2021 Mixed Club Breakout Player Of The Year

Celebrating the young players who took a major leap into the national spotlight with their performance this season.

Ultiworld’s 2021 Mixed Club Awards are presented by Five Ultimate; all opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Five Ultimate!

Ultiworld is pleased to announce our annual Mixed Club Awards. While we consider both regular season and postseason performance, because of the nature of the Club Division, we weight success in the Series and at Nationals above all else — this year even more so than most. The Club Awards are selected based on input from Ultiworld reporters, contributors, and editors.

Our Breakout Player of the Year may be the hardest-to-define award that we dole out each year. We aim to recognize players typically 25 years old or younger who weren’t widely expected to have a major impact on the club season at the start of the year. While their teammates or local community may have known about their talent level, their performance in the 2021 season thrust them into the national consciousness in a way that raises expectations for their contributions for years to come. Without strict parameters around what constitutes “too well known” at the start of the year, our voters are given the opportunity to decide for themselves who best represented their definition of a true breakout season in the club division.

Player of the Year Award
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Breakout Player of the Year Award
Coach of the Year Award
All-Club First Team
All-Club Second Team
Club Awards Voting Breakdown

2021 Mixed Club Breakout Player Of The Year

Cheryl Hsu (Seattle BFG)

Seattle BFG's Cheryl Hsu. Photo: William 'Brody' Brotman -- UltiPhotos.com
Seattle BFG’s Cheryl Hsu. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

The 2021 Club Championships were not the first time the name of Cheryl Hsu has graced the pages of Ultiworld. Those who follow the women’s college division closely will remember her from her time at UC Davis, which culminated in a First Team All-Region nod in 2017. WUL fans saw her highlighted on the site as a likely leader for the short-lived Los Angeles 99s of the West Coast Women’s Ultimate showcase. No doubt, Cheryl Hsu’s talent with the disc in her hand was as recognizable as her trademark backward hat.

Yet Hsu’s impact on the club division prior to this fall was less pronounced than we may have expected. Playing with the Polar Bears in 2017 and 2018, the California ultimate product was hardly the focal point of the PBR offense, even as she helped the team advance to the Club Championships in 2018 as part of the handling corps. Hsu’s stat line at 2018 Nationals of 3G, 3A is a reasonable enough return for an O-line handler, but may not quite portend a future All-Club performer. Perhaps set for a larger role in 2019, she lost the season to a torn ACL and left the Bay Area before having the chance to really leave a lasting impression on the Southwest mixed landscape.

Sometimes a breakout happens simply because a skilled player is deployed in a new way on a new team or in a new system that perfectly elicits and emphasizes their unique skillset. Such was the case for Hsu in her first year with Seattle BFG.

A confident offensive force able to diagnose and surgically dissect a defense with an array of break throws and incisive cuts, Hsu was the perfect complement to a backfield already stocked with Mario O’Brien and Jeff Pape. Even in her first year with the team, the trio played off each other with innate chemistry, allowing each to shine in their own way to drive the Seattle offense down the field. Playing every offensive point for BFG in the latter stages of the bracket, Hsu was an omnipresent force for the eventual national champions, operating at various points as both an initiator and a release valve. While her top-level stat lines from the semi and final won’t jump off the page, she registered more touches for the team than all but O’Brien, Pape, and Tommy Li, and did so with exceeding efficiency, amassing nearly 400 yards of throwing with nary a turnover in her tally. Anyone who watched those games could plainly see just how crucial Hsu was to her team’s success.

Now firmly in her prime and in a system perfectly suited to her skillset, Hsu’s standing among the division’s elite is most certainly assured.

Steve Sullivan

1st Runner-Up

Jamie Eriksson (Arizona Lawless)

Arizona Lawless's Jamie Eriksson. Photo: Kevin Leclaire -- UltiPhotos.com
Arizona Lawless’s Jamie Eriksson. Photo: Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

Arizona Lawless’s Jamie Eriksson is a shining example of an athlete who emerged from the pandemic pause stronger and more dominant than ever. At just 24 years old, she already has years of elite club play with Dallas Public Enemy and Austin Showdown and multiple appearances at Nationals under her belt, but she made her biggest splash yet in the 2021 season as a member of the upstart Lawless squad. Lest you think that putting up her best club year to date was effortless, Eriksson put in herculean might to achieve these results and demonstrate her limitless potential as an up-and-coming elite club player.

The countless hours she put in over the last few years to boost her (already very impressive) athleticism and improve her throwing technique most certainly paid off. Eriksson was impossible to miss on the field. If she wasn’t getting run-through Ds or lay out blocks in the endzone, you could find her creating space on offense, advancing the disc with keen field awareness, and throwing scores (18 of them throughout the season, to be exact).

A well-rounded threat, Eriksson was one of Lawless’s greatest assets whose many contributions helped define her team’s incredible debut season. Her highlight moments included getting bookends to break Fort Collins shame. to start their semifinals matchup at Pro Championships, throwing the winning score on universe point against Nashville ‘Shine and opening the door to competing in bracket play at Nationals, among many other highlight-reel-worthy moments. As a young player with strong drive and determination, Eriksson is well-deserving of her spot on the BPOTY podium and is poised to keep growing her footprint and influence on the sport as her career continues to blossom.

Isabel Cruz

2nd Runner-Up

Kristen Reed (Denver Love Tractor)

Denver Love Tractor's Kristen Reed. Photo: William 'Brody' Brotman -- UltiPhotos.com
Denver Love Tractor’s Kristen Reed. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s… Denver Love Tractor’s Kristen Reed shredding up the field with no defender in sight! She was consistently a radiant star in her rookie year on a team that had a very hot-and-cold season. Through the highs and the lows, Reed never let off the gas, and was almost guaranteed to be open downfield, especially on under cuts (though she was regularly a deep threat as well). No matter how her team was doing or what an established star her defender was, she took the space she wanted on the field with a lethal combination of quickness and field sense, leaving almost everyone who guarded her in the dust. Similarly to the other talented BPOTY players described here, Reed rose to the top of the candidate pool not because she’s new to elite-level ultimate, but because she displayed a whole new level of dominance and potential as a star newbie on Love Tractor.

Transitioning back to mixed ultimate after her 2019 stint with Raleigh Phoenix, Reed made her mark on the division this season as one of the leading goal-scorers, with 27 total recorded goals. Reed may not be a household name yet, but this season showed she certainly has what it takes to rise to the top of the game as her career continues, having gone toe-to-toe with — and even outshined — many of the bigger-name players on her own team, as well as her elite opponents. It was virtually impossible not to notice Reed’s impact on the field in 2021, and it’s pretty apparent that she’ll only become more notable and impactful in the sport going forward.

Isabel Cruz

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