2019 Men’s D-I College Defensive Player Of The Year, Presented By VC Ultimate & NUTC

The top performers of the year on the defensive side of the disc.

Ultiworld’s 2019 Men’s College Awards are presented in part by VC Ultimate, outfitting the world’s best players since 1998. They are also presented in part by the National Ultimate Training Camp, who can help prepare you to be an All-Star. All opinions are those of the authors. Thanks for supporting the brands that make Ultiworld possible!

Ultiworld is pleased to announced our sixth annual D-I College Awards. The criteria for each award can be found here — we consider both regular season and postseason performance in our selection of awards. As the overall top performers of the year, players selected as top three in Player of the Year voting are removed from consideration for other individual awards.

Links to all of the 2019 D-I Men’s Division awards will be added as awards are announced:

Player of the Year Award
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Breakout Player of the Year Award
Rookie of the Year Award (will be announced later this week!)
Coach of the Year Award (will be announced later this week!)
All American 1st Team (will be announced later this week!)
All American 2nd Team (will be announced later this week!)

D-I Men’s 2019 Defensive Player Of The Year

Sean Liston (Cal Poly SLO)

Cal Poly SLO's Sean Liston. Photo: Paul Rutherford -- UltiPhotos.com
Cal Poly SLO’s Sean Liston. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

If you have not noticed him yet by his trademark neon green tights or flowing blond hair, just wait until a huck goes up towards the end zone Cal Poly SLO is defending. Chances are Sean Liston is ripping the disc out of the sky. This season, Liston continually took on and won the hardest matchups on opposing teams and made hucking against Cal Poly SLO a dangerous proposition. His presence changed the shape of the field for SLO’s defense and anchored the unit that led SLOCORE to its best season yet.

Great defenders have the ability to shut down their mark and generate blocks. Liston can do both. He blankets his mark — forcing the disc to another player — and helps on deep attempts to any target. His heads-up defense allows his teammates to play in-cuts tight, knowing that Liston is patrolling the deep space and ready to help if a floaty shot goes up. One of Liston’s greatest strengths is his ability to adjust his route on-the-fly and attack the disc in the air from the best possible position. His top-notch recovery speed allows him to poach throws in the lane while stopping his own matchup. Once in the air, his body positioning and control allow him to get the better of his opponents without fouling them or causing a dangerous play.

One of the most athletic players in the division, he has the speed to keep up with players like Alex Davis and the size to hang with deep threats like Jake Steen. He disrupts opposing teams flow by orbiting around his mark to stop the most threatening space on the field and plays with unmatched intensity. Liston was named to the team of the tournament at Santa Barbara Invite and President’s Day Invite this season. After earning 1st team All-Region honors in 2018, Liston exceeded expectations this season and became the premier downfield defender in the entire division.

1st Runner up: Walker Matthews (North Carolina)

North Carolina's Walker Matthews. Photo: Daniel Thai -- UltiPhotos.com
North Carolina’s Walker Matthews. Photo: Daniel Thai — UltiPhotos.com

There isn’t much subtlety in what Walker Matthews does on the field. His game explodes, whizzes, booms, and sparks, taking the spotlight on North Carolina’s D-line. From the very beginning of a point til the end, Matthews makes his presence felt when he is on the field. Sending skyscraping pulls deep into enemy territory and racking up highlight reel blocks leaves an impression, and his ability to operate equally well in zone or matchup schemes ensures that he will always be involved.

After some time on the offense earlier in his career, Matthews carved out an indelible role on Darkside’s defense the past couple years. With the verticality to contain deep threats, the footspeed to smother quicker cutters, and the ultimate IQ to quarterback a zone, he was able to do whatever North Carolina’s coaching staff asked.

2nd Runner up: Dylan Villeneuve (Brown)

Brown's Dylan Villenueve. Photo: Daniel Thai -- UltiPhotos.com
Brown’s Dylan Villeneuve. Photo: Daniel Thai — UltiPhotos.com

Brown’s various offensive highlights absorbed most of the attention during their championship run, and rightly so. Somewhat lost in that chorus of accolades, however, were the team’s imposing defensive sets and their common denominator: Villeneuve.

The lanky sophomore was one of the most reliable on-disc playmakers in the division. In match-up schemes, he coupled his considerable length and springiness with marvelous mid-air control to spoil opposing shots that would normally have resulted in a goal or a foul. Villeneuve picked his spots in the B-Mo zone to play wing or deep; in either position his range effectively curtained off whole swathes of the field. To cap it off, he put opposing offenses on their heels regularly with towering bladey pulls that were almost impossible to corral.

  1. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

  2. Patrick Stegemoeller

    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

  3. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

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