The POTY, OPOTY, DPOTY, and BPOTY.
The aboriginal abounding division of the Western Ultimate Alliance is in the books, and by all accounts, it was a aural success. An best run by the abysmal Seattle Tempest set the bar for the league’s future. Forth the way, a cardinal of players took advantage of the new date and its spotlight to accomplish their abilities known. Some were names admirers already knew, abacus to their bays cases and legacies, while others are bottom accepted players architecture their own adventure for a added audience.
Our agents sat bottomward to actualize our account of the top performers in abounding of our acceptable categories: Amateur of the Year, Abhorrent Amateur of the Year, Arresting Amateur of the Year, and “know it aback you see it” Breakout Amateur of the Year. We’ve broke into our own avant-garde EDGE analytics. Here, we account the stars of the 2022 Western Ultimate Alliance season, with Aboriginal Aggregation All-WUL and Additional Aggregation All-WUL to come.
Few teams accept the affluence of accepting one of the best players in the apple on their roster. Kaela Helton, one of abandoned 14 players called to represent Aggregation USA at the Apple Amateur in Alabama afterwards this year, was aloof that for San Diego. So naturally, they… put her on the D-line? Super Bloom gambled on their acceptance in their breach to acquiesce Helton to beat any accustomed bold in their favor with breach opportunities, and it brought them all the way to the championship game.
When Helton was on the field, San Diego’s aegis was elite. She was the aboriginal actuality bottomward on the pull, was consistently in the appropriate position to clog throwing lanes or annoy the reset. Above that, a highlight reel could be fabricated of her handblocks alone. Aback Super Bloom got the turn, there was Helton sprinting downfield, creating fastbreak opportunities, or ambience up the breach with a adapted throw. It was as if she was optimized to accomplish a comedy on every point. Aback she stepped on the field, she was the Roadrunner, boundlessly active as the Wile E. Coyote activity boring wore bottomward afterwards throwing aggregate in their armory to stop her. That activity and charge to giving every point her all was what helped her aggregation get as far as they did, and fabricated Super Bloom amateur arrangement examination whenever they played.
While Helton’s aegis accepted to be cardinal to their run to the final, it was her breach that was best visibly a footfall aloft the competition. Helton could actualize breach with any defender, no amount how skilled. While a aegis could booty abroad her aboriginal option, it larboard them able-bodied abaft her aback she created addition opportunity. Her change of administration and first-step access fabricated her an baffling botheration all division long. Alike adjoin Seattle in the final, the gameplan for Tempest seemed to be acceptance Helton to move advisedly aback into the abettor amplitude — annihilation to abstain her assault her defenders abysmal for the goal.
By the end of the approved season, Morgan Zajonc led the alliance in goals scored. That’s already an absorbing stat, but it doesn’t acrylic the accomplished picture. Forth with actuality the leagues top ambition scorer, Zajonc was abandoned one block and one abetment abroad from a amateur bifold in the approved division — article she bound rectified at Championship Weekend. Ask any actor in WUL Fantasy and they’ll acquaint you one fact: you appetite Zajonc on your team.
Zajonc was absorbing by every metric, but no added so than by the eye test. Oregon was already calm with the disc but Zajonc was about serene. You could see the aggregation achieve aback Zajonc was marshalling the line, no amount what position they were on the field, they had abounding assurance that the point was activity to go in their favor. For the best part, they were right. Zajonc was never adjourned out once, and had abandoned bristles turnovers, by far the everyman of any high-usage star. Actual little could abash the Onyx star, admitting how generally the activity tried. Assuming Zajonc can advance this akin of productivity, the absolute alliance will be on apprehension for years to come.
McLaughlin’s addition avant-garde stats hero — sorry, is the avant-garde stats hero, arch the alliance in EDGE metrics. She can affirmation the alliance almanac in accepting yards, authoritative her a standout cutter immediately, and somehow did it all afterwards a distinct bead or accepting error! If McLaughlin had a comedy on the disc, it was activity to be a completion.
Arizona was actual abundant a run and gun team, which ill-fitted McLaughlin perfectly. She could amplitude the acreage bigger than best could, but her accurate aptitude was in blitzing accomplished defenders who anticipation they were preventing her from accepting an accessible under, abandoned to get spun about as she blew by. With 12 goals and 12 assists in the approved season, McLaughlin was a closer, and it’s safe to say that she played an outsized role in her team’s third abode accomplishment at Championship Weekend.
Thanks to the stratification amid ‘handler’ and ‘cutter’ roles in our sport, we rarely see a amateur who can command both positions with according effectiveness. There are abounding who may affirmation to be a hybrid, by few can alive up to the accepted set by Aly Steinfeld this season. Looking at absolute yards alone, Steinfeld would be an aloft boilerplate handler, acknowledgment to 923 absolute throwing yards in the approved season, and an aloft boilerplate cutter, with 1049 absolute accepting yards. Combine that together, and you accept the additional accomplished absolute yards produced by any amateur this season.1 Aly Steinfeld didn’t aloof comedy as a accurate hybrid: she may accept able it.
It’s not aloof yards acquired that favor Steinfeld. She racked up 12 goals and 14 assists, added announcement the anecdotal of her acceptable the amalgam blueprint. She’s additionally a mother, which isn’t included on the carbon area but may explain aloof how she became so acceptable at bamboozlement assorted responsibilities on the field. Oregon frequently angry to Steinfeld to be the acknowledgment they bare on offense, she delivered time and time again. It turns out aback you accept a amateur who is 5’11″, has aristocratic club acquaintance at the accomplished level, and isn’t abashed to blaze off the casual huck, acceptable things can happen.
Oregon’s semifinal was a absolute archetype of how the aggregation relied on Steinfeld. San Diego did their scouting, and came out with a acclimatized aegis that shut bottomward best options Onyx approved to authorize aboriginal on, so they angry to Steinfeld. She had bisected the team’s abetment in the aboriginal division and a little shy of that by halftime. This happened time and afresh throughout the season, including in Oregon’s bound bold adjoin Seattle, area Tempest about pulled abroad with a win admitting Steinfeld’s four goals and three assists. These amateur weren’t anomalies for Steinfeld; they were the norm. For that reason, she’s the absolute OPOTY champ for the aboriginal abounding division of the WUL.
Los Angeles was abandoned a few goals shy of authoritative it to Championship Weekend, and that was abundantly acknowledgment to the assignment of Maggie O’Connor on their O-line. O’Connor was an about affirmed three-goals-a-game player. In the amateur area she wasn’t scoring three goals, she was acid up assists instead. Her abundance put her in the top 10 in absolute yardage, and she was one of the few to do so primarily due to her cutting.2
With how abundant aptitude was accent in the alliance as a whole, few players were able to angle out like O’Connor. Her alloy of athleticism and authentic affection set the accent for Astra, befitting them in angry ambit of Championship Weekend admitting a boxy alpha to their season. While cartoon the oppositions toughest matchups and acceptance the albatross of initiating the breach on best points, O’Connor still was one of the best clamp players in the alliance aback switched over to the D-line. Her aggregation adapted on an absurd 75% of the breach affairs they had aback she was on the field, and while she did end the division with three blocks, the majority of her appulse was acquainted afterwards the about-face aback she was able to run with her arresting band to bite in that break. Yes, alike aback arena defense, O’Connor was still an abhorrent powerhouse.
Kercher was the league’s capital high-volume handler, and the numbers she ample up are remarkable. She led the alliance in throwing yards, binding the Sidewinders’ LP Aragon by 15 yards, admitting arena beneath credibility afterwards missing some aboriginal division action. Yet she additionally added addition 400 or so accepting yards, acceptable the abandoned amateur to concealment 2000 yards total, her 2275 over 300 yards added than the abutting amateur (Onyx’s Tajima, arena 35 added points). As you can imagine, she additionally had absolutely a few completions (232, fourth in the league) and assists (14, angry for third) to go forth with all of those yards. It wasn’t efficient, but achievement is output.
It doesn’t booty a mathematician to actualize a action to call Kercher’s capability from the backfield. Her adeptness to amplitude the acreage with raw adeptness showed up affluence on the band and it was bright aloft her accession with the Wild that she could atom their breach with calm abettor talent.
No accolade was added of a lock than this one. Anyone watching the WUL amateur — which were all accessibly accessible and streamed on YouTube — could accept apparent Pojunis get block afterwards block afterwards block on a abreast account basis. The account of Pojunis’ division was aback she finer hushed Astra one Saturday in April, notching seven blocks and banishment a added two aerial arrest hucks from LA afore capping the night with the bold acceptable goal. In that bold alone, Pojunis may accept set a arresting almanac that may never be broken.
As anybody is aware, it wasn’t aloof a distinct bold for Pojunis. She led the alliance in blocks for the approved division at 17, the abutting abutting had 12.3 According to our EDGE avant-garde analytics, Pojunis was the fourth best admired amateur in the absolute league, and had a accepted MVP-quality campaign. Aside from Kaela Helton and Qxhna Titcomb, no added D-line amateur fabricated it in the top 10. She’s consistently been accepted for her defense, but Pojunis seemed to akin up in this alliance in a way that few added amateur could.
Watching Pojunis comedy aegis in a area is like watching a sheepdog access a herd. None of her opponents absolutely appetite to analysis her by alignment too far from the centermost of the field, and those that do are bound brought aback into line. Words like ‘relentless’ and ‘gritty’ are generally acclimated to call arresting players, but for Pojunis, they don’t go far enough. There’s a agony with her accomplishment that consistently gives her that aftermost little bit of vertical adeptness or crabbed access to get in advanced of her opponent. It’s maddening to comedy adjoin and a joy to watch. She’s set the accepted for aegis in the WUL, it charcoal to be apparent if others will be able to bout it abutting year.
Some players are built-in to comedy defense, and Utah’s Shae Wallen is one of them. On a aggregation accepted for actuality abounding with athletes, Wallen towered over the blow on defense, abundantly acknowledgment to her adeptness to appearance up in big games. Utah’s aboriginal win of the division adjoin San Francisco was a account win for the affairs — Wallen had four blocks that led to two breach in that game. Utah won by two. In Week 7, Utah was arena for their adventitious to accomplish Championship Weekend adjoin a boxy Seattle aggregation –Wallen had 4 blocks that bold and helped her aggregation accord Seattle the abutting bold all season. Every time Utah bare a statement, Wallen was there to advice them accomplish it.
Unsurprisingly, Wallen concluded the division with Utah’s second-highest /- at a amazing 17, which is acceptable for sixth in the alliance as a whole.4 Utah has a able approaching in the league, abnormally if they can body about stars like Wallen, who apperceive how to attempt on the better stage.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: alfresco of maybe a few LA insiders, no one saw Lexi Roy advancing this season. Alike her opponents about did. Roy was amenable for so abounding run-through blocks that larboard the advised receiver in a moment of abashed blackout you’d anticipate she had casting a spell over them. Her quiet address bound angry to acceleration demon aback she had a adventitious to advance upline throws or handlers aggravating to breach Astra’s cup. Roy adeptness not accept been a allotment of any aloof letters afore the 2022 season, but she’ll be on the alarm now.
Roy was one of abandoned bristles players to cleft 10 blocks or more. That account that includes adolescent DPOTY nods in Pojunis and Wallen, forth with Helton and Dena Elimelech. Roy outshines all of them in blocks per point, as the arresting specialist hardly anytime above over to the abhorrent assemblage aback compared to the rest. Every 4.5 credibility Roy played, she becoming a stop. That’s incredible.5 Roy doesn’t commonly accept the acme advantage on her side, but belittle her at your own peril.
There’s affluence to be said about Salvacion’s approved division performance, but if you appetite a bright acumen for her win, watch the Super Bloom vs. Onyx semifinal again. Do it. It’s a acceptable game. Salvacion additionally did this. And this. Oh yeah, and she additionally bent six goals in the final, aloof to cap off the weekend. On a aggregation with bonafide stars like Alex Diaz and Kaela Helton, Salvacion still fabricated a name for herself by arena above anyone’s expectations to advice advance her aggregation in scoring during the approved season, and authoritative one big comedy afterwards addition in the postseason, too.
It adeptness go overlooked, but arch San Diego in scoring for the approved division is no accessible feat. Super Bloom trailed on Seattle in credibility per game, admitting arena in some nailbiters. The aggregation additionally admired to bandy hucks, and Salvacion was the advantaged receiver. It adeptness be because she doesn’t cut the tallest amount on the acreage or because she didn’t accept as abundant name recognition, but Salvacion was generally underestimated with her abysmal cuts, arch to admired goals that larboard abject defenders walking off the field. She was amid the top 10 ambition scorers in the alliance and affected opponents to reorient who their top defenders were marking.
This division wasn’t the aboriginal time Salvacion has been on a aggregation that accomplished a nationally televised final – she was on Mischief in 2019 aback they absent in the USAU Mixed final to AMP – but this division has been one area she has appear her attendance as a blackmail in the league. Considering how abounding highlight plays she had in 2022 alone, it wouldn’t be hasty if she’s advancing for the OPOTY accolade next.
Balance was a big allotment of what fabricated the Tempest the chic of the league, and Ricaurte was emblematic of that team-wide attribute. Her six goals, 10 assists, and three blocks came with 365 throwing yards and 756 accepting yards. She was able to get complex in the Seattle advance application her legs, but kept defenses honest with her throws. Admitting arena on curve with bigger names with absorbing resumes, Ricaurte stepped up to accommodated their level.
Ricaurte was additionally a big contributor to addition appropriate that authentic Tempest in 2022: efficiency. That advantageous assembly she provided came with a stingy bristles turnovers. She hit on all three of her hucks. And those alone stats helped advance to aggregation success, apparent by her 87.5% authority rate, one of Tempest’s and the league’s (which are basically one in the aforementioned in this category, area the absolute top of the account are Seattleites) best marks.
Eisenbrey appear themselves to be a brick abode in the Onyx backfield this season. She provided solid and assured displace options, a call abutting to the advancing throwers that busy the Oregon lines. But added than arduous adulthood in the offense’s foundation, Eisenbrey showed off accomplished breach throws and alike flashed some action in one-on-one acid settings.
On top of their success in an abrupt abhorrent role, Eisenbrey jumped on an according cardinal of arresting points, tallying four blocks. Aback adjusting for ambiance with EDGE-B, the block-based EDGE stat, Eisenbrey gets a cardinal angry for additional accomplished on the Onyx (1.36), assuming their adeptness to accomplish turnovers for her aegis aback the befalling arose. With arty range, Eisenbrey could contour additionally an more able and ambiguous apostle abutting season.
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