PUL Championship Series 2021: Midwest Preview & How to Watch

The final PUL regional tournament kicks off this weekend featuring a debutant in Milwaukee and two returning teams looking to improve upon their 2019 seasons in Indy and Columbus.

The trio of Sadie Jezierski, Emily Barrett, and Cara Sieber should be key players for the Columbus Pride in 2021. Photo: Kevin Wayner -- UltiPhotos.com
The trio of Sadie Jezierski, Emily Barrett, and Cara Sieber should be key players for the Columbus Pride in 2021. Photo: Kevin Wayner — UltiPhotos.com

The Premier Ultimate League kicked off two weeks ago with action on the east coast. Medellín Revo Pro and Raleigh Radiance won the International and East tournaments respectively. This weekend the action shifts to the midwest where the Milwaukee Monarchs are set to make their debut and the Columbus Pride and Indianapolis Red return to the field after the league’s 2020 season was a pandemic casualty.

All three teams pull players from across the midwest leading to unique matchups where players from various mixed and women’s division teams are playing together. Columbus alone has players from Akron, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Nashville, Detroit, and even New Jersey! The drama of club teammates facing each other and the excitement of college teammates reuniting will be something to keep an eye on, as if the games themselves won’t be entertaining enough!

Tournament Profile

How to Watch & Filming Schedule

All of the Series games will be streamed on the Premier Ultimate League’s YouTube channel, which we will also have on our Live page. All times listed are Central.

Saturday

12:00 PM: Milwaukee Monarchs vs Indianapolis Red​
3:00 PM: Milwaukee Monarchs vs Columbus Pride
6:00 PM: Indianapolis Red vs Columbus Pride

Sunday

11:00 AM: Championship Game

Milwaukee Monarchs

Despite their delayed on-field debut and their status as an expansion team, the Milwaukee Monarchs have to be the favorite to win this tournament. If adding 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Austin Prucha, Callahan Award winner and US World Games captain Georgia Bosscher wasn’t enough, a handful of Chicago Nemesis stars like Jenni Corcoran, Emilie Willingham, and JJ Jarik raise the ceiling for the Monarchs.

Coming in as a new team is not fazing the Monarchs leadership. “Our hope is that we can learn on the fly as much as possible,” said Katy Stanton, a founding member and owner of the team. “You can practice those scenarios, but until you’re in the moment and the clock is ticking, and there’s the added pressure of being in the stadium in front of people, I think that there’s a lot of things that we can’t control and we can’t know yet, so we’re focusing on what we can control which is our physical fitness, our knowledge of the rules. We have a couple rules reviews still coming up before the weekend to make sure it’s all fresh. So I think that’s our strategy with trusting our players to know the rules and to make the right decisions with the disc.” Stanton later added, “We’re a frisbee team, so we want to win.”

“We tried to prioritize the health of our players both mentally and physically,” said Kaitlynne Roling, a Monarchs captain, “so we invested in Strive + Uplift for our players and we tried to give some time to not just getting to know each other again on top of actual practices where we played frisbee.”

Team leadership highlighted the Milwaukee-based players — many of whom play for the city’s club team Northern Comfort — as key additions for 2021. The team did a Milwaukee trivia event to get to know the community for those who haven’t played there, and the Monarchs are partnering with local organizations like the Boys & Girls Club Milwaukee, Big Brothers Big Sisters Milwaukee, Girls on the Run, and the MKE LGBT Center.

While the results on the field are important, the Monarchs are focused on the process this weekend as well. “For a team to have longevity across the years,” Stanton said, “which is the trajectory I see for the Monarchs, we’re starting to put that kind of culture in place, a culture of growth and support alongside being highly competitive.”

Columbus Pride

After a 2-3 season in 2019 that saw Pride lose to league champions Revo Pro by just two, Columbus is retooling ahead of this weekend’s tournament with their eyes set on the championship. While the headlines might focus on the sting of the departure of 2019 PUL assist leader Sophie Knowles, Pride’s cupboard isn’t bare. Since the 2019 season, the team has added Kayla Emrick, Domenica Sutherland, and Lauren Boyle. United States National Team star Sadie Jezierski returns and will take on a lot of responsibility in the handler space. Jezierski also finished top five in the league in assists, while her former college teammate Emily Barrett was fifth in the league in goals scored.

The Pride sport an intriguing roster of players from a variety of mixed and women’s division club teams. While their talent is obvious, their chemistry playing together will be interesting to watch, especially as coach Ben Murphy draws set lines for this weekend’s games. “We might put people on the same line that want to play together, but don’t have a chance to play club together because they don’t live nearby,” Murphy said. “There might be some players who play together this weekend because in a season where they were a little bit concerned about how much time they’re gonna have and how ultimate was going they said ‘I really want to play on this team to play with this person.’ That’s something we’re mindful of so that people are enjoying their experience.”

Strategically, look for Pride to push the tempo on offense, trying to score aggressively and quickly to try and limit the effects of playing a timed game. On defense Columbus is looking to try a couple wrinkles that will “look or feel chaotic for the offense,” as Murphy puts it. “There are things that we’re more willing to try on the field this weekend to see how it goes,” he said. “If we think that it will help make the team better or more fun or more successful next year.”

One player in particular to keep an eye on: Libby Lehman. The Ohio ultimate veteran will anchor whichever line she is on and plays the kind of smart, consistent ultimate that her teammates look to emulate. If Pride is able to pull off the tournament victory, Lehman will be a big reason why.

Indianapolis Red

Since we last saw Indianapolis Red in 2019, the team hasn’t made splashy signings like Milwaukee or Columbus. Losing Austin Prucha will hurt — she finished second in the league in blocks and third in goals last season on the way to a Defensive Player of the Year award. Team leader Jackie Lai has transitioned into a coaching role as well, taking even more talent off the Red field. That being said, Indianapolis is not playing this weekend to lose. Assistant coach Samantha Pukys shared that the team has been preparing through a combination of in-person and zoom practices. “We’ve encouraged weekly pod activities/workouts throughout the summer months,” she said. “Since we have people coming from a lot of different areas that have not necessarily played together in the past, we wanted practice to include as many disc reps as possible to start to build chemistry.”

Expect to see Bri Harrison, one of the best pure athletes on the team, and Sydney Olund, one of the key offensive handlers, taking on big roles for the offense. The team expects to rotate its cutters through initiation looks on offense, but Pukys highlighted Shani Rosenthal as a player who will be relied on to threaten the deep space with throws if the defense gives open looks. A bevy of contributors is expected to be playing hard-nosed defense to keep Indy in close games. Anastasia Foster was an impact player on Austin Torch last season and returns to Red after an absence in 2019 — she will be a D-line starter and her leadership should shine on that line. Eliza Hutchings is another disruptor to keep an eye on.

While Red will not be the favorite in any game they play, the team will highlight the skills of undercovered athletes from across the midwest and continue to grow the presence of the sport in a city with a great youth scene bubbling up. Overall, Indianapolis is a relatively inexperienced group of players. The local women’s team, Indy Rogue, has been growing and developing players, and the opportunity to show that on a big stage like the PUL is an opportunity to promote growth and development in the local community. For the players in this small market, this is an opportunity to showcase their talent in a way that they haven’t had the chance to before, an opportunity to showcase what women can do in sport, and a way to empower the local growing youth community.

  1. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years, but now spends his time playing pickup and coaching de Toledo High School in Los Angeles. You can reach him through e-mail (rubin.alex14@gmail.com) or Twitter (@arubes14 or @dthsultimate).

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