We are excited to present the third and final installment of this year's preseason College Power Rankings in the Women's Division!
October 31, 2014 by Keith Raynor in Rankings with 18 comments
We are excited to present the third and final installment of this year’s preseason College Power Rankings in the Women’s Division! These rankings are based holistically on a number of factors: last year’s performance, roster changes, conversations with coaches, the “eye test”, and assorted other factors.
5. Whitman Lady Sweets (2014: T-17th at Nationals, 3rd in Northwest)
The forecast for the Lady Sweets calls for sunshiny days. It seems optimistic: here’s a team that’s been to Nationals twice and won just three games. Even of those three wins, two have come by a single point, and their opponents have won a combined single game. They’ve never even sniffed the elimination bracket. Heck, do you even know where Whitman is? (Answer: Walla Walla, WA)
The past few seasons have yielded incredibly rapid growth for the team. Two nationals appearances is nothing to sneeze at for a tiny school of 1500 in the rural Northwest. But acquiring five of the game’s highest profile youth recruits – Claire Revere, Margo Heffron, Nina Finley (transferring in from Ohio State after a year off), and Alissa & Linnea Soo have all represented the USA at WJUC – along with some serious other Northwest talent, like Julia Bladin (Underground) and Ari Lozano (both 2nd Team All-Region, as was Revere) has done more than enough to send this team from the rankings wilderness and put them on the map.
We’ve seen this before, over in Minnesota. Carleton has been a bastion of Ultimate recruiting for years now. But Seattle youth players might be seeing they can get their Ultimate and small liberal arts fix way closer to home and with significantly less snowstorms. Considering the number of years of eligibility left for many of their core players, this is likely the beginning of an extensive run for the Lady Sweets.
4. Stanford Superfly (2014: T-13th at Nationals, 2nd in Southwest)
For the most part, Superfly is exactly what you look for in an elite team. Exceptional talent? Check. Solid veterans? Check. Big game experience? Check. Proven program? Check. Strong coaching? Check. It is all here.
This year may be the payoff for the struggles that rounded out last season. They came into nationals seeded 7th, having performed well at both Santa Barbara Invite and Stanford Invite. But injuries sapped their depth at Northwest Challenge, and something got to them in Ohio. There’s some argument their underperformance was the most surprising of the tournament, stumbling to a 1-3 pool play record that eliminated them from contention far earlier than anticipated.
Now, things look like they are lining up even better. Perhaps the disappointment of last season helped motivate extra years out of Steph Lim (Nightlock), Anne Rempel (Mischief), and Halsey Hoster (BW Ultimate), all key contributors. Along with that group, workhorse handler Michela Meister (Fury) is finally back on the field after a ligament tear sidelined her for an extended period of time. She’ll join Monisha White (Nightlock) in the backfield this season to cause serious problems. On top of that, youngsters Amanda Somvilay and Caitlin Go will have grown into even more dangerous throwers; the team may be able to send Lim back downfield.
With such an intelligent roster of players who’ve been in tough spots, Stanford will be one of the favorites this season. They have enough firepower to give any team a go of it.
3. Virginia Hydra (2014: T-5th at Nationals, 1st in Atlantic Coast)
Hydra has, over the past five years, built one of the nation’s stronger programs. They’ve been to Nationals for four straight years and won their region for three. For two consecutive Championships, they’ve made it to the quarterfinals.
Now, they could take the next step.
It is no coincidence that their rise has coincided with the growth and career of Alika Johnston (Scandal, 2014 All-College 2nd Team). The two-time Club Champion is one of the best players the division has to offer, a strong handler even among the club elite. She’s a plus defender and virtuoso in the backfield, with high energy and zero quit in her.
But her team is more than just Johnston and Friends. Sarah Hansen (2014 Breakout Player of the Year, 2nd Runner-Up) is also gifted with great speed and even greater work ethic. She showed at Nationals what she could do against top competition, notching 17 goals (ranking her 5th) and adding 12 assists and 5 Ds. While their leading goal scorer, Theresa Hackett, is gone, they return Hansen, Kathryn Hannum, Rebecca Meeker, and Nada Tramonte, all of their other key endzone targets.
This team is tough, deep, and have been through battles together. They gave Oregon a very tough quarterfinal last year and have a wealth of big game experience. Coach David Allison has a team that’s high on buy-in, hard work, and a team-first mentality. Its enough to make Hydra one of the field’s top contenders.
2. UBC Thunderbirds (2014: T-5th at Nationals, 4th in Northwest)
The recruiting exploits of teams like Oregon, Whitman, and Carleton have made them some of college women’s strongest performers and biggest notables. Across the border, away from the spotlight, British Columbia has been raking in the young talents. Their pipeline is powerful and it hasn’t taken long for it to pay off.
Last year, it helped them reach quarterfinals. This year, the last stop could be even more impressive. And it could be their youthful stars leading the way.
The 2014 Thunderbirds were built heavily on their freshman class. Their vets were quality performers who were big time producers, but the depth they received stemmed from their full stock of experienced youth players. But the year of seasoning that crew got – plus the experience many of them got together playing with the U-19 Canadian team in Lecco – will turn their freshfaced recruits into battle-tested warriors. And they’re getting reinforcements.
UBC’s roster is basically a Canadian all-star team. You don’t see many rookie lines like this: Esther Au, Victoria McCann (2014 Freshman of the Year, 2nd Runner Up), Emma Madden-Krasnick (Traffic), Leah Mulholland, Judith Yeo, Naomi Johnson, Jessica Chung. Mulholland and Johnson are big deep threats, Au’s a speedster, McCann’s a distributor, and Chung’s a strong handler. To their sophomore group, they’re adding big name freshmen, including Ellen Au-Yeung and Janelle Siwa, two of the top performers from the Canadian U-19 squad. Back are Megan Leong, Kailin Chang, also U-19 alums, and Victoria Lam and Amy Luo, Canadian U-23 team members.
Top it all off with offensive dynamo Mira Donaldson (2014 All-College 2nd Team), Terynn Chan, and Kimberly Ho. If these exceptional players can be standout leaders, along with Coach Tasia Balding, UBC could be looking at adding another National title to their trophy case.
1. Oregon Fugue (2014: 2nd at Nationals, 1st in Northwest)
If one of the reasons college season is so exciting is the unpredictability, then Oregon would be the enemy of excitement. Every year, Fugue is considered a Championship favorite, and with their pedigree and ability, nobody questions it. Fortunately, their style of play and superstar players make them a treat to watch.
This year’s leaders are Jesse Shofner (2014 All-College 2nd Teamer, All-Region 1st Team, Schwa) and Bethany Kaylor (All-Region 1st team), two of the division’s top performers. Shofner was incredible at last year’s Championships, registering 14 goals, 23 assists, 9 Ds, and just 8 turns; the last stat has been an issue in the past that she’s strengthened over time. Kaylor unfortunately missed the tournament with a foot injury.
Oregon’s no two-woman show. In fact, the rest of their top-end would be many teams’ best players. Hayley Walhroos (2014 Freshman of the Year, Schwa) is back, having won gold with the U-19 team, and ready to show off her huge throws and active backfield play. Alex Ode (2014 2nd team All-Region, Schwa) has developed into a do-it-all threat akin to Kaylor. Ashley Young returns to the backfield, speedster Olivia Bartruff (Schwa) will be racking up goals again, and Rachel Hershey is primed to dominate in the air. And their sophomores – Gabrielle Aufderheide, Sarafina Angstadt-Leto, Hope Zima, and Kaitlin Brunnik (Pop) – are all ready to break out.
The pipeline isn’t dry: Ella Hanson, a Team USA U-19 alternate, joins the team. With so much skill in place, they’ll be heavily focused on recruiting monstrous athletes to fill in the roster.
There’s no secret with Oregon. You know they are going to be big, strong, fast, and aggressive. Coach Lou Burruss and his staff have in place a winning program mentality infused with a wealth of talent and experience. Absorbing losses of players like Sophie Darch and Andre Fontenot is not an issue for this group; they’ve done it many times before. It won’t be easy: even as runners up, the target will be on their back, and they’re in a stacked Northwest and a field of increasing strength. But anything less than the best is below the bar.