WUL/PUL Update: Parity Reigns in WUL, Rising Earn Road Upset

Comebacks, big wins, and divisional face-offs.

Bay Area Falcons’ Vivian Chu pulls in a catch against San Diego Super Bloom during the 2024 WUL regular season. Photo: Ron Sellers

Welcome to the WUL/PUL Update, Ultiworld’s bi-weekly women’s semi-pro roundup. We’ve got action from Weeks Five and Six in the Western Ultimate League and Weeks Three and Four in the Premier Ultimate League to recap, plus an update to the both league’s power rankings.

WUL Week Five

Super Bloom Snaps Back, Alpenglow Best In Snow

The non-stop in-conference action kept rolling in Week Five of the WUL season with a pair of stellar games that each offered a record-setting performance. In the Southwest Conference, San Diego Super Bloom came roaring back from a four-goal deficit to beat the Arizona Sidewinders 20-18 on the road, while in the Northwest Conference, Colorado Alpenglow took down the Utah Wild 15-13 in a snowy Mountain West showdown.

After dueling down to the final seconds in Week Four, San Diego and Arizona once again put on a show as each team’s star players stepped up to the challenge. Until Super Bloom sparked into life late, though, this game seemed like it was bound to go the way of the Sidewinders. LP Aragon led the way for Arizona’s offense as she set a new league record with 551 throwing yards that included a team-high five assists, though Paige Applegate wasn’t far behind with four assists and Lauren Pisani notched a team-high four goals. While those kinds of numbers would normally spell success — and they did for most of the game as Arizona built a 17-13 lead early in the fourth quarter — San Diego didn’t go away. Led by another astounding all-around performance from Kaela Helton (4G/5A/1B) and solid supporting efforts from Rebeca Ellis (3G/2A), Kelli Iwamoto (2G/3A), and Dena Elimelech (2G/3A/1B), Super Bloom stormed back with a 7-1 run as the Sidewinders failed to score during the final seven-and-a-half minutes of game time.

Nothing would be quite so appropriate for a late-April game between the WUL’s two Mountain West representatives as a snow game, and that’s exactly what we got in the Mile High City. Abby Thorpe led the way for the hosts in a record-setting and record tying cutting clinic, racking up a league record 406 receiving yards while scoring four of Alpenglow’s first five goals en route to a league-record matching seven goals in total. Though they were never able to entirely put the Wild away, Thorpe and company took a late first quarter lead on the game’s first break and maintained their lead from there. Utah did maintain their position with Paige Kercher (4G/4A) and Kendra Miller (3G/3A/2B) serving as their offense’s primary conduits, but with Ari Nelson and Rory Veldman each contributing three assists for Colorado, the visitors couldn’t ever find the breakthrough.

WUL Week Six

Falcons Soar Past Super Bloom, Tempest Show Up Big Against Alpenglow

Another week of in-conference matchups between the top teams from each conference did not disappoint. In the Southwest Conference, the Bay Area Falcons were the first team to knock off the San Diego Super Bloom with a dominant 18-11 victory in front of their home crowd. On the other side of the league, the Colorado Alpenglow and Seattle Tempest showcased the strength of the Northwest Conference, with Tempest coming out on top with a 20-15 win.

For the second time in two games, the Bay Area blew out a 2023 finalist at home as they jumped out to a 6-2 lead at the end of the first quarter before growing the margin from there in each of the ensuing periods. As was the case in week two against Seattle, the Falcons’ offense was well-distributed across their roster, with Lexi Zalk and Kanari Imanishi leading the team in goals and assists respectively, though with only three apiece. San Diego’s offense, in stark contrast, seemed stuck in first gear most of the match, with Kaela Helton registering up a pedestrian-for-her 3A/1B statline and Dena Elimelech only able to convert on a pair of goals and an assist. However, Elimelech was ruthless on the defensive end, racking up an incredible seven blocks that ties her up with her teammate Kristen Pojunis for the most blocks in a game in league history. Despite the defensive dominance from Elimelech, though, Super Bloom’s offensive inefficiencies meant they could never truly mount a closing push as the margin stayed stubbornly in the Falcons’ favor as they rolled to another comprehensive home win.

In a return to form in their first home game since Week One, Seattle Tempest took down Colorado Alpenglow on the back of a balanced attack the likes of which we’ve become accustomed to the past two seasons. Sadie Jezierski was Tempest’s assist leader with four, powering the Seattle defensive line to seven total breaks, while the Seattle offense was helmed by Cheryl Hsu (2G/3A), Alexa Kirkland (3A/1B), and Carly Campana (3G/2A/1B). Those contributions across the roster helped Tempest take a 6-3 lead after the first quarter that grew to a five point 11-6 margin at the halftime break. After her record-setting showing against Utah in Week Five, Abby Thorpe was once again a constant endzone threat for Colorado, though this time only to the tune of three goals along with an assist and two blocks. She was joined by Bailey Shigley (2G/2A) and Sarah Levinn (3G) as Alpenglow attempted to make a late comeback after falling behind 20-11 in the fourth quarter, but didn’t have enough time to narrow the margin further than the final five.

Looking Ahead in the WUL

There’s only one game on the docket for Week Seven in the WUL as Seattle and Colorado face off for a second week in a row. This time, though, Alpenglow play hosts in a game that will see the winner punch their ticket to Championship Weekend. In Week Eight, Seattle host Utah in Tempest’s regular season finale, while the Bay Area will try to keep their home win streak alive against Arizona to potentially claim their spot at Championship Weekend alongside San Diego out of the Southwest.

PUL Week Three

Gridlock Great On The Road

Following their season opening win at home over the Milwaukee Monarchs, New York Gridlock made good on the road with a 16-13 win over Portland Rising, who were themselves making their season debut. Despite their limited roster, Gridlock took a 6-5 lead going into halftime before surging in the third quarter as they expanded their advantage to three up 11-8. Cassandra Brown, Valeria Cardenas, and Yina Cartagena were New York’s field generals on the day, distributing the disc with ease to the rest of Gridlock’s cast as no one player had more than two goals over the course of the game. For Portland, Colette Pellegrini was their center pivot point with Jean Huang their primary finisher, though Rising couldn’t quite generate the offense they needed to keep up with New York as they dropped their home opener.

PUL Week Four

Strike Struck Down In Opener, Raleigh And Philly Win Comfortably

Portland Rising traveled to Minnesota for their home opener and earned one of the club marquee wins: they took down the Strike 17-14. With a high level of intensity on both offense and defense, Rising left the home team looking shakier than they had all season last year. The fact that a third of the Minnesota roster is new to the team and they were the only team to have not played a PUL game this season did not help their performance at all, as they looked unprepared next to the steadier Portland side. Strong defense from the O-line helped ensure that, despite earning some opportunities, Minnesota managed just one break in the contest. Meanwhile, with two games under their belt, Portland Rising was on top of things, with fewer execution errors and an intensity on offense and defense. The game of inches favored the visitors too: while Strike’s athletes were inches away from several catches and blocks, Rising’s measurements and reads were often right on. All that said, the gap was one to three goals throughout, so while Portland never let up, it wasn’t a runaway, either.

The other two games of Week Four saw a pair of blowouts as Philadelphia Surge continued their dominant start to the season with a 21-12 win over the visiting Indy Red. Despite being able to keep the game within four at halftime, Red simply did not have enough to keep up with Surge, and the hosts strung together a 7-1 run over the course of the third quarter to put the game well out of reach and remain undefeated. Likewise, Raleigh Radiance put up a 7-1 run of their own in the final quarter of their matchup against Nashville Nightshade as they cruised to a 23-11 final margin. In spite of their Week One loss against DC Shadow, the defending champs continue to assert themselves as a credible threat to repeat sitting at 2-1 having played more games than every other team sans Nashville.

Looking Ahead in the PUL

The close of the first half of the PUL season sees a raft of games in Week Five, with the standout second matchup between DC and Raleigh. Atlanta faces Nashville in a second South Division matchup in a game held in Knoxville, while the only cross-divisional matchup of the weekend sees Philly hit the road for the first time this season as they face Austin, who are back in action after their week one opener. As for the rest of the North Division, Indy and Minnesota play host to New York and Milwaukee respectively as the six-team cohort continues to try and sort out who’s the best of the bunch up north.

WUL Power Rankings Week Four (5/3)

Rank Team Change Prior
1 +2 3
2 -1 1
3 -1 2
4 +1 5
5 -1 4
6 - 6

Discussion

  • There’s a new number one in the WUL Power Rankings! Following their comprehensive 18-11 win over San Diego, it’s now the Bay Area that leads the line.
  • Despite their heavy loss, the formerly undefeated Super Bloom only fall to second after back-to-back wins over Arizona in Weeks Four and Five.
  • The Northwest Conference remains a paragon of parity, meaning that Seattle’s second win in a row only brings them up a spot as the two conferences stay clustered for the time being.

PUL Power Rankings Week Two (5/3)

Discussion

  • The only movers in this edition of the PUL Power Rankings come from the North Division, with Week Three combatants New York and Portland the two risers at the expense of Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Indy.
  • A pair of matchups in each division in Week Five offers the potential of some serious rankings shake-ups, while Austin could make a statement when they host Philly in Torch’s first game since Week One.
  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. Laura Osterlund
    Laura Osterlund

    Laura picked up a disc her senior year of high school and hasn't put it down since. She played on the mixed/open team at Bethel University where she graduated with a journalism degree. Based out of the Twin Cities, MN, you can find her engaging in all levels of Ultimate: working with Minnesota Strike, playing mixed club, and grinding at local ultimate and goalty leagues. Her ultimate accomplishment - besides helping start a women's league (coming spring 2024) - is winning Z league with Big Blue.

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