Ultiworld Club Awards 2023: Defensive Player of the Year (Women’s Div.)

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 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 club season. 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.

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 Division Defensive Player of the Year

Kami Groom (Washington DC Scandal)

Washington DC Scandal’s Kami Groom roars at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – UltiPhotos.com

In a sport where we often struggle to market our stars with iconic moments or catchphrases, the duration of Kami Groom’s greatness has endured so long that her moniker now stands pat. Zoom Zoom Kami Groom not only is memorialized on the back of her Scandal jersey, it’s also forever associated with Groom’s relentless energy and power on the field. Groom’s been a top 25 player longer than most women in the division have been playing the sport of ultimate. The mileage hasn’t seemed to have any effect on her ability. Groom was Scandal’s best individual defender and one of the few players who was able to slow down Brute Squad’s assault at Nationals. She reads the game better than almost any player in the world, and matches that with a blinding speed that allows her to disrupt plays that other tacticians would never be able to reach in time.

Groom’s otherworldly ability is the reason she also technically made the OPOTY podium and was the Second Runner-up for POTY this year. Whatever the situation, there’s not much Groom can’t do. In 2023, that put her in a position to be the best individual defender on an elite team, and a whole lot more beyond that, too. As long as she’s willing to play at a Nationals-calibre level, she’ll be one to watch for future awards. Zoom on Kami Groom.

-Graham Gerhart

First Runner-up

Kristen Pojunis (San Diego Flipside)

San Diego Flipside’s Kristen Pojunis (#4) bids for a disc at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com

It’s often difficult in ultimate for one player to have a centralizing impact on defense. The game is too spread out, played too much in either matchup isolation or a coordinated zone for any one player to be the linchpin around which the entire defense is organized. And then there’s Kristen Pojunis at the heart of the Flipside block party, leading the way for the dynamic SoCal defense. Individually, Pojunis is a defensive tour de force, and racked up nearly twice as many blocks as any of her teammates at Nationals in a double-digit performance. For her team, though, Pojunis takes on an even greater defensive role as a vocal leader in Flipside’s zone and a do-it-all shutdown blanket that SoCal readily deploys. Many players call themselves defense-first players, but Pojunis wears that mantle better than nearly anyone.

-Jenna Weiner

Second Runner-up

Angela Zhu (Boston Brute Squad)

Boston Brute Squad’s Angela Zhu (#17) celebrates at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – UltiPhotos.com

It’s only on defense where being called a ‘troublemaker’ is a compliment, but that’s exactly what Angela Zhu is. While most elite players are able to school their opponents on offense, Zhu’s the one getting sent to the principal’s office for making them cry. It’s not that she she has a bullying physicality or a P.E. teacher’s love of sprints, but rather that Zhu knows how to be at the right place at the right time. She can calibrate the distance she needs to be from an opponent to make a play on a dime, and feasts on the blind spots throwers have when looking downfield. On the mark, she’s aggressive, active, and a nuisance to throw around. Most folks settle for the easiest pass against Zhu, which is where her teammates gleefully swallow up the disc, as Zhu’s superpower is playing team defense, not just hunting for blocks. There’s plenty more to be said about Brute Squad’s floor general, but you can just look at her report card and get a good idea. She leads her team, the best defensive team in the world, with seven blocks, that alone justifies her spot on the DPOTY honor roll.

-Graham Gerhart

  1. Jenna Weiner
    Jenna Weiner

    Jenna Weiner is a Senior Staff Writer, a co-host of Ultiworld's Double Overtime podcast, and considers herself a purveyor of all levels of ultimate. She's played mostly on the west coast but you're likely to find her at the nearest ultimate game available.

  2. Graham Gerhart
    Graham Gerhart

    Graham Gerhart is a Senior Staff Writer at Ultiworld, focusing primarily on the Women's and Mixed divisions. Graham graduated from the University of Cape Town in South Africa after playing 4 years with the UCT Flying Tigers. He now lives and works full time in San Diego. Follow him on twitter @JustGrahamG

  3. Keith Raynor
    Keith Raynor

    Keith Raynor is a Senior Editor and the Business Development Manager at Ultiworld. He co-hosts our Deep Look podcast and does play-by-play and color commentary. He coaches UConn Rise, the college's women's team. You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@FullFieldHammer).

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