2023 D-I Women’s Offensive Player of the Year

These big time scorers helped ensure their offenses would keep the points flowing.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

Our awards continue with the Offensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt had the most impactful and productive seasons helping their teams score. They set up goals, finished off points, and produced yardage at consistently high levels against the top defenders.

D-I Women’s 2023 Offensive Player Of The Year

Ella Juengst (North Carolina)

UNC’s Ella Juengst releases a backhand at the 2023 D-I College Championship. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com

Are the front cones of the college division relieved to be rid of Juengst’s reign? Or will they miss their frequent visitor, who they’ve become so comfortable with over the years?

Jokes aside, it is actually misleading how much Juengst has become associated with one of the only pieces of equipment our sport requires and that little patch of field that surrounds 25% of that piece of orange plastic. While her hiccup of a first step has made her perhaps the most dangerous college red zone cutter since Jesse Shofner, Juengst’s brilliance is not limited to a minor swath of valuable real estate. For as good as she is there, she’s even better for the 70 yards prior. She just doesn’t get a point and an immediate instant replay for all of the other stuff. Most zones are ripped open by great throwers, but Juengst can do it as a poking and prodding popper, darting between defenders and decisively moving the ball. The same ideas apply against matchup defenses, where her ability to create physical movement and facilitate disc movement puts her offensive game in rare air.

The goals are great. The ankle-breakers are even more delectable. But for each of those, there’s 10 backside cuts and continues that send defenses into scramble mode, a chorus of “no more breaks!” arising from the panicked sideline; or there’s more patient red zone sets ending in uncontested throws to open hands that were set up by a well-timed jab step and breakaway combo. If all you’ve seen is the front cone, you’ve only listened to the radio singles. Try to sit back, relax, and let the whole album play. It’s a classic, front to back.

First Runner-Up

Kennedy McCarthy (Vermont)

Vermont’s Kennedy McCarthy wins in the air at the 2023 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

It was another fantastic offensive season for McCarthy, the dominating cutter’s finest yet. Her reputation as perhaps the most feared jump-ball-winner in the division is well established enough that some might not even bother forming a pack around her, instead trying to play a potential backside deflection or misread rather than go up in vain and end up a victim. But McCarthy refined many of the little things to go along with the skies and hucks. Her reset cutting sharpened, helping her attack shallow lanes and front cones. She developed her break throws meaningfully, as well. That’s part of how she added 11 assists to her 19 goals at Nationals while committing only 11 turnovers.

Second Runner-Up

Mika Kurahashi (UBC)

UBC’s Mika Kurahashi makes a diving catch at the 2023 D-I College Championship. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com

The explosive Canadian cutter gave us a bit of a preview this past club season, but her game has leveled up in a big way. With a killer first step, combustible hops, and the strength and balance to play through physicality, Kurahashi can play like a powerful bull or a deft quarterhorse. As she adds components to her play, it is clear she has the frame of a game that would make her one of the best players in Canada. The growth we’ve already seen has turned her into an offensive dynamo in her cohort.

  1. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the Business Development Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

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