The brightest young stars in college ultimate.
April 13, 2017 by Simon Pollock, Katie Raynolds, Keith Raynor and Charlie Eisenhood in Analysis with 15 comments
The 2017 Rookie Of The Year Awards are presented by VC Ultimate (Women) and Spin Ultimate (Men); all opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate and VC Ultimate!
Star rookies across both divisions have been rocking worlds this regular season. This weekend, the youngbloods will get their first taste of postseason play. We’ve trained our sights on a small batch of players that, in spite of (and because of) the ever-increasing level of youth talent, have stood out from the rest.
Madeleine Boyle (Oregon)
It’s almost painful to say, but it’s hard to deny that Boyle’s cutting style bears some resemblance to recent Oregon grad Jesse Shofner. Powerful and compact, Boyle careens around the field with purpose, isn’t afraid of contact, and displays a high level of grit and effort. Not to mention, she’s got killer acceleration and can make plays in the air. Her throwing abilities are not quite as well-groomed as the others on this list, but she can be a player who sparks changes in momentum with her energy.
Jessie Sun (Pittsburgh)
There probably isn’t a more polished freshman in the Women’s Division than Jessie Sun. She’s a well-rounded, blue chip prospect that Pittsburgh has been able to plug into various roles throughout the season. Whether it’s necessary for her to get heavy touches, break the mark, huck, get open downfield, or play great defense, Sun’s teammates have been able to rely on her. Her increasing confidence and playmaking is perfect for a team with plenty of consistent role players.
Cara Sieber (Ohio State)
Sieber has seamlessly blended into an otherwise veteran-reliant Fever O-line. Her best weekend was at Centex, indicating that she, like the rest of Fever, may be peaking at the right time. In Austin, she showed up frequently, getting open underneath and firing forehands for long scores to streaking deep and making the goal-scoring plays herself. There isn’t a much better indication of Sieber’s ability than the amount of touches her teammates give her. On a line with players who have all been playing at a high level together for years, Sieber rewards her team’s trust with the playmaking ability that has garnered her spot on this list.
Maya Powell (Carleton)
Powell is the latest in a long line of Carleton bigs that have the skill to be around the disc and size to threaten spaces far from it. She’s natural and fluid, and her combination makes her not only a tough matchup but a versatile player that fits right into the Carleton mold. As her team continues to hone her fundamentals and skills, Powell’s height and athleticism will make her a dangerous offensive threat in all areas of the field.
Ollie Peterson (Georgia Tech)
Georgia Tech and really the entire Southeast region don’t get many players like Peterson. A member of the silver medal winning 2016 WUJC team, the Paideia School alumna made the rare decision to stay at home to play college ultimate. Peterson instantly became one of Wreck’s top players, combining an athletic playmaking ability with an uncommon calmness that belies her age. She’s one of the few rookies right now who can completely take over a point. While Tech’s season has been derailed by injuries to many of their important veterans, with Peterson, the future remains very bright for the young program.
Not Out Of The Running
- Akane Kleinkopf (Whitman)
This year more than ever, rookie talent contributing to top teams in the men’s division feels normal. That’s actually crazy, considering that half a decade ago it was rare for most teams to pick up plug-and-play talent right out of high school. Even if a player arrived with experience, there was an expected adjustment time, even if he made the A-team straight up.
The upswing in young talent across the board makes it even harder to stand out this year. Here are the players who have caught our eye so far.
Colby Chuck (Oregon)
When your seemingly five-foot nothing rookie can pull off plays like this in their second tournament of their college career, you know you’re in good shape. Colby Chuck, along with the rest of his team, needed a kick in the pants at Presidents’ Day to get moving. They ramped up nicely at Stanford Invite, and Chuck is on pace to be a key piece of whatever line he’s on. If Nathan Kwon can pull it off, bet that Chuck can too.
Kai Marcus (North Carolina)
When I first watched Kai Marcus play this season at Centex, I thought he was a graduate transfer student. I casually asked a UNC parent who #97 was and she said, “Oh that’s Kai. He’s a rookie.” I did a double take.
Marcus has been a tremendous two-way player for UNC this season, offering up lock-down defense, big pulls, and smooth handling after the turnover. In the absence of Elijah Long, Marcus has stepped up into an even bigger role on the D-line. A Seattle product, Marcus was a YCC standout for Seattle and played for the MLU’s Seattle Rainmakers in 2015. He brings a strong 6’0″ frame, physicality that is unusual for a freshman, and the athleticism to make big plays.
Mathieu Agee (Colorado)
Colby Chuck wasn’t the only rookie mixing it up at the Presidents’ Day Invite. Though they’ve only had him healthy for one full tournament, Colorado’s Mathieu Agee lit up the field, leading the Mamabird D-line in goals and laying out for blocks. In the final against Cal Poly-SLO, he fully extended for a possession saving tip block to an away cut in the endzone, sliding on the turf and smashing his shoulder on the cement strip surrounding the auxiliary fields. That meant he missed the Stanford Invite. Still, Agee’s Prez Day performance was impactful enough get him on the list, and we’ll be watching in the postseason.
Not Out Of The Running
- Ted Sither (Oregon)
- Quinn Finer (Colorado)
- Justin Ting (Cal Poly-SLO)