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2020 D-I Women’s Defensive Player of the Year, Presented by Spin Ultimate

Ultiworld’s 2020 College Awards are presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.

Each spring, Ultiworld presents our annual D-I College Awards. While the 2020 college season certainly didn’t play out as we all hoped and was not allowed to reach its natural conclusion, we still want to celebrate and honor the tremendous performances we saw already this spring.

Our selections are based on sanctioned play as if the season ended today. Given the uncertainty that the coronavirus crisis hangs over the rest of 2020, we may or may not see any postseason events that traditionally have heavily influenced our award selections. With what season has taken place, we have reviewed the tape, talked to players, coaches, and onlookers, and discussed with our reporting team. While the amount of data is limited — and we recognize that not every player and team got equal opportunity to perform — we felt we had enough to offer our opinions on the players who had the greatest effect on this season as it was.

Our awards continue with the Defensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt were the top defensive performers this spring. Whether through generating blocks, shutting down options, helping out teammates, or all of the above, these defenders stood out doing the tough work that too often go unrecognized.

Player of the Year Award
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Rookie of the Year Award
Breakout Player of the Year Award
Coach of the Year Award (will be announced later this week!)
All American First Team (will be announced next week!)
All American Second Team (will be announced next week!)


D-I Women’s 2020 Defensive Player Of The Year

Nariah Sims (Carleton)

Carleton’s Nariah Sims is our 2020 DPOTY. Photo: Katie Cooper — UltiPhotos.com

Following up a great season in 2019 with Carleton, Sims was known for her skill on the field and ability to shut down matchups. In 2020 she continued that trend and more.

Sims is one of the best players on the star-studded roster of arguably the best team in the country. She holds down the Carleton D-line with stellar person defense, great footwork, heads-up plays and, more than anything, the ability to get blocks. She almost always takes on the toughest matchup on the opposing line and makes them less effective than their team would want them to be.

Despite her skill and athleticism that makes for tight matchup coverage, she also has great field awareness in zone. Carleton often ran a junk set with Sims covering the deep space. She found the next threat and communicated with teammates to switch onto players coming into dangerous spaces. At 5’5”, Sims may not be the tallest deep defender, but she knows the field and game well so that she goes up at the right moment to high point the disc. When throwers mistakenly test her with hucks, Sims gets the better of those deep shots with her speed and body awareness.

Carleton may not be able to go for gold in May, but throughout the regular season, Sims dominated the field and helped Carleton reach the #1 rankings spot.

UC Santa Barbara’s Jasmine Childress shows off her playmaking at the 2020 Presidents’ Day Invite. Photo: Greg Pettus — UltiPhotos.com

First Runner-up: Jasmine Childress (UC Santa Barbara)

After the loss of Audrey Brown and 2019 DPOTY Julia Kwasnick, UCSB’s fate was uncertain before the spring season. However, Jasmine Childress has had a phenomenal year so far with the Burning Skirts, one of the main reasons why they finished the spring #8 in our Power Rankings.

Childress is UCSB’s best puller, deep-space guardian, and match-up defender. She often plays with smart lane poaches that she can afford to do because of her dynamite closing speed that earns her run through blocks. Childress plays nearly every single D point for the Burning Skirts, as well as crossing over to provide security to the O-line in tough spots. And when she inevitably helps generate a turn, she grinds, always finding a way to get the disc, deep or under, with the ability to stretch the field with her throws as well. The UCSB star is a smart and athletic player, who often outmatches her opponents even through long points.

Second Runner-up: Jessie Sun (Pittsburgh)

Pittsburgh’s Jessie Sun marks at Queen City Tune Up 2020. Photo: Katie Cooper — UltiPhotos.com

No one has the full confidence of her team quite like Jessie Sun. The Pittsburgh senior was let off the leash this year, allowing her to go hunt for blocks as necessary. We often talk about how a player can warp the field on offense by forcing defenders to adjust; Sun is the antithesis of that. By roving across the field, Sun offers no easy shots for the offense, and throws handlers out of their rhythm by flashing into lanes or streaking into the space that a cutter had set up. The few seconds it takes for the opposition to realize she’s left a player unmarked is normally enough to force a tough throw out anyway, which Sun’s teammates are happy to swarm.

A lot was asked of Sun this season on Danger’s defensive unit, as she was the hardest working defender and the central handler, but she delivered all season and helped the team earn some critical wins to keep the team in the national conversation. Considering how conventional Pittsburgh’s person defense was without Sun, it just serves to highlight her gifts even more. She was the epitome of a disruptive player, which is the hallmark of an elite defender across all levels of ultimate.

  1. Lindsay Soo
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    Lindsay Soo is a contributor for Ultiworld based in North Carolina. She has been playing competitively since 2012 and coaching since 2018. Her experience ranges from D3 and D1 college to Club, Pro and International competition. On Twitter and Instagram @soonami14

  2. Graham Gerhart
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    Graham Gerhart is a Senior Staff Writer at Ultiworld, focusing primarily on the Women's and Mixed divisions. Graham graduated from the University of Cape Town in South Africa after playing 4 years with the UCT Flying Tigers. He now lives and works full time in San Diego. Follow him on twitter @JustGrahamG

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