D-I Women’s 2024 Coaches of the Year

Celebrating the best off-field leaders of the 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.

Our final D-I award podium is for the Coaches of the Year. As so many teams have added more and more sideline-savvy consultants to their roster with less asked of a single head coach, this has essentially morphed into “Coaching Staff of the Year.” Coaches can impact the game in so many ways — tactics, motivation, communication, personnel management, program development, skill-building, etc. — and it can be hard to divine what exactly each has contributed to their team. But good coaching is something that we feel that ‘we know it when we see it.’

D-I Women’s 2024 Coaches Of The Year

Robin Davis and Shayla Harris (Stanford)

Stanford’s coach in disbelief after Superfly’s comeback to win semifinals at the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

In most cases, when a person or group has finished top-three in an award category for six of the last nine years, you would think there would be some voter fatigue. In most cases, finishing on the podium in back-to-back years is enough to make voters go, “Maybe someone else should get this award.” Thing is, the Stanford Superfly coaching staff aren’t like most cases, and sit at the top of the Coach of the Year podium for a second time in three seasons.

With Stanford’s level of team and coaching success over recent years, it feels as if their secret sauce should have become obvious at this point. To be fair, the numerous zone looks that Robin Davis and co. implement are certainly a big part of the equation, and in the wet and windy conditions at Nationals they paid off big time. But if that was Superfly’s secret sauce, other teams would have presumably followed those victorious vapor trails, and yet scarce few other programs have been able to have the results that this Stanford squad have put up of late. So what’s the difference?

Perhaps it’s the Superfly coaching staff’s personnel management, allowing for key contributors like Anika Quon, Anna Fisher-Lopez, and even top assist-thrower Esther Filipek to take their time coming back from injury in order to be at peak performance come Nationals. Or maybe it’s their willingness to make critical in-game adjustments, even if that adjustment is having to bench star players who are having their worst game in years, a decision that is far easier to make in theory than in practice. Or it’s simply finding ways to put their players in their best positions to maximize their success, something that all coaches say they try to do but very few actually achieve. Arguably, though, it’s all of the above, with aspects ranging from the most technical to the most personal, that help the Stanford coaching staff reach unprecedented heights year in, year out.

– Jenna Weiner

First Runner-Up

Jessie Jones, Mary Rippe, Liam Searles-Bohs, and Walker Matthews (North Carolina)

North Carolina Pleiades’ coaches pose with the trophy after winning the 2024 D-I College Championships. Photo: Sam Hotaling – UltiPhotos.com

At first glance, the UNC coaching staff might not seem the most obvious candidates for a Coach of the Year nomination. They had now two-time Player of the Year Dawn Culton at their disposal, along with a deep, talented, and experienced team coming off of three-straight national championships. And yet, unlike in some seasons past, Pleiades’ success this year wasn’t preordained. The streak was broken, they had to make due without two of their star players in Theresa Yu and Erica Birdsong at multiple points over the course of Nationals weekend, and they had to come back from the brink against Colorado in that incredible semifinal comeback. While the history books may chalk this up as just the next in the line of fated UNC success, we in the present moment can recognize how critical the contributions of this Pleiades coaching staff were en route to that unprecedented fourth straight title.

– Jenna Weiner

Second Runner-Up

Jackson Dolan, Emilie Mohler, and Ashika Mani (UPenn)

Pennsylvania Venus’ 2024 coaches and captains.

We’ve spent all season praising the historic year Pennsylvania Venus has had and the star players leading the way for them. Now it’s time to give credit where credit is due to the incredible coaching staff that made that success possible. Jackson Dolan and company have helped Venus make strides forward as a program in the past few years. All of that work culminated in a banner season full of moments to celebrate.

Throughout the season, UPenn exhibited the traits of a well-coached team. They made smart strategic adjustments, rose to the challenge of high pressure moments, and weaponized their strengths to their fullest extent. Dolan carefully developed a team that both allowed its stars to shine and could run through its depth. It’s clear that Venus’ strong coaching elevated the team beyond expectations to reach new heights. With a dedicated coaching staff at the helm, Venus has a bright future ahead.

– Felicia Zheng

  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. 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].

TAGGED: , , , , , ,

TEAMS: , ,

More from Ultiworld
Comments on "D-I Women’s 2024 Coaches of the Year"

Find us on Twitter

Recent Comments

Find us on Facebook

Subscriber Exclusives

  • Inside the Circle LIVE: European Open Round 2/3 Rapid Reax
    Subscriber podcast
  • SALT vs. Drag’n Rust (Masters Mixed Pool Play)
    Video for standard subscribers
  • regret. vs Crown (Masters Mixed Pool Play)
    Video for standard subscribers
  • PDXtra vs. SPENT (Masters Women’s Pool Play)
    Video for standard subscribers