WUL/PUL Update: Non-Conference Play Ushers In 2024 WUL Season

Bay Area Falcons impress in lopsided win over Seattle, while Arizona collect their first win and Colorado show strength in a close loss to title-favorites San Diego

Bay Area Falcons’ Jackelyne Nguyen gets up for the grab against Seattle Tempest at 2023 WUL Championship Weekend. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Welcome to the WUL/PUL Update, Ultiworld’s bi-weekly women’s semi-pro roundup. We’ve got action from Weeks One and Two in the Western Ultimate League to recap, plus an update to the WUL’s power rankings and the debut of the Premier Ultimate League power rankings.

Western Ultimate League

WUL Week One

The 2024 Western Ultimate League season debuted with a trio of scintillating non-conference games, with each coming down to the wire as all three games were decided by mere two-point margins. It was an incredible opening salvo that portends parity across the league for the rest of its nine-week regular season.

A first-time matchup between the Arizona Sidewinders and Colorado Alpenglow served as the season opener, with current and former club and semi-pro teammates going head-to-head. With a stiff breeze running the length of the field most of the game, neither team was able to generate much separation, as the margin stubbornly remained at one or zero for all but a few points. Despite the conditions, LP Aragon (411 throwing yards) still found plenty of success for the Sidewinders after a season away, while Abby Thorpe notched a trio of goals for Alpenglow. The game was decided late, as the hometown Alpenglow were able to convert an upwind break chance on an away throw from Ari Nelson to Thorpe to make it 15-13. After an ensuing downwind break, it was 16-13 and a final Arizona goal could only narrow the margin as Colorado took down the season’s inaugural match, 16-14 winners.

In the second Mountain West-hosted game of the weekend, Utah Wild took down the Bay Area Falcons 19-17 in overtime after trailing 15-11 early in the fourth quarter. Wild’s Brooke Stanislawski had a record-setting performance against the Falcons as she put up an astounding 4G/4A/3B stat line, including Utah’s first goal in overtime as the home team pulled away in the extra period. The Bay Area were able to build an early 7-4 first quarter lead, which included taking advantage of an immediate Utah turnover at the end of the period. However, over the course of the game the fatigue of playing their opener on the road at altitude set in, and not even a 1G/5A showing by Han Chen could stave off the Utah comeback win.

The final game of the season’s first weekend was a rematch of last year’s final between Seattle Tempest and San Diego Super Bloom, played, as that final was, with Tempest as the home team. This time, though, it was Super Bloom who took top honors, and the class of the Southwest took down the champs 17-15. As might be expected from the league’s top-two teams of the past two seasons, the matchup was even throughout, with San Diego holding the advantage in the first and fourth quarters and Seattle pulling the margin back in the second and third. Still, Super Bloom had too much offense in the end, as Kaela Helton put up another outstanding all-around effort with a 2G/6A/2B stat line, and newcomer Meredith Byl chipped in with 4G/1A/1B. With the win, San Diego got their revenge for championship weekend and potentially set themselves as the new title favorites in the process.

WUL Week Two

After Week One saw all three Northwest Conference teams host their Southwest Conference counterparts, the roles reversed in Week Two as the Southwest triumvirate of San Diego, Arizona, and the Bay Area all had their home openers. Welcoming Colorado, Utah, and Seattle respectively south and/or west, the entire Southwest Conference had a weekend to remember as all three teams won at home to wrap up non-conference play for the 2024 WUL regular season.

Let’s get the most surprising result out of the way first: the Bay Area Falcons blew out Seattle Tempest 18-10 in the result of the season so far. The Falcons’ offense was clinical all evening, giving up a scant eight break opportunities to Seattle, while Tempest looked out of sorts from the get-go, falling behind 5-0 before finally getting on the board. Whether via dropped passes or miscommunications, or throws straight to the likes of the Bay Area’s Shayla Harris who piled up a league-wide four blocks against Tempest, Seattle gave up chance after chance to the Falcons who were happy to oblige. Han Chen led the Bay Area in both goals and assists with a 3G/5A line, and the Falcons head into conference play on a high, while Tempest will have to rebound in a big way after their 0-2 start.

Another week, another windswept game for the Arizona Sidewinders, who this time were able to emerge winners over the visiting Utah Wild 15-12. In the lowest scoring game of the season so far, both teams’ offenses were successful in spurts, with a 5-2 Sidewinders advantage in the second quarter enough to give them the final edge. Nora Landri led Arizona’s offense with four goals, while LP Aragon continued a strong return season with a trio of assists and over 250 throwing yards. As for Utah, Kat Songer drove the bus with three assists and over 250 throwing yards of her own, but Wild’s offense was not nearly as potent as it was in their season opening 19-17 win. The Sidewinders’ win keeps them on pace with their Southwest Conference rivals, while Wild enter conference play tied with Colorado at 1-1 at the top of the Northwest.

Speaking of Colorado Alpenglow, despite being on the road they played close with San Diego Super Bloom, losing by two 17-15 after Super Bloom rolled off a 4-0 run in the fourth quarter. Over the course of the game both teams held at least one multi-goal lead, San Diego going up 5-2 in the first quarter and 17-14 in the fourth, while Colorado surged in the second and held a 9-7 lead before the Southern Californians tied it up going into half. For Super Bloom, Dena Elimelech had a record-setting offensive outing, recording an all-time high 373 receiving yards on 26 receptions, while Ari Nelson directed traffic for Alpenglow to the tune of 374 throwing yards and three assists. Even with the loss, Colorado have established themselves as credible contenders for the Northwest title, though it’s San Diego who are clear title favorites as the only remaining undefeated team in the league heading into conference play.

Looking Ahead in the WUL

With non-conference play now concluded after the season’s opening two weeks, the WUL will take a breather this upcoming weekend before starting back up in week four with a pair of conference openers. In the Northwest, Seattle will travel to Utah as Tempest look to claim their first win of the season, and in the Southwest a so-far-undefeated San Diego will host Arizona.

WUL Power Rankings Week Two

Rank Team Change Prior
1 - 1
2 +4 6
3 -1 2
4 +1 5
5 -2 3
6 -2 4
  • Unsurprisingly, the week’s biggest movers are the Bay Area, who rise from the basement into second on the back of their 18-10 blowout win over Seattle, who take the now-vacant spot at the bottom.
  • Despite taking a close loss to San Diego, Colorado remain in the top half, maintaining a slim edge over Arizona who they beat in week one.

Premier Ultimate League

The first weekend of April offers us the first weekend of PUL action, with a South Division showdown between DC and Raleigh the highlight matchup with defending champions Radiance playing hosts. Atlanta also travels to Austin for an early divisional test, while Nashville hits the road to face Indy in the season’s first cross-divisional game. Week two in the PUL will then bring the first North Division action as Milwaukee stares down an away double-header against Philly and New York, and South Division play continues with Raleigh on the road at Atlanta and Nashville away at DC.

PUL Preseason Power Rankings

  • Reigning champions Raleigh take the top spot in the 2024 preseason power rankings, followed closely by new South Division competitors DC. With the duo’s divisional rivals populating the preseason bottom three, they will be heavy favorites to advance to Championship Weekend.
  • The crowded and reshaped North Division fills out the rest of the rankings, Philly and Minnesota topping the grouping courtesy of both teams’ roster continuity from last season.
  • 2023 finalists New York fall in at #5 after a stunning roster makeover that sees only four players returning from that Championship Weekend qualifying squad. Indy, Portland, and Milwaukee round out the rankings as the next-up teams in the deep North.
  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.

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