The winners in the mixed division for 2022!
December 30, 2022 by Sean Colfer in Awards with 0 comments
European mixed had its best year ever in terms of placement at a World Championships, but simultaneously the strangest year in a while1. PuTi (Helsinki) made the semi-finals in Cincinnati but then didn’t attend EUCF, while the Elite Invite early in the season was won by Guayota (Tenerife) who then didn’t compete in mixed for the rest of the season. The division at EUCF was relatively shallow without teams like PuTi, Salapils (Latvia) or FLOW (Wroclaw) attending2, and the top two teams were very clearly the class of the field; GRUT (Amsterdam) and Reading (Reading) both made the quarters at WUCC and contested the EUCF final.
GRUT came out on top to win back-to-back titles to add to their first in 2017, having also won Windmill. The Dutch team was clearly the standout team of the year, but there were some other excellent players who specialised in mixed in 2022. Here’s who we saw as the best.
Player of the Year
WINNER: Lola Dam (GRUT)
It’s two in a row for one of GRUT’s cornerstones, adding another gong to her already-groaning trophy shelf. We’re rapidly getting to the point where there simply isn’t much left to say about Dam than has already been said, but luckily her performances this season did all the talking that was needed. Brilliant on defense, a huge threat after the turn and capable of pretty much anything on offense when she plays on that side of the disc, she can do everything. If you’re playing GRUT, or the Netherlands for the next couple of seasons, job number one for the coaching staff is to decide how to deal with Lola Dam, and how to stop her blowing up your gameplan. The best players step up most when the moment is biggest. Presented without further comment: Lola Dam’s layout block on universe point of the EUCF final.
Runner up: Andy Lewis (Reading Ultimate, Great Britain)
Lewis left the mixed division a few years ago to go and play for Clapham, with whom he won the 2021 EUCF title. He came back to mixed this season a better player than the one who left, more confident in controlling a team and with experience of playing within a context where winning was expected and standards were sky-high. He played a huge part in pushing Reading to the EUCF final and to the top eight at WUCC, both as a player and as a coach, and was fantastic in the final against GRUT. He played a big role for the GB indoor mixed team that won a silver as well to top off the year, and is a thoroughly deserving runner-up here. A cutter who is excellent at setting up initiation movements and hitting players downfield with huge flicks, he’s sure to be an important cog for GB in the next two seasons.
Offensive Player of the Year
WINNER: Ben Oort (GRUT, Salaspils)
Oort has been the centrepiece of GRUT’s offense for years. The main disc handler and one of the captains, he pulls the strings for the best team in Europe in a way that maxmizes the ability of everyone on the field. Capable of stretching the field with big throws on both sides, able to break any mark thanks to his height and vision, and big, agile and fast enough to get free against pretty much any mark, this season may well have been his best yet. GRUT’s offense was fantastic in both Cincinnati and Caorle and Oort led the squad at both events. He picked up more silverware during the season outside the Dutch team3 and now he has yet another thing to add to his collection from a stellar 2022 season. There’s been discussion that the future of Dutch ultimate has looked bright for some time, but it’s becoming more clear every year that the present is pretty blinding, and Oort’s ability to create offense is central to that.
Runner up: Floor Keulartz (GRUT, Netherlands)
The other side of GRUT’s final point at EUCF, Keulartz remained uncoverable downfield in Europe4 this season. Her throwing is almost as much of a weapon after years of effort and work, making her a total offensive package. She scored more than double the goals of anyone else on her team at WUCC, was brilliant again at EUCF and then looked like the best player at EUIC despite seemingly struggling with an injury late on in the tournament. Another for whom we are running low on superlatives given her exemplary career thus far, she is bound to make serious waves with the Netherlands as we move into the national team cycle.
Defensive Player of the Year
WINNER: Mark Bignal (Reading Ultimate)
Bignal has been a fixture of Reading Ultimate since the club was started. He is a core part of the first team, he has coached and led teams throughout the club and is one of the people responsible for bringing through the next generation of players thanks to his work coaching the junior teams. He is, basically, Reading Ultimate. He’s also been playing at a high level for a long time but really pushed to another level late on this season, taking tough matchups and getting blocks against every opponent. He controlled the Reading D line after turns at WMUCC, WUCC and EUCF this season, constantly putting O lines under pressure by keeping his foot on the gas and pushing the pace. He scored breaks and dominated the offense as Reading nearly pulled out the upset in the EUCF final, and he’s done more than enough to earn the nod as our best defender in Europe this season.
Runner up: Daniel Eppstein (GRUT)
Another of GRUT’s captains was brilliant in big games this season. The team looked unfocused and inconsistent in the early going at Windmill, losing to SMOG (Manchester) early on in the tournament and struggling to wins over teams they were expected to beat. As soon as the games mattered, though, they flipped a switch. They destroyed SMOG’s offense in the semi and went on to win the whole thing, then kept that defensive energy up for the rest of the season. Eppstein was a key driver of that pressure with his ability to blanket handlers. His ability to handle and create offense after the turn didn’t hurt his case, either.
Breakout Player of the Year
WINNER: Martina Kmecova (Left Overs, W.underteam)
Kmecova has been around for a few years in the still-growing Slovakian ultimate community, but this year her performances for Austrian teams put her on the radar as a player to take note of. She has played for Mantis and W.underteam at points since moving to Vienna, but her play for Left Overs, the Czech team that made semis at EUCF, pushed her to the top of the running for this award. Kmecova is a tall, rangy player who makes a difference on offense and is able to make some spectacular plays due to her athleticism while still playing effectively within the structure of the team. She’ll be one to look out for ahead of EUC next year, no matter the team or the division.
Runner up: Rosie Coward (Reading Ultimate)
Coward came into an experienced, cohesive Reading team this season. The club has done a great job installing a system of play and a culture that every player buys into, and generally to play for Reading’s flagship mixed team players need to be able to respond to a variety of situations, play intelligently and understand where they’re supposed to be at all times. For such a young player, Coward had an excellent debut this season and marked herself as one to watch in the coming years. A strong, intelligent defender and an athlete capable of beating marks downfield on offense, she’s one of the players that the next generation of Reading could be built around.
Covid years notwithstanding, obviously. ↩
All three made semis at EUCF in Bruges in 2021. ↩
A gold at the Pro Championships with Truck Stop and a silver at beach Europeans with Salaspils. ↩
And for much of the time at WUCC. ↩