Our initial D-I rankings, with five new teams revealed each day of this week!
January 13, 2020 by Ultiworld in Preview, Rankings with 0 comments
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We are excited to present the 2020 preseason College Power Rankings! These rankings are based holistically on a number of factors: last year’s performance, roster changes, conversations with coaches and players, fall results, and assorted other factors.
Each day this week, we will reveal the next five teams, until we arrive at the top five!
Written by Edward Stephens, Keith Raynor, Patrick Stegemoeller, Alex Rubin, Hugo Sowder, Sean Brady, and Charlie Enders.
25. South Carolina Gamecock Ultimate
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, 25th in USAU Rankings, 7th in Atlantic Coast, 25-11 record
A long legacy of being other teams’ stepping stone in the Atlantic Coast may be turning at last for a Gamecock squad who look ready to do some stepping of their own in 2020. The offense, guided by the smooth play of Aaron Coble, walks a proper line between conservative and aggressive and can hang a dozen points on anybody. Quite a lot, then, will ride on whether the defense can get (give or take) five stops a game against the best offenses in the country. They will, at worst, be a tough out in a stacked region.
24. LSU Purple Haze
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, 42nd in USAU Rankings, 3rd in Southeast, 14-10 record
We’ve been waiting patiently for the seeds planted in Baton Rouge to bear some sweet fruit, and this spring might finally offer a taste of national success for LSU. A third place finish in the Southeast rounded out an uneven season for the Louisiana club; they beat the likes of Wisconsin and Tufts while losing to squads like Georgia State and Harvard last year. But with a stream of solid talent entering the program, some of which has potentially matured in potent on-field leaders, LSU could assert themselves in the Southeast. Consistency might still elude them, but if they can hit their ceiling at the right time, they could be taking their unique style to Milwaukee.
23. California UGMO
2019 Finish: #19 in Power Rankings, 27th in USAU Rankings, T-17 at Nationals, 28-16 record
California was one of the surprises of the season last year, perhaps overshadowed by primetime shockers like Iowa State. UGMO put together a solid resume on the way to upsetting Southern California in the game to go at Southwest Regionals. While they’ll miss Alex Pan and Ashwin Vaidyanathan, they displayed impressive depth in 2019, much of which is back for this year. Munis Thahir could be in for a breakout campaign after an impressive season with the AUDL’s San Jose Spiders. They’ve quietly recruited and developed well, and earned the win at Sean Ryan this fall. Sleep on them at your own peril.
22. William & Mary Merry Men
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, 38th in USAU Rankings, 8th in Atlantic Coast, 25-11 record
After swiping Virginia Tech’s bid in 2018 at a wild Atlantic Coast Regionals, William & Mary fell out of the picture last season following a devastating knee injury to star handler Johnny Malks. But Malks is back this year after getting his legs under him during the club season with Space Heater. Partnering with Malks is Gus Norrbom, who has been a revelation in the backfield for Truck Stop. The pairing of the two DC products creates one of, if not the, best backfield duos in the country. A large senior class that includes Malks’ Space Heater teammate Gabe Westergren give W & M’s top two some cushion, and a good shot at returning to Nationals.
21. Wisconsin Hodags
2019 Finish: #9 in Power Rankings, 12th in USAU Rankings, T-5 at Nationals, 28-10 record
Of the North Central’s ‘Big Three’, the Hodags lose the most in 2020. Vogt, Hebert, Maskalunas: all gone, leaving vital roles vacant in their wake. But is there any team in the country with more of a ‘next man up’ mentality than the Hodags? Always brimming with depth, Wisconsin’s 2020 squad isn’t rebuilding; they’re reloading. The burden of offensive production will fall to center handler Rami Paust and junior cutter Ted Schewe. After serving as Vogt’s understudy his first two seasons, Schewe will attempt to make the leap into being the Dags’ primary offensive weapon, and he certainly has the talent to do so. Defensively, there’s little reason to be concerned. Per usual, Wisco’s D lacks stars, but has athletes in spades, ready and able to shut their matchup down through sheer force of will. Should the Hodags buck the trend and stay healthy on offense, a return to Nationals seems probable.
20. Northeastern Huskies
2019 Finish: #22 in Power Rankings, 20th in USAU Rankings, T-13 at Nationals, 23-15 record
The Huskies may not have made a huge splash in their first ever Nationals appearance last year, but they held their own, blowing out Rutgers and playing within spitting distance of Washington and Colorado. In 2020, they are gearing up for more. Getting through a stacked Northeast region will (again) be a tough ask, but they have a solid core of upperclassmen and an ace up their sleeve in junior Ben Field. How the team manages without the leadership of Ilya Yudkovich could determine their potential.
19. Victoria Vikes
2019 Finish: #21 in Power Rankings, 35th in USAU Rankings, T-17 at Nationals, 20-17 record
Take a team that proved competitive at the College Championships last season, brings back most major contributors (including three Canadian U24 players!), and you should end up with a very capable squad in 2020. 6’4″ downfield troublemaker Dawson Pasin, junior handler Sean Bennett, and crew are back and should only grow after a 2019 season that surprised many. Victoria could play well enough to earn their own bid this season. Always a high-energy team, the Vikes might not be able to match the top-end depth of talent in the Northwest, but they’ll be able to hold their own and should find their way back to the College Championships.
18. Minnesota Grey Duck
2019 Finish: #15 in Power Rankings, 15th in USAU Rankings, T-13 at Nationals, 26-14 record
Despite a surprise North Central title last season, Grey Duck failed to make an impact at Nationals, missing the bracket. Lack of depth and a less-than healthy Cole Wallin were fatal flaws in an otherwise solid team. Luckily for Minnesota, they return their two most important players: dynamic center handler Wysten Duhn and Cole “Beef” Jurek. The latter is an early POTY darkhorse; he’s one of the best defenders in the country and has made huge strides on the offensive side playing with Sub Zero the last few years. Meanwhile, defensive leader Trevor Graham, reliable cutter Cash Barber, and incoming Edina first-year AJ Larson will play big roles on both sides of the disc. If Grey Duck can bolster their depth and stay healthy, a repeat NC championship isn’t out of the question.
17. Cal Poly SLO SLOCORE
2019 Finish: #4 in Power Rankings, 5th in USAU Rankings, T-3 at Nationals, 36-6 record
Cal Poly SLO rode a strong team of seniors and fifth years to an appearance in the National semifinal last season; despite losing legit talent, SLO’s next class of potential stars seems ready. The clear favorite in the southwest, a talented sophomore class featuring Calvin Brown, KJ Koo, Emmet Holton, and Jake Thorne can carry this team to the College Championships. Conor Schofield should take over as a dominant downfield cutter and Jeremy Dolezal-Ng can contribute in a number of roles if he can avoid injury. While this team might not have the same shine as last year’s, the top end talent to make a deep run is there, and no Southwest team is particularly close at the moment.
16. Massachusetts Zoodisc
2019 Finish: #16 in Power Rankings, 10th in USAU Rankings, 4th in New England, 26-10 record
Somewhat overshadowed by the rubbernecking around Carleton’s epic flameout at regionals was Zoodisc’s failure to make Nationals for the first time since 2013. All season, we assumed that Tannor Johnson plus six warm bodies was enough to get through the Northeast, but a feisty Northeastern threw cold water on that notion in the game to go. Johnson is back for a fifth year, alongside most of UMass’s 2019 roster, nursing the wound of last season’s disappointing ending. Several key players opted to play club together on Amherst Sprout to better prepare for this college season. Increased roster experience and a handful of nice freshman pickups — particularly if they are able to get Connor Ryan in uniform through the consortium red tape — should give Zoodisc the depth of talent to compete more successfully as a complete team.
15. UNC Wilmington Seamen
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, 26th in USAU, T-5 in Atlantic Coast, 22-14 record
High-flying, bombastic, unconventional, edgy — the Seamen are back to inject some of their trademark swagger into the 2020 college season. They took the CCC field by storm in November, only losing to Brown (whom they beat the day before) in the final. A couple of consecutive Regionals flops have left the roster somewhat anonymous, but that will change in a hurry if they open the spring the way they closed the fall. Ethan Ylizarde seems to be at the top of his game, and they have possibly the most productive offensive player in a loaded AC region in Connor Russell. We’ll wait and see, but #15 might be way too low for this bunch.
14. Tufts E-Men
2019 Finish: #23 in Power Rankings, 21st in USAU, T-13 at Nationals, 21-19 record
The herd is looking dangerous this spring, with experience and potential for strength that will make them a tough takedown. Getting a fifth year out of potential star Jac Carreiro really raises the ceiling, but Tufts has quality and seasoned vets beyond him. Nearly every key contributor from their qualifying team is back — Nikhil Bhatia-Lin, Aaron Epstein, Charlie Caron, Tony Goss, etc. — and now sharpened by the Nationals grindstone. And sophomore Caleb Seamon, who tied for the team lead in both the goal and assist column in Texas, should be the straw that stirs the drink.
13. Michigan MagnUM
2019 Finish: #11 in Power Rankings, 19th in USAU, T-5 at Nationals, 28-6 record
Before Nationals, there was very little reason to put a lot of stock in MagnUM’s postseason prospects. Sure, they could make Nationals, but no one had them pegged for a deep quarterfinals run. Michigan is stocked with returners from their successful Texas performance with almost 87 percent of last year’s roster coming back. Jared Schwallie and Adam Stautberg are back as fifth years. Raymond Lu, who was plagued by injuries in 2019, looked great at CCC. Jake Kovalic, Eli Weaver, and 2019 BPOTY runner-up Jeffrey Gao have all developed as juniors and seniors with a wealth of big game experience from Nationals. Those names are just a snapshot of the contributors Michigan brings back this year, setting them up for a great season.
12. Texas TUFF
2019 Finish: #10 in Power Rankings, 11th in USAU, T-9 at Nationals, 26-10 record
What Texas would have looked like if Noah Chambers wasn’t injured at Nationals last year is a big ‘what if’ from 2019. TUFF can count on the senior Chambers’ return in 2020, as well as a very seasoned Matt Armour, who had a dream college offseason playing with the Roughnecks and Austin Doublewide. While much of the club’s striking power last season came from fifth year players, they still have a strong young core to build on, including 2019 ROTY runner-up Matt Chambers. Junior Shane Heath led TUFF in goals at Nationals alongside Armour. No returner on TUFF is likely to forget the sting of last year’s prequarters exit to Wisconsin after being up 11-7. It’s the kind of motivation that can put some fire into a program when the going gets…difficult this season.
11. Georgia Jojah
2019 Finish: #14 in Power Rankings, 16th in USAU, T-9 at Nationals, 25-12 record
Consistency is a hard thing for many Southeast programs to build over successive generations of their program, but Jojah is in a strong position after consistent Nationals appearances. Their prequarters exit against semifinalist Colorado last year was a narrow affair, and a deep roster that is aging up into upperclassmen have things looking bright for Georgia’s 2020 prospects. John Roorbach headlines the veteran downfield threats Georgia can draw on while freshman Aidan Downey has been steadily building his credibility as a budding star on Jojah’s O-line. The team’s biggest hurdle will be building an offense that can complement their very strong defensive capabilities. They’ll be the de facto favorite to take the region this year, and with the right focus and season long preparation, they could see themselves to quarterfinals in Milwaukee.
10. NC State Alpha
2019 Finish: #17 in Power Rankings, 14th in USAU, T-17 at Nationals, 27-14 record
Team rebrand? Check. Mission re-focus? Check. Earn a strength bid? Check. End a ten-year Nationals drought? Check. Succeed at Nationals? About that… 2019 was a marvelous return to form for Alpha, full stop. Missing the bracket in Austin, though, however injury-hobbled they were heading into the tournament, was a tough pill to swallow for a team with enough talent to win games against any other team in the country. Alpha expects more and better this year. The offense will have a few months to figure out how to operate without Bailey Laberteaux running the show anymore. The defense, however, boasting some combination of Rhys Gretsch, Michael Lee, Austin Von Alten, and Trevor Lynch, is game-ready out of the box.
9. Ohio State Leadbelly
2019 Finish: #7 in Power Rankings, 8th in USAU, T-5 at Nationals, 20-9 record
In every conceivable way you can look at Ohio State’s 2019 run to quarterfinals at Nationals as a success. Over the length of last season, they played UNC to double game point at Queen City, lost by two to each of NC State and Texas, and earned their banner win of the season over Pittsburgh at OV Regionals. Senior Zach Braun and the Agami brothers are huge returners for OSU’s backfield, with Braun accounting for a whopping six assists in the 14-9 prequarter victory over Washington that got Leadbelly to their first quarters appearance in program history. The underclassmen talent that OSU brought in last year has given the team a lot of potential longevity as a legitimate contender against Pittsburgh in the Ohio Valley.
8. Oregon Ego
2019 Finish: #6 in Power Rankings, 3rd in USAU, T-9 at Nationals, 29-8 record
Oregon may have made a deep bracket run last season had it not been for an untimely ACL injury to their star player, Will Lohre. Oregon has quietly rebounded, with Lohre expected back this season, along with most of 2019’s starters (though 2019 Club Breakout Player of the Year Leandro Marx is a notable loss). Oregon was a consistent top five team last year, but struggled to replace Lohre’s production at the College Championships. This year, the team will have time to develop the depth necessary to challenge for the title. Ego has plenty of potential breakout stars like Lukas Ambrose and Duncan Fitzgerald in the making, and has one of the nation’s more underrated coaching staffs, which should keep them competitive all season long.
7. Washington Sundodgers
2019 Finish: #12 in Power Rankings, 13th in USAU, T-9 at Nationals, 26-11 record
In pursuit of a Northwest title over rival Oregon, starting with two of the best fifth year players in the country is helpful. Recruiting one of the best rookie classes in the division only improves Washington’s chances. Returning a lot of key talent bolsters those hopes further. Retaining a third year coach becoming comfortable with his team might push it over the top. This could be the best Washington team we’ve seen. The 2020 iteration has legitimate semifinal potential and, if you really squint, you can see a championship contender. Adding Sam Cook (formerly of Southern California) to an offense already running out Manny Eckert and Lucas Chen will make Washington a threat to score in bunches, but there’s plenty of depth to turn to, as well.
6. Colorado Mamabird
2019 Finish: #5 in Power Rankings, 6th in USAU, T-3 at Nationals, 26-8 record
Mamabird is Back with a capital ‘B.’ The program with a championship heritage looks to build off of a somewhat surprising run to semifinals in 2019, and they are off to a strong start, topping a talented field to win Missouri Loves Company this past fall. There will be work in store for Bob Krier and the coaching staff replacing the depth provided by last year’s seniors, but the task will be eased by the skills of one of the nation’s best first-year classes. That cohort includes multiple members of the upcoming U20 U.S. men’s national team, including Danny Landesman, Aylen Learned, and Atkin Arnstein. Plus, some of last year’s most notable standouts return to give continuity, and elite club and international experience. Senior Quinn Finer will undoubtedly be at the forefront of the team’s success, as will 2019 BPOTY Runner-up Alex Atkins and criminally underrated defensive stalwart Matheiu Agee. This is a squad that, should they put all the pieces together, has the potential for a title run.
5. Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur
2019 Finish: #8 in Power Rankings, 4th in USAU, T-5 at Nationals, 31-8 record
Through some kind of unaccountable glitch in the system, En Sabah Nur have no fourth-year players on the 2020 roster. That would be the surefire sign of a rebuilding year for any other program, but not Pitt, who return back-to-back First Team All-American Michael Ing and five other fifth years, all of whom are poised to make an impact. What they lack in a takeover handler they more than make up for in the depth, quality, and size of their downfield talent. Junior Will Hoffenkamp figures to be among the best D-line players in the country, though he may have stiff competition from sophomore Henry Ing, who returns after missing Nationals with injury. It adds up to a team whose realistic ceiling this year is a national championship.
4. Carleton CUT
2019 Finish: #13 in Power Rankings, 7th in USAU, 4th in North Central, 23-10 record
Can the vaunted freshman class that won a title their first year bookend their four years with another one in their last go-round? It’s the final season for Joe White, Dillon Lanier, Stan Birdsong, Luke Webb, Ethan Bloodworth, Andrew Roy, Chris Padilla, and the rest of the class of 2020, and a chance to redeem a squandered 2019 that saw Carleton shockingly miss Nationals. The on-paper talent is obvious — the roster is loaded with club and national team experience. But on the field, there are still a few question marks standing between Carleton and another national title. The most obvious one is the health of Joe White, whose injury-plagued past two seasons have prevented him from hitting the heights he is clearly capable of in college. But even if healthy, it’s still unclear how the team will maximize having White and Lanier on the field at the same time. If Carleton can optimize their talent, they have the highest ceiling in the division. But as we have seen the previous two seasons, the floor may be lower than you think.
3. North Carolina Darkside
2019 Finish: #2 in Power Rankings, 2nd in USAU, National Runner-up, 38-3 record
For almost a decade, UNC has been making Nationals; for all but two of those appearances, they’ve been in the semifinals. There is no real precedent for the modern UNC taking a step back. Even in years when there has been a huge changing of the guard with their personnel, they have always been a semis caliber team. UNC still has a very strong throwing corps, centered around Elijah Long and Kai Marcus. The most intriguing returner this year is Liam Searles-Bohs, who will be entering his junior season with a wealth of elite club experience that has molded him into a tremendously versatile player. Their recruiting has been predictably strong, including multiple U20 men’s national team selections. If UNC finds itself back in the semifinals at college nationals it will not be despite, but because of their young players.
2. Brigham Young CHI
2019 Finish: #3 in Power Rankings, 9th in USAU, 26-3 record
Had they been able to attend the College Championships, we could be talking about this BYU team as one of the great ultimate programs in the country, on par with UNC, Carleton, and the like. This might be the best iteration of a team that has been growing into the national spotlight over the past few seasons. Featuring a legit Player of the Year candidate in Jordan Kerr, one of the most creative offensive threats in the country, and a no-nonsense, physical defense, this team is competitive in every game it plays, including a convincing 13-9 win over UNC this fall. The storylines around BYU will center on their postseason predicament, but without the talent on this team, those stories wouldn’t be relevant. They might be the best team in the division, but they’ll need the chance to prove it.
1. Brown Brownian Motion
2019 Finish: #1 in Power Rankings, 1st in USAU, National Champion, 40-2 record
Don’t look at what Brown is losing, look at what they are bringing back. John Randolph, Dylan Villeneuve, Solomon Rueschemeyer-Bailey, Azeez Adeyemi, Benji Toruno, Ken Noh… virtually every important piece of their championship team aside from Mac Hecht and Ned Dick. Randolph is set to fill the POTY-shaped hole that Hecht left in the team and the rest of the squad can pick up where they left off last season. Add in two freshman from the U20 men’s national team in Leo Gordon and Jaques Nissen, and it’s clear that Brown has just as much talent on their roster as any other team, in addition to their championship experience and the coaching staff that built the team in the first place. It’s rare for a defending champion to bring back this much of it’s roster, and 2020 could be the rare sequel that exceeds the original.
Written by Keith Raynor, Ari Mapua, Daniel Prentice, Graham Gerhart, Edward Stephens, Lindsay Soo, and Sadie Jezierski.
25. Oregon Fugue
2019 Finish: #13 in Power Rankings, 17th in USAU Rankings, T-9 at Nationals, 21-18 record
It must be odd for folks to see this proud program introduced so early in the reverse-order reveal of our Power Rankings. But last year offered warnings of Fugue’s future, as the team bottomed out with an all-time low #22 ranking in our poll during the regular season. A postseason surge blasted them higher, but replicating that propulsive performance will be difficult without Ella Hansen, Morgan Caldwell, and the underappreciated Emily Fagan. The return of downfield athlete Natalie Clifton, however, will help, but there will be a heavy throwing load placed on Rachel Hess and Maddie Boyle on an unproven roster. In a deep region, Oregon will have little margin for error.
24. Pittsburgh Danger
2019 Finish: #20 in Power Rankings, 20th in USAU Rankings, T-17 at Nationals, 24-12 record
Pittsburgh has their work cut out if they want a sixth consecutive Nationals appearance, and an improvement from last year’s debacle in Austin. With a large graduating class last year, and injuries like that of Miranda Kosowsky further trimming the team, it’s time for the middle bench to step up. While they might not be able to completely fill in the gaps, Danger’s leadership has the benefit of working largely with returners and promotions from their B-team, especially with Jessie Sun and Beth Manturuk continuing to control the backfield. They also have some powerful new additions on both ends of their roster: rookie Jessie Chan, a U20 selection, and fifth year Annelise Peters, bringing all her handling prowess from Ohio State. But breaking through the ranks and earning a bid is a team effort, and Danger will have their work cut out for them.
23. Minnesota Ninjas
2019 Finish: #10 in Power Rankings, 15th in USAU Rankings, T-9th, 20-11 record
While Minnesota has built a reputation as a deep team, that will be put to the test in 2020. Their top end has thinned without Kayla Blanek, Louise Beck, Maggie Peck, Rachel Elbing, and Ellie Sjordal. A handful of strong producers like Jessica Halverson, Cassidy Kummrow, and Sadie Reding return from the 2019 team that ended their five-year Nationals drought. Often caught in trenches of the battle for bids, the Ninjas are led by one of the top coaching duos from last year, Sarah Meckstroth and Carlos Lopez, who will be tasked with gameplanning for a high-pressure regular season.
22. California Pie Queens
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, 24th in USAU Rankings, 7th in Southwest, 30-14 record
Here’s a true statement about the Pie Queens this season: they’re a young team — really young. More than half of their team are rookies and have close to no experience on the big stage. However, the players that they do return are impressive in their own right. Cydney Weng is a rising star in the Southwest, and is cut from the same cloth as the team’s most recent Callahan winner, Jackelyne Nguyen. Cal also has potential in Claire Toth and Zoe Luke, both of whom made strides last year and could have breakout seasons. Most importantly, Cal’s current roster provides a blank slate for coaches Danielle Ngo and Andrew Berry. Last season’s Pie Queens improved in leaps and bounds as the year went on, there’s no reason to think that isn’t possible again now that Ngo and Berry are more comfortable in their leadership positions.
21. South Carolina Scorch
2019 Finish: #24 in Power Rankings, 10th in USAU Rankings, 4th in Atlantic Coast, 23-3 record
Scorch land on our list on the strength of a perfect 2019 regular season, but one that also left them just outside of the bid picture. Though they fought tooth and nail to steal the Atlantic Coast autobid, their efforts came up short. The plan for 2020 is to stack the odds in their favor by playing a schedule with more Nationals-level teams. How well they fit among that bunch will be on full display at Queen City Tune-Up. Scorch lose top all-around playmaker Jules Madigan from last season’s squad, but the rest of the roster has leveled up, as displayed in an appearance in the Classic City Classic final. No doubt they’ll keep tightening the screws on their opponents with a famously stingy zone.
20. Utah Spiral Jetty
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, 34th in USAU Rankings, 4th in Northwest, 20-12 record
One of our teams to watch this year, Utah could make their first ever Nationals appearance this year after making their first ever game to go in 2019. Kyra Khoroujnikova promises to be a breakout star, at least for those who aren’t already familiar with the explosive playmaker’s game. The Northwest looks ripe for a reshuffle after some longtime faces of the region graduated from their schools and Utah could be one of the teams to slot themselves into a new position at the top of the region.
19. Stanford Superfly
2019 Finish: #19 in Power Rankings, 21st in USAU Rankings, 5th in Southwest, 22-19 record
Stanford being ranked 19th feels like a glitch, or a typo at the least. This is the lowest Superfly has been in our preseason rankings since 2014. Yes, the team has lost a considerable amount of talent over the past two years and hasn’t had the recruiting success of the early 2010s, but they’re still Stanford. They’re still helmed by the most heralded college coaching staff of this past decade, and have added Amel Awadelkarim for good measure. They still have Hallie Dunham, whose tenure with the team apparently extends just as far as her backhand hucks. What remains to be seen is how well the team can improve upon their disappointing results from last year. They return a strong group of role players like Bridget Connor, Sarah Kratzer, and Sidney Stevens, but need one or two of them to step up into legitimate stars. If they can figure out who deserves the disc on offense, they could find themselves jumping up the rankings by the end of the season.
18. Texas Melee
2019 Finish: #9 in Power Rankings, 11th in USAU Rankings, T-13 at Nationals, 25-10 record
Texas Melee has been in the Nationals conversation year after year, positioning themselves as one of the most dangerous programs in the country. Last year, they graduated a solid group of seniors including 2018 DPOTY runner-up Domenica Sutherland. However, Melee adds two veteran rookies in Mindy Radike and Brianna Stedman that are sure to boost Melee’s bid earning hopes. The additions of Radike and Stedman, combined with veterans Caroline O’Connell and Ivy Harrison, are sure to help a young Melee team to reach their sixth straight Nationals.
17. UC Santa Barbara Burning Skirts
2019 Finish: #7 in Power Rankings, 7th in USAU Rankings, T-5 at Nationals, 30-9 record
It’s tough to rebound after losing two of 2019’s best defenders in Audrey Brown and Julia Kwasnick. But if any team can rebound from that, it’s UCSB. Kwasnick and Brown may be gone, along with their impressive skills on both sides of the disc, but it gives more opportunities for UCSB’s other budding stars to shine. Jasmine Childress, Nicki Yang, and Kaitlyn Weaver are a big problem for any team they go up against, but they’ll now also have to shoulder some of the offensive load. Weaver, in particular, will need a strong season to take UCSB back to Nationals. The now-senior was chucking hammer bombs as a sophomore, and her range hasn’t gone anywhere since then. If she can hone in on her accuracy and help the Skirts’ inexperienced cutters, UCSB could be every bit as dangerous as they were last year.
16. Vermont Ruckus
2019 Finish: Unranked in Power Rankings, 26th in USAU Rankings, 5th in New England, 16-9 record
Few teams have suffered more heartbreak over the last few seasons than Vermont. They’ve earned a bid to Nationals each of the past two seasons, falling short at Regionals both times; they lost in the game to go in both 2017 and 2018. But this year represents their best chance to make it to Nationals since they made their only appearance at the first Nationals back in 1987. Bethany Eldridge was a standout freshman last season and should form a formidable duo with top frosh Kennedy McCarthy. The rest of the roster should be strong, too, as evidenced by their dominant fall season, and help Ruckus make the leap to Nationals this season.
15. Cal Poly SLO SLOMOTION
2019 Finish: #18 in Power Rankings, 23rd in USAU, 4th in Southwest, 26-14 record
After so many years of close calls, Cal Poly SLO is still in search of that breakthrough. The context of the Southwest present both potential and pitfalls, but SLO has the talent to capitalize on opportunity within the region. Or, if things go right behind Thalia Ward and Vanessa Beeler, create a real chance by earning a bid. There is a fair chance they will be around the bid border again this year, making every game important, and putting pressure on them to find some consistency.
14. Northeastern Valkyries
2019 Finish: #17 in Power Rankings, 22nd in USAU, T-17 at Nationals, 18-11 record
Last year, Northeastern made their way back to Nationals after a six year hiatus. With the dynamic handler duo of Ari Nelson and Clara Stewart back — enhanced by another season of club under their belts — the Valkyries are sure to be on the rise. Earning a bid in the tough New England region alongside Nationals contenders Dartmouth, Vermont, and Tufts will be a task, but with elite throwers on their roster combined with solid foundational depth, the Valkyries are poised for another successful spring.
13. Wisconsin Bella Donna
2019 Finish: #8 in Power Rankings, 19th in USAU, T-5 at Nationals, 21-9 record
Wisconsin enters 2020 in an interesting position. On the one hand, they lose some very talented players and leaders from last year’s quarterfinals run. Camila Flowerman, Sabrina Hoffmann, and their class were key parts of the run. On the other hand, Margaret Walker is more experienced at handling a heavy workload, and will be one the division’s most high-volume throwers. Kaitlynne Rolling and veteran Caitlin Murphy figure to be frequent targets, while Jackie Welsch will operate as a critical handler. But Bella Donna’s prospects may come down to how quickly their partially-new coaching staff can create new playmakers out of high-potential rookies such as Mia Wieben and Kami Stark.
12. British Columbia Thunderbirds
2019 Finish: #14 in Power Rankings, 8th in USAU, 4th in Northwest, 15-8 record
UBC’s traversed from peak to valley and back throughout their 2019 season. Their early top 10 Power Ranking dissipated after a mediocre Stanford Invite. But it returned with an impressive Northwest Challenge, where they knocked off the likes of North Carolina, Carleton, and shorthanded Dartmouth and UC San Diego clubs. Finally, a string of three brutal Regionals losses ended their season in ignominious fashion. They won’t have the on-field presence of stars Naomi Morcilla and now-coach Ellen Au-Yeung, but a solid group of capable returners and a recruiting class with oodles of potential — including some top Seattle recruits and at least three former Canadian U20 players — give them plenty of fuel for a bounceback season.
11. Georgia Athena
2019 Finish: #18 in Power Rankings, 19th in USAU, T-9 at Nationals, 24-11 record
The youth movement is in full swing in Athens, and it has Georgia looking like a real threat nationally. The Southeast hasn’t had a team in the mix in some time, but the duo of Marie Perivier and Josie Veal are on par with the best players in the division. This year’s team should be even deeper than last, with many of the surrounding players, such as Gayeon Ko and Amy Strozinsky back in the fold. The athleticism of Katharine Suarez and Martha Wilber sets them up to move into bigger roles. The brilliance of the team’s top end could shoot them past even tough opposition.
10. UCLA BLU
2019 Finish: #12 in Power Rankings, 16th in USAU, T-13 at Nationals, 28-19 record
While most teams in the Southwest suffered a talent drain at the end of the 2019 season, UCLA fared the storm far better than their in-region rivals and are primed to make their mark on the division this year. BLU’s greatest strength lies in their development of a young core. The team gave rookies Athena Lynch and Cameron Jewett plenty of reps last year at Nationals, and while Malia Smith, Erin Doyle, and Katherine Jordak will likely still lead the team, their sophomores are a daunting matchup for any opponent. UCLA plays a very distinct brand of ultimate that stems from the early days of Dr. Alex Korb’s tenure as a coach, but they’ve been bolstered recently by the addition of coaches Cheryl Prideaux and Jackson Dolan, who have proved more than capable of helping guide this team going forward. Assuming they live up to their potential, UCLA’s ceiling is just as high as any team ranked ahead of them.
9. Washington Element
2019 Finish: #21 in Power Rankings, 25th in USAU, T-13 at Nationals, 17-18 record
Washington has had its ups and downs the past couple of years. Last year, they finally were able to break through and make the big show as a young and scrappy team after two years as May spectators. Another year older and wiser, and with the majority of their 2019 roster coming back, Element is poised for what could be a breakout season. The addition of Abby Hecko (2019 U24, 2020 U20) to Steph Phillips, Alexa Yadama, and Maddie Kramer cannot be overstated. They will be able to lean on Hecko to quarterback the handler space and give Element the offensive firepower that is sure to make defenses frustrated.
8. UC San Diego Dragon Coalition
2019 Finish: #1 in Power Rankings, 2nd in USAU, National Champions, 42-4 record
UCSD has one pressing question to answer this season: how do you rebound from losing a historically great graduating class? Gone are the paragons of their program like Kelli Iwamoto, Leanne Go, Avery Jones, Stacy Tran, Rebecca Ellis, and Dena Elimelech. Needless to say, this is not the same team that won Nationals just eight short months ago. But if there is any leadership team that can recover from a loss like this, it’s the UCSD coaching staff. Alisha Stoun, Carlo Mosca, and Sheliemae Reyes proved to be both tactical wizards and some of the best player development coaches in college ultimate. They’ll likely rely heavily on sophomores Lauren and Ava Hanna, along with Alex Diaz and Samantha Wool, to keep the team in contention. UCSD’s strength was always in their system, a handler-dominated vertical stack that played out like an algorithm in how clean and formulaic their offense would run. The pieces may have changed, but the system remains the same.
7. Dartmouth Ultimate
2019 Finish: #2 in Power Rankings, 3rd in USAU, National Runner-Up, 33-6 record
Dartmouth loses the two most successful players in program history in Jack Verzuh and Caitlyn Lee, but they do bring back the best player in the division. Claire Trop (32 combined goals and assists at Nationals in 2019) is supported by Caroline Tornquist, who would have been a ROTY-podium finisher in any other season. Others who showed promise last season, such as Grace Alston and Emma Bushman, will be asked to step into larger roles. But even if they make a big leap, Dartmouth won’t be able to reach the same heights they’ve seen the last few seasons. Still, Trop and Tornquist make one of the most potent duos in the division, and a bracket appearance at Nationals is still very much in play.
6. Tufts Ewo
2019 Finish: #16 in Power Rankings, 13th in USAU, T-17 at Nationals, 21-14 record
Currently riding a three-year Nationals streak, this could be Tufts’ best year of their run. Margo Urheim is a legit star and freshman Hazel Ostrowski is a preseason favorite for Rookie of the Year. Hannah Wells also returns to provide a big boost to the team’s handler core after missing last season abroad. A formidable collection of depth players — a few of which have legit breakout potential — and a strong coaching staff help round out a team that should have its sights on winning New England for the first time since 2014 and a national quarterfinals run at the very least.
5. Western Washington Chaos
2019 Finish: #6 in Power Rankings, 6th in USAU, T-5 at Nationals, 20-9
Losing Maddie Gilbert and Riley Tauer is significant for Chaos, but with one of the best coaches in the division, Alyssa Weatherford, Western Washington will be strong again this year. They return Samiya Ismail, coming off of a season with Seattle Riot and a stint on the U24 women’s national team, to quarterback their offense along with Ruby Cassidy and Nellie Joselyn. Western Washington flew somewhat under the radar last year, despite strong performances throughout the season. They even missed the Nationals semifinals by only one point to the tournament runner-up, Dartmouth, a program best finish. This upward trajectory and high level experience may keep them near the top of the heap this season.
4. Colorado Quandary
2019 Finish: #11 in Power Rankings, 12th in USAU, T-9 at Nationals, 25-12 record
A returner-heavy roster makes newly named Colorado Quandary a quality team on the upswing. After a heartbreaking double point quarterfinals loss, Quandary has added Stacy Gaskill and Skye Fernandez, who are both top rookies. Gaskill and Fernandez have elite club experience, with Molly Brown and Public Enemy, respectively, that is sure to help a motivated Colorado team break out into the spotlight. They join former U20 teammate Bailey Shigley to create what might be one of the best trios in the division this year and for years to come.
3. Ohio State Fever
2019 Finish: #4 in Power Rankings, 4th in USAU, T-3 at Nationals, 37-4 record
Callahan finalist Sadie Jezierski may have come and gone, but Emily Barrett and Cara Sieber are back for more. The 2019 All-American Second Team pair is set to take Fever to its tenth consecutive Nationals appearance, with Sieber finally hitting her stride with handling and Barrett back for a fifth year of dominating the downfield. A chunk of Fever’s roster has stuck together outside of the college season, playing for Columbus Rival under coach DeAnna Ball, as well as for Columbus Pride and Columbus Cocktails, so it looks like this team is set for another semifinals run. Adding rookie and U20 women’s player Grace Conerly should boost that ambition too. Fever’s ability to develop players and systems will help them adjust to their changes in personnel.
2. North Carolina Pleiades
2019 Finish: #3 in Power Rankings, 1st in USAU, T-3 at Nationals, 32-4 record
Although you can never definitively say how a season will turn out, on paper, these next teams take the top two spots by a significant margin. After Pleiades’ strongest season in team history, they return with championship prospects. UNC is led by a strong coaching staff and returns several key players such as Bridget Mizener, Tyler Smith, and 2019 OPOTY Anne Worth. This team benefits from not only the strong youth pipeline, but also the strong connections to the Triangle’s club teams, Raleigh Phoenix and Durham Toro. However, they did graduate eight players including significant contributors such as Elisabeth Parker, Mary Rippe, and 2019 Callahan finalist Rebecca Fagan. They’ve made it close to the top, they have experience in tough games, and we anticipate seeing them against the #1 contender in these rankings with a title on the line.
1. Carleton Syzygy
2019 Finish: #5 in Power Rankings, 5th in USAU, T-5 at Nationals, 30-7 record
Syzygy lost only five players from their 2019 roster; the core of their team remains. With another strong rookie class, their ceiling is one of the highest in the division. Although they lost in the quarters of the 2019 college championships, keep in mind that loss came from the eventual national champions on double game point. Kate Lanier, 2019 Rookie of the Year and the long underrated Karen Ehrhardt will be back as one of the strongest duos in the division. The addition of Emma Chin and Alyssa Ehrhardt, each recently announced on the USA U20 women’s national team, only deepen what might have been the division’s strongest roster top to bottom. They haven’t faced particularly tough competition in the fall, but have easily dominated the field. QCTU in February will be their first test against nationals caliber competition, and we will hopefully see our first (likely of many) UNC vs. Carleton matchups of the season.