This past Saturday, April 22, 2023, the University of Connecticut celebrated the 40-year anniversary of OOzeball, the school’s muddiest and longest standing tradition. As its name suggests, ‘OOzeball’ is an annual mud volleyball tournament, with registration open to UConn students, alumni, as well as faculty and staff. Originally started by the UConn Student Alumni Association in 1984, the 2023 OOzeball tournament ran from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in collaboration with the SAA and the UConn Recreation Center.
Registration for the event closed over a week before the tournament date on Friday, April 14, allowing players time to practice and coordinate uniforms. In order to participate in the tournament, teams were required to have six to eight players in addition to paying a $120 team fee to cover event expenses.
The theme of this year’s tournament was ‘The Wizard of OOze’, however, teams were encouraged to get creative with their uniforms and did not need to adhere to the theme. Players were told to “dress to impress” with an optional costume contest and prizes for contest winners, separate from the grand prize, second prize and third prizes awarded to the tournament champions.
This year’s tournament champions — the ‘Early OOzers’ — went home with the grand prize, with second place awarded to ‘Muddy Buddies 6’ and team ‘The Bury’ taking third. Members of The Daily Campus participated as well, with ‘The Daily Campus’ being one of 304 teams to participate for a chance to win the tournament.
The DC’s own associate sports editor, Stratton Stave, was one of seven members who played this past Saturday.
“I had a great time playing OOzeball with the DC,” Stave said after the tournament. “It’s really one of those experiences that you’ll never forget, and being able to do it with my Daily Campus family just made it all more special.”
‘The Daily Campus’ team entered the tournament at 1 p.m., winning their first match against ‘Cookies & Cream Muddy Buddies’ 25-23.
“I came in not expecting much with such little volleyball experience on the team, including myself, but winning that first game in such a thrilling fashion gave us so much confidence,” Stave mentioned. “The thing with the sport is that after that first game, you’re not getting less muddy, so the more you play, the more worthwhile the experience becomes.”
The DC proceeded to win their next game vs. ‘Lazer Pirates’ 25-13 before a 9-25 blowout against team ‘ooze touch’.
“Getting a blowout win in game two was an even better feeling than the first win,” noted Stave. “After that, we got a tough draw with a side of the court that was in rough shape and took a pretty brutal loss. It would’ve been an uphill battle even if the court was in good condition, but it certainly didn’t help. We left it all out there. Especially ‘Big Business’ Zach [Wisnefsky]. He took some pretty big spills. We lost to the eventual division champs, so you can only be so upset.”
According to Stave, the mud, a large part of what makes OOzeball a unique and fun experience, also played a role in match difficulty. As teams play and rotate, the conditions of the courts continue to change, getting deeper as more players inevitably fall and move around throughout the matches — some teams were up to their knees in mud while others stood only ankle-deep. With this in mind, students are also encouraged to wear clothing and closed-toed shoes that they are comfortable with getting dirty.
“However messy you may have thought it is — it’s messier,” said Stave. “The dorm showers were obliterated after and I had to throw out pretty much every item of clothing I wore. Even with that, it was 100% worth it.”
While ‘The Daily Campus’ and most other teams left without an award, the courts behind North Residence Hall were filled with the smiles of students happy to simply participate in the event.
“Ultimately though, it was just a great time, win or lose. I definitely feel a lot closer to the people at the DC who I did this with and it’s something I’ll always cherish,” added Stave.