2023 D-III Women’s Rookie of the Year

The first-years who have already established themselves among the division's best overall players.

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 Rookie of the Year award recognizes players who impressed in their first college ultimate seasons. That includes both freshman and true rookies. Each season, it feels like this group of players becomes more impactful; as the level of youth play and of coaching and development rise, so does the bar for the division’s best rookie. Whether they come to the college game from years of youth experience, a background in other sports, or none of the above, these players made debuts to remember in high-level college play.

D-III Women’s 2023 Rookie Of The Year

Lucy VanNewkirk (Middlebury)

Only a sophomore, Lucy VanNewkirk was a standout player for Middlebury at the 2023 D-III College Championships, recording 3 goals and a D in the final. Photo: Kevin Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

Middlebury just won their third national title in a row, but it’s players like Lucy VanNewkirk that make me believe they could go for four. An incredible athlete with a real sense for the game, her cuts are explosive and precise, giving her an inhuman ability to create space and close on the disc. Newkirk was second in goals for Middlebury with 11, with only Claire Babbott-Bryan having more. In addition to scoring, Lucy looked composed and confident with the disc in her hands, only throwing two assists over the three day tournament but moving the disc efficiently in the midfield. She was able to find handler resets in tight spots, but wasn’t afraid to look up the field and find the continuation to the next cut.

Lucy’s prowess doesn’t end on the O-line. She logged seven blocks over the weekend, good enough for third on her team. Lucy is shaping up to be a true all-around player and could be the future of Pranksters’ success. She’s already had a huge impact on the team in her first season and even stepped up for three goals and a block in the final, demonstrating her ability to play consistently even when the lights are brightest.

First Runner-Up

Hayden Ashley (Portland)

Portland UPRoar’s Hayden Ashley gets up for the block at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Kevin Wayner – UltiPhotos.com

It is hard to believe Hayden Ashley is a freshman after seeing her play in Ohio. It’s rare a player will find themselves as a central handler in their first year on a team, but this was the reality for Hayden Ashley. Portland’s run through semifinals at Nationals was confident through pool play, and a win over Williams on Sunday morning. Ashley threw 14 assists over the course of the weekend to help Portland secure their third place finish.

Ashley’s game is one of smart movements with the disc, being a consistent reset look with great grabs under contested handler defense. It is rare for a freshman to come into the sport with such a deep skill set, but Ashley’s dominance shows that Portland’s program legacy is sure to be carried on in years to come.

Second Runner-Up

Charlotte Moynihan (Mount Holyoke)

Mount Holyoke’s Charlotte Moynihan leaves a pack of players in the dust in the hunt for the disc at the 2023 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rody Desort – UltiPhotos.com

The New England region has consistently presented a lot of talent, and Mount Holyoke have added another player to that illustrious list. Charlotte Moynihan is an incredibly dynamic player, with a lot of poise, especially for a rookie. She put up some incredible numbers – 15G/4A/7D – for a whopping +19 on the weekend, good enough for best on her team by a seven-point margin. Charlotte displays a command of the game that is rare to see out of any player, especially one so young. Mount Holyoke have been on the outside looking in at semifinals the last couple years, but players like Charlotte will get them past the quarters hump and into the top four.

Charlotte finds herself open naturally, and is always a priority look in the red zone. Her ability to find the open space is effortless. Her skills don’t end with her cutting; she is equally skilled at running down discs from the other team and racking up blocks on defense. Look for Charlotte to continue to find the open space, reel in more goals, and bat down opposing discs in the years to come as this already incredible talent continues to develop.

  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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