D-I Women’s 2024 Defensive Player of the Year

These three defenders put forth amazing and impactful seasons.

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.

Our awards continue with the Defensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt were the top defensive performers this spring. Whether through generating blocks, shutting down options, helping out teammates, or all of the above, these defenders stood out doing the tough work that too often go unrecognized.

D-I Women’s 2024 Defensive Player Of The Year

Edi Lam (Tufts)

Tufts’ Edi Lam has eyes for the disc at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Edi Lam is used to being the most dynamic player on the field. Perhaps we should have noticed sooner? They burst onto our collective college radar this year after winning a club national title with Brute Squad, and it’s clear their defense has been honed against top caliber competition. All season, they showed off their superpower of making the plays that most people only dream of: highlight reel layouts and footblocks1 don’t tell the full story though. Lam was often deployed to erase the other team’s best player from the field. Their mere looming presence in the vicinity was often enough to deter the throw. When it wasn’t, Lam’s exceptional use of positioning and in-their-pocket defense took care of the rest. Their determination to simply get the job done made them near-impossible to stop.

And for a defense-first player, Lam certainly found themselves driving Tufts’ offense with frequency. The same explosiveness that allowed them to stick to their match-up’s hip was leveraged on the other side of the disc to break ankles and make devastating front-cone cuts. They were instrumental in securing breaks for Tufts all season, ending nationals alone with 4 points and 10 assists. With all of these qualities, Lam has more than distinguished themselves as the best defender of the season.

– Felicia Zheng

First Runner-Up

Tori Gray (Carleton)

Carleton’s Tori Gray is outstretched for the backhand throw during pool play at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

If there’s one word to describe Tori Gray’s defensive powers, it’s hustle. Actually, perhaps it’s grind. Or maybe even: intensity. Ok, maybe there are a few too many words to choose from to keep it to just one. Perhaps this exemplifies the versatility Gray has as a player2. Let’s get one thing straight, Gray is all hustle all the time; being the first player down the field after the pull, chasing every disc down, and hustling to reset the play after every turn. She also played the role of a gritty, grind-y defender, poaching her matchup to bait throws she knew she could block. To add to their case, their speed and intensity constantly allowed Gray to be a step ahead of the player they were marking and always made it a challenge for that player to get open. In fact, in many instances, Gray practically made her player ineffective3. With 17 blocks4 in six games in Madison, all of these factors (hustle, grind, intensity) added up to make one great defensive force.

– Laura Osterlund

Second Runner-Up

Abbie Gillach (Colorado)

Colorado’s Abbie Gillach about to release a backhand at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

Abbie Gillach has been a force for Colorado Quandary since her rookie year – but it rose to a new level in 2024. Even among the star-studded Quandary roster, Gillach made a name for herself with her ability to apply diamond-forming amounts of pressure on defense. Gillach was always willing to put it all on the line to make the play, whether that be a big layout or finding that top gear for a well-timed run-through block. She was also consistently one of the best matchup defenders in the division, capable of playing lights-out defense on the other team’s every-other player. The 11 blocks she racked up at Nationals while shutting down some of the best players in the division say it all – Gillach was a defensive powerhouse whose impact on the field was undeniable.

– Felicia Zheng

  1. Not to mention the many toe-in catches! But this is a defensive award. 

  2. not only on defense but also on offense 

  3. if you don’t believe me, check out the job she did on high-caliber players during Carleton’s game against Stanford at nationals 

  4. and many other turns forced due to lock-down defense 

  1. Felicia Zheng
    Felicia Zheng

    Felicia Zheng is a D-I College Women’s reporter for Ultiworld. Originally from Wisconsin, she is currently on the East Coast playing with her beloved college team, Yale Ramona Quimby. In her free time, she enjoys talking about all things ultimate with teammates, friends, and strangers alike. You can reach her by email at [email protected].

  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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