The Skyd Five
The Skyd Five are the top five contenders for the Callahan award as decided by the Skyd Awards Committee. They’re here because they’ve been identified to be excellent candidates for the honor bestowed by this award due to exemplary performances on the ultimate field and high character off of it. Through the entire 2014 College Tour, Skyd follow these players closely. As the season progresses, this list may change. New circumstances may mean that new players enter and leave the Skyd Five.
Please note that the Skyd Five represent the opinions of the award committee only, and will be facilitated to provide voters with more information about top candidates. Callahan voters are free to cast their vote for any eligible candidate, including those not featured in the Skyd Five.
When Lindsay Lang graduated in 2012, she handed the keys of the UNC offense to Cohen. Over the last two years, Cohen has been the focal point of UNC’s offense, and she has delivered brilliantly. With her partner in crime Lisa Couper out for the season, Cohen has had to take an even larger role. She was in her element at her home tournament – North Carolina did surprisingly well without Couper at Queen City Tune Up, largely thanks to Cohen. Despite a mediocre showing at Presidents Day in San Diego, North Carolina is still in the hunt for a strength bid. She’s a true all-around player – since her sophomore season she has been a huge threat for the Pleiades as a thrower and a receiver, and she also comes up with big-time athletic D’s. While 2014 might not be the year for North Carolina to break into the semifinals, if they make it back to Nationals this year at all, it’s largely due to Cohen’s play and leadership.
The presumptive nominee from our #1 ranked team, Oregon Fugue, Darch draws attention from fans and opposing coaches for her huge throws, great field vision, and calm under pressure in Oregon’s frenetic offense. Utilized almost exclusively as an offensive player in 2013, at Stanford Invite Darch took the majority of her reps on defense, playing in both man and junk sets for Fugue, and racking up D’s in the middle of the field. With Darch on defense, Oregon is able to even more relentlessly push the pace in transition, with Darch combining with Jesse Shofner to drive the D-line’s offense 50 yards down the field before a mark is set. Oregon’s defense places tremendous stress and pressure on offenses to perform, but it’s really their offense that drives home the dagger. And that’s on Darch’s surgical throws and clinical hucks, almost always making the right decision for her team. Darch is a big part of the reason that Oregon almost never loses close games.
While she didn’t start the season as a “big name” women’s player from a “big name” program, Sunny Harris certainly occupies that position now. She rose to prominence in 2013 as she led the #4 Central Florida Sirens to the College Championships for the first time ever. The team’s offense runs through Harris, who also dominates the deep space in their tough zone. She has the endurance to play almost every point, the throws to hit her receivers in places many others on this list wouldn’t dare, and the big bids to get herself a sweet highlight reel. Central Florida started their season strong, with two big wins over #3 Ohio State and a tournament victory at Florida Winter Classic, before finishing 3rd at Queen City Tune Up. Despite playing on a swollen sprained ankle at Stanford Invite, Harris led Central Florida to 4th place at the tournament, nearly upsetting #1 Oregon in semifinals, and actually beating finalist Western Washington in the final round of pool play. Central Florida plays a brash, aggressive style of ultimate that is incredibly fun to watch, and it all starts with Harris. The Sirens go as she goes, and right now she shows no indication of stopping.
Fresh off a gold medal from the U23 Mixed Worlds team and a silver medal with Fury, Lisa P returns to the college game with #8 California-Santa Barbara. In only her second year of women’s ultimate (she only played Open and Mixed before), she has almost single-handedly kept UCSB relevant in the Southwest Region. She can dominate as either a cutter or a handler, and she’s deadly near the endzone with the disc in her hand. She can be patient when required and line up a ridiculously athletic layout grab or sky if her teammates just chuck it in her general direction. She may be the best athlete on this list, and nobody in the college game was able to slow her down in a man defense last year. After losing Alicia Thompson to graduation, Pitcaithley has had to take on more and more of the burden on each offensive and defensive possession. At Stanford Invite she helped Santa Barbara to multiple comeback wins – notably over Harris and Central Florida, as well as British Columbia.
It seems like Swafford has been around forever at the top of the women’s college game, but injuries have kept her from unleashing her true dominance over the division. This year Swafford is healthier than ever, leading a determined Ohio State team that returns almost everyone from their breakthrough semifinal run in 2013. She’s the spiritual and emotional leader of Fever, with the savvy cutting and calm, confident throws that personify a true veteran. If you want to honor someone who has built up a program, Swafford is your nominee. Under her leadership (and coach DeAnna Ball’s), Ohio State has grown from a small mid-Regionals program to one that is knocking at the national title this year. It doesn’t hurt that she is a U23 Women’s World Champion and universally loved on and off the field by her teammates and opponents alike.
Depending on their spring performances, Callie Mah (Western Washington), Alika Johnston (Virginia), or Liza Minor (Iowa) could certainly make the leap to this list in the coming months.
Coverage of the 2014 Callahan Award and the 2014 College Tour is presented by Spin Ultimate.