College Preseason Power Rankings (Women’s Division): #10 – #1

The Ultiworld Power Rankings.

See the rest of the top 25 in our first installment.

We are excited to present the second 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.

10. Colorado Kali (2015 Finish: T-5th at Nationals, South Central Champion)

Coming off their highest finish in five years, Colorado could be in a bit of flux going forward. They never really demonstrated the pop of a top tier team in 2015, failing to finish closer than four points against another quarterfinalist. But their depth and consistency kept them out of range of most teams clamoring from below them (save fellow South Central squad Kansas) and helped them put together a very successful campaign.

The new iteration is likely to see some growth from younger players to help make up for a notable crop of graduating talent. Megan Cousins, Dori Franklin, and Katie Heil remove a lot of the team’s offensive firepower from last season, accounting for 16 goals and 30 assists at Nationals last year. They also lose Lisa Doan and Celeste Havener, and the South Central Champion returns just 40% of their goals and under 30% of their assists.

But with the development of Kirstin Johnson, a breakout handler on the club circuit with Molly Brown, as well as Jean Russell and Megan Ives, they should be able to stay in the elite mix. Johnson’s confidence and leadership from the backfield will be instrumental in Colorado’s success. A healthy Nhi Nguyen, who played in limited capacity at Nationals but has elite talent, would be a huge asset. Additions of Maddy Green, a solid first year piece, and some of their B-team players will add to trademark depth.

9. Virginia Hydra (2015 Finish: T-5th at Nationals, Atlantic Coast Champion)

Prognostications for UVA will vary more than any other top team this year. Losing your Player of the Year and program pillar – Alika Johnston – can do that. After capping out at a quarterfinals exit for a third straight year, it’s hard to set expectations for a unit that lost not only Johnston, but also losing two of their top four goal scorers at Nationals (Nada Tramonte and Sarah Hansen) and 57% of their assists, including both Tramonte and Michele DeRieux.

What can confidently be projected is a disciplined and hard working team with a “next woman up” approach. They got a little practice with playing sans Johnston at the Northwest Challenge last season, but don’t expect them to let that hole in their roster define them. Tess Warner, Brogan Jones, Amy Wedmore, and Emily Leivy are all ready to take on handling duties. Janie Mockrish and Rebecca Meeker are veterans who will be central figures on both sides of the disc. Laura Landis, coming off a club season with Showdown, and breakout Keila Strick are developing talents in potential to be huge contributors.

This experienced team is not going to be afraid of the challenge. They’ve pretty much all played meaningful time at Nationals their entire college careers. They are well coached and have a lot to prove, and it could prove a dangerous combination.

8. Ohio State Fever (2015 Finish: T-9th at Nationals, Ohio Valley Champion)

Another recently fortified program, Ohio State returns two of the best offensive playmakers in the country: Stevie Miller and Sadie Jezierski. Coupled with the team’s elite coaching and solid athletic depth, OSU offers plenty to like. Fever’s consistent play makes them a threat against any team turning in a sloppy performance. But where Fever struggled last year was when good teams played well. They often got left in the dust and that caught up with them in Milwaukee.

Where most teams in this situation require their depth to step up, the case may be that Jezierski and Miller really have to rise up when Ohio State takes on top opponents. Katie Backus, Alora Reiff, firecracker Alaine Wetli, and Caitlin Duffner are going to be key components of the Fever gameplan, and you can count on a smart team with good athletes. But they’ll need to find the gear they were missing. After the All Star Tour and U23 experience for Miller and Jezierski’s return to the health, Fever may find it.

There are some new contributors to help the reigning Ohio Valley champ define their crown. Sophia Stumphauzer should be a prepackaged contributor coming out of the Neuqua Valley program. In addition, former Wash U transfer Anat Gross-Noodle looks like she could take on a larger role. Fever’s B-team should also move some players up. Jenna Galletta and Catelen Ramsey make for key attrition, but leave behind a seasoned team.

7. Central Florida Sirens (2015 Finish: T-13th at Nationals, 2nd in Southeast)

It’s so tempting to draw the parallels between the 2016 UCF Sirens and the 2014 team that nearly reached fourth day of play at the College Championships. Coming off a competitive but ultimately bottom half finish at Nationals, the clear frontrunner in the Southeast Region, and with two seasoned veterans who dominate touches and play with excellent chemistry, the stars are aligned nearly the same.

But this is not exactly that team. While Eli Williams is a reasonable facsimile of Sunny Harris and Shayna Brock does a mean Mariel Hammond impression, the duo that powered the 2014 team offers big shoes to fill. The third player to dominate backfield touches will be sophomore Janina Freystaetter, playing the role of Erin Goding. Their army of athletes is highlighted by goal-scoring speedster Alexa Wood and deep threat Mia Griner. All of these key players were in action and learning during the tough Nationals UCF went through last year.

Those lessons learned are going to be a helpful boost for the Sirens. Returning nearly everyone, they should be more poised, more intelligent, and more in tune. Their feared and famed zone defense will be even more practiced and more adaptable. Their stars know all about carrying a heavy load. The success of the 2014 would be wonderful to achieve, but this team will want to be known after this year for they are, not who they aren’t.

6. UCLA BLU (2015 Finish: T-17th at Nationals, 2nd in Southwest)

One of the biggest surprises of 2015 was the ascension of UCLA, who went from a middle of the pack team to the #3 seed at Nationals. Things didn’t go well from there – they were the first one seed in a pool to lose to the five seed in the modern era of Women’s Nationals – but much of that core returns for another go. Their success won’t catch us off guard this time.

BLU will look to Han Chen, 2015 College Breakout Player of the Year, and Kristen Pojunis to lead the charge. Chen is a dynamic threat with great athleticism and huge throws and will be one of the division’s premier offensive operators. Pojunis is a true workhorse on both sides of the disc, applying elbow grease to every cut. Key veterans Melissa Kan, Kathleen Lo, and Breanna Dirkse are all back in the fold. They also bring back Camille Wilson, perhaps the fastest woman in the college division.

After taking their lumps in 2015, UCLA may be primed for a big year. A lot of teams seem to do better in their second trip to the big show, and while a lot of this BLU team is aiming for a third straight trip to Nationals, this year’s core really only led the team last year. Like many of the top contenders, its that experience that should help them make a brighter mark on the college landscape.

5. Stanford Superfly (2015 Finish: 2nd at Nationals, Southwest Champion)

How people view Superfly coming into this season is likely to vary. Some may seem them as a prime suspect for a semifinals berth while others might see them as a middle of the road team. The reason for that is there is a lot of change afoot in Stanford. Buts its the constants that may make all the difference.

Steph Lim and Michela Meister are gone. With them, they take the underrated Jennifer Thompson and Halsey Hoster. That’s a combined 18 goals and whopping 50 assists from Superfly’s campaign at the 2015 College Championships. Lim and Meister were two of the top Player of the Year candidates last year and that’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that clearly relied on them when push came to shove.

But overall, there’s a lot of returning talent, too. Stanford returns nearly 80% of its goal scoring from Nationals last season, led by the incredible Courtney Gegg, Natasha Field-Marsham, and Caitlin Go. Monisha White has established herself as an ever-present backfield boss. Amanda Somvilay can return to play after sitting out last season with injury and Anne Rempel’s veteran presence and smart playmaking will serve as a centerpoint for the offense to balance on. Add in star freshman Hallie Dunham, coming off her first elite club season with Underground, and you’ve got a recipe for another Superfly success story.

4. Whitman Lady Sweets (2015 Finish: T-5th at Nationals, 2nd in Northwest)

After a 5th spot in last year’s preseason rankings, and talk of a potential semifinals berth, Whitman justified it by finished tied for 5th. But their 15-10 loss to a surprising Carleton team probably left a bitter taste, as it seemed like this was their big chance. Instead, they’ll turn towards this year, but maybe that was the plan all along.

This should be about where Whitman starts hitting their peak. Claire Revere and Margo Heffron are both entering their junior years, Ari Lozano is a senior, and all three will be team leaders. Nina Finley should be much more comfortable this season after a year with the team. Melanie Jocheim-Atkins, Alex Hardesty, and the Soo twins are all in a position to big significant contributors. They are even adding more depth in Livia Amorosi. While losing Julia Bladin, the team’s top player last year, and Jessica Shatkin will matter, the 2016 team should be even stronger.

In a high powered Northwest, Whitman has the potential to be closer to the top segment (foreshadowing) than the second tier. Last year, despite the finish, was probably an underperformance, a mediocre regular season for a team of their talent followed by two bad losses at Nationals before they turned it on in prequarters and quarters. They’ll have to toughen up their mental game and their response to pressure this year in order to reach the heights they’re capable of.

3. Dartmouth Princess Layout (2015 Finish: T-5th at Nationals, Northeast Champion)

Let’s just get it out of the way: yes, they got Jaclyn Verzuh. The most celebrated youth player in women’s ultimate history, coming off dominant showings against the best the women’s game has to offer, is going to play for Princess Layout. She’s going to be make an impact and it is probably difficult to overestimate what it will be.

But this is not some nobody team picking up a superstar. This is a quarterfinalist last year returning a very strong core. Angela Zhu made her mark as one of the division’s best handlers last year, to the tune of a 2nd Team All-America selection. Julianna Werfelli was nearly the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Piper Curtis has got wheels and uses them aggressively downfield. Carolyn Susman and Jaquille Jones will both grow. And they add Ellen Pattinson out of Roosevelt and Emily Hyde from Summit.

So the hype on Dartmouth is real. This is potentially a Top 10 team without Verzuh, but with her, there’s no telling the ceiling. A year as Northeast Champion and a fifth place finish should hopefully season them and help them be a smarter team. Losing Eva Petzinger, Katy Peake, and Patty Neckowicz is nothing to sneeze at, but that should not prevent Dartmouth from taking a big step forward.

2. British Columbia Thunderbirds (2015 Finish: T-3rd at Nationals, 3rd in Northwest)

UBC is back! Not in the sense that the team went anywhere – they were in semifinals last year and at the top end of the Power Rankings all year – but in the sense that nearly that entire team is returning. And now they may be shedding that “young” label that’s followed them around. Their astounding 2014 returning class is going into their junior year and Mira Donaldson is cleating up for her final T-Bird season. There’s nearly every reason to expect them to be even scarier than last season.

There are some changes to be aware of. Teryn Chan was one of the key players on the roster, leading UBC in goals at Nationals last year and taking on very tough matchups. Amy Luo, Zoe Suche, and the explosive Erin Bussin all play notable roles. But the biggest change of all is on the sidelines, where Traffic coach and Vancouver legend Jeff Cruickshank takes over for Tasia Balding. So expect some new wrinkles to the UBC attack.

The list of what’s back is very long. Highlighting it are Donaldson, one of the nation’s best offenders and gamechangers; Victoria McCann, a versatile downfield attacker ready to step into the spotlight; and Ellen Au-Yeung, 2015 College Rookie of the Year. Expect them to connect often. But also back are Megan Leong, Emma Madden-Krasnick, Naomi Morcilla, Jess Chung, Janelle Siwa, Naomi Johnson, Leah Mulholland, and more on a deep and vastly talented team. There’s nobody with a better shot at dethroning the reigning champion.

1. Oregon Fugue (2015 Finish: National Champion, Northwest Champion)

It isn’t exciting and isn’t surprising to see Oregon Fugue back at #1. Heck, only three Ultiworld Power Rankings have come out that didn’t have them in the top spot over the past three seasons. They’ve been that dominant. And while it is a full team effort, and some faces and names have changed, many of the players that helped that 2014 team be #1 for most of the season are back to do it again in 2016.

That’s right: one more year of Jesse Shofner, Bethany Kaylor, and Alex Ode (and maybe Olivia Bartruff). That’s two player of the year candidates, a seasoned club vet, and maybe a goal scoring machine. They join former Freshman of the Year and All Star Tour alumna Hayley Wahlroos to form the starpower of Fugue. It’s as intimidating a top end as you’ll find in the Women’s Division. And it’s only getting better with this shocker: Wisconsin’s Maggie Kennedy, a U23 selection after her freshman campaign, is transferring to Oregon. The rich get richer.

One name that isn’t back is Lou Burruss. The ol’ disc coach is gone, leaving behind a legacy of epic proportions. The effects of his departure might take a while to really reach Eugene. The Clown Tent will likely remaining standing, held up by vets and coaches that know the philosophy of empowering and building around personalities of the current team. The team’s ability to make smart adjustments may suffer, but their culture should remain much the same. Besides, who knows if Burruss finds his way to a couple of practices or helps break down some footage?

In addition to a fearsome core, Fugue brings even more to the table. 2015 Rookie of the Year runner-up Ella Hanson will only get better. Foley Galvin and Lily Weaver bring back poise and know-how. Sarafina Angstadt-Leto could truly breakout this season. Kaitlin Brunnik will be a more seasoned backfield piece. They have a crew of potential YCC rookies, including Joanna Lyle, one of the best players on the Oregon YCC squad.

With all the makings of a juggernaut, Fugue could take on 2016 unblemished. With this strong a field of competitors, that may be bold, but their pedigree and talent is that exceptional. They are unquestionably the team to beat this year, just as they have been in year’s past.

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