The top players in the women's divison in Europe this year!
November 26, 2019 by Ravi Vasudevan, Liam Grant, Ned Garvey and Stefan Rappazzo in Awards with 0 comments
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Thanks to Focus Ultimate, John Kofi, and Anna Matsegora for allowing us to use their photos for this article!
The 2019 season is over and it’s time to look back and see who the best players were in Europe. These awards were decided on by the Ultiworld Europe staff and represent the players in each category that we feel best performed in the women’s division this year. The EUC and the EUCF were the marquee events this year and performance in these events were thus the most important events for consideration, but WU24s, EBUC and regular season events like Windmill and Tom’s Tourney were also taken into account. In most cases, EUC was prioritized above the EUCF to determine which division to consider a player in if they played in a different division between the EUC and the EUCF.
The primary award is the Player of the Year and Runner Up. If a player won either of those two spots, then they were ineligible for the rest of the awards. Without further ado, let’s get on with the awards!
Player of the Year
Sarah Melvin (Ireland Women, Dublin Gravity, EuroStars)
Sarah Melvin was unstoppable this year. Before the 2018 Eurostars tour, very few people had heard of the Mayo woman but now she is one of the most well known athletes in Europe. She scored three goals and had four assists in the EUC final win over Switzerland. She scored or assisted every offensive point in the first half. This was an historic win for Ireland that even resulted in a trip to visit the Irish president. Melvin often had to manage her minutes in early stages of tournaments but in the big moments nobody in Europe or the US could shut her down. With Aine Gilheany in the quarterback position and Fiona Mernagh acting as a mid for both Ireland and Dublin Gravity, Melvin was usually given the job of punctuating scores and there ain’t no one better. No matter who was covering her, Melvin found herself open deep time and time again tirelessly gaining meters for Ireland and Gravity. Sometimes players would try to force her under and if she found herself outside the endzone she would take the opportunity to bust out one of her trademark lefty dishes.
She was also the stats leader of the star studded EuroStars 2019 tour. Picking up nine goals, five assists and two blocks in the first three games. Robyn Fennig tried her best to shut Melvin down at EUCF but not even America’s finest could slow her down. Gravity were looking like the best team at EUCF until Melvin’s teammate Mernagh had to bow out due to an unfortunate injury in pool play. If Melvin and Mernagh can stay injury free the Irish Women might just do some serious damage at WUGC 2020.
Laura Farolfi (Italy Women, CUSB Shout)
There were many contributing factors to CUSB Shout’s second consecutive title run this year. You could argue that Anna Ceschi’s defense, Irene Scazzieri’s deep cutting, Greta Melega’s tenacious play were all huge factors in their success, and they were. However, without question, Laura Farolfi’s all around play throughout the weekend in the most key parts of they most key games was one of the most important of those factors. Farolfi’s skill on the field is unquestionable. She can place the disc wherever she wants whether it be on the break side or in the deep space. Her relentless power and speed also help her to be effective as a cutter as well and make defensive plays in key situations. When Italy Women were in quarterfinals against Germany, who were arguably the most talented team at the tournament, she stared at the 14-11 deficit that would spook any mere mortal and didn’t blink. She stayed on the field for the rest of that game and was key to every single point and threw the final huck to put the game away in the 15-14 shocker that brought the Italians to the semifinals.
Though this is a player award, the x-factor that Farolfi brings to the team is not just her play, but her intense energy and leadership. Though she was not a captain this year, it was clear that her teams were at a loss when she wasn’t on the field. CUSB Shout had a relatively underwhelming Tom’s Tourney without her early in the season where they finished fourth coming in as a clear one seed. Furthermore, she was badly injured during the semifinals at EUC and with her gone, Italy was unable to secure a win against Switzerland in semis or against Russia in the bronze match. Even though she was not fully recovered by the time EUCR and EUCF rolled around, it was very clear that on the field her impact was vital to Shout’s close wins against Yaka at both tournaments. Farolfi makes plays at every position on the field, but it is that extra energy that she gives her team that put her over the top in the minds of the Ultiworld staff to give her the POTY runner up spot in 2019.
Offensive Player of the Year
Alisa Tizik (Russia Women, EuroStars)
Simply put, there are very few people in the women’s division that can do what Alisa Tizik does. Tizik just might be the best middle cutter in Europe, and she’s certainly a matchup that no defender would relish. She’s quick, athletic, has fantastic throws, reads the game excellently, and has impeccable layout form. In Russia, she’s been a standout player for years, and a mainstay in any national team, including the one that beat the United States for gold on the beach in 2017. Her selection to the EuroStars team that same year (and again in this year) elevated her into the upper echelon of European players, where she showed that she definitely belongs.
The Russian national team has started to see a changing of the guard, with top players like the Pustovaya sisters, Dina Dumanskaya, and others moving to the mixed division or choosing not to play. Tizik had to step up and shoulder more responsibility in their absence. In addition, she moved to Yekaterinburg, far away from her teammates in Moscow, forcing her to have to fly back and forth all the time, just for training camps. There are plenty of reasons why 2019 might not have been her year, but she took it all in stride.
At the European Championships in Hungary, she was unstoppable. While she did score seven goals in the semifinal against Ireland, and notch another three goals and three assists in the third-place game against Italy, it is not merely her statistics that sees her claim this award. Tizik, along with Olga Podolskaya, drove the young Russian offense. In Hungary, we saw that Tizik can initiate anywhere on the field, she can break just about any mark, she can make athletic plays, she can open up space for her teammates, she knows how to be in the right place at the right time, and she can throw wherever she needs to. In the words of one of her Lemongrass teammates, she’s: “zealous, diligent, responsible, she fights to the very end, she’s fast, she’ll catch anything you throw in her general direction, and she’s the first to be critical of herself and others when she needs to be.”
Runner-up: Irene Scazzieri (Italy Women, Italy U24 Women, CUSB Shout)
Irene Scazzieri is machine-like. She’s always reliable and Shout used her to successfully defend their EUCF crown. Scazzieri wins with her legs: she is nimble and agile, and her first step is lightning. Often initiating the offense, she provides so many incredible first look options for her teammates, and she is rewarded with a steady flow of touches. Scazzieri gets better as the game goes deeper, her ticker is as equally potent as her pace, and the longer a point lasts the more she exploits her ability to get separation. Irene’s throws are modest in distribution as she plays the Italy system, and is often resetting, and moving in ‘give-go’ situations. That’s not to say she won’t shoot deep, she will, and has great deep shot accuracy, that she deploys when targets are in sure position, she is stingy with possession and keeps the offense alive.
Scazzieri’s deep cutting game is her strength, despite already being heralded as an initiator, her fitness often sees her streaking deep as possessions progress and getting the attention of shot taker teammates, Ilaria Bonfante and Gaia Pancotti to put it out in front of her and watch her win the foot races. She gets open underneath, she gets open deep and she catches absolutely everything thrown in her direction, most often with two hands. When situations require, Scazzieri will make plays in packs of bigger bodies, and she’s definitely happy to get horizontal to keep possession for CUSB. She scored 3 goals in the EUCF final, including the championship point as Shout beat Cosmic Girls 15-11. Irene has been providing in the same manner all season long and has had one of the fullest tournament schedules on the continent. Competing for Italy or CUSB at Tom’s Tourney, Windmill, EUC, WU24s, EUCR, EUCF, and even in a coaching role at EYUC. At WU24’s she was particularly impressive with a staggering 27 goals, second only to Manuela Cardenas in the U24 women’s division. Irene, and her ‘neckie’ fashion sense provide consistency for a systematic championship team, and her ability to stand out on such a roster speaks volumes of her talents.
Defensive Player of the Year
Anna Ceschi (Italy Women, CUSB Shout)
Anna Ceschi was the best pure defender in the women’s division this year period. This was one of the easiest awards to vote on. In fact, the only difficulty was whether or not she would have disqualified herself by getting a spot as POTY runner-up. Ceschi was impressive on at least three teams throughout the year. First, she was a huge piece of Italy Women’s comeback against Germany from 14-11 down to a 15-14 quarters win at the EUC. She then was part of the only team to defeat the EuroStars with her defensive performance with Raleigh Phoenix. Finally she came back to Italy to play the EUCF with CUSB Shout and made play after play to bring her team to second consecutive title. In the double game point semifinal win against Yaka, there was hardly a point where Ceschi didn’t make an impact. Ceschi is a dynamite athlete with tremendous field sense and knows how to lure players into positions where she can consistently get blocks in the biggest games. She moves between shut down defender and explosive playmaker seamlessly and is the first player you would want if forming an all-star defensive team. Ceschi was a runner up on the DPOTY podium last year, but has cemented herself at the top in 2019.
Runner-up: Ines Bringel (Cosmic Girls, EuroStars)
Ines Bringel has gone from being a notable beach player to one of the strongest athletes in European ultimate. Since 2013, Bringel has been working on her physical training with Tim Morrill and we are now seeing the fruits of her labor. Year after year she looks faster and more confident on the field. Bringel was the only Iberian returner to the EuroStars tour this year and the Portuguese player put in a great performance that made her whole country proud. Since the EuroStars never play O or D lines we got to see Bringel play relatively equal amounts of offense and defense. With the disc in hand, she loves to rip a big backhand huck. However it was her shutdown defense and heads up play that grabbed our attention. During the summer transfer window, Bringel was picked up by Cosmic Girls for EUCF to add some fire power to their already very talented roster. She often played on the D-line drawing the toughest match ups in the division. She went toe to toe with some other award winners like Laura Farolfi and Sarah Melvin. The Cosmic Girls got second place at EUCF and a lot of credit needs to be given to Bringel for her work on defense.
Breakout Player of the Year
Laura Kunzelmann (Switzerland Women, Switzerland U24 Women, Freespeed, Cosmo)
Unbeknownst to most people, Laura Kunzelmann is a twin. Her twin doesn’t actually play ultimate but Kunzelmann does the work of two people on the field. Her work on the field was a big reason why Switzerland were able to surprise many and find themselves in the final at the EUC. She finished 4th on the leaderboard for overall score contribution at U24’s in Heidelberg. She had 26 assists and 16 goals over the whole event finishing just behind the Cardenas sisters and Levke Walczak. She was electric all tournament. Her height and throwing prowess makes her dangerous on both sides of the disc. It’s clear she has great chemistry with her close friend Linnea Seibert who loves hucking to her. In fact you’ll often see the two players wearing BFF bracelets on the field. It’s hard to believe that Kunzelmann has only been playing for a little over three years and is already so dominant at the highest level. She got the last goal for Switzerland in EUC final against an Irish side that proved too strong in the end. Unsurprisingly it was Seibert who threw the huck to her which proved to be a bittersweet moment for the two besties. Later in the season she played with Freespeed at the EUCR and Cosmo at the EUCF though her role was limited as she was recovering from injury. She has just started to study sports science in Basel, a trending career path with the best players in the business.
Runner-up: Bríonagh Healy (Ireland Women, Ireland U24 Women, Rebel Ultimate)
Bríonagh Healy is a rising star in European ultimate. The young Irish woman finished fifth on the stats leaderboard for the U24 World Championships in Germany this year racking up an impressive 22 goals and 19 assists. Hailing from Macroom in County Cork, she has honed her skills with Rebel Ultimate and UCC for many years now. She was vital to Rebel winning the Irish women’s title this year alongside her talented sister Emma. However, it was her thrilling display at EUC that really caught everyone’s eye. Playing on the offensive line for the European champions, chasing down hucks and catching scoobers from Áine Gilheany was her forte. Expect her upward trajectory to continue as the athlete from Macroom continues to bloom. She got to meet Irish President Michael D. Higgins this year along with her stellar squad following their European success. What an honor for Mr. Higgins to meet Cork’s finest.