2023 D-III Men’s Defensive Player of the Year

These three defenders put forth awesome and impactful seasons.

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 Defensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt were the top defensive performers this spring. Whether through generating blocks, shutting down options, helping out teammates, or all of the above, these defenders stood out doing the tough work that too often go unrecognized.

D-III Men’s 2023 Defensive Player Of The Year

Malachi Raymond (Middlebury)

Middlebury Pranksters’ Malachi Raymond at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rudy Desort – UltiPhotos.com

Raymond has one appearance so far in this awards cycle with a spot as a First Team All American. In that writeup, we talked about his return to the field, his all-around ability to make plays, and his seemingly-endless engine that contributed to the Pranksters’ run to the final. But here we highlight where he had the greatest impact: his strength as a defender.

To appreciate Raymond’s defense, one must look beyond the box score. At Nationals, Raymond only had four blocks, which wasn’t even top three on the team. However, it’s Raymond’s versatility on defense that makes him so valuable. He’s a blend of characteristics that enable him to guard quite literally any opponent. Raymond is short and shifty, allowing him to terrorize opposing handlers and initiating cutters. He’s also incredibly fast and bouncy, which allows him to match up on bigger cutters without just giving up the deep space.

Perhaps Raymond’s best attribute is his positioning and awareness. Often playing as the deep in the Pranksters’ zone, Raymond was able to utilize his speed to cover a tremendous amount of ground, but rarely was he required to. His positioning – and the respect his opponents had for the ground he could cover – deterred deep shots from ever going up, shrinking the field for the rest of his teammates to get blocks and force turnovers.

Defense is the most difficult aspect of ultimate to evaluate; there are so many variables in play for every turnover that it’s usually impossible to directly allocate credit to one cause. What’s undeniable, however, is the gravity and impact Raymond had for the Pranksters on defense this year, making him our Defensive Player of the Year.

First Runner-Up

Ray Mauntel (Missouri S&T)

Missouri S&T’s Ray Mauntel snags the disc past the reaching Middlebury player at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rudy Desort – UltiPhotos.com

To be an excellent defender, you have to have a certain type of mentality and confidence. The offense is always at an advantage in ultimate, so you must have a level of arrogance to believe you can overcome that advantage, and the mental fortitude to not be dissuaded from that belief when your opponent has success. No defender embodied this persona in 2023 more than Ray Mauntel.

The word that best captures Mauntel on defense is “relentless.” There were moments where it was obvious he was completely gassed, but Mauntel would still find the energy to shut down one more cut, or make one more bid. His footwork in the handler space is terrific. There’s no such thing as a force side and break side when Mauntel is guarding the reset; every cut is going to be contested. A 5th year in 2023, Mauntel’s absence will certainly be felt on Missouri S&T’s defense next year, both emotionally and in play.

Second Runner-Up

Charlie Tantum (Williams)

Williams WUFO’s Charles Tantum makes a sliding grab at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Kevin Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

Every block has value; possession is the most important thing in ultimate, and taking possession from your opponent is thus crucial. But do some blocks have more values than others? Does the way that a defender gets the block, or the moment of the game in which it occurs, make it carry more weight? If such thing as “high value blocks” exists, Charlie Tantum leads the division in this category. The sophomore is fearless and bids for blocks with the freedom that this old writer wishes he still had. Every block Tantum gets serves like an injection of preworkout to the Williams D-line, swinging momentum in their direction and usually leading to a quick break. With a second runner-up ROTY finish last year and a second runner-up DPOTY finish this year, Tantum’s resume only continues to grow.

  1. Chris Cassella
    Chris Cassella

    Chris Cassella is from Orange, Connecticut, and started playing pick-up at the age of 11. He is a graduate of the University of Richmond, where he played four years with the Richmond Spidermonkeys. While at Richmond, Chris won a national championship (2017), two High Tide titles (2019, 2020), and the “worst decisions award” four years in a row. He is a current graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, where he will play his fifth year with TUFF. You can follow him on Twitter (@nerdyboypolis) to see his daily takes about zone defense, political science, and I-35 traffic jams.

  2. Michael Ball
    Michael Ball

    Michael Ball is the Men's D-III College Editor for Ultiworld. You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter @mike_ball423

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