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

Highlighting players who took a leap toward stardom in the division this spring.

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.

The Breakout Player of the Year recognizes rising juniors and seniors who made themselves known in a new light this season. While our nebulous definition of “breakout” reflects an evolving set of criteria, rather than celebrating the improvement of those from whom big things were already expected, we aim to use this award to celebrate the emergence of those who previously have not been on the national radar. Whether it be through growth in ability, role, or both, the Breakout Player of the Year and runners-up honor those who rose to the occasion with improved and high-impact performance on a new level this season — putting them squarely in the spotlight moving forward.

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

Faye Burdick (Colorado)

Colorado’s Faye Burdick (left) pressures a UNC reception during the 2024 D-I College Championships semifinal. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

What on earth happened to Faye Burdick from June 2023 and February 2024? Was there some sort of ooze she stepped into that transformed her overnight from a mild-mannered college rookie to a superhuman? Or did she lock herself in an NFL practice facility for six months with nothing but weights, a stack of discs, and an agility ladder to keep her company? These are stupid questions, of course. But the stupidity of them only emphasizes how dumb we were struck by her total metamorphosis from Year 1 to Year 2 with Quandary.

No one would have batted an eye if Burdick had merely emerged as another athletic defender on a team that has factory-produced athletic defenders for years. No one would have thought twice if Burdick slotted productively into a goal-scoring niche on the offense. No one would have blinked if she had begun to adapt her throws to the pace of the college game. Those are all normal development paths for a good player. And Burdick leapt right over them.

What Burdick accomplished in 2024 defies explanation. She was an eye-popping defender and cutter for the entire spring, a can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her force. Keen observers of the division would whisper to one another, “Have you watched Faye Burdick yet?” like they’d witnessed genuine alchemy. And then there was Nationals, where her numbers proved even more golden than the reputation she had gained in the months leading into it. Blocks? 12 – tied for Colorado’s team lead with All-American 1st Teamer Clil Phillips. Goals? 13 – tops on Quandary. Assists? 16 – once again, tops on Quandary. Burdick was one of only three players at the tournament to post a triple-double. The others? Teammate Abbie Gillach and, um, Player of the Year Dawn Culton. Do I even need to say which of the three netted the highest plus/minus?

The 2024 season must have been a nebula, because we all just saw the birth of a star.

– Edward Stephens

First Runner-Up

Audrey Parrott (Carleton)

Carleton’s Audrey Parrott eyes the clap catch at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

It’s possible that no player exemplifies a breakout player quite like Audrey Parrott. Unlike many of her teammates, especially those who were on our radar at the start of the season, Parrott came to the team as a true rookie last year, as the only team that she has played for at any level1 is Syzygy. (Even the sudden rise of Faye Burdick, above, was precipitated by some high school ultimate before college.) And yet, one would never be able to tell thanks to her ever-growing presence and awareness on the field. The thing is, she made big moves in moments when it mattered and always seemed to find a way to get open for one of the division’s best teams against the division’s hardest competition. Not only that, but she took on some of the most well-known, toughest matchups to guard, helping to minimize their impact — except when she was outright erasing them with some of the division’s best block instincts.

– Laura Osterlund

Second Runner-Up

Calliope Cutchins (Michigan)

Michigan’s Calliope Cutchins dishes a backhand at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

After the incredible sophomore campaign she put together this year, Calliope Cutchins has firmly established herself as one of the premier throwers in the division. Last season, Cutchins was a highly touted recruit for Michigan Flywheel who immediately shouldered a large offensive load for them. Flywheel fell short of Nationals though, so we didn’t get a chance to see her on the big stage.

This season, Cutchins fully grew into her backfield role and looked comfortable delivering precise throws under pressure. She could be relied upon to throw Flywheel out of trouble when games got tight and certainly played a large part in the team’s long-awaited return to Nationals. And when she got to Madison, even against the variable conditions, Cutchins was unflappable, directly contributing to about 40% of Michigan’s points over five games. This may be the first podium finish for Cutchins, but don’t expect it to be the last. The Great Lakes – and, perhaps, the entire division – is hers for the foreseeable future.

– Felicia Zheng

  1. for now; as she is rostered with Drag’n Thrust this summer 

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

  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.

  3. 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].

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