WUL 2023 Season Wrap Up: No I in Team (or Seattle)

Tempest win another championship, on their unique terms

Seattle Tempest’s Frances Gellert lifts up Sam Rodenberg to celebrate in the 2023 WUL Championship Weekend final. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Dos Equis should sponsor the Seattle Tempest, for the Tempest are the most interesting team in the world (of semi-pro ultimate). It’s not that Seattle has won back-to-back WUL championships—they have a perfect counterpart in the AUDL for that—it’s how they win them.

Let’s return to the WUL’s fabulous Stats Hub Team Page, where the “Player Role” visualizations that I pointed to at the beginning of the season tell a compelling story. Before we get to Seattle, let’s start with the Utah Wild, who finished fourth this year. In the chart below, the x-axis is the WUL’s Offense-Defense Scale (ODS), which shows the number of points one starts on D-line as a percentage of all points played.1 The y-axis shows the Handler-Cutter Scale (HCS), or receiving yardage as a percentage of one’s total yardage. For simplicity, we’ll just give each role a third of the y-axis: less than 33.3% (handler); 33.3-66.7% (hybrid); greater than 66.7% (cutter). The chart shows the Wild with firmly established O- and D-line roles, but a broad distribution of throwing/handling outcomes, slightly concentrated toward the middle.

Utah may have been the most O-line/D-line stratified team in the WUL, but not extremely so, and they have a lot of company in the AUDL. As an example, I’ve constructed the same chart for 2022’s undefeated New York Empire. They were even more rigid in their line assignments, with most every player pushed farther to the edges of the O-line/D-line scale.

The Empire’s throwing and receiving distribution also resembles the Wild’s.2 These values seem typical of the league as a whole: in 2022, 78 percent of all AUDL players started more than 80 percent of their points on either O-line or D-line, while the handler-hybrid-cutter distribution was 23 percent handlers, 37 percent hybrids, and 40 percent cutters.

Now let’s look at Seattle. They are the complete opposite.

On Tempest, everyone plays about an equal number of O-line and D-line points. And it’s more equitable than that: the third dimension in the two WUL charts—Points Played—is misleading because it’s season totals, not per-game average, and therefore reflects the effect of missing games altogether. For any given game, “points played” is about equal for everyone. That is commitment to a philosophy.

Meanwhile, who needs hybrids? Only one player, Linnea Soo, falls in the HCS hybrid zone for Seattle. I can’t be sure this is as intentional as playing time, but 2022 Tempest looked very similar, so I’m willing to believe it is. I have no tactical analysis to make here, other than it’s clearly working.

Seattle is also now the poster team for the BBSM adage: stars are compelling, but depth wins games. The following chart from the championship game shows the EDGE “goal equivalents” for each team arranged in order from highest to lowest for the players on the team. The top five players for each team approximately cancel each other out; it’s players 6-15 for Seattle who create the bulk of the winning scoring margin. As I’ve pointed out before, comparing the 8th highest EDGE scores for each team is a much better indicator of which team won the game than comparing the highest scores.

I’m pretty certain that such a chart for each of Seattle’s games these past two seasons would show the same pattern. Depth is undoubtedly the key to Seattle’s success, but the question is this, given their dedication to equal playing-time and line-assignments: are Tempest taking advantage of their depth or creating depth?

Snubbed? Not Really

It did not go without notice that the league’s finalists for each of its season-ending awards did not include a single Tempest player. Given the WUL’s criteria and the discussion above, it’s perhaps a little surprising, but not that surprising.

For the criteria, this is yet another thing the WUL does better than any other ultimate league. Accompanying the awards announcement was a clear description of how they were determined: regular season only, 5-game minimum threshold, and that a voting committee considered player’s statistical rankings for an award-specific suite of metrics and named exactly which metrics were used. Such transparency takes a lot of air out of “snubbed” controversies, and I think it’s great, particularly when the outcome of the three main awards—MVP: Helton; OPOTY: Kercher; DPOTY: Robbins—aligned exactly with my own MVP methodology.

In Seattle’s case, even though the metrics emphasized per-possession rate stats that would be more favorable to them then counting stats, it appears Seattle was balanced not only in its gameplan—with even playing time and line assignments—but also in its output, with no single player standing out this season in terms of productivity. For example, among qualifying players, Sam Rodenberg had the Tempest’s highest Offensive Impact Score, but it was only the 18th highest in the league.3 I assume Tempest view it as a badge of honor that they are once again carrying home the trophy and not one of their players was singled out for individual accolades.

Congrats to Seattle then, as pure of an embodiment of “team effort” as one can find in sports today.

It’s therefore a little off-key to point out that Jamie Eriksson had a whale of a final. On just 8 points played, Eriksson had 296 yards, 4 scores, and 1 turn. Dena Elimelech had a lightly larger total EDGE, but she also played more than twice as many points and had four times as many possessions. It’s also completely true to Tempest form that they had by far the fewest of the top 20 EDGE scores from Championship Weekend—just two, and the second was 20th (Rodenberg in the final). Owning the incongruity of featuring individual stats, EDGE results for all of Championship Weekend are below.

Alex Diaz2SDUTSF11222413335721327011230.382.351.153.50
Rebeca Ellis9SDUTSF1108272132209692782.502.530.382.001.153.15
Kaylie Caldwell21UTSDSF115027173017420938320210.382.500.382.88
Dena Elimelech46SDSEF10114444521112403516.51.5830.222.090.672.76
Jamie Eriksson18SESDF351011138221429601100.232.650.002.65
Dena Elimelech46SDUTSF110102624306511618100020.381.870.772.64
Shaela Wallen16UTSDSF1312112211559515000030.381.451.152.60
Kara Hammer44SFUT3rd1102514141112073184.504.520.272.040.532.57
Paige Kercher58UTSF3rd111251402360484082.502.500.272.560.002.56
Mara Saltzman11SFUT3rd731910417116623710.51.510.
Brooke Stanislawski2UTSF3rd10119112217010827810100.272.480.002.48
Kristen Pojunis4SDUTSF15152430225815120930.53.540.380.941.532.47
Paige Kercher58UTSDSF114123121128011939920200.382.400.002.40
Kaela Helton5SDSEF8113941021331512844.504.540.221.360.902.26
Gina Schumacher47SFUT3rd601262210613724310100.
Kat Songer48UTSF3rd11029191220116436521.53.500.
Eliza Pugh17SFUT3rd1132916222041263304.504.510.271.910.272.18
Theresa Zettner7SDUTSF156151512719116210120.381.360.772.13
Cori Bigham38UTSDSF1130191110857916400020.381.340.772.10
Sam Rodenberg14SESDF743027301412213600020.231.560.452.02
Kaela Helton5SDUTSF118111203160932530.50.5100.381.990.001.99
Linnea Soo32SESFSF2161917108713121810120.231.480.471.94
Sadie Jezierski77SESFSF2441715032642528930300.231.920.001.92
Pin-Wen Wang36SFSESF23210121112012824810100.221.910.001.91
Avery Jones11SDSEF682222012904533531410.221.620.221.84
Molly Robbins8UTSDSF14121422124112917000000.381.800.001.80
Kaitlynne Roling12SESFSF216171511-3224821610.51.510.231.560.231.79
Malina Wiebe10SFSESF253139301914916810110.221.560.221.78
Meeri Chang21SFSESF2551721022251924420.52.510.221.550.221.77
Amanda Meroux33SFUT3rd1132916107412920300.50.510.271.470.271.74
Drea Baroma23SESDF351011211311612900010.231.520.231.74
Julia Salvacion48SDUTSF1861714122812915700000.381.710.001.71
Sam Rodenberg14SESFSF244191721-71761691.501.510.231.440.231.68
Hana Kawai15SESFSF2441715111896024902200.231.670.001.67
Kari Shelkey12UTSDSF131010171121709100.50.520.380.850.771.62
Brooke Stanislawski2UTSDSF11212414111462316911220.380.820.771.58
Jennifer Ricaurte2SESDF371622016712919610110.231.330.231.56
Abby Hecko7SESFSF236912022610112700010.
Sarah Staller24UTSF3rd1002113203314217511.52.520.270.960.531.49
Amy Broome13SFUT3rd1132916021801319310100.271.480.001.48
Eliza Pugh17SFSESF21032521011581016810.51.520.221.040.441.47
Alex Diaz2SDSEF92262112591401993.503.510.
Cassandra Wong17SESDF351011001136217500010.
Alexa Kirkland22SESFSF205141201178171950.500.500.231.430.001.43
Rachel Bradshaw38SESDF732925025613819410.51.500.231.410.001.41
Lily Steponaitis29SFUT3rd178150117759200020.270.840.531.38
Kyla Crisp11UTSF3rd911611001471122590.511.500.271.380.001.38
Jamie Eriksson18SESFSF246131611119310400010.
Rebeca Ellis9SDSEF683032021693320221310.
Jessica Wan15SDUTSF1102201130-161471310.500.500.381.340.001.34
Casstique Williams9UTSF3rd71158201119921020200.271.330.001.33
Julia Mankoff26SFSESF22371010-1216715500000.
Julia Ting4SFUT3rd1132916111714821920.52.500.
Leah Bar-On Simmons28SESFSF20718162010596900.50.520.230.780.471.24
Mack Perkett1UTSF3rd812113111913615511210.270.950.271.22
Leslie Willis13SDUTSF1651411101033613900000.381.170.001.17
Kendra Miller34UTSDSF1412192410-514514010110.380.790.381.17
Yu Ishii26SDUTSF171022230180-17900010.380.750.381.14
Amy Norris3UTSDSF129111911515110200000.381.120.001.12
Ellie Sjordal5UTSF3rd1710170161319210120.270.580.531.11
Molly Munson2SFUT3rd1121628001223816001110.270.830.271.10
Kendra Miller34UTSF3rd2811201011384900020.270.550.531.08
Blair Messner22SDSEF65272420-121089601110.220.860.221.08
Sadie Jezierski77SESDF732925031722519760620.230.630.451.08
Kat Songer48UTSDSF1121241404138902283.503.500.381.070.001.07
Rachel Bradshaw38SESFSF21516140146408600010.230.800.231.03
Jackelyne Nguyen42SFUT3rd110152020-1413512120210.270.720.270.98
Stephanie Lim31SESDF8330251032603265.516.500.230.980.000.98
Samantha Loop98SFUT3rd0991610519714810100.270.960.000.96
Frances Gellert13SESFSF244171510398612510.51.510.230.720.230.95
Julia Snyder27SESDF361316021291214120200.230.940.000.94
Jen Cogburn99UTSF3rd100211201841162001.512.500.270.920.000.92
Cassandra Wong17SESFSF245101301993713620210.230.680.230.91
Vespera Aragon0UTSDSF12101218011202914920210.380.470.380.85
Stephanie Lim31SESFSF24419171081551360.522.510.230.560.230.80
Lexa Stambaugh99SDSEF0610150110738300000.220.780.000.78
Lily Terpstra4UTSF3rd71191211824612830310.270.500.270.77
Avery Jones11SDUTSF110925242192961883.50.5410.380.390.380.77
Jennifer Ricaurte2SESFSF24316140014304400020.230.300.470.77
Leah Bar-On Simmons28SESDF37141820-3415011630310.230.540.230.76
Abbie Abramovich44SESFSF23581100108-110710110.230.500.230.74
Frances Gellert13SESDF6326211113789110.51.500.230.710.000.71
Catherine Chung25SESDF3714181015254000010.230.480.230.71
Brittany Cabriales1SDUTSF1167100053-124100010.380.280.380.66
Deanna Abrams6SDUTSF121010151143489110100.380.660.000.66
Gina Schumacher47SFSESF26010900517412510100.220.640.000.64
Kristen Pojunis4SDSEF4132936008389131440.22-0.270.900.63
Abby Hecko7SESDF3510111013799210100.230.620.000.62
Pin-Wen Wang36SFUT3rd0711190168279501100.270.600.000.60
Yu Ishii26SDSEF932318015525700000.220.600.000.60
Molly Munson2SFSESF244171900105-210310.51.510.220.380.220.60
Lexi Garrity10SESDF73292500-241108600000.230.590.000.59
Mara Saltzman11SFSESF2611512100545410110.220.360.220.58
Julia Salvacion48SDSEF94272400515911002210.220.310.220.53
Amanda Rutland19SDUTSF1110915009112001120.38-0.250.770.52
Lexa Stambaugh99SDUTSF11111017001411500010.380.100.380.49
Cheryl Hsu24SESDF35101100168-6710110100.230.470.000.47
Penny Wu47SDUTSF12981302113611920200.380.470.000.47
Amanda Meroux33SFSESF2102232001517913020300.220.440.000.44
Amy Broome13SFSESF21022421001062112730310.
Julia Mankoff26SFUT3rd19142500-21624100.50.510.
Jackelyne Nguyen42SFSESF2361820019516020210.
Molly Robbins8UTSF3rd28162500533380.511.520.27-0.140.530.39
Hana Kawai15SESDF732925105611517143.57.530.23-0.310.680.37
Kaitlynne Roling12SESDF37141800-9584910110.
Shira Stern30SESFSF23691200-16281201120.23-0.150.470.32
Samantha Loop98SFSESF22310120024234700000.220.320.000.32
Sally Mimms23SFSESF25110800-7514400000.220.300.000.30
Laura To3SESFSF2358111034437720200.
Jen Cogburn99UTSDSF111016811843211611.52.500.380.260.000.26
Ikran Elmi0SESFSF2161917018929130.53.510.
Deanna Abrams6SDSEF43871012253710100.
Amanda Rutland19SDSEF121091005500000.
Kari Shelkey12UTSF3rd1810180016173300000.
Sydney Horanic8SDSEF011200-4383400000.
Ikran Elmi0SESDF359110038-43410110.
Lexi Garrity10SESFSF243161410-22755301.52.510.23-
Jaclyn Wataoka58SFSESF2341418106166721310.
Theresa Zettner7SDSEF62171710-9766720200.
Brittany Cabriales1SDSEF3073002293100000.
Leslie Willis13SDSEF6015130034276111210.22-
Samantha Wool25SDUTSF10910141032225410100.380.200.000.20
Lily Terpstra4UTSDSF1110171201634711020200.380.200.000.20
Ellie Sjordal5UTSDSF1391119007868410100.380.190.000.19
Marlena Luhr19SFSESF22191400-12726010100.
Marlena Luhr19SFUT3rd0471400-248460.500.500.
Cori Bigham38UTSF3rd81201100-2474500.50.500.
Rachel Clarkson27SFSESF2321413005192411220.22-0.270.440.17
Kelli Iwamoto20SDSEF9524220095401352.513.500.
Sarah Staller24UTSDSF1121241420012712721300.380.140.000.14
Amy Norris3UTSF3rd16613001091900000.
Linnea Soo32SESDF3715180023-41900000.
Rachel Clarkson27SFUT3rd52118006505601100.
Sydney Horanic8SDUTSF1259100118799720200.380.110.000.11
Eliza Chang16SFSESF224152100-6534710100.
Cheryl Hsu24SESFSF216191710117-111630400.
Mack Perkett1UTSDSF1120191300-612812211200.380.070.000.07
Kyra Khoroujnikova22UTSDSF1274120115203510100.380.070.000.07
Drea Baroma23SESFSF2358110009900000.
Kyra Khoroujnikova22UTSF3rd1561200-2630400000.
Abbie Abramovich44SESDF37141800129-2610320300.
Blair Messner22SDUTSF18414130022386001100.380.030.000.03
Shaela Wallen16UTSF3rd191019009142310.51.510.27-
Samantha Wool25SDSEF02020000000000.
Anna Sivinski93SDSEF01010000000000.
Kelli Iwamoto20SDUTSF1113191301113-41092.502.500.380.000.000.00
Brittany McCready29UTSDSF1274120000000000.380.000.000.00
Carly Atwell27UTSDSF1310111900991010930310.38-0.400.38-0.02
Kara Hammer44SFSESF29018160145661114.504.500.22-0.020.00-0.02
Sally Mimms23SFUT3rd43161000851300.50.500.27-0.040.00-0.04
Jaclyn Wataoka58SFUT3rd188170014163010100.27-0.060.00-0.06
Lily Steponaitis29SFSESF22513180012294111200.22-0.160.00-0.16
Madeline Hunter25UTSF3rd1761400831110100.27-0.190.00-0.19
Eliza Chang16SFUT3rd1812210023-15810100.27-0.210.00-0.21
Carly Atwell27UTSF3rd181018002802810.51.500.27-0.210.00-0.21
Patricia Anderson96SFSESF241980014-13110100.22-0.210.00-0.21
Madeline Hunter25UTSDSF121010171019-1181.501.500.38-0.240.00-0.24
Alexa Kirkland22SESDF35101100-207-1320210.23-0.540.23-0.32
Jessica Wan15SDSEF41990000001.51.500.22-0.340.00-0.34
Jorie Moore28SDUTSF1068110000001100.38-0.380.00-0.38
Penny Wu47SDSEF53109007263330300.22-0.450.00-0.45
Brittany McCready29UTSF3rd156120013-31002200.27-0.460.00-0.46
Casstique Williams9UTSDSF1120191300-2464430310.38-0.850.38-0.46
Julia Ting4SFSESF29424200090-38751610.22-0.720.22-0.50
Meeri Chang21SFUT3rd111162800147-2612160600.27-0.770.00-0.77
Vespera Aragon0UTSF3rd26162300565614.505.510.27-1.050.27-0.78

  1. More specifically, this is the WUL’s description: The Offense-Defense Scale is defensive points started plus defensive substitutions divided by total points started plus total substitutions; a 0 represents a pure offensive player while a 100 represents a pure defensive player. 

  2. Although the scale is reversed in the BBSM data, where handlers are the 67-100 segment instead of 0-33 

  3. Abby Hecko’s three-game OIS was 4th highest, but two games below the qualifying threshold.  Further confirming the similarity of the WUL’s OIS metric and BBSM’s EO100, the Hecko and Rodenburg EO100 scores were 3rd and 23rd in the league, respectively. 

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