October 11, 2016 by Keith Raynor in Analysis with 0 comments
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In the 2016 season, Kami Groom was the best player on the best unit of the best team in the women’s division. The anchor of Brute Squad’s fearsome D-line, Groom’s brilliance on both sides of the disc was one of Boston’s greatest weapons. Her physical tools are in the elite percentile of the women’s game and her aggression in the cutting lanes allows her to put those tools to highly productive use.
This is not new. The Boston cutter was an All-Club 1st Teamer in 2015 and also in 2013, when she was with Chicago Nemesis. Her stats from last year’s Nationals paint a picture of a player of the same caliber. But this year, nobody could really even keep up.
Leaving peers in the dust has been a hallmark of Groom’s game. Her speed is about as cartoonish as the “Zoom Zoom” moniker that has been prefixed to her name. Her rising star has coincided with her teams’ rises in success; it’s no coincidence that she’s finished with two titles, a semifinals appearance, and a 5th place showing over the past four seasons. And she knows how to rise individually, a speedy high flyer capable of commanding the deep space on both axes.
“She’s huge,” said her Brute Squad coach, Ariel Jackson. “We give her tough assignments and she doesn’t contain — she goes and takes it, and it’s really awesome.”
While her stats from Nationals — 15G, 5A, 8D — don’t quite match last year’s 12-12-15 line, Groom still managed to stand out in a deep roster. That line set her up for tied for 4th in goals at Nationals and she led Boston in that category while finishing second in blocks. And while she played more games than many players, Brute Squad didn’t play that many points during pool play and had a chance to rest her in earlier performances.
But what makes her truly shine is the bright lights of the big stage. Of Groom’s 15 scores, seven of them came during the semis and final, the toughest games of her season. She added five blocks and a +8 for her +/-. In the US Open final? 1-3-1. Pro-Elite Challenge final? 4 goals, 2 assists. The third year Boston player led Brute Squad in points played in both their national semifinal and final, virtually the only player to play with both the D-line and O-line.
For most players, grabbing the game-opening break of the final would be extraordinary. Or catching the break to tie the game at 10-10. Or getting the bookends on a D-line hold — when your team is counting on you to pick up the offensive unit’s slack — to respond to an opposing break to make it 6-6. But not Groom. It’s just another big play for the best player in the division this season.
1st Runner Up: Molly Brown’s Claire Chastain
This year, Claire Chastain was the clear centerpiece of an entire offense, and it was one of the best in the division. Denver Molly Brown designed their offensive system around their handlers, and Chastain’s ability to shoulder that load was part of what enabled the shift. Usually a yardage gaining thrower, this season, Chastain got to use her legs, a vast array of potential break throws creating space for an avalanche of give-and-go cutting. She soaked up a gargantuan share of her team’s touches, sometimes getting the disc double-digit times in a possession.
However, she wasn’t just asked to lead the offense. In many cases, she was asked to be one of the team’s best defenders. In a callback to her college years, Chastain’s do-it-all talents were called upon as she pulled, charged down, and defended one of the opponent’s best throwers. And it’s Chastain’s ability to do it all, over and over, against the best talent the division can muster, that made her the division’s upper crust once again this season.
2nd Runner Up: Scandal’s Sandy Jorgensen
It’s been said before but it bears repeating: Sandy Jorgensen does things that nobody else in the women’s division can do. Her size, length, and speed give her unmatched range on the field, making her a peerless force once the disc goes up. And she plays downfield like a territorial animal, defending her turf with an authority that asserts her dominance. Scoring nearly 33% of Scandal’s goals at Nationals, Jorgensen’s 27 scores led the women’s division.
Her role for Scandal is part of this award. She gives them the tools to play different defensively than other teams can. DC added so many young defenders to the team this year, and the Scandal babes had a comfortable security blanket nearby in Jorgensen. Her soaring blocks are routine, but her ability to create run through blocks that turn into her trucking to the end zone for breaks — or to set them up — is truly one of the best D-line offensive situations in the game. She adds this award to three previous All-Club selections, with two on the 1st team and one on the 2nd.
Stay tuned to Ultiworld for All-Club 1st and 2nd teams and additional individual awards later this week.