When you play the game of Ooze, you win or you die

Students participate in UConn's annual Oozeball event on the Saturday over Spring Weekend. Also the student leaders lost to the faculty. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Students from all over UConn got together on Sat. April 22, at the North Campus field for the annual spring weekend event “Oozeball,” in what can only be described as the best way to celebrate Earth Day – rolling around in pits of oozy mud.

Oozeball is a single-elimination volleyball tournament which hosts up to 400 teams of six to eight players each (among which there must be at least three males and three females), pitting students against each other in a competitive match to determine which team will reign supreme.

This year, the tournament’s theme was “GAME OF OOZE – MUD IS COMING,” perhaps making up for the conspicuously absent HBO series Game of Thrones that normally airs its new season in April.

The event began right at 9 a.m., and teams that did not make it to their game on time faced forfeit by default, which made it quite clear that if you snooze, you lose the ooze.

In contrast to the warm, sunny conditions of last year’s Oozeball tournament, the weather on Saturday was cool and wet, with light rain, mist and temperatures ranging in the high 40s and low 50s.

“I was a little disappointed that it was really cold, but once I got here, the hype just got me over it. I don’t really care anymore that it’s cold,” said second-semester political science and Chinese studies double major Ryan Chester. “I feel like it might actually be better that it’s cold, because if it was hot then I’d be sweaty, but since it’s cold, it’s not that bad.”

Chester’s team name, “The Unsullied” (keeping with the Game of Thrones theme of the event), went on to win their first match of the day.

“Honestly, it was a little rough in the beginning,” Chester said. “I’m gonna say it was a little rough, but I think our team really came together. I started serving. Carlos – Carlos, my man over here – started getting those sets really well, and we went for 25 points and we won.”

Eighth-semester music education major Carly Burriesci and sixth-semester physics major Zach Rankin, both members of the team “Cruisin’ for an Oozin’,” also had mixed reactions to the weather.

“The weather sucks,” Burriesci said.

“No, this is perfect weather,” Rankin said.

“Just gotta keep a smile on your face, you know?” Burriesci said. “It’ll definitely make it better once we’re caked in mud.”

“The muddier the merrier,” Rankin said.

“Zach called the mud our nature sweater,” Burriesci said.

Despite the rain, students participated in the UConn tradition of Oozeball on Saturday, April 22. The volleyball tournament is a student favorite activity during spring weekend. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

Off to the side of the games, there were tents with tables of coffee and caffeinated chocolate, juice and granola bars, as well free shirts and even monitors to watch the brackets progress. Near the edge of the field were rows of showers hooked up to hoses for players to wash the mud off of their clothes after they finished.

There were 12 courts in total, which allowed 24 teams to play at a time. Music played all the while, with a powerful bass so strong that many students couldn’t help but dance on the sidelines or even on the courts between sets.

Kevin Roberts, a sixth-semester mechanical engineering major and one of the referees of the event, stayed out of the mud but not out of the rain.

“You definitely see the competitive teams,” Roberts said. “You can tell which ones are here to win and which ones are here to have fun.” He added that the craziest students of the day are the ones “who start the game off doing a nice slide into the mud.”

Chris Shank and Haley Palmer, fourth-semester engineering majors, and Jeremy Doucette, a fourth-semester biology major, were perhaps among those more enthusiastic players that Roberts saw. They were all members of the team, “Fire and Mud.”

“So pumped!” Shank said.

“I’m pumped on the inside,” Doucette said.

“Here’s what I learned: for your first game, you have to go right into the mud, or then you’ll just be scared not to get dirty for the rest of the day,” Shank said.

“We’re gonna swim in it before we start playing,” Palmer added. With regard to the event as a whole, she went on to say, “It’s important to be a part of it. I think everyone should at least do it once. And I think just because we did it freshman year, that’s what’s going to make us do it all four years, just because we did it the one time.”

She even said her mom, an UConn alum, had participated in Oozeball back when she was a student, again proving the event’s long history at UConn.

The day featured a number of highlights, including the all-star game at 12 p.m., which featured many of UConn’s administrators and faculty (including Interim Provost and Executive Vice President Jeremy Teitelbaum, though President Susan Herbst did not make an appearance this year) pitted against student leaders from a variety of campus organizations.

Ultimately, the faculty proved their all-star status, winning against the students 25-15.

Sixth-semester computer science major Mac Ira and second-semester biomedical engineering and German studies double major Rachel Szendrey represented for the saxophone section of the UConn marching band alongside the other members of their team, “The Sinking Saxes.”

“A lot of us don’t actually do a lot of intramurals, but this time we were like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s just have a good time.’ And so a lot of us showed off and it was really good – a lot of hidden talent in our group,” Ira said.

“I guess high school volleyball turned out to be good for something,” Szendrey said. “I had to play it in P.E. in North Carolina like every year.”

“When you lose, everyone just piles in on the middle, so it’s a good time. It’s part of the experience, you know?” Ira said.

“That’s the best part,” Szendrey agreed.

As a freshman, this was Szendrey’s first experience at Oozeball, but she made it clear that it certainly wouldn’t be her last. However, not all newcomers to the game were underclassmen. Jackie Bickley, an eighth-semester English major, admitted that it was her first time stepping onto the Oozeball fields.

“Your feet get stuck in it really easily, which I wasn’t expecting, and it’s kind of cold,” she said. “But other than that, it’s a lot of fun. You don’t get a lot of chances to jump around in the mud. Some people fell, some people got splashed.”

Her team also won its first game, although she pointed out she hoped her sneakers would live to see another day after the mud. “I at least have to stretch these until the end of the year.”

However, at the end of the day, only one team could bring home the title of champion. Throughout the day, 277 teams competed to claim that title. Honorable mention goes to “Easy Steve’s,” the third-place winners who won against “On Oozedays We Wear Pink.”

The final match of the day featured the teams “Ooze Know Nothing Jon Snow” and “Oozebekistan” competing against each other for the grand prize. Ultimately, “Oozebekistan” bested their Westerosi opponents and went on to win the day.

“It’s nice to see that people do it rain or shine,” Bickley said. “This is one of my first times doing something with this many UConn people together, so I really enjoy it.”

Many others shared that sentiment with her. This year’s tournament proves yet again that Huskies are fun loving and adventurous, and certainly won’t let a little cold or rain keep them indoors. Oozeball remains an old favorite of UConn students everywhere.


Brian Roach is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at brian.roach@uconn.edu.