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

Highlighting players who took a leap toward stardom in the division this spring.

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.

The Breakout Player of the Year recognizes rising juniors and seniors who made themselves known in a new light this season. While our nebulous definition of “breakout” reflects an evolving set of criteria, rather than celebrating the improvement of those from whom big things were already expected, we aim to use this award to celebrate the emergence of those who previously have not been on the national radar. Whether it be through growth in ability, role, or both, the Breakout Player of the Year and runners-up honor those who rose to the occasion with improved and high-impact performance on a new level this season — putting them squarely in the spotlight moving forward.

D-III Women’s 2023 Breakout Player Of The Year

Leina Goto (St. Olaf)

St. Olaf Vortex’s Leina Goto pulls at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Kevin Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

I wish I could distill the feeling I had seeing Leina Goto throw a backhand huck and keep it on my desk for when I get writer’s block. It’s a sense of wonder, amazement, it’s truly awesome in the literal meaning of the word. She has a sense for timing that would impress most metronomes. It’s not just that she can throw the disc three-quarters of the field, it’s that she throws it at the exact moment only her receiver can get to the disc and not the defender. She leads her receivers to the open space as well, hardly ever throwing into traffic.

It’s not just that she can throw the disc far, she has a sixth sense for getting herself into power position to generate open looks for her throws. This isn’t by accident or happenstance; Goto’s ability to create space in handler position is simply alchemical. There didn’t seem to be anyone that could stop her from being available for resets or finding ways to move the disc downfield. Goto wasn’t only formidable with the disc in her hands, but also generated a lot of turnovers for the Vortex. Streaking defenders and slashing handlers alike were foiled by her tough defensive play. Look for Leina and the Vortex to make waves again next year as I’m sure her play will only elevate with time.

First Runner-Up

Frankie Saraniti (Carleton)

Carleton Eclipse’s Frankie Saraniti goes for the one-handed grab at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Kevin Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

Frankie Saraniti was a lightning bolt in the deep space with excellent skills in the air to catch lofty throws from her handlers to score. In fact, Saraniti pulled in 14 goals total, making her the top scorer on Eclipse’s O-line.1 It was clear that Saraniti was crucial to the Eclipse offense as she was frequently the first look and a reliable set of hands that caught anything that came her way. In a division that often relies on drops, Saraniti ensured that her defenders would’nt get so lucky.

Her skills in the air already commended, Saraniti’s highlight was certainly her game-winning layout grab against Mount Holyoke. Many players dream of clinching their spot in semifinal with a highlight like this one.

Second Runner-Up

Skylar Yarter (Williams)

Williams Nova’s Skylar Yarter loads a backhand at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Kevin Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

Yarter was a central playmaker for Williams Nova’s run through quarterfinals. Throwing 25 assists over the course of the weekend, Yarter was on the line for the majority of Nova’s points and involved in their handler movement. She was unbothered by mistakes, working hard on defense to gain the disc back and adding 11 blocks to her stats in the meantime as well. Nova’s offense was clearly centered around their strong handlers with Yarter at the helm, confident to work the disc around a zone, huck it deep, or swing it off the sideline.

Coming out of a tough New England region, Skylar Yarter demonstrated skills with the disc that certainly contributed to Nova’s success at throughout the season and, crucially, at Nationals. This central handler role is an important one in Division III, and Yarter firmly put the disc in her receiver’s hands to ensure possession after possession.

  1. Rowan Dong tied Saraniti for goals scored, but was on the D-line. 

  1. Zack Davis
    Zack Davis

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

  2. 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].

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