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

These three defenders put forth amazing 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 Women’s 2023 Defensive Player Of The Year

Alex Rowell (Carleton)

Carleton Eclipse’s Alex Rowell catches the disc in the final at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Keivn Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

Alex Rowell is a menace on the field. All over the field and ever present around the disc, they were definitely the most frustrating player for any offense that Eclipse faced off against. What truly made Rowell a headache for opposing lines wasn’t their unholy ability to rip down the disc from an opposing receiver, nor was it their consistent field awareness putting them in the right place at all times; rather, what made Rowell special at D-III Nationals was their incredible talent with the disc once they had gotten it away from the opposing O-line. Rowell was second in assists on the Eclipse despite being a D-line starter. They were tied for seventh of all players at the tournament in assists, again with a majority of their points coming from the D-line.

Watching them play was an absolute delight. They are an incredible athlete and clearly demonstrate a deep understanding of the game. They seemed to always be smiling and gassing up their teammates. A true teammate and an absolute force on the field, and for that Alex Rowell is the 2023 D-III Women’s Defensive Player of the Year.

First Runner-Up

Julianna Galian (Portland)

Portland UPRoar’s Julianna Galian kickspikes the disc into orbit in the semifinal of the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Keivn Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

Julianna “JJ” Galian was a force to watch on the field for Portland UPRoar, playing almost every point throughout the tournament. Galian’s pulls initiated every defensive point for Portland, and her dynamic defensive abilities produced 7 blocks throughout the tournament. Galian always drew the strongest matchup in every game Portland played, marking Claire Babbott-Bryan in the semifinal game against Middlebury. Once a turn was forced, Galain was a tireless cutter – laying out to save possession and racking up 15 goals and throwing 14 assists throughout Portland’s trip through semis.

Certainly a leader on the field, JJ is clearly looked up to by her teammates off the field as well, always spotted in the center of a huddle and keeping the energy up to give teammates feedback and keep the team engaged. When watching Galian play, the term “baller” comes to mind – and JJ Galian certainly balled out in Ohio.

Second Runner-Up

Grace Tumavicus (Colorado College)

Colorado College Zenith’s Grace Tumavicus celebrates at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Kevin Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

If you go back and watch the tape of Colorado College’s opening game against Carleton Eclipse, you can hear Grace’s name being called again and again for making blocks. Zenith would end up losing that game 15-7, but the margin would have been a lot larger without Grace chasing down deep puts from the Eclipse throwers. In person matchups, Tumavicus wasn’t just generating blocks, she was shutting down receivers and neutralizing some of the best cutters in the nation both downfield and near the disc. Zenith ended up breaking seed and finishing the tournament T-5, and while their offense was smooth and flowed well, they played a gritty, hard-nosed defense. That defense was led by Grace Tumavicus.

  1. Fiona "Scotti" Nugent

    Fiona “Scotti” Nugent is a the D-III Women's Editor and co-host of the Laying it Out podcast. She is a graduate of Lehigh University, and now plays mixed club in New York City. You can reach her through email at [email protected].

  2. Zack Davis
    Zack Davis

    Former D-III player for Spring Hill College, poached on the breakside.

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