2022 D-I Women’s Defensive Player of the Year

The best defenders of the 2022 spring season.

Ultiworld’s 2022 College Awards are presented by the National Ultimate Training Camp; all opinions are those of the author(s). NUTC helps young players become better athletes and community members.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

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.1 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.

D-I Women’s 2022 Defensive Player Of The Year

Stacy Gaskill (Colorado)

Colorado's Stacy Gaskill flexes at the 2022 D-I College Championships.
Colorado’s Stacy Gaskill flexes at the 2022 D-I College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

Stacy Gaskill is a fantastic ultimate player, and has been for years. We finally got to see her display her talents on the college stage, after seasons of being deprived by both personal and global maladies. Once that performance was seen by a wider audience, it is no wonder that the rave reviews poured in, showering her with glory. Soon, her show was the hottest ticket in town, and it was well worth queuing for. With a very talented cast surrounding her lead, the brightest spotlight — one of championship wattage — was the only one that made sense.

You sometimes hear discussion of great defenders who go unrecognized because their work is so impeccably impenetrable that throwers avert their eyes and their targeting away. Much of that is hyperbole; Gaskill is the genuine article. Her particular brand of deterrence was more widespread, her influence more creeping. A thrower couldn’t just look at her matchup and have doubts, because they had to worry she might appear to claim any throw with extended time aloft, no matter whose matchup it was.

But players don’t get to the defensive mountaintop through simply being an intimidating deep defender. Her double-digit block total at Nationals gets her into a pretty exclusive club.  Gaskill’s size, speed, tenacity, and boldness as a defender impacted the field, despite the caliber of cutter she was directed toward. There was, however, another factor that separated her from an able pack: her pulls. Consider them her show-stopping solo, the signature moment people walked away from her season remembering. Standing ovation.

First Runner-Up

Tori Gray (Carleton)

Carleton's Tori Gray in their semifinal at the 2022 D-I College Championships.
Carleton’s Tori Gray in their semifinal at the 2022 D-I College Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

After a breakout turn in 2021, Tori Gray followed up with a wonderful campaign that landed her just narrowly in the first runner-up position. In other seasons, she might have claimed the title all for her own. Gray is a rocket-boosted defensive machine, with spectacular closing speed and a confident disposition. It is as if the fact that the offense gets the disc first is a formality, a mere inconvenience, an error that she was designed to correct. There are other fast players, but few with the solidity to bring that speed to bear rep after rep after rep until the job is done.

Second Runner-Up

Kristen Reed (Colorado)

Colorado's Kristen Reed at the 2022 D-I College Championships.
Colorado’s Kristen Reed at the 2022 D-I College Championships. Photo: William ‘Brody’ Brotman — UltiPhotos.com

The Second Team All-American joined her Quandary teammate as one of the division’s elite defensive weapons. Along with reputable defenders Rachel Wilmoth and Saioa Lostra, the core constituted the best defense in the nation. Reed got a lot of run both directions, but when it came dealing with some the division’s fleet-footed threats, be they handler, cutter, or hybrid, it was Reed who got the call. Her physical tools and experience made her an ideal solution to players opposing offenses thought were problems.

  1. Excluding the Player of the Year, who is not eligible for this award. 

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