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

Whether moving the disc or racking up points, these players were the best to do it in 2023

Ultiworld is pleased to announce our annual Club Awards. 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 Offensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt had the most impactful and productive seasons helping their teams score. They set up goals, finished off points, and produced yardage at consistently high levels against the top defenders.

Special note: Our initial staff voting concluded with Kami Groom (Washington DC Scandal) as second in Offensive Player of the Year. Our staff, however, feels it is more in line with the spirit of these Awards to recognize more individuals. With that in mind, there is now a rule that a player cannot appear on multiple of the Offensive, Defensive, and Breakout Player of the Year podiums.

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 Offensive Player of the Year

Valeria Cardenas (Denver Molly Brown)

Denver Molly Brown’s Valeria Cardenas (right) gets a backhand past her mark at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – UltiPhotos.com

The first mistake teams make when playing against Valeria Cardenas is assuming they have to take away Valeria’s ability to throw hucks. It’s the first mistake because no one can take that away. Valeria will get any throw off regardless of the competition because that’s what an OPOTY does.

The second mistake teams make when playing against Valeria Cardenas is watching her play. In their defense, it’s almost impossible to avoid. She’s hypnotic in her ability to move the disc as the center handler. She dances around her opponents with cuts and fires off passes like she’s plucking guitar strings. She’s a one-person show when she wants to be, orchestrating Molly Brown’s offense like it’s a symphony she wrote herself. This is the second mistakes because watching Valeria means you’re not watching her cutters downfield, and they just tore off into the end zone and scored off a magical pass from Valeria, because that’s what an OPOTY can do.

The third mistake teams make when playing against Valeria Cardenas is believing that pushing her downfield will limit her. So often the game plan against a center handler is to just get them out of the handler space. Those that make this mistake have not been following Valeria’s ultimate career. She was raised on positionless ultimate with her sister, trading between assist leader and goal scorer at will. A player of her caliber will take whatever the defense gives her and turn it into a goal. That’s just what an OPOTY is capable of doing against any opponent.

Yes, this is somewhat hyperbolic, but Valeria induces hyperbole. The Cardenas sister is more than deserving of the OPOTY title, and more than deserving of a show dedicated to how she plays the sport. Someone call ESPN.

– Graham Gerhart

First Runner-up

Levke Walczak (Boston Brute Squad)

Boston Brute Squad’s Levke Walczak celebrates at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com

The OPOTY podium is difficult enough to make once, let alone twice, let alone when only playing part of the season. And yet here is Levke Walczak, following up her OPOTY win last year with a strong runner-up finish this time around on the back of an incredible six goals and 19 assists statline at Nationals. Arguably though, even just the overall stats underrate Walczak’s offensive impact in the biggest moments as the German put up a quartet of assists in both the semifinal and final. Whether booming flick hucks or touchy low-release backhands, Walczak had every tool in the toolbox available to her and took full advantage. When you help your team to a title win with that kind of offensive potency in the most pressure-filled moments, making the OPOTY podium seems like a near certainty, and indeed, Walczak made it two for two with fireworks galore.

– Jenna Weiner

Second Runner-up

Yina Cartagena (New York BENT)

New York BENT’s Yina Cartegena releases a backhand at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Brian Canniff — UltiPhotos.com

It’s hard to find one’s purpose in life, but it’s a fair bet that Yina Cartagena’s is slinging plastic. The Nationals assist leader had a lot of pressure placed on her as New York BENT’s center handler and responded to that pressure with 23 assists and 3 goals over the course of the tournament. She was also a major factor in getting BENT to Nationals in the first place, proving herself to be every bit the capable offensive talent we’ve known her to be for years. When BENT ran out of magic on offense, Cartagena was there to pull a rabbit out of a hat and keep the defense guessing. She was her team’s best player on offense and despite drawing the attention of every defender on the field, still had enough pixie dust to fly around the field making plays.

– 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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