Three young performers who broke out at the club level this season.
November 12, 2019 by Ultiworld in Awards with 0 comments
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Ultiworld is pleased to announce our fourth annual Mixed Club Awards. While we consider both regular season and postseason performance, because of the nature of the Club Division, we weight success in the Series and at Nationals above all else. The club awards are selected based on input from Ultiworld reporters, contributors, and editors.
2019 Mixed Club Breakout Player Of The Year
Paul Owens (Philadelphia AMP)
This story starts earlier in the season than Nationals. It’s the final of the Pro Championships and the Philadelphia crowd was trying their best to stay up, but their home team was down 6-1 to a hungry Drag’n Thrust. AMP was losing by a mile, the crowd was losing interest, and it felt like the game was already over. But out of nowhere, an enormous hand-block from AMP #88. Seconds later, a score. Same guy.
The stands lost it. I scrambled through a roster to hunt down who had that kind of defiant energy in the face of adversity. I could have saved my time. The crowd was already chanting Owens’ name.
Philadelphia knew what the rest of the country was about to discover. When the pressure gets high, Paul Owens makes big plays. Even within a well-established system team, Paul Owens stood out. He had an impressive six scores, five assists, and logged four blocks during this year’s Nationals. A solid looking stats sheet. But when most of those contributions happen at the most important part of the most important games of the year, they should count double.
During quarterfinals, AMP was at the doorstep of elimination. Double game point against BFG. Luke Ryan, a top AMP defender, cramped up and needed to take a sub. The defender champs bring on 20-year-old Paul Owens, with BFG in possession. Too quickly, BFG was in the red zone, ready to score. They saw an opportunity and put it up. But Owens comes out of nowhere with a massive block, and AMP take that possession and score. Owens brought them to the semis.
In semifinals, Owens did it again. Another double game point, a massive turn-fest that gave both shame. and AMP myriad opportunities to score. Nothing was working, until Owen stepped up. One perfectly timed deep cut for Anna Thompson and AMP was on to the final.
AMP’s path through Nationals kept us well entertained, always a mistake or bad drop away from elimination. With their success resting on such small margins, they couldn’t have given up Owens’ performance and defended their crown. From total rookie to the fulcrum upon which the national title turned. Talk about a breakout season.
– Karoline Hart
1st Runner-Up: Leo Sovell-Fernandez (Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust)
Here’s a quick rundown of Leo Sovell-Fernandez’s past year(ish):
- Launched himself into national recognition with one of the best catches of 2018
- Won a world title with the US Men’s U20 team
- Won a DIII National Championship with Middlebury
- Named Ultiworld’s D-III ROTY
Now, Leo Sovell-Fernandez can add “O-line starter for one of the best club teams in the country” to the list.
Given his incredible resume and obvious talent, Sovell-Fernandez’s addition to the Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust roster wasn’t a huge surprise to anyone. Drag’n has bled veteran talent for years now and LSF is one of, if not the, most exciting young players in the state of Minnesota. But no one could have predicted the kind of impact the 19 year-old would have. On the biggest stages and in the biggest moments, Sovell-Fernandez was on the line, doing whatever the occasion required. Sometimes he was in the backfield with Erica Baken, using his cavalcade of break throws to make marks look silly. Other times he was churning yards downfield, using his athleticism and quickness to run circles around his always older defender.
He’s a legitimate contender for D-III POTY as a sophomore.1 Yes, he’s liable to make a silly mistake every now and then — he finished Nationals with nine turnovers and a ho-hum +3 in plus/minus. But remember, he’s only 19. He’s going to get better. And that’s something that should have the rest of the mixed division worried.
– Charlie Enders
2nd Runner-Up: Claire Thallon (Minneapolis Drag’n Thrust)
Like her teammate above, 2019 is the year we all got to see just how good Claire Thallon could be. An ACL injury in 2017 slowed her rise through the ranks, but she made an immediate splash on a loaded Drag’n Thrust team this term. With a season stat line of 21 goals, 12 assists, 8 blocks, and only 3 turns — all while forcing her way onto the starting defensive line for one of the best teams in the country — Thallon capped her campaign with seven goals in San Diego, including the game-winner on double game point against Boston Slow White in the prequarters to keep Minneapolis’ season alive.
At times, it looks like Drag’n Thrust have a second Sarah Meckstroth on the field. Thallon has blazing speed, excellent vertical ability and spatial awareness, and reliable throws in high-pressure situations. Minneapolis leaned on all of those abilities throughout the year and Thallon turned into a player that Drag’n Thrust could rely on all the time. As Austin Lien put it, “we literally asked her to do everything, and she’s very adaptable. She knows the game really well and doesn’t seem to get rattled. Her poise is really impressive when she gets in those big moments.”
Expect to see her in more of those big moments as a key piece of Drag’n Thrust’s future, which is bad news for the rest of the division.
– Colin Clauset
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