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  • Writer's pictureUtah Wild

2023 Season Wrap Up

As the Western Ultimate League season comes to a close, we take a look back on the Utah Wild's journey.

Colorado Home/Away Series

Wild kicked off their season on March 18th with a home opener in the second week of the WUL season where expansion team, Colorado Alpenglow, visited the beautiful Judge Memorial Stadium. The game was close but Wild slowly edged out more and more of a lead and took home the win 19-16.

Performance leaders for this game included: Paige Kercher (2G, 4A), Cass Williams (3G, 2A), Cori Bigham (4G, 1A), Kaylie Caldwell (1A, 3B), and Kat Songer (3G, 4A).

A few weeks later, Colorado returned the favor and hosted Wild at their home in Thornton, CO on April 8th and stole the win in front of an energized home crowd. Wild started out to an early lead in the first quarter, but heroic performances by Rory Veldman, Abby Thorpe, and Jade McLaughlin caused a shift in momentum that left the Wild reeling. Wild was missing offensive stalwart Kat Songer, but Brooke Stanislawski stepped up to the plate with 5 assists in the game. Ultimately Colorado won 19-16 for a truly even 1-1 series between these two teams.

Wild Wild Weekend Conference Crossovers

Determined to defend their home turf and show the Southwest conference what they were made of, Wild came out firing for Wild Wild Weekend on April 22-23. This weekend was one of four WUL weekend extravaganzas where one team played host to three other WUL teams and the 2nd annual Wild Wild Weekend. All four teams needed these wins in order to stay in the running for a spot at Championship Weekend.

For the first game of the weekend, Colorado took a commanding lead over Los Angeles Astra and didn't let go - winning 19-12. Under the Saturday night stadium lights, Wild took on the San Francisco Falcons where once again they started off with an early lead, showing 11-9 at halftime. Late in the game, the Falcons made a comeback but ultimately couldn't close out the win thanks to the tenacity of the Wild defensive line. Molly Robbins found her stride on defense in this game with four blocks, while Mack Perkett and Sarah Staller each notched three goals on offense.

Sunday morning featured a matchup between a San Francisco team eager to bounce back from their loss to Utah and a Colorado team riding the momentum of a big win the day before. One of the most evenly matched games score wise, they were tied going into the start of each quarter. San Francisco took the lead late in the fourth and Colorado didn't have enough time to recover, losing by one.

The final game of the weekend is one for the history books: Utah Wild defeated Los Angeles Astra in sudden death, double overtime to remain undefeated at home and 2-0 on the weekend! Unlike the first game of the day, Utah picked up steam over the first three quarters, working up to a significant lead with Shaela Wallen and Jen Cogburn both racking up three goals until Los Angeles rallied behind their stars and went on a 6-1 run to tie the game in the final moments of regulation play. After four minutes of overtime play and the score still tied, the game moved to sudden death with Los Angeles receiving the disc to start on offense. Two timeouts, multiple blocks and some unforced errors later, Paige Kercher sent a deep throw to a streaking Kendra Miller to end the game. An unforgettable ending to an unforgettable weekend!

Fire and Rain in the Pacific Northwest

With a difficult and backloaded season, Utah Wild then headed up to Vancouver, WA to play Oregon Onyx on Friday May 5th, followed quickly by a game in Seattle, WA on Saturday May 6th against the reigning WUL Champions Seattle Tempest. In classic PNW fashion, both games were rainy and overcast, but also not without some fiery plays on both sides!

In the first game of the weekend, Wild and Onyx proved to be tightly matched and traded points through halftime. Low scoring and marked by both defensive blocks and slippery drops, the score was 6-6 through the first two quarters. One player that Oregon could not keep out of the end zone was Wild's Cori Bigham, who scored five goals this game! As the end of the game neared, Wild had a small lead but Oregon was determined to put on a show for their home crowd and put the score within one point going into the final moments of the game. One heartbreaking miscommunication later, Wild turned the disc over with moments left in the fourth quarter giving Oregon the chance to even the scales. An exceptional grab by Trout Weybright sealed the deal and we were headed to overtime. In overtime, Onyx surged on the momentum of their game-tying score and left Utah in the dust, with Wild eventually losing 12-15.

Up north in Seattle, Wild faced an opposite trajectory. Starting out slow the visiting team went down 5-10 at halftime. Once the fourth quarter hit, the Wild defensive line found a new gear and roared back into the game with five straight breaks! Led primarily by Shaela Wallen (five blocks) and Molly Robbins (two goals, two blocks), Wild ended up just shy of the comeback losing 13-14 but had the Tempest shaking in their rainboots.

Rocky Mountain Rumble

Heading into the final weekend of the WUL season, everything was on the line for Utah, Oregon, and Colorado who all hoped to claim the last spot at championship weekend and join San Diego Super Bloom, San Francisco Falcons, and Seattle Tempest. Four games went down this weekend in Denver as the ultimate end to the 2023 regular season!

Wild started out the weekend with a rematch against Oregon Onyx. In the first half, Onyx clearly hadn't adjusted to the altitude and were not connecting on their deep looks, giving Utah the edge 9-3 at halftime. However, being the pros they are they quickly adjusted and rallied behind veteran throwers to even the scales. In the end, Utah learned from their mistakes the previous week and were able to maintain possession and close out the win 13-12. Kaylie Caldwell and Shae Wallen both had 3 goals and Molly Robbins had 3 blocks.

Later on Saturday, Seattle Tempest played Colorado Alpenglow and if Tempest secured the win then Wild would secure the final bid to championship weekend. However, Alpenglow refused to go down without a fight and held a commanding lead through all four quarters, winning 15-11 and handing Seattle their second loss of the season.

On Sunday, Utah needed to beat Seattle or have Oregon beat Colorado in order clinch the final spot in the playoffs. Determined to start out stronger than their last matchup, Wild came out steady in the first half and were up 9-7 after two quarters of play. Distributed contributions from across the roster made for a team effort through most of the game. Ultimately, not to go winless on the weekend, the reigning champions made a fourth quarter comeback of their own and ultimately beat out Utah 14-13. Utah's playoff chances would all come down to the final game of the season. Luckily for the Wild, Oregon took after their PNW counterparts and performed better on Sunday than Saturday, taking an early lead over Colorado and never relenting. Wild were going to the playoffs for the first time!

Championship Weekend

After a two week break, the top four teams in the league met in Seattle to crown a 2023 champion! Utah Wild faced the southwest division leader, San Diego Super Bloom in the first semi-final. San Diego, coming in with an astounding +38 point differential quickly showed their strength and set out to a 6-10 lead at halftime. Unfortunately for the Wild, the wind picked up as the game went on and despite the best efforts of Kat Songer (4 assists), Kaylie Caldwell (3 goals, 1 block), and Sarah Staller (2 goals) the San Diego zone defense really limited the Wild offense. Strong defensive performances by Shaela Wallen, Brook Stanislawski, Kari Shelkey, and Cori Bigham kept the San Diego lead from blooming beyond six, but Wild was not able to cut the deficit and ended up losing 15-21. Similarly, the San Francisco Falcons took a six point loss to the Tempest home team and so the finals and 3rd place match ups were set for Sunday.

In the fight for third place, Utah relied on the depth of the team and contributions were spread evenly among players with no one having more than two of goals, assists, or blocks in this game. Both teams traded points until San Francisco was able to capitalize on a crucial end of quarter break to take a two point lead going into halftime. The second half was more of the same as Utah was not quite able to convert the breaks necessary to overcome the Falcons lead.

In the end, your Utah Wild ended up in 4th place in the Western Ultimate League for 2023. For a full breakdown of standings, visit the Western Ultimate League Schedule page. For a full breakdown of stats (far beyond what is outlined in this summary), visit the Western Ultimate League Stats Page.

Thank you to all Wild friends, family, and fans for your undying support this season! It's clear that Utah is on the up and up and the best is yet to come!

A team photo of the 2023 Utah Wild roster



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