With open nominations now closed the Skyd Awards Committee has identified four players to be recognized as excellent candidates for the Callahan Award. These players exemplify all that the Callahan Award represents and will be followed closely by Skyd this college season. The full listing of nominees will be up shortly, after Regional Coordinator’s have been given the opportunity to vote. The final Wildcard Candidate of the Skyd 5 will be announced near April 21st. Voting will begin on May 7th, 2013.
Class Year: Senior
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Bailey Zahniser personifies the word explosive. She is the fiery leader of the best team in the country, Oregon Fugue, and her take-no-prisoners attitude extends well beyond team huddles and deep into the way she plays the game. Zahniser is the anchor of Fugue’s D-line, shepherding their trademark clam defense from her position in the middle of the field and mercilessly capitalizing on the confusion caused by a turnover. When you see Zahniser sprint to the disc after a turnover, you know that something exciting is going to happen. Whether she’s leaving her defender in the dust running give and go’s or throwing visionary breakside hucks, Zahniser is leading her team to break after break. Called on by coach Lou Burruss to play offense when the situation dictates it, Zahniser is up to the task, using her explosive first steps and quick pivots to put defenses on their heels and right the ship for Oregon’s O-line. It’s demoralizing for teams to play against Fugue’s Zahniser-led D-line – after throwing pass after pass to swing back and forth against Oregon’s clam, Zahniser throws a goal in a matter of moments after getting the D. After missing multiple seasons due to injury in her career, Bailey Zahniser is back with a vengeance – as both the on-field mastermind of the defense and the ruthless executor of the offense.
Class Year: Senior
Hometown: Richmond, BC
Catherine Hui is the most dominant receiver in college ultimate. Her speed has to be seen to be believed, and her quick turns and excellent field vision make her a threat that must be accounted for at all times by the defense. For the British Columbia Thunderbirds, however, Hui is not just a goal-scorer – she is the offensive initiator and provider of most of their goals as well. And that’s just on the offensive end – Hui knows how to use her speed on defense, and combined with her great footwork and positioning, she manages to threaten to get Ds on her matchup and protect the deep space at the same time. Teams up and down the west coast are used to the familiar sight of Hui blazing past a formerly wide-open receiver to snare what appeared to be a well-placed huck. At the 2012 College Championships, Hui was the only player with 15+ goals, assists, and D’s. In her final year with UBC, Hui has developed into a comfortable handler, able to break through zone and junk defenses or place a huck perfectly into space for another quick teammate. This is the best Thunderbirds team since 2008, when Hui’s Traffic teammate Kira Frew nearly won the Callahan as UBC took home the college title. Catherine Hui is capable of leading her team back to the championship – and winning the Callahan award along the way.
Class Year: Senior
Hometown: Amherst, MA
Claudia Tajima may be the most poised player in the women’s college game. When EWO needs to change the momentum, she gets it done with a level head. On defense, she is her opponents’ worst nightmare. Her athletic, aggressive, game-changing layout blocks are noticeably impressive, but the little things really set her game apart from her peers. Tajima’s defensive footwork is flawless, speaking to the time she spent developing her game off the field. You can use footage of her defensive positioning to teach players what perfect defensive mechanics are all about, because she innately knows how to shut down her opponents’ best options, only giving the third or fourth option. Her versatile defensive style allows her to match up against handlers and cutters. Offensively, her throws are crisp, powerful, and on a dime. Her hands are reliable, and always finding the disc. Tajima’s field vision allows her to set up open, viable cuts time after time, which really makes her a threat with or without the disc. Tajima has helped to bring the Tufts program back to the pinnacle of the women’s college game, challenging and overcoming the best teams out there.
Class Year: Senior
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Paige Soper is a game changer for Ohio State. Her precise throwing arsenal covers the entire range of the field, opening up look after look for the Fever offense. With her on the field, the Fever transition offense is powerful, quick, and crisp, converting effortlessly after a defensive play. Her defensive abilities rival the best in the game this season, with an effective, aggressive mark, and an uncanny ability to generate blocks. What really sets Soper apart, however, is the way she plays the game. With every throw, bid, or score, you know she lives and breathes to play that point of Ultimate. You can see the determination on her face, the passion in her smile; this woman loves the game, loves her teammates, and it radiates with every fiber of her being when she is on the field. Her fiery on-field persona seemingly contradicts the incredibly humble person who attributes success to her teammates and program, never accepting individual reward. Soper is not only fun to watch, but the type of selfless teammate that any player wants to have.
Class Year: Senior
Hometown: Jamestown, NC
Claire Chastain, in one word, is a playmaker. She flies around the field for UNC-Wilmington, putting her body on the line to get important Ds, turning an upline dump cut into a deep cut, and forcing opponents to gameplan around her. Whether as a handler throwing hucks, breaks, and hammers, or as a receiver burning past a defender, or as a defender exploding past a cutter to get a D, Chastain makes the plays that Seaweed need to stay competitive in a tough Atlantic Coast region. At the 2011 College Championships, she led the tournament in Ds (20) and was high up the leaderboard on assists (18) as well. Her teammates and opponents have both endorsed her for Callahan, and she was invited to try out for both the Team USA World Games team and the U-23 Worlds team. And Chastain is not just a great player – she has been a guest coach for Without Limits, organized tournaments like Women’s Easterns and Carolina Conferences, hosted clinics, and more. Her skill and spirit on the field, along with her service resumé, make her a deserving contender for the 2013 Callahan Award.
While plenty of currently-nominated players have a strong claim to the Wildcard spot in the Skyd 5, such as Becca Miller (Iowa State), Lien Hoffman (Northwestern), or Claire Chastain (UNC-Wilmington), there are a few strong players who might be frontrunners if they were nominated. Thankfully, the process allows Regional Coordinators to make nominations up to March 31st. Carleton superstar Anna Reed put her team on her back at Queen City Tune-Up, but food poisoning kept her out of Stanford Invite. If Reed and Carleton have a strong Centex, she could secure her RC’s nomination as well as a spot in the Skyd 5. Washington Element finished 3rd at Stanford Invite; they have several strong candidates of which they nominated Sarah Davis. And from the Southeast, Central Florida’s Sunny Harris and Georgia’s Lane Siedor have been having great seasons so far, and they may help their teams to the College Championships for the first time in their career. Reed and Harris will be in action at Centex this weekend, while Siedor leads Georgia at Terminus.
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com