moments of frustration, throughout the season, we were able to put our head down and grind to the finish. You can see that even by looking at how we fared at Nationals. Twice, we went down … and both times we stayed mentally tough and stuck with our system. We demonstrated discipline and the ability to fight our way out of a hole.”
While Payne still hasn’t quite realized the enormity of the moment, she brings home a few memories from Frisco.
During one of the games where Scandal came back from a deficit, coach Alex Ghesquiere had tears in his eyes.
“When we came back from behind to win the quarters against the Capitals and saw [Ghesquiere] teary-eyed,” Payne said. “The amount of pride and heart he invested in this team was never more clear.”
But ultimately, standing at the top of her sport, Payne will remember the sense of family that was created this past season.
“We had teammates go through some tough times throughout the season and we banded together through them all,” Payne said.
“The love and friendship that [we] forged from those tests really showed in the way we supported each other through the ups and downs of the tournament and in my opinion was one of the biggest reasons we won it all.”