D-I College Championships 2023: Chaos is a Ladder to Nowhere (Women’s Day Two Recap)

For all the down-ballot drama, the bracket will be populated largely by the usual suspects

Washington’s Abby Hecko and teammates celebrate during their prequarter game against Oregon at the 2023 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

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That’s a wrap on pool play and prequarters at the 2023 D-I College Championships! The quarterfinalists all ended up going to seed, but it certainly did not feel that way, with a bevy of upsets and pools that seemed they’d be decided by point differential. We’re here to break down the day’s major storylines, as well as checking in with the tournament’s goal, assist, and block leaders.

Then follow along on the D-I College Championships event page for updates and livestreams throughout the weekend!

Quinn and Hasbrook Give Stanford a Fright; Washington Outlasts Oregon in Overtime

In a game that virtually nobody would have guessed would be this close, Stanford Superfly squeaked past the Santa Barbara Burning Skirts on universe point, 14-13, to earn their place in quarters. The California rivals last met at Southwest Regionals earlier this month, where the scoreline looked a little different: Superfly took that meeting 11-5. This time, the Skirts kept it close by leaning on their stars — and boy did they deliver.

As has been the case all weekend — and all year — Julia Hasbrook and Devin Quinn carried a heavy load for the UCSB offense. That’s not to slight the supporting cast, including an excellent Laura Blume, but only to highlight the duo that leads the entire division in assists and goals, respectively. Hasbrook poured in seven assists and Quinn (4G/2A/2B) did it all, including from behind the disc after Hasbrook frequently found herself pushed out of the handler set by the Stanford box-and-one. But those Herculean efforts fell ever so slightly short as the game wound down. On universe point, Stanford patiently worked the unders all the way into the end zone for the clean hold and the game. Second-year Sage McGinley-Smith is probably the player of the match for Fly; she tallied seven goals (including the game-clincher) and currently sits at second in that category at this tournament behind only Quinn. Esther Filipek also notched a healthy seven assists to lead the team. They’ll need those levels of production tomorrow when they face no.1 North Carolina Pleiades in the quarterfinal.

Even more dramatic was the other prequarter regional rematch: Washington Element vs. Oregon Fugue. After 116 grueling minutes, Washington held out for the 14-10 victory. The rivals split a pair of games at Northwest Regionals, and both had clearly circled this meeting on their calendars. Fugue even threw their pool play game against Vermont — their starters could be spotted in Crocs on the sideline of the streaming field — to stay as fresh as possible.

When these two teams finally clashed, oh boy, this game had everything1: field vomit, a confusing cap situation, and incredible play from these two mercurial teams. The action was paused at 8-8 for several minutes in a scary moment as stud Element rookie Lucy Tanner went out with an upper body injury. After play resumed, Washington rattled off a hold and two breaks to open up the lead to two goals. They’d break once more before the end of the game. The onslaught was largely driven by Abby Hecko, who lived up to the hype and more. She posted a 4G/6A/3D statline and was involved in all six of Element’s scores after the stoppage. She’ll look to bolster her POTY-conversation year with a similar performance in tomorrow’s quarters date with Colorado.

Northeastern Takes Fate Into Their Own Hands; UCLA Dashes Binghamton’s Bracket Dreams

Northeastern’s Nancy Jin gets up over Colorado’s Alison Brzostowicz during the last round of pool play at the 2023 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Trying to get ahead of the mountain of reporting due at the end of the day, we here at Ultiworld pre-wrote a paragraph about Virginia making the bracket. After they beat Georgia this morning, their odds looked pretty good. We expected Georgia’s win over Northeastern and subsequent loss to Virginia would deliver Hydra to the prequarter round, even though they lost to Northeastern yesterday. If the rest of Pool B went to seed, we’d have been right.

But Northeastern said scrap all of it. They seized control of their destiny with a 15-14 universe point win over no.2 Colorado Quandary. Had Colorado already locked up the pool? Yes, but that doesn’t take away from Northeastern’s miraculous performance. Elise Freedman posted 5G/3A and Clara Stewart dropped eight assists to lead the Valks. Less than an hour later, facing Carleton in the prequarter, they opened up an 8-6 halftime lead before Carleton tightened up their lines and pulled away, ending it 15-10.

Coach Jason Adams explained their dazzling run this way: “It’s the magic dust of sports — we caught it for the second half of Colorado, we caught it for the first half of Carleton. Maybe we didn’t have enough dust to go all the way through, but there’s no technical way of explaining it. You just know when you have it, and it’s the best thing in sports.”

Enough said. It was an incredible two halves of ultimate from a team with eight true rookies on the roster. The Valks made the bracket for the first time since before the regional redraw.

As one team’s door opens, another’s closes. After a 1-1 day one in which they upset pool no.3 Colorado State, SUNY Binghamton Big Bear were on track to make the bracket. Today, it all fell apart. Big Bear found themselves on the outside looking in after crumbling 15-11 to a surging UCLA BLU. Tanya Bearson (7A/5B) and Isabella Pearson (5G/2A/3D) came up huge for the underdogs, especially Bearson’s pair of clutch late-game blocks that sparked a run of BLU breaks. UCLA, who at this point is well-known for being a “zone team,” wore that name with pride; their four-person cup vaporized Binghamton offense’s disc movement and forced standstill huck after standstill huck into the waiting arms of deep-deep Bearson. UCLA’s efforts weren’t rewarded with a prequarter berth — the three-way tie went to Colorado State — but for the pool no.5, non-consolation wins like these are a matter of pride.

Top Seeds All Through To Quarters

At the end of the day, there wasn’t much drama at the top of the standings, with only a few notable exceptions (see: Colorado vs. Stanford, Colorado vs. Northeastern, and UBC vs. Carleton). All four of the top seeded teams — UNC, Colorado, UBC, and Vermont — advanced directly to the quarterfinals as pool winners.

In the top half of the bracket, two-time defending champions Pleiades’ closest game came against Colorado State after they had already locked up the pool, while Vermont blew by everyone in their pool including pool two seed Tufts. Those two teams seem set to play in a scintillating semifinal if they keep up their momentum from pool play.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of the bracket continues to offer the promise of a blockbuster showdown between Colorado and UBC. While both teams were tested by their pool two seeds Stanford and Carleton, both Quandary and the Thunderbirds emerged undefeated from those matchups. Interestingly, Colorado did drop their final pool play game to Northeastern after they already had a prequarter bye locked up; make of that what you will. There’s no guarantee that either will get past their tough quarterfinal matchups in Washington and Tufts, but if they do, we seem bound to have an all-time classic on our hands in semis on Sunday.

Assists Leaders2

Julia Hasbrook (UCSB) – 31
Quincy Booth (Georgia) – 27
Clara Stewart (Northeastern) – 26
Jolie Krebs (SUNY-Binghamton) – 24
Grace Brown (Colorado State) – 21

Goal Leaders

Devin Quinn (UCSB) – 22
Sage McGinley-Smith (Stanford) – 20
Britney DeRoehn (Northeastern) – 14
Emily Kemp (Tufts) – 14
Abby Hecko (Washington) – 13
Faith Summers (SUNY-Binghamton) – 13

Block Leaders

Jolie Krebs (SUNY-Binghamton) – 17
Macy Vollbrecht (Stanford) – 14
Mia Beeman-Weber (Carleton) – 12
Kira Flores (Virginia) – 12
Julia Hasbrook (UCSB) – 12


  1. SNL voice 

  2. All assist leaders are now out of title contention. Stanford’s Esther Filipek, at 20 assists, is in the driver’s seat to claim the title 

  1. Jenna Weiner
    Jenna Weiner

    Jenna Weiner is a Senior Staff Writer, a co-host of Ultiworld's Double Overtime podcast, and considers herself a purveyor of all levels of ultimate. She's played mostly on the west coast but you're likely to find her at the nearest ultimate game available.

  2. Bridget Mizener
    Bridget Mizener

    Bridget Mizener is a Midwesterner by birth, but a product of the North Carolina ultimate machine. She thinks women’s college ultimate coverage is important, so she’s taking it into her own hands. She lives, plays, coaches, etc. in Durham. Tell her everything she got wrong about your team at [email protected].

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