On Saturday morning at the North Campus Field, it was 60 degrees and slightly overcast with light rain throughout – perfect weather for OOzeball.
Now in its 33rd year, OOzeball has long been one of the most anticipated Spring Weekend traditions organized by the Student Alumni Association (SAA). Teams of six players – three males and three females – sign up and then compete in a tournament of mud volleyball for the title of OOzeball Champion.
“We love this event,” University of Connecticut president Susan Herbst said after she played the All-Star game in which student leadership competed against a university faculty team.
“It’s one of the best events (of Spring Weekend). We want all 30,000 students (competing) next year,” Herbst said.
Over 316 teams competed this past Saturday. Some wore coordinated t-shirts, others wore party hats or bandanas and all were covered in mud by the end.
The setup for the tournament takes about a year of preparation and planning involving several departments, including the Residence Hall Association, the Fire Department, Dining Services and more recently, UConn Recreation.
“There’s no way we could do this without our partners,” said Jess Sokol, an SAA member.
“When this ends, we go over what we want to do next year,” said Bhavin Parekh UConn Recreation Associate Director.
Creating the perfect mud for the event is almost as important an undertaking, since it wouldn’t be OOzeball without the perfect ooze.
“Three days ago Landscaping Facilities tilled up the field,” said Emily Johnson, Vice President of the SAA. “(The night before) we came out here with fire hoses, soaked the fields and made some mud. We have the Fire Department here all day to hose them down again.”
Hundreds of feet of pipelines brought water to the hoses and supplied the 50-student washing station that helped clean off the mud.
Many students named their teams mud-related puns such as Blooze Clooze, #ThanksOozan and The Muckrakers. While most of the mud caked on to students skin, clothes and haircame from wild dives and slips during the game, others were more eager to get “baptized by the mud.”
“A few people have splatted down,” said Lia Triantafylidis, an event volunteer and referee. “One kid went to hit the ball, and he completely missed and just fell face-down. The best is when people purposefully nosedive in.”
“The first fall is always the hardest.” said Matt Beidleman, captain of the team Volley BlueBalls. “It seems gross until you really get in. It’s really fun.”
Win or lose, all teams seemed excited to continue participating in OOzeball.
“We’re going to be training all year for next year,” said second-semester physiology and neurobiology major James Costanzo.
Sixth-semester environmental engineering major Tom Funk enthusiastically summed up his OOzeball experience: “I feel incinerated.”
Marlese Lessing contributed reporting.