D-III Women’s 2024 Player of the Year: Portland’s Julianna Galian

Recognizing the top performer of the 2024 season.

Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.

After announcing the finalists in our First-Team All-American, we are proud to present Player of the Year, our most prestigious award. Our Player of the Year winner is the best performer of the 2024 college season, and the highest vote-getter for All-American honors. The winner is not eligible for consideration in any of our other individual awards. The runner-ups are the second and third most vote-getters.

D-III Women’s 2024 Player Of The Year

Julianna Galian (Portland)

What happens when an unstoppable force never meets an immovable object? You get Julianna “JJ” Galian running roughshod over the Nationals competition, leading the field with an eye-popping 43 assists, fifteen more the second-most. Galian was already a force to be reckoned with in 2023, leading her team in every stat en route to an All-American First Team appearance and BPOTY first runner-up nod. After Portland graduated 10 players from their 2023 semifinal appearance roster, Galian returned in 2024 as one of just two UPRoar seniors and ascended to an even higher level.

In D-III especially, a star player can have an outsized impact on the game, with a year or two of experience making a world of difference against many competing in their first ultimate season. Galian’s depth of experience in particular – making the bracket at Nationals every year with Portland and a stint on the local elite women’s club team Schwa – created a matchup impossibility as she expanded her skills arsenal to include a barrage of downfield hucks in 2024. Rarely taking a point off, Galian alternated between starting in the backfield, happy to carve up defenses with strike and seven cuts off smooth resets, and downfield, using excellent footwork and agility to gain possession in isolation and boost a well-placed huck from power position. Her combination of quickness and IQ translated perfectly to defense, where she frequently stymied the opponent’s attack with shutdown defense on handlers.1 In addition to 14 assists, Galian’s nine blocks through three pool play games ensured Portland only ceded 15 scores and were never broken.

Somehow, Galian’s output only increased as the competition grew stiffer. She contributed 12 points as Portland rolled Union in a surprise 1v2 quarterfinal matchup, posted an unfathomable 14 points in UPRoar’s wire-to-wire semi win over a St. Olaf team who’d been relatively unchallenged until then, and hung 13 more on Carleton in the final, including the game-winning goal off a patented seven cut. Her stats against St. Olaf and Carleton account for the greatest and runner-up single-game scoring performances across all divisions in any game at Nationals, and they came in the semis and final.2 Galian consistently made the other team’s best matchups look out of place on the field, using an explosive first step to win upline battles or, when they adjusted, leaving defenders burned with her ability to change direction and launch unmarked backhand hucks from the break side. Even when defenses saw the same cut over and over, Galian’s deep bag of stutter steps, hesi cuts, and double moves produced the same result: a wide-open JJ.

What makes Galian’s performance truly special is her ability to do all of this while starting from a downfield space in the stack. The dominance we saw from Galian in the handler space is rarely seen in D-III, as she was able to control the handler space as UPRoar’s primary cutter. Her versatility, field and matchup awareness, and overall knowledge of the game allowed Galian to be an unstoppable force. While she had favorite targets in Mallori Boddy and Megan Maxwell, throwing over 80% of each of their scores, Galian found 10 different UPRoar players in the end zone throughout the tournament. Her combined 61 goals and assists at the tournament is tied for the greatest amount of scores ever across all divisions.34 And as notable as her scoring prowess was her ability to get her team hyped, frequently spiking the disc and yelling in celebration to keep her team’s energy operating at full capacity, as she did in the final when a four-hour weather delay could’ve dampened the strongest of spirits.

The historically unmatched display of ultimate excellence we saw at D-III Nationals left no doubt in the voter’s minds as to the best player this season. By unanimous decree, JJ Galian is your 2024 D-III Women’s Division Player of the Year.

Player of the Year Runner-Up

Rowan Dong (Carleton)

Player of the Year Second Runner-Up

Gemma Munck (Whitman)

  1. Look no further than the semifinal match with St. Olaf to see this in action 

  2. Credit to Dan Young, who provided these stats 

  3. Yes, that includes D-I and men’s divisions, though does not account for instances at Nationals where stats were not taken for consolation games, nor Josie Gillett’s rumored 62 scores in 2018 when stats were not recorded in bracket games 

  4. Keep an eye out for Dan Young’s Nationals stat piece coming soon, which will break down these and more standout performances 

  1. Anna Browne
    Anna Browne

    Anna Browne is a writer for the D-III Women's Division. She has been playing competitive ultimate since 2019, spending her college years at Michigan Tech. Anna is based in Detroit, Michigan where she plays in the Women's Club Division and coaches the Michigan Tech Superior Ma's.

  2. Theresa Diffendal
    Theresa Diffendal

    Theresa began playing frisbee in 2014 at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh. Having lived all over Pennsylvania, she’s settled at the moment in Harrisburg with her partner and plays with the mixed club team Farm Show. She received her BA from Bryn Mawr where she played with the Sneetches and her Master’s from the University of Maryland.

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