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

Claire Lee (Macalester)

Macalester’s Claire Lee rips a backhand at the 2024 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

“Where is Claire Lee on the awards podiums?” you may be asking yourself as you see OPOTY and DPOTY come and go with nary a mention of the Macalester phenom. It’s fair to say Lee, playing just her second year of college ultimate after a club season with mixed Nationals attendees DC Rally, put the entire division on notice with her D-III Nationals performance. Lee finished the tournament second overall in assists behind only the POTY and first in blocks with an unbelievable 43, over twice the number of blocks recorded by the next-most, Bella Steedly, with 21. Lee’s ability to see the field and read the play allowed her to poach freely, gumming up offenses as an intimidating presence in the lane and daring them to test the deep space. When she got the turn – and she did: Lee never recorded fewer than five blocks a game at Nationals – she had some of the smoothest breaks and most powerful away shots in the field.

And therein lay the conundrum: her play was so impactful, her hucks capturing attention, her poaches demanding respect, that in addition to winning BPOTY, Lee finished our initial voting as both second runner-up for OPOTYY and first runner-up for DPOTY. But a player can only finish on one Awards podium,1 so Lee was awarded her highest finish. Because how else can you describe Lee’s 2024 but a breakout? A blast into instant contention for one of the division’s top players after Lee outread every offense’s throws to space, intercepted them with style, and turned to launch a diving flick blade or towering backhand huck down the length of the field, time after time?

Maybe you balk at the turns inevitable when given the greenest of lights,2 but you cannot deny the production, the gravity with which she played that earned key upsets at Regionals and scored the Pursesnatchers victories against all but the semifinalists at Nationals – and as a sophomore! Lee is BPOTY in 2024, but the future undoubtedly holds even greater heights, and there will be time for Offensive Player, Defensive Player, and even just outright Player of the Year if this continues.

– Theresa Diffendal

First Runner-Up

Maddy Brown (Carleton)

Carleton’s Maddy Brown reaches for the grab at the 2024 D-III College Championships. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

Another breakout player who jumped onto the scene with great athleticism and an innate knowledge of the game, Maddy Brown had a star season and was clearly a key contributor to the runner up run that Eclipse made at Nationals. Brown was a standout as a cutter on Carleton College, racking up 10G and 4A on an incredibly deep team3. With exceptional positioning and awareness as a defensive player, Brown was one of the only players that could slow down the POTY JJ Galian. Using superb hip positioning, Brown was able to dictate where her offensive player went, oftentimes completely locking down the cutter and taking them out of the play. While her six blocks on the weekend may not seem like a lot, her incredible lockdown defense gave her DPOTY second runner-up nods in a year that was chock full of high block counts. Brown’s exceptional defensive prowess allowed her to match up on the opposing teams stars, leaving offensive powerhouses Rowan Dong and Frankie Saraniti with easier matchups, leading to numerous Eclipse breaks on the weekend. As just a sophomore, Maddy Brown has space to continue to make an impact on the division for years to come.

– Anna Browne

Second Runner-Up

Audrey Stineman (Portland)

Portland’s Audrey swings this disc to work against Carleton’s defense in the 2024 D-III College Championships final. Photo: Rudy DeSort – UltiPhotos.com

Our only junior to make the BPOTY podium this year, Stineman rose into a strong role on the championship Portland UPRoar squad. With a strong stat line of 6G/15A/8D, Stineman was an exceptional distributor. What truly sets her apart from her teammates is her conservation of the disc, recording only 11 turns on the entire weekend. Comparing Stineman’s performance to her teammates Galian and Ashley, the only other two players with more than four assists4, Stineman’s efficiency becomes clear. This was especially clear in pool play, where Stineman only threw a single turn across three games. While the nerves of the bracket may have gotten to Stineman, she still recorded four goals and five assists against the strongest opponents UPRoar faced. While Galian is moving on after this season, Stineman’s performance at Nationals sets UPRoar up for continued success into the future.

– Anna Browne

  1. The so-called Kami Groom rule after Groom’s 2023 club season 

  2. 89!!! According to USAU’s admittedly incomplete data, the most turns thrown at a college Nationals tournament. Ever. In fact, the top five highest turnover totals in USAU data all belong to players at 2024 D-III Women’s Nationals. Thanks to Dan Young for the stat. 

  3. Every player on Carleton College Eclipse’s roster recorded a goal or assist at Nationals 

  4. Galian recorded 53 turns on 43 assists while Ashley recorded 41 turns on 17 assists 

  1. Zack Davis
    Zack Davis

    Former D-III player for Spring Hill College, poached on the breakside.

  2. 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.

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