The best of the mixed division in Europe this year!
November 27, 2019 by Ravi Vasudevan, Liam Grant, Ned Garvey and Christina Obermayer in Awards with 0 comments
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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 Mixed 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
Lasma Kublicka (Salaspils, EuroStars)
Lasma Kublicka makes ultimate look hard. Not because she struggles, but because she routinely makes plays that no one else can. After watching one game at EUCF, a friend looked at me and said: “So that Lasma girl is pretty good, eh?” with a hint of understatement. She is the most noticeable player on the field. On the beach, indoors, and on grass, Kublicka flies around in a way that few others can. The two-time EuroStar is undoubtedly one of the finest athletes in any division. Her teammates know that she will be an option every time they have the disc. High stall count? Put the disc near Lasma. Need to score? Give the disc to Lasma. She could not be covered this year. If you push her towards the disc, she’ll throw the score. If you push her away from the disc, well that’s worse, she’ll definitely beat you deep.
This is not just a natural gift. Lasma’s talent is the result of tremendous effort. At 29, she has been playing ultimate for more than half of her life. As captain of the Salaspils FK women, she pushes her teammates to be better every day. She organizes trainings, introduces new concepts and tactics, and even leads physical trainings. She is an indispensable member of her ultimate community.
At EBUC, she led the Latvian women to the podium with bronze medals, their highest ever finish at an international tournament. She finished the week in Portugal with 19 goals and 9 assists, second only to Olga Podolskaya. At the end of the summer, Kublicka returned to the EuroStars Tour, where she again showed that she can match up against the finest female athletes the United States has to offer, and did so with aplomb. Lasma ended the season by playing a starring role in Salaspils’ victory at EUCF in Caorle. On offense, she was everywhere, making highlight after highlight. Beyond her acrobatics, she was a cool head by Salaspils’ standards. Instead of scoring point after point, she was instrumental in the middle of the field, often throwing assists to Reinis Otisons or Roberts Apinis. When the Salaspils offense started feeling stagnant at times, Lasma was always there to make it work again. What makes the Latvian star’s performance this year even more impressive is the fact that she played most of the season with an injury that she knew required surgery.
Walt Jansen (Netherlands U24 Mixed, Grut)
Walt Jansen was Grut and Netherlands U24’s top weapon this year. He notched 17 assists and 30 goals at U24 worlds, which is even more impressive when you consider he is on a team where he has to share stats with 2018 mixed POTY Floor Keulartz. Jansen continued his work on the mixed field at the EUCF with Grut where he was their stats leader in the final with four goals and an assist. It was a close race with Stef Dosscher and Walt Jansen last year as the top male receiver in the mixed division, but with Erdferkel taking a step back and Stef shifting his talents more to the men’s division, there is no question that Jansen took that crown this year. Jansen used to be a pure receiver with the apt nickname of ‘Skywalker’ given his aerial abilities, but he has become much more in the past couple years. He now boasts more consistent full field hucks so he can punish teams that try to limit him by forcing him to cut underneath.
On both teams he plays on, he will cross over to defense on important points and having him on the field severely limits an opposition’s offensive options. If they dare to float any disc in the air near him there is a safe bet that the disc will end up in Dutch hands. He may be the most complete male player in the mixed division at age 23.
Offensive Player of the Year
Dina Dumanskaya (Russia Mixed, Cosmic Girls, EuroStars)
Russia mixed absolutely crushed the EBUC mixed division and were dominant at the EUC until they reached the end of their road at semis. Russia has never typically done so well in mixed before, so what changed? Well one of the biggest changes was the move of Dina Dumanskaya to the mixed division. The towering Russian has made a name for herself in the women’s division for years now and continued that this year with her performance with the EuroStars tour and with her silver medal run at the EUCF with the Cosmic Girls, but her biggest impact was seen with her national team in the mixed division.
Frankly, it just wasn’t fair to most teams with her on the field. It didn’t hurt that she had her favorite teammate in Sasha Pustovaya also making the transition to mixed with her. These two combined with the power of Toly Vasilyev made it nearly impossible to stop the Russians. Dumanskaya is an absolute double threat on offense. It is rare for anyone in the mixed division to match her stature so that alone makes her a nightmare to cover if she runs deep. However, she is a top tier handler as well who can use her big arms to break the mark or send hucks of her own to any spot of the field she deems worthy. It is rare for a mixed team to boast a two great cutter defenders that could limit both Pustovaya and Dumanskaya, so whichever one had the slightly weaker matchup would go deep while the other would go under to huck the disc. Dumanskaya was simply the most dominant presence offensively in the mixed division this year.
Runner-up: Sasha Pustovaya (Russia Mixed)
Sasha Pustovaya switched over to the mixed division along with Dumanskaya this season for international competition. As you’d expect, she had very little trouble translating her dominance with the disc from the women’s division. In a Russian team that was deep with handlers, and a bit older than average, Pustovaya spent a lot of time cutting this year, in addition to being behind the disc. She showed that she isn’t only one of the top distributors in Europe, but that she also has the legs to move the disc upfield. Her partnership on the field with Dina Dumanskaya was just as fruitful as we’ve seen in the women’s division with Cosmic Girls and older iterations of the Russian women’s national team. They registered assist after assist and goal after goal in both Portugal and Hungary, where they led Russia to gold and bronze medal finishes, respectively. Beyond just being a dominant player on the field, Pustovaya is usually the heart and soul of whatever team she’s on. Her leadership on and off the field are irreplaceable, and it’s obvious to everyone around that her teammates play with more confidence when she’s on the field.
Defensive Player of the Year
Lola Dam (Netherlands U24 Mixed, Grut)
Another year, another mixed DPOTY award for Lola Dam. No one really comes close to Dam when it comes to defense in this division. While she took more of an offensive role at times this year, she showed where she excels best whenever she played on defense. Dam does an incredible job of baiting throwers into throwing to players who look open and then when the disc goes up she turns on the jets with the fastest closing speed of any defender in the division. Lola has the layouts, the speed, the jumps and the field awareness that makes her an easy choice for this award. She gets at least one block in almost every game she plays and once her side gets the disc there are few in the division that can stop her in the cutting space as well.
Runner-up: Didzis Malderis (Latvia U24 Mixed, Salaspils)
There are very few players in the mixed division with the athletic ability of Didzis Malderis. The 22 year old Latvian is one of the most electric players around. If you’re putting a defense together, he has to be one of the first names on your list, without a doubt. For Salaspils, the Latvian men’s team, and the U24 Latvian mixed team, Malderis is almost certain to take the hardest matchup on the field. Over the course of the year, he’s matched up against plenty of Europe’s elite players, and shown that he does not give up easy points. Any thrower would think twice before putting the disc up to whomever Didzis is marking, as he routinely makes seemingly impossible plays. That ability to generate turnovers out of nothing was key to his teams’ successes in the mixed division this year, both in Caorle and Heidelberg (where he also managed 21 assists and 9 goals). He leads by example, and having him on the field brings confidence to everyone around him that turnovers will come eventually. While other players might better embody Salaspils’ impudence with the disc, no one embodies that ethos better on defense than Didzis Malderis.
Breakout Player of the Year
Aurora Lešnik (Slovenia Mixed, Slovenia U20 Women, Cosmo)
Aurora Lešnik might be one of the most daring young players Europe has seen in a while. The Slovenian standout only just turned 18 and already she is throwing her body around like no one else in the division with her hip high layouts when playing both offense and defense. She also boasts full field hucks and has an incredible overall understanding of the sport. She has a fan account on instagram, dedicated just to her overwhelming plays. She started inspiring young players at the age of 14 when she first appeared on the international stage at WJUC 2016. This year, though, has been a very intense one for the young player, as she anchored not only one but three teams during the season on an international level. While the east region of Europe already knew of her for a couple of years, due to the many events happening in 2019 she had the opportunity to show off her unique abilities not only in Slovenia but in all of Europe.
Lešnik was a real standout representing her nation at EUC earlier this summer as Slovenia sent a competitive mixed team to a European Championship for the first time. Later this summer, she single handedly pushed the U20 women’s team of Slovenia to the semi finals at EYUC. To conclude an intense season, she lead her women’s club team Cosmo Maribor to a 5th place at EUCF, showing her ability to adapt to different teammates and playing styles easily along the way. She has been a role model for many players in and around her region for quite some time and will for sure continue to surprise players all over the world in the years to come, but this will be the year where we will remember her breaking into the European scene.
Runner-up: Toms Ābeltiņš (Latvia U24 Mixed, Salaspils)
Watching Salaspils and Latvia, you’d be forgiven for not immediately noticing Toms Ābeltiņš. Both teams are fully-stocked with tall, athletic players capable of big plays. However, Ābeltiņš’s abilities have come to the forefront this year. Previously, he played mostly as a defensive line cutter, but his continued improvement saw him step up to the offensive line for the Salaspils team that took the crown at EUCF. All season, Toms demonstrated that he’s not just an athletic presence or a defensive matchup that no one’s excited to have, but that he can make big throws too. And not only big throws, but creative throws that lead his receiver wherever he wants them to go. Putting all of that together makes for an elite player. His drive and dedication to constant improvement have seen him go from a talented athletic young player, to a vital cog in any team he’s a part of, and that comes with recognition. His performances at EUC, WU24, and EUCF have made others take note of the young Latvian, and we won’t be taking our eyes off of Ābeltiņš for years to come.