With all eight WUL team rosters announced, get to know the players who will be competing for a league championship
January 31, 2023 by Jenna Weiner in News with 0 comments
Fresh on the heels of the 2023 Western Ultimate League schedule announcement, all eight teams in the league have now released their 2023 rosters. Below, we’ve collected all eight and provided some analysis on the key changes from a season ago. Can Seattle Tempest defend their title, or will a new team take home the crown this year?
Seattle Tempest is back, and in what style! The inaugural Western Ultimate League champions come into 2023 seeking to defend their title and intend to do so with a roster — somehow — seemingly better than before. Tempest’s additions are considerable, with a bevy of current and recent collegiate standouts joining up alongside a pair of club world champion veterans.
Bert Cherry and Leah Bar-On Simmons are the two Tempest newcomers who are also club world champions, representing the top two Seattle mixed club teams to boot: Mixtape and BFG, respectively. They’re not the only world champions in this year’s Seattle rookie class, though, as Sadie Jezierski and Abby Hecko played together on the 2019 U24 Women’s team that brought home gold from Germany. Jezierski, who previously played in the Premier Ultimate League with Columbus Pride in 2019, is joined on this Seattle roster by fellow Midwest transplant Kaitlynne Roling, who played the 2022 PUL season with the Milwaukee Monarchs.
2021 D-1 College Women’s Player of the Year Abby Hecko gets to play this WUL season with both her current and former University of Washington Element teammates, including Ikran Elmi, Stephanie Phillips, and Anna Cauchy. Add in 2019 Donovan winner Josie Gillett of Bates College, and the up-and-coming talent in Seattle is as strong as it’s ever been and should more than offset the losses of Kat Songer and Qxhna Titcomb, among others.
It’s quite the cohort to add for the reigning champs who already brought back nearly two-thirds of their 2022 roster. All told, Seattle should be clear favorites to repeat, but they’ll have a target on their back all season, starting with their finals rematch Week 1 against San Diego Super Bloom.
Season one for Oregon Onyx saw them make a successful push to the WUL’s inaugural Championship Weekend, and now for season two the task is the same: to finish top two in the Northwest Conference and make it back to the season’s final weekend. While Onyx did turn over over half of their roster from 2022, their newcomers are basically a who’s who of Oregon ultimate, both young and old.
There’s a veritable youth movement in the PNW, as Onyx adds U20 stars Trout Weybright and Acacia Hahn this season, along with Hahn’s YCC teammate on Oregon Downpour Syris Linkfield. That trio alongside current Portland UPRoar star Julianna Galian gives Oregon potentially the best quartet of still-active college players in the league.
As for veteran additions, it doesn’t get much better than adding a former Callahan winner, and for Onyx that comes in the form of Chelsea Putnam. From Putnam to Weybright, there’s a two decade span of representation from the Oregon Fugue college program which forms the backbone of this Onyx squad. Two non-Fugue alums but long-time Oregon Schwa contributors join Putnam in Oregon’s rookie class — Murl Hammond and Eva Popp. Both have come up huge for Schwa in the club women’s division, and they’re likely to make just as big of an impact in the pro season this year with Onyx.
With the breadth of talent that their newcomers bring to the table and a solid returning cohort, Oregon will feel that they have what it takes to make a return to Championship Weekend. Their only problem? Seattle seems set to take down the top spot in the conference. But if the classic Oregon-Seattle matchup showed us anything last year, it’s that Onyx do have the capacity to challenge Tempest for the Northwest Conference title.
The new kids on the block and ready to rock! Colorado Alpenglow will make their WUL debut this season and join up alongside the Utah Wild for a classic Mountain West pairing. Alpenglow brings in talent from both around the WUL and the country, and this small but mighty roster will hope to make an immediate impact in their first season.
Colorado’s centerpieces come predominantly from the club rosters of Fort Collins shame. and Denver Small Batch, the teams providing seven and five players, respectively, to this Alpenglow roster. Among those shame. players are Aubree Dietrich and Jade McLaughlin, who both played for the Arizona Sidewinders in 2022, along with Betsy Basch and Alyse Doperalski. Dietrich and McLaughlin were the Sidewinders’ leading goal scorers last season – with McLaughlin being crowned the WUL’s second runner-up for Player of the Year after leading the league in EDGE metrics – and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them top the goals leaderboard for Alpenglow as well. They’ll have tough competition to that title, however, as 2022 Club Nationals top goal scorer Kristen Reed is also on this Colorado roster after helping Denver Molly Brown to a program-first title alongside Robin Fassett-Carman.
Regarding Alpenglow’s nationwide recruitment, Sarah Itoh joins Alpenglow after playing the 2022 club season with Hawaii Party Wave, while Hannah Filley makes the trip out to the Rockies from the Cascades after spending time in the Seattle ultimate scene. Additionally, Abigail Thorpe joins Colorado in the WUL after playing with the Austin Torch of the PUL the past few seasons. Between their WUL veterans and their swath of newly minted professionals, Alpenglow is more than capable of breaking through in year one, starting with a Mountain West showdown in Week 2 against the Wild.
A fantastic 2021 Winter Cup win was followed by a difficult 2022 season for the Utah Wild. However, with over half of their roster from last season returning, the Wild will lean on their chemistry and team stability to improve on their 2022 performance. With one of the smallest rosters in the league, Utah will get plenty of reps together and with two-thirds of their games packed into the last four weeks of the season, they’ll have plenty of practice under their belts by the time they get there.
The Wild’s rookie class is headlined by Kat Songer, who joins Utah after winning the inaugural WUL title with Seattle last season. Songer’s not the only transfer from another professional team, though, as Carly Atwell makes her first WUL appearance after playing in the PUL in 2021 with Austin Torch. Former BYU CHI players dot this Wild roster, with Maddy Hunter and Kaylie Caldwell the two newcomers to that crew this season.
Turning the focus to that stable of returners, Utah brings back nearly all of their key contributors from last season. Jessi Crowley, one of the Wild’s high volume handlers in 2022, is their biggest departure, but league yardage leader and OPOTY second runner-up Paige Kercher is back to tear through opposing defenses for a second straight season.
Kercher and Songer are part of a quartet of newly crowned club national champions on this Utah roster: those two played with Jen Cogburn on Seattle Mixtape while Kendra Miller helped Denver Molly Brown to their first ever title. Cori Bigham, part of the Wild’s Boise contingent, also won a WUCC gold with Mixtape alongside Kercher, Songer, and Cogburn. That group of recent champions will aim to lead Utah to a bounceback season, and even in the stacked Northwest Conference there’s certainly a real chance of that.
San Diego Super Bloom
Having the splashiest offseason feels appropriate for San Diego, and indeed Super Bloom made the biggest moves coming into 2023 with their additions to their already potent roster. That combination of one of the best returning groups in the league and a rookie class that’s about as good as you can get means that last year’s finalists look set to be Southwest Conference favorites — and true title challengers too.
It’s not often that you can weaken one of your nearest rivals while strengthening your own position, but that’s exactly what San Diego did in picking up Dena Elimelech from LA Astra. The former UCSD superstar is a singular offensive force who will surely be a frequent downfield target for fellow superstar Super Bloom rookie Penny Wu, now one of the premier throwers in the league after playing last year for the PUL’s Columbus Pride. The two transfers are also joined by a trio of recent college standouts from the UC Santa Barbara Burning Skirts: Elsa Winslow, Yu Ishii, and Mika Leslie, all of whom will likely immediately step into significant roles.
For San Diego, it’s not just about the star newcomers but their ability to bring back basically all of their key players from last season. Kristen Pojunis (last season’s DPOTY), Kelli Iwamoto, Julia Salvacion, and last year’s POTY and USA National Team member Kaela Helton were the core four players that Super Bloom initially announced before the rest of their roster dropped, and all four led San Diego in at least one statistical category last season.1 With potentially the best top-end talent in the league and plenty of motivation to get Seattle back for San Diego’s only losses last season, everything’s in place for another superb Super Bloom season.
The Arizona Sidewinders slither into 2023 as last season’s bronze medalists and will seek to repeat their Championship Weekend appearance with a revamped and experienced roster. With the formation of Colorado Alpenglow, the Sidewinders lost several key contributors from their 2022 team to the expansion team, but Arizona’s seasoned rookies should be able to shore up any gaps in the Sidewinder’s armor with ease.
As they did last year, Arizona has pulled in talent from around the state and, impressively, from around the country. Sam Myland returns for a second season with the Sidewinders, this time joined by Flagstaff Ultimate teammate Chip Chang, who is reunited this season with former Molly Brown teammate Paige Applegate. Mixed division contenders Arizona Lawless still have a plethora of players on the roster, including Caroline O’Connell, who formerly played with the PUL’s Austin Torch. Arizona also adds O’Connell’s Torch teammate Carley Garrett, who played club with Dallas Public Enemy in 2022. With Veronica Kolegue-Spalaris joining the Sidewinders after playing with New York BENT in 2022 and Nora Landri making the trip south from the Seattle ultimate scene, Arizona really is pulling in talent from all corners of the country.
Across the board, this Sidewinders roster has the goods to make another push towards the postseason despite the losses of their goals and assists leaders from 2022 in Jade McLaughlin and LP Aragon, among others. Captains Lindsey Doyle and Helen Eifert will capably guide Arizona this season, and with highlight machines Kody Lippincott, Megan Maxfield, and Cynthia Thomas all back, making back-to-back Championship Weekends seems well within reach for the Sidewinders.
Los Angeles Astra
After a 2022 season that saw them come oh-so-close to making it to Championship Weekend, LA Astra enter this season with a streamlined squad hoping to make up for last season’s shortcomings. They’ll be without superstar Dena Elimelech, gone to rivals San Diego Super Bloom, but with a cohesive core and a Callahan winner amongst their rookies, Astra will be shooting for the stars as they aim to breakthrough to Championship Weekend.
The loss of Elimelech stings, of course, but LA have the luxury of Callahan winner Jasmine Childress joining former UC Santa Barbara teammates Kaitlyn Weaver and Audrey Brown on the roster. Childress should slot in as an automatic focal point for LA’s offense, and she’ll look to combine regularly with Astra’s 2022 leading goal scorer Maggie O’Connor, who is back to terrorize opposing defenses once again.
Between college and club, there’s plenty of chemistry already in place between all four of Childress, Weaver, Brown, and O’Connor. Nine players, including Childress, Weaver, and O’Connor, played together on San Diego Flipside this past club season in the women’s division, while Brown, along with Merideth Byl, Annie Ngo, and Cameron Helm, make up LA’s contingent of players from Arizona’s mixed division representatives Lawless.
It’ll be that chemistry that will help this Astra squad challenge for a place at Championship Weekend, and with star power the likes of Childress, O’Connor, and plenty of others, there’s no reason to think they can’t.
San Francisco Falcons
It’s a new season for the new-look Falcons, as San Francisco rebuilds after a disappointing 2022 season. The Bay Area birds return just over a third of their 2022 roster coming into the 2023 season, and they’ll hope that better injury luck and potentially better team continuity can help propel them to the playoffs out of the Southwest Conference.
Last season, expectations were high for a Falcons team that had nine players on its roster who played with USAU club finalists Fury in the second half of 2022. This year, all but one of those players are gone: Shayla Harris is the only 2022 Fury representative on this 2023 San Francisco roster. Stepping up in their place, though, are a host of strong players from the extensive pool of talent in the Bay Area. In particular, nine players from mixed division stalwarts Mischief, six of whom are Falcons rookies, and ten players from perennial club women’s contenders Nightlock, five of whom are making their WUL debuts, make up the bulk of this deep and balanced roster.
Amongst those six rookies from Mischief is Jackie Wataoka, a 2022 Donovan finalist with Portland UPRoar who played the 2022 WUL season with Oregon Onyx. And of Nightlock’s newcomers to the Falcons, Mila Hernandez-Flowerman and Eliza Pugh bring in professional ultimate experience from their time playing with the PUL’s Milwaukee Monarchs and DC Shadow, respectively.
With Gina Schumacher of San Diego Flipside returning to play in the Bay for this WUL season and former Fury Meeri Chang also joining the Falcons for the 2023 season, there’s plenty of talent here once again to coalesce for San Francisco. As with last year, though, it’s just a matter of whether that talent does come together as part of a successful bounceback season for the Falcons.
Pojunis in blocks, Iwamoto in throwing yards, Salvacion in goals (tied with Avery Jones), and Helton in receiving yards. ↩