DC Shadow stay atop the rankings with back-to-back +18 wins, while San Diego Super Bloom are the first WUL team to clinch a playoff spot with wins over Arizona Sidewinders
April 21, 2023 by Jenna Weiner and Keith Raynor in Preview, Rankings, Recap with 0 comments
Welcome to the WUL/PUL Update, Ultiworld’s bi-weekly women’s semi-pro roundup from Jenna Weiner! We’ve got action from Weeks 5 and 6 in the Western Ultimate League to recap, as well as Weeks Two and Three in the Premier Ultimate League. Plus, updates to both league’s power rankings.
Western Ultimate League
For a deep dive into statistics in the Western Ultimate League, check out the latest entry in our Better Box Score Metrics series.
WUL Week Five
SoCal Road Warriors; Alpenglow Ascends In Home Opener
The Western Ultimate League reached its halfway point with a Southern California feelin’ as both San Diego Super Bloom and Los Angeles Astra won on the road against the Arizona Sidewinders and the San Francisco Falcons, 24-12 and 15-13 respectively. Meanwhile, in Northwest Conference action, Colorado Alpenglow came from behind to beat the Utah Wild 19-16 as Alpenglow won their inaugural home opener.
Those results cement San Diego into the driving seat in the Southwest Conference with a 5-1 record, while LA’s win over SF muddies the picture behind Super Bloom for second in the conference. Up in the Northwest Conference, Colorado’s win was their first of the season, though it still leaves them bottom of the conference standings, while Utah currently sits second, although the Wild have only played two games so far this year, both against Alpenglow.
San Diego Super Bloom 24 – 12 Arizona Sidewinders
Out in the desert, Southwest Conference leaders Super Bloom looked comfortable from the jump, establishing a six-point margin after just one quarter before building their lead to a full ten points at halftime. From there, despite a much better performance from Arizona in the second half, San Diego remained in control on their way to their eventual double-up of the Sidewinders.
For Super Bloom, Alex Diaz (5G/3A/1B) and Kaela Helton (4G/5A/1B) led the statistical leaderboard, the two combining for an incredible 9G/8A/2B outing between them. Helton’s statistical dominance in particular remains impressive week after week, with the 2022 World Games gold medalist currently tied for the league lead in both goals and assists.
Meanwhile, Carley Garrett (4G/1B), Paige Applegate (3A), and Veronica Kolegue-Spalaris (2G/2A/1B) were the statistical leaders for the Sidewinders, who struggled to get things going offensively early with just a four goal first half.
Los Angeles Astra 15 – 13 San Francisco Falcons
In a return to her old stomping grounds in the Bay Area, LA’s Maggie O’Connor put on a record-setting performance with four goals and a new league-record seven assists. O’Connor wasn’t alone, though, as Kaitlyn Weaver, who was absent for Astra’s week one loss to the Falcons, contributed four goals, one assist, and three blocks, while Avalon Igawa was LA’s defensive rock with four blocks.
The hometown Falcons were led by Eliza Pugh (3A/1B) and Gina Schumacher (2G/3A), but after falling behind 8-6 heading into halftime, San Francisco couldn’t find the final pass that would tie it up the rest of the game.
Timeout usage, or lack thereof, was a notable factor in Los Angeles’ win, with one Astra possession late in the third quarter abruptly ending in a turnover after the LA coaching staff tried to call a timeout after already having used both of their second half timeouts earlier in the quarter.
On the other hand, when the Falcons were able to get a final possession with under thirty seconds left in the game with a chance to send it into overtime, Audrey Brown denied San Francisco with a poach block moments before the Falcons’ coaching staff were set to call time. From there it was just a few more passes before O’Connor caught the last goal of the game from Weaver to give Astra their final two-point margin.
Colorado Alpenglow 19 – 16 Utah Wild
It was a proverbial “game of two halves” as Colorado overcame an 8-4 first quarter deficit to beat Utah in Alpenglow’s first ever home game. While the hosts were able to narrow the four-goal margin to just one heading into halftime trailing 10-9, it was all Colorado in the second half, Alpenglow bettering the Wild 10-6 in the second half as Rory Veldman (5G/5B) and company stepped up in a big way in front of their home crowd.
Alongside Veldman, Jade McLaughlin continued her assault on the league leaderboards with a 4G/1A/1B showing that has her tied for fourth in goals scored alongside teammate Abby Thorpe and San Diego’s Julia Salvacion through five weeks. However, both McLaughlin and Thorpe have only played four games compared to the league leaders’ five and six games played.
As for Utah, their fast start was led by the likes of Brooke Stanislawski, who finished the game with five assists and a block, and Paige Kercher (4G/3A/1B), who once again is top in the league in yards per game, albeit with only two games played. The Wild’s stat leaders also included Mack Perkett, who chipped in one goal and three assists, and Jen Cogburn, who scored three goals alongside one assist in the away loss.
WUL Week Six
San Diego Clinches Spot in Champ Weekend; Seattle Sweeps Oregon
With their comprehensive win over the Arizona Sidewinders in week six, San Diego Super Bloom confirmed their return to Championship Weekend as Southwest Conference champions. Who will join them still remains a wide-open question, however, especially after Arizona bounced back to beat Los Angeles Astra to go 1-1 on their SoCal roadtrip. Then, in another one-game week in the Northwest Conference, Seattle Tempest reaffirmed their place at the top with a never-in-doubt win over Oregon Onyx.
San Diego Super Bloom 24 – 16 Arizona Sidewinders
Back-to-back games between San Diego and Arizona, back-to-back no-question wins for Super Bloom, this time at home and enough to clinch their place at Championship weekend. In similar fashion to their week five matchup, the Southern Californians got out of the gates quickly, opening up an 8-4 lead after the first quarter, before gradually building on their lead throughout the game. While the Sidewinders had some bright spots, including an amazing layout Callahan from Chip Chang, they could never claw back the early deficit.
It was another week with another incredible statistical performance by one of SoCal’s stars, this time in the form of San Diego’s Alex Diaz, who scored seven goals along with three assists. Diaz’s showing against the Sidewinders tied her own single game WUL record for goals in a game, having previously scored seven against Oregon in the semifinals of the 2022 Championship Weekend. Meanwhile, Kaela Helton (3G/3A/3B) filled up the stat sheet per usual, and she and teammate Dena Elimelech are the only two players so far this season to hit a triple-double, with double digit goals, assists, and blocks.
As for Arizona, the aforementioned Chip Chang led the Sidewinders with four assists to go along with her Callahan, while Megan Maxfield and Kez Gessel scored the majority of Arizona’s goals with five and four, respectively.
Arizona Sidewinders 16 – 10 Los Angeles Astra
Needing a win to all but keep their Championship Weekend hopes alive, the Sidewinders did just that with their first regular season road win over Astra in Los Angeles. The game was close early and tied at the end of the first quarter, but from there Arizona nearly doubled up Los Angeles 9-5 on their way to that crucial away win.
As they have been for most of the season, Chip Chang and Paige Applegate ran the show for the Sidewinders in the backfield, and downfield Kody Lippincott (1G/2A/2B) and Helen Eifert (2G/3A/1B) made for matchup nightmares for Astra. It was an impressive showing from Arizona in the back half of their back-to-back away games, and the energy of players like the Sidewinders’ leading block-getter in this game Melissa Dunn helped the visitors hold off their hosts in the closing stages.
With this loss to Arizona, Los Angeles fell to 0-2 at home this season, and by identical 16-10 margins against both the Sidewinders and the Falcons in week one. Unsurprisingly Maggie O’Connor was once again the do-it-all engine for Astra, this time assisting on a pure 50% of LA’s goal with five assists along with one goal for good measure. Other than O’Connor, though, Astra’s statistical contributions were broadly distributed, Chip Yen’s three blocks the only real exception as LA now has two of the three lowest scoring performances in the league so far.
Seattle Tempest 21 – 14 Oregon Onyx
Unfortunately for Oregon Onyx, the story remains much the same when it comes to playing their PNW neighbors: Seattle Tempest remain the best in the Northwest. As is their m.o., Seattle started well, opening up a 5-2 first quarter lead before building that margin out to five heading into halftime. From there it was simply a matter of holding Onyx off, which Tempest were able to do without much issue even through the course of a frenetic 8-6 final quarter of play.
Just as she had in week four, Sadie Jezierski proved to be the exception to the rule for this exceptionally balanced Seattle squad, the former Columbus Pride player throwing five assists to lift herself into solo sixth on the assists leaderboard with only three games played. Lexi Garrity was Tempest’s lone leading goal scorer against Onyx with three, while Laura To and Cassie Wong joined Jezierski as Seattle’s leading assist throwers with three apiece.
Despite the result not going their way, it was not a bad showing by Onyx by any means. Greta Eisenbrey threw four assists and scored a goal to be directly involved in over a third of Oregon’s scores, and Raina Kamrat stuffed the stat sheet with three goals, two assists, and two blocks against Seattle. Still, the loss leaves Onyx with a 1-4 record and needing to win out against Utah and Colorado to finish with an even record and any chance at a repeat appearance at Championship Weekend.
The WUL enters its closing stretch of the regular season in weeks seven and eight, starting with Utah hosting Wild Wild Weekend and welcoming San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Colorado to the Beehive State. Week eight then offers the lone one-game weekend of the 2023 season as Arizona travels to the Bay Area to take on San Francisco in the final regular season game for both teams.
Premier Ultimate League
PUL Week Two
Dominant DC; Surge Start Strong
Week two of the 2023 PUL season saw three of the four East division teams in action across two games, with league newcomers Philadelphia Surge beating New York Gridlock 17-13 in Philly’s inaugural home opener, while DC Shadow put together an incredible second half to beat Indy Red at home 29-11. After Portland’s road win in week one, week two’s results mean that the East division race is already heating up with three teams sitting at 1-0 after just two weeks.
Philadelphia Surge 17 – 13 New York Gridlock
The first divisional matchup in the 2023 PUL season saw Philadelphia Surge draw first blood with a nearly wire-to-wire win over an admittedly depleted New York Gridlock roster, powered by a vocal home crowd in Surge’s inaugural home game. Although Gridlock did earn the first break of the game after two clean holds for each team, back-to-back breaks for Surge gave them a 5-3 lead after the first quarter, a lead that they would never relinquish for the rest of the game.
In their home opener, Philly’s deep roster stepped up across the board. Liz Hart (4G), Rachel Alfano (3G/1A), and Sarah Hirannet (3G) led Surge’s goal scoring contingent, while Andrea DeSabato (4A) was the team’s leading assist thrower. On the defensive end, Emma Soiles made one of the plays of the weekend with an incredible layout block at the start of the second quarter that eventually led to a third straight Philly break.
Missing the likes of Yina Cartagena and Elizabeth Mosquera, New York certainly wasn’t at its full potency, but that didn’t keep them from putting up a fight on the road with balanced contributions from up and down their roster. Nina Finley (1G/2A) snagged a Callahan in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to give Gridlock a lift, while Genny De Jesus (1G/2A), Kelly Hyland (1G/2A), and Becky Malinowski (2G/1A) all did their part to try and bring New York back into the game late.
DC Shadow 29 – 11 Indy Red
In a rematch of a 2022 Championship Weekend semifinal matchup, DC Shadow once again rolled past Indy Red, though to the Midwest division representatives’ credit, they kept it close until just about halftime. Eliza Hutchings scored a pair of goals for Red as they only trailed Shadow by two after the first quarter, and had maintained that margin up to 9-7 with under three minutes to play in the first half. From there, though, DC scored four straight goals to take a 13-7 halftime lead and were out of sight from there.
After halftime, Shadow piled on the pressure en route to an astounding 16-4 second half margin, Lisi Lohre, Amanda Murphy, and Ashleigh Buch all key contributors for a DC team that never let up even in the late stages of the game. Shadow’s defense remains as potent as ever, the unit that gave up fewer than ten goals in four of their six regular season games in 2022 not quite hitting that threshold here, but piling up a pile of breaks nonetheless as they cruised to the victory.
PUL Week Three
Nascent Nightshade; South Division Showdown
The third week of the PUL season saw the season debuts of two more teams in the Milwaukee Monarchs and Nashville Nightshade, though those two teams could not have had more different results as the Monarchs were blown away by DC Shadow 24-6 while Nightshade won away to the Columbus Pride 20-18. In the only divisional action of the weekend, Raleigh Radiance maintained their place as favorites in the South, but only just, as they held off the Austin Torch 17-16 in a critical early season game for both teams.
DC Shadow 24 – 6 Milwaukee Monarchs
It was another runthrough showing from Washington DC, who traveled to Milwaukee where they repaid the host’s hospitality with a bludgeoning 24-6 victory. As expected, Claire Trop was a force for the DC D-line, joined by strong performances by Jackie Wang and Amanda “Beans” Murphy. With a scoreline this lopsided, however, there were plenty of DC names spread across the statsheet. Mildly windy, cool, and occasionally rainy conditions combined with relentless Shadow pressure to squeeze the Monarch offense, who struggled to build any rhythm. Austin Prucha and Anna Thorn each tallied two points in the losing effort.
DC’s aggregate score for the season now stands at a towering 53-17.
Nashville Nightshade 20 – 18 Columbus Pride
A road win for Nashville is a great way for them to kick off the season, and this one was well earned in a tight contest. With the Pride were able to get the early lead in Fortress Obetz, they weren’t able to get any separation, and gave up a goal just before half and two to start the second to give Nashville a three-goal lead. While Graham Cunningham and Rachel Mast both demonstrated strong two-way play, the well known Nashville duo of Rachel Kramer and Jesse Shofner was able to drive much of Nightshade’s offense, particularly around the end zone. The visiting defense played some strong matchup defense that created block opportunities which Nashville took advantage of. In the fourth quarter, some key clean holds helped stifle any Columbus comeback attempt.
Raleigh Radiance 17-16 Austin Torch
In an exciting game of runs, Raleigh pulled out a crucial home victory over South division rivals Austin, Radiance taking advantage of a 12-5 margin across the second and third quarters to remain undefeated and drop the Torch to a disappointing 0-2 start. With windy conditions yet again making their mark, unforced errors from both teams led to an abundance of break chances, and each team rattled off a pair of back-to-back breaks over the course of the game.
After Raleigh had been without their squad of UNC players in their opening match against Columbus, they were glad to have their cadre of young stars back. Erica Birdsong got a statement footblock in the second quarter, while Alex Barnett joined Claire Bidigare-Curtis amongst Radiance’s leading goal scorers. As for Austin, Annie Ortiz picked up a pair of goals alongside three assists to lead the way for the Torch as the Texans got balanced contributions from across their traveling roster.
We’ll finally see every PUL team in action after week four, when Minnesota travels southeast for a double-header against Atlanta and Nashville before hosting Indy at home in week five. Coming off of their inaugural home win, Philadelphia will also hit the road with visits to Portland and Raleigh, and with New York hosting Portland in week five it makes for a crucial stretch in the East division. Finally, Austin will try to get their first home win of the season against Nashville in week five in another pivotal South division game after Torch’s close loss to Radiance in week three.
WUL Power Rankings
|2||San Diego Super Bloom||-||2|
|7||Los Angeles Astra||-4||3|
|8||San Francisco Falcons||-2||6|
- Seattle and San Diego continue to stand clear as the league’s top two teams and seem fated for a Championship Weekend rematch.
- There’s little to differentiate the other six teams in the league and it feels like you could put them in nearly any order at this point in the season. The Northwest Conference trio of Colorado, Utah, and Oregon get the credit at the moment, but we should have better clarity after the upcoming Wild Wild Weekend.
PUL Power Rankings
|3||New York Gridlock||-||3|
- Still not much movement in the PUL standings, though Nashville gets bumped up courtesy of their road win against Columbus.