Honor some of the best performers of the university season that was.
April 8, 2020 by Nolan Schmalenberger, Sean Brady, Alex Rubin, Patrick Stegemoeller and Edward Stephens in prices with comments
The Ultiworld 2020 College Awards are awarded by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the authors. Find out how Spin can help you and your team to be your best this season.
Each spring, Ultiworld presents our annual D-I College awards. While the 2020 university season certainly did not go as we all hoped and was not allowed to reach its natural conclusion, we still want to celebrate and honor the great performances we have already seen this spring.
Our selections are based on a sanctioned game as if the season ended today. Given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis during the rest of 2020, we may or may not be witnessing post-season events that have traditionally strongly influenced our award selections. With what season at occurred, we examined the tape, talked to the players, coaches and spectators, and chatted with our reporting team. Although the amount of data is limited – and we recognize that not all players and teams have the same chances of playing – we felt that we had enough to give our opinion on the players who had the greatest effect on this season.
Ultiworld is pleased to announce our seventh annual D-I 100% American teams. These players were selected for their overall performance during the 2020 university season. Please join us in honoring the best university players of this season.
Player of the year
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Offensive player of the year award
Rookie of the Year Award
Best Player of the Year Award
Coach of the Year Award
First American team
All American Second Team
D-I Men’s 2020 Second Team All Americans
Lucas Chen (Washington)
After mowing the competition and stepping away as champions both at the invitation of Santa Barbara and at the invitation of Presidents’ Day, Washington stood out as a real contender for the national title this spring. While many of the applause rightly went to their deep, suffocating D line, the Sundodgers’ best player was the driving force behind their attack. Lucas Chen has been an offensive buzzsaw this season and has rendered almost all of the defensemen he has faced on the West Coast helpless, winning second prize for offensive player of the year.
An absolute nightmare to keep isolated or anywhere near the end zone, Chen showed how intelligence and speed can overcome small stature. His elite launches and decision making were crucial to Washington’s success at the start of the season and if it was really their year to run for a title, Chen would have been the main reason to get there.
KJ Koo (Cal Poly SLO)
Koo burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2019, including making big plays under the lights during Cal Poly SLO’s national semifinal match against UNC. This year, with a handful of good faith stars from the 2019 team that left, Koo was invited to play a more prominent role as an anchor in SLOCORE’s defensive line.
The sophomore delivered calmly and confidently. It may have been the extra year of experience, maybe it was the bucket hat, but Koo was one of the main reasons for Cal Poly’s slightly surprising success in their three 2020 tournaments. He assumed the majority shooting tasks and stood out as a defender with an elite field vision, generating blocks and turns with his intelligent poachers. However, he was perhaps even more impressive after the turn. Many points on Cal Poly’s line D seemed to follow this formula: take possession of the disc, bring the disc to Koo, watch the magic happen. A creative and powerful pitcher, Koo has done enough to reach the awards podium only in his second academic season, and he is in the position for many more awards in the years to come.
Joe White (Carleton)
Carleton’s results with and without Joe White on the pitch speak for themselves. With him in mind, CUT reached the Florida warm-up semi-final in February. A month later, despite the alignment of a team of young national team players, top recruits and a great class of elders all the time, CUT suffered disappointing losses without him at Smoky Mountain Invites and fell into the pre-quarter round.
When he is on the field, White attracts the attention of the defense. Endowed with exceptional physical gifts as well as a well-developed disc skill set, he makes dominance of the offensive side of the disc quite relaxed. He can win with his legs or throws and use his length to create lags. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the Ultiworld Film Room feature on its offensive severity. No one moves the attention of a defense like White. Not to be outdone in defense, the Whites have the size and the speed to counter any threat.
Although he has only played in one tournament this season, White has clearly demonstrated his effectiveness and has secured a place in the second American team.
Elijah Long (North Carolina)
More than any other player, Elijah Long maintained the pace of the machine in North Carolina in 2020, point to point and season to season. He perfectly evolved into an initiating manager role after the departure of Matt Gouchoe-Hanas and was just as transparent in his handling of the offense at Darkside. Everything that Anders Juengst and Liam Searles-Bohs did on the field was facilitated by the game of Long’s intoxicating handler, creating easy angles of attack. He put his years of D-line experience to good use whenever more aggressive elements of the UNC gave possession, securing some crucial blocks to recover the disc for Darkside and keep the machine humming.
A reel of highlights of Long’s best pieces this season would be less flashy than most of its peers on the All-America list, but that’s the point. Zipping throws from improbable angles with his distant tail and then calmly collecting a discharge to redo it, Long was the master of his field in 2020.
Liam Searles-Bohs (North Carolina)
It was clear to anyone paying attention to UNC Darkside in January and February that Liam Searles-Bohs was just starting the season. The 2019 offensive player of the year was no longer part of the offense. He made a required handful of exemplary pieces, but overall, he relegated to the stack and sidelines, where he could walk at his own pace through entire halves of ultimate.
But, to borrow from an old meme by Chuck Norris, Searles-Bohs does not sleep: he waits. By the time Darkside closed a resounding tournament win at the Smoky Mountain Invite, the reigning OPOTY had once again become Prime Minister – at times, the first player in the country. He played three games (two pounds after tight coverage and an incredible capture) in the final of this tournament that perhaps no one else in the country could have had. There is no doubt that the truncated season has diminished the full force of the junior’s impact on the field; but for a brief and brilliant moment, Searles-Bohs proved why he remains one of the giants of the division.
Alex Atkins (Colorado)
In a busy team that promotes a disciplined style of play, it is difficult to stand out. However, when you look at Colorado, it’s hard not to notice Alex Atkins. He’s tall and fast, of course, but Atkins has taken his game to a new level this season by being a versatile playmaker who climbs very hard in the clutch.
In the final of Stanford’s invitation, he found crucial breakthrough goals and blocks that stopped the momentum. An awkward player off the pitch but an absolute tiger while playing, Atkins has become the kind of player you count on when things go wrong. Starting in 2020 after a breakthrough last May in Texas, Atkins was much more than Robin for Batman from 1st teammate Quinn Finer and should play an even more important role for Mamabird next year.
Joe Merrill (Brigham Young)
Look at Joe Merrill senior of BYU CHI with the disc in his hands and you will quickly see … a lot of setbacks in early stall to refocus the attack and some low-impact hitting passes. He mostly approaches throwing like a game of hot potato. Take the easy option, move the disc quickly. But that’s all he does without the record that makes him one of the best players in the country.
A device on the O line and a regular crossover function on the defense, Merrill is one of those rare cutters who never stop cutting. His constant movement was the element that prevented the huge CHI offense from really getting bogged down in 2020. Although he unreservedly played this role of “engine” to perfection, he was much more than a role player . Between the surging bids to save the bowed passes, the singularly visionary strikes to unorthodox spaces to give his pitchers a look at the goal, or any number of outrageous deep blocks, the game downstream from Merrill was a concoction exceptional worker and sublime.
TAGGED: USAU College, USAU College D-I Men’s, 2020 College Awards, 2020 D-I Men’s Awards, Alex Atkins, All-America, Elijah Long, Joe Merrill, Joe White, KJ Koo, Liam Searles-Bohs, Lucas Chen,
TEAMS: Brigham Young, Cal Poly SLO, Carleton, Colorado, North Carolina, Washington