Early morning practices at the MAC, paying their own way to tournaments, running stadiums. One way or another...

It was deathly silent on the bus about one year ago as the Harvard ultimate frisbee team rode from Binghampton, N.Y. back to Cambridge.

And why not? After two long years of practice and competition, of straining to cover their men and to lunge for the disc--after two years of living the sport--the senior-laden team had just lost its last opportunity to qualify for the national collegiate championships, losing to rival Wesleyan, 17-15 in overtime, in the regional finals.

When Wesleyan scored the winning point, the dream had ended. Nationals were gone.

"Yeah, it was pretty grim on the bus coming back to Harvard that night," junior Daryl Norcott says now.

"We had been really good for the past two seasons, and even though we might have been a little better [the year before], we expected to go to Nationals more last year."

Norcott, who is now one of the co-captains of the Harvard ultimate frisbee club, was one of the players who stood on the wellworn field that April as the last, painful point was scored. And the memory still bites.

Outsiders might find it strange that such passions could be aroused by a sport that most people associate only with carefree intramurals and California.

Ultimate frisbee? they might ask. Why do those guys take it so seriously?

But anyone who has played the game can attest to its pure fun and to the friendships it engenders. And, according to junior Co-Captain Enver Kasimir, the ability to leave Cambridge on a regular basis.

"The travel is definitely a big part of it," Kasimir says. "Just getting out, seeing new places and meeting people is why I do it."

Of course, as with all other activities at Harvard, there's the element of personal satisfaction that comes from achieving excellence.

"I get a rush when I've worked really hard to get in shape and to practice, and then we get to a tournament and play well as a team," Norcott says.

In many ways (although purists might gag at the comparison) members of the ultimate frisbee team are like those of crew: They toil long hours in anonymity, running down the Charles River and up the Stadium stairs when no one else is around.

They sacrifice their weekends to play in tournaments along the East Coast, often footing the transportation and competition costs themselves. And don't think that they aren't aware of the sacrifices.

"Obviously, the obstacles are discouraging, but people who do play somehow decide in their head that this is something that they want to devote themselves to," Norcott says.