November 8, 2023 by Jenna Weiner, Graham Gerhart and Keith Raynor in Awards with 0 comments
Ultiworld is pleased to announce our annual Club Awards, starting with the Club Player of the Year in each division. While we consider both regular season and postseason performance, because of the nature of the Club division, we weight success in the Series and at Nationals above all else. The Club Awards are voted on by Ultiworld reporters, contributors, and editors.
Our All-Club teams recognize the top performers across the division. Our First Team and Second Team display the top seven and next seven players who had the best seasons. As our voting process is ordered, the top vote-getters for All-Club honors function as the ordered list in our Player of the Year voting — our highest individual award.
Player of the Year Award
All-Club First Team
All-Club Second Team
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Breakout Player of the Year Award
Coach(es) of the Year Award
Club Awards Voting Breakdown
Snubs and Superlatives
2023 Women’s All-Club Second Team
Caroline Tornquist (Boston Brute Squad)
The leap from good to great is never easy. Or, it shouldn’t be easy, but somehow Caroline Tornquist made it appear as if it was. We always knew the Brute Squad star was an elite talent –the team doesn’t accept anything less than that — she just happened to make 2023 the year of her ascendancy. Between lockdown handler defense, fast-break ferocity, and an ice-in-her-veins exactness with the disc in hand, Tornquist was everything her team needed her to be and more. Not a game went by where she didn’t do something that set her apart from the rest, especially on defense. Don’t let her unassuming size fool you, sometimes you don’t need to be the biggest cat for your roar to still induce trembling.
Britt Dos Santos (Toronto 6ixers)
If there’s any player that deserves their flowers after the 2023 season, it’s Britt Dos Santos. When Toronto saw a heavy amount of turnover from their 2022 roster, it was the Maple Leaf Monster who picked up the slack and carried her team through to the postseason while avoiding the dreaded ‘rebuilding year’ allegations. The Canuck Cannon was her team’s best thrower, best cutter, and played close to miraculous offense while being marked by the best defenders in the world. Everyone knew that the game plan against Toronto was to keep the disc away from BDS, and it didn’t matter. The Northern Natural could power past any opponent, making her the best show on streaming whenever Toronto was in a filmed game.
Opi Payne (San Francisco Fury)
Opi’s game has evolved in the same way a crocodile has: less by becoming something new and scarcely recognizable, and more by trimming every inefficiency to create a hearty and highly effective survivor. You’d be hard pressed to find a step they have lost, but if the fast-twitch muscles have degraded at all, Payne’s relentless pursuit of excellence has made it undetectable. She remains a dogged defender, a barreling cutter, a pacing handler, and a dangerous thrower, with a skillset that can prove game-changing in any almost area regardless of the opposition, the conditions, or the setting. A fantastic sixth All-Club selection further confirms what fans probably have already surmised: Opi Payne’s career is going to go down as one of the finest the game has seen. Somehow, there’s still more greatness left in there to pour onto the field.
Ella Juengst (New York BENT)
Even with great players, there can sometimes be a question of whether they’re products of their environment or truly individually brilliant. Away from the Southern comfort of North Carolina for the first time in years, Ella Juengst proved that she belongs in the latter category in an outstanding first season with New York BENT. Not that it should be surprising – she is the reigning D-I women’s OPOTY after all – but Juengst’s place atop the Nationals goals leaderboard1 was remarkable nonetheless. She made even the best downfield defenders look stuck in the mud while she slid free to her common front-cone companion, and with seven blocks to go along with her 20 goals and four assists Juengst finished with one of the best plus/minuses at Nationals. Just because she makes it look easy doesn’t mean it is, and Juengst showed that her nose for the goal travels well across both teams and divisions.
Dena Elimelech (San Francisco Fury)
Dena’s back, back again; Dena’s back, tell a friend. Or at least you would need to if it wasn’t immediately obvious that, yes, Dena Elimelech is back to dominating downfield with Fury and that she is back for the third time as an All-Club selection. A premier cutter, no team has yet managed to truly solve the “Dena problem,” and even on a Fury team that distributes the disc like nearly no other, she had double the goals of any of her teammates with a clean dozen. She wasn’t just a point-ender, though, as few teams had defenders that could match up with both Elimelech’s size and speed, and that made her a potent cog in the ever-moving Fury offense. On defense those traits helped Elimelech co-lead Fury in blocks in San Diego. It’s a constant problem for Fury players to stand out amongst the consistent excellence of their team, but Elimelech’s cutting prowess made it possible in her return to San Francisco.
Dawn Culton (Raleigh Phoenix)
Ultimate doesn’t have a draft out of college for the club season, but if it did, Phoenix would be popping champagne for getting Dawn Culton from it. Plenty of players have had high expectations coming out of college but few have been able to have as immediate of an impact on the club scene as Culton. Apparently being more explosive, more determined, and more calculating than your opponents has its advantages. Culton’s always had all the pieces at her disposal to be a premier ultimate player, this season she just put it all together into a terminator-esque ultimate machine. Make no mistake when it comes to the All-Club podium, she’ll be back.
Yina Cartagena (New York BENT)
Ever since Yina Cartagena joined BENT two years ago, we’ve been waiting to see what kind of show one of the best players in the world would put on while on the biggest stage in the US. This season we finally got to see that show in all its glory, and boy, was it fun to watch. Rightfully established as the centerpiece of New York’s offense, Cartagena wheeled and dealed to the tune of a tournament leading 23 assists, many of which found the hands of fellow All-Club selection Ella Juengst. Despite the best efforts of many of the division’s best defenders to slow her down, Cartagena dictated the pace of play with assurance, and was the centralizing offense force for BENT as they surged to a program-best finish at Nationals. We really shouldn’t have expected anything less from one of the best handlers on the planet, and Cartagena more than lived up to that expectation this season.
along with Vancouver Traffic’s Sarah Norton ↩