The Top 25 D-I Women’s Division Players in 2024

Ranking the best players in the D-I Women's division in 2024.

There’s no shortage of talent in the D-I college women’s division. We look a lot at team success, and often see familiar names and faces in those discussions. But who are the best individual players? Who brings the most value to winning a championship? Figuring out which stars shine the brightest is more art than science, but perhaps there’s democratic power in numbers.

So who are the best players in the division right now? To try to clear away as much of the white noise created by circumstance as possible and get to the heart of each individual’s value and contribution, we asked a diverse group of five members of our coverage team, as well as an anonymous group of elite players and coaches, to weigh in on the following prompt:

If you were starting a college team today with the singular goal of winning a theoretical D-I Championship this May, how would you rank the players within the division? You aren’t building a team of all of your selections, so don’t worry about how the players complement each other. Consider each pick the first pick of a team, drafting in order, only you can’t pick the players you’ve already ranked above. With regards to injuries an absences, we will include all rostered players unless there is confirmation a player will not be competing, or would not be able to compete, at Regionals and/or Nationals.

In order to improve how representative our rankings are of the opinions of our voters, we have iterated until arriving at this process. We each listed out our top 35 players to iron out some of the gradations on the fringes and then combined our lists to create a composite ranking. In addition, we included the ballots of a few anonymous elite players and coaches from different teams and regions. We used a weighted scoring system for votes, with Participants’ Ballots counting as 60% of the value of Staff Ballots.1

We’ll start with our top 10, and discussion about that group. Then we’ll reveal the entire top 25, followed by the complete ballots, and additional conversations about the rankings.

The Top 10

Overall RankPlayer NameRanking Pts.WeinerStephensZhengDunhamRaynorSC1SC2NW1SE1
1Dawn Culton1265111411341
2Madison Ong1175893334113
3Kennedy McCarthy114327252311514
4Mika Kurahashi104861246672182
5Tori Gray9754581551815910
6Erica Birdsong956920611469198
7Caroline Stone935101020712172213
8Anna Goddu907313298205474
9Clil Phillips847525242UR6UR
10Stacy Gaskill820121613128818UR7

[Editor: There are some sorting issues with the table that cannot be altered at the time. Our apologies for the inconvenience.]

Dawn Culton (UNC) was a near unanimous staff selection at #1. But a number of players were voted in the top two: Erica Birdsong (UNC), Kennedy McCarthy (Vermont), Madison Ong (UBC), Clil Phillips (Colorado) and the participants added Caroline Stone (Vermont) and Mika Kurahashi (UBC).

How did you decide how to order the top of your ballot?

Edward Stephens (Senior Staff Writer): I had a terrible time figuring out who should be at the top. Culton’s sky-high talent got the nod, even though it seems like she is deliberately taking a step back from the spotlight so far this year. And then picking a player after that was even harder. What I fell back on was thinking about which players were most likely to do every single thing a team needs in a given moment on both offense and defense. For me, that has to be Clil Phillips, who can (and does) lift Colorado as single-handedly as possible in a sport as naturally team-centric as ultimate.

Keith Raynor (Senior Editor): This is probably the best place to say this, but what are y’all on not having Dawn #1? What else could she possibly prove?

I had Kennedy McCarthy second and it wasn’t a hard choice for me. She’s the best offensive weapon in the division, an engine for your attack who comes with a get out of jail free card in the deep game. And finally, after years of being frustrated with her risk-taking on defense, all of that practice has sharpened into being pretty disruptive on that end, too.

Jenna Weiner (Senior Staff Writer): I’m on the same page as you on this, Keith, with Culton-McCarthy my 1-2. Especially with Vermont stepping up their game all-around this season, McCarthy felt like the clear selection behind Culton. In particular, thinking back to the Stanford Invite final when Vermont claimed their first signature win of the season, it was McCarthy throwing two of Ruckus’ final three assists, including the game winner. That’s an added element we haven’t seen as much from McCarthy over the years, which lifted her above the likes of Phillips for me.

There are a few players who only appear in a single individual top 10.

  • Edward Stephens: Jolie Krebs

  • Felicia Zheng: Ezra Weybright

  • Scott Dunham: Macy Vollbrecht

  • Keith Raynor: Devin Quinn and Emma Williamson

For each of those players, what do you see that everybody else is missing?

Raynor: Devin Quinn (UC Santa Barbara) is not the type of player I’m typically drawn to. On tape, she can appear a bit one dimensional. But the production is absolutely eye-popping, and given that UCSB does it with a shallow roster again elite competition, the consistency of that level of offensive influence is hard for me to ignore. You don’t see a lot of players who are receivers first who seem to be undeniable, despite being the offensive focal point, at an elite level. Too many games I’ve watched her and been like “The other team just does not have an answer.”

Clil and Gaskill are the big names for Quandary, but Emma Williamson (Colorado) feels like their most important player sometimes. She’s a high volume handler who is a plus defender and makes difficult plays without sacrificing efficiency. That’s the highest value in college ultimate in my mind.

Scott Dunham (Contributor): Regarding Macy Vollbrecht (Stanford), I’ll just quote Keith’s comments on Williamson, as Vollbrecht is all that and more: “She’s a high volume handler who is a plus defender and makes difficult plays without sacrificing efficiency. That’s the highest value in college ultimate in my mind.”

Others had Esther Filipek in or near top 10, but Vollbrecht is the most critical piece for Superfly. She’s a great target as well as thrower and may be the best deep-deep in the game who can win in the air or with her feet against any opposing cutter.

Felicia Zheng (D-I Reporter): Ezra Weybright (Oregon) made my top 10 for being a well-rounded threat and high-impact player for a top five team. They have massive backhands that open up the field for Oregon and are generally a very consistent thrower. Plus, they have a great sense of defensive positioning and timing that allows them to regularly make some jaw-dropping defensive plays.

Weiner: Not a unique top 10 pick, as Scott had her at #8, but y’all, where is the love for Anna Goddu (UBC)? Yes, Madison Ong and Mika Kurahashi are incredible and deserve their spots in the top five, but Goddu completes the Thunderbird triumvirate. She’s been the connective tissue for years for UBC and is one of the best two-way players in the division, and belongs right up there along her two other superstar teammates.

Stephens: It’s okay, Jenna, the player ballots picked Goddu right back up off the floor where Keith and Felicia left her.

My own out-on-a-limb take was having Jolie Krebs (SUNY Binghamton) in the top 10. Krebs is the old school kind of college star, the kind who plays virtually every point, collects virtually every other pass, who isn’t afraid to turn the disc over if it means staying aggressive, the kind who trades as much in willpower as skill or craft or athleticism.

That’s not because she doesn’t have the skill or craft or athleticism — on the contrary, she’s totally full-up in all of those departments. We’ve seen her get to be choosier in her moments when she plays with her club team (New York XIST) or, for instance, at Team USA tryouts. She doesn’t have that luxury at SUNY Binghamton, which, no offense to Big Bear, just isn’t a school that draws a lot of polished ultimate players out of high school. The fact that for three straight years now she has met the moment in the biggest ways to get that team to Nationals is astounding. And if her performance at Commonwealth Cup earlier this spring is any indication, she’s lining up a fourth at Regionals.

My placement of Krebs, more than any other player, gets at what I’m specifically looking for in this exercise (as opposed to a draft for club): which player can you count on the most to do everything necessary to set up a college team for success? And not in theory, but actually, demonstrably right now.

Scott Dunham has Erica Birdsong at #1 overall. Edward and Keith both have her significantly lower. Why the split opinions?

Dunham: I had a hard time deciding who to put number one and went with the candidate who I thought others had undervalued. Birdsong has made huge strides this year and in my mind has emerged as UNC’s best player. She is the key to Pleiades offense as initiating cutter and bailout target. Her throws have improved to the point where she is equally dangerous cutting deep or under and is a dominant defender when the UNC O-line turns the disc.

Raynor:Even before seeing Scott’s ballot, I feared I erred with Birdsong. I had iterations with her top 10. I still could. When she gets going, she’s one of the divisions most dangerous cutters and defenders. I feel like the loss of some of UNCs handling talent has revealed some limitations and she has some less than stellar big game lines. Very ready to run the math after Nationals and have her in like the top seven.

Weiner: I had Birdsong just inside of my top 10 as UNC’s next best player behind Culton, for many of the reasons y’all already mentioned. After starting her career as an incredible downfield cutter and defender, Birdsong has continued to build out her all-around game and that earned her a spot in my top 10, though I hear the argument for her slotting at least a few spots higher.

The staff seems to have cooled on Stacy Gaskill (Colorado) since last year. She placed top 10 on everyone’s list in 2023. This year she was only top 10 for one ballot (Keith Raynor). What changed?

Zheng: There’s no doubt in my mind that Gaskill is an incredible player. The sheer athletic edge she has over everyone else combined with her well rounded skillset of throws, game IQ, etc. means she can match up against anyone in the division.

However, I didn’t see much of Gaskill during the regular season. In my opinion, being a part of the top 10 includes having a strong presence in the division, too. I couldn’t justify putting her above the other very good players who are household names in the division this season. Therefore, her attendance meant I couldn’t put her as high as her objective ceiling as a player is. But maybe we shouldn’t take that kind of stuff into consideration.

Weiner: I agree with Felicia, it’s simply more difficult to evaluate a player’s contributions when we don’t see as much of them over the course of the season. And the continued rising tide of the division has caught up a bit to Gaskill who hasn’t necessarily seemed to have really elevated her game to the next level since last year. In 2023, Erica Birdsong and Caroline Stone were both snubbed from the top 25, while this time around both are top seven players in the division. That’s enough to drop Gaskill to the 12/13 spot where Felicia, Scott, and I all had Gaskill.

Raynor: Gaskill’s a great defender and puller, but has been a bit turnover prone as such an aggressive deep thrower. Some of that part of her game hasn’t really advanced in the way I had hoped back when she got a First Team All-American call in 2022. And as Jenna noted, there’s just very present and trustworthy players climbing the ranks.

The Top 25 and Beyond

  1. Our experience has shown that participants’ ballots trend towards regional concentrations and emphasizing the strength of their teammates, as well as other quirks such as occasionally not ranking themselves, which is why their ballots are weighted in this manner. 

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    Ultiworld is the premier news media site dedicated to the sport of ultimate. This article includes the work of a number of our staff or contributors that have been identified within the piece.

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