The Tuesday Toss: Staying Alive

July 3, 2018
By Evan Lepler

With two weeks and 20 games remaining—including this evening’s unique Tuesday clash between the Minnesota Wind Chill and Madison Radicals in Madison—the 2018 regular season is almost done. Six playoff berths have been clinched, while 11 other teams are still mathematically alive for the five uncertain spots in the postseason tournament.  Considering that the season began in late March, it’s noteworthy that all four divisions remain unsettled here in early July with just 12.4 percent of the schedule remaining.

In the South, the Dallas Roughnecks (12-1) are locked into the number one seed in the division, and the Raleigh Flyers (9-4) are set at number two, while the Atlanta Hustle (6-6) and Austin Sol (6-7) are still angling for the final berth.

In the East, the Toronto Rush (11-1) have clinched number one and four franchises continue to tussle for the remaining two spots. A week removed from life support, the New York Empire (6-5) surged back into second with an impressive Canadian conquest, while the DC Breeze (7-5-1) currently resides in third, narrowly ahead of the Montreal Royal (6-6) and Philadelphia Phoenix (5-6-1), who both are still alive.

In the Midwest, Madison (10-2) moved back into sole possession of the top spot by convincingly smashing the Indianapolis AlleyCats (9-3), who now sits in second. Meanwhile, Minnesota (7-4) is comfortably in third after narrowly surpassing the Chicago Wildfire (5-6) on Saturday. While none of the seeds are set, the Radicals and AlleyCats are in the dance, while any Wind Chill win or Wildfire loss in the next two weeks would confirm the former and eliminate the latter.

And in the West, where only two teams will qualify for the postseason from the five-team division, the Los Angeles Aviators (11-2) have easily cemented their first place status, while the San Diego Growlers (6-7), San Francisco FlameThrowers (5-8), and San Jose Spiders (5-8) are all still hopeful of a postseason trip with one game to go. Interestingly, the Seattle Cascades (4-8), currently in the cellar, could potentially finish tied for second by sweeping the Bay Area squads on July 14-15, but the Cascades would lose a potential head-to-head tiebreaker with the Growlers. Consequently, they ‘Scades are the only team out West who won’t have any postseason hopes heading into the final weekend of the season.

As for the league’s antepenultimate weekend, Week 14 included as many months as one-goal games. Compared to the half-dozen contests that were decided by one in Week 13, we witnessed only two in the most recent slate, Pittsburgh’s 20-19 win over Detroit on Saturday, June 30 and Seattle’s 25-24 squeaker over San Jose on Sunday, July 1. Only two other games—Minnesota’s hard-fought 25-23 triumph over Chicago and Tampa Bay’s impressive 19-16 home upset over Atlanta—were decided by two or three.

Without as many down-to-the-wire thrillers, we got more convincing outcomes. Taking their 0-3 road record into Ontario and Quebec, the New York Empire collected two impressive wins by a combined 14 goals, reinvigorating their playoff hopes in the process. Contrastingly, the defending champion San Francisco FlameThrowers saw their standing dramatically diminish thanks to a pair of SoCal setbacks by an aggregate 12 scores.

Elsewhere, one-sided “rivalries” remained one-sided. Dallas improved to 12-0 all-time against Austin after winning by four. Madison rose to 17-1 all-time against Indy, prevailing by nine. And Raleigh again clobbered Nashville by 13, leaving the NightWatch winless in their 12 meetings with the Flyers since joining the league in 2015.

While Austin, Indy, and Nashville all lost in paces they have never won, they were not alone in enduring tough times on the road in Week 14. Overall, home teams went 9-3, matching Week 4 as the best weekend for home teams in 2018. The DC Breeze enjoyed their home cooking as much as anyone, blasting Philadelphia by 10 to improve to 19-1 in their last 20 home games. Since losing three straight at home in May and June of 2015, the Breeze have gone 23-2 in front of their fans.

Forty days away from semifinal Saturday in Madison, the Final Four is close enough to see it on the distant horizon. And as Week 14 illustrated, perceptions can drastically change in a single weekend.  

The Full-Field Layout

No team’s standing changed more this past weekend than the New York Empire, who rose from the bottom to the top of the four-team logjam in the East by sweeping their two-game trip to Ottawa and Montreal. They still probably need to win at least two of their final three games to earn their way back into the playoffs, but responding to a frustrating three-game losing streak by impressively snagging a pair in Canada was an excellent step toward fulfilling their lofty potential.

“We were most pleased with how we finished both games,” said New York defender Mike Drost, who recorded three goals, two assists, and two blocks on the weekend. “Obviously, winning was the most important part of the result, but we played complete games where we pulled away in the second half instead of letting it become a close finish. Especially against Montreal, we gave up two breaks to start the fourth and it could have easily felt like last week’s game, but we dug in, got a hold with our normal D-line, and finished the game without it ever getting closer than four in the fourth.”

Between the two games, New York only played one point while trailing for the entire weekend. On Saturday in Ottawa, the Empire D-line recorded three early breaks as the team bolted ahead 4-1, never trailing in their 29-23 victory. On Sunday in Montreal, the Empire O-line took the field down 1-0 and calmly converted a 10-throw, turnover-free hold. It was a smooth start and a striking contrast to New York’s miserable offensive performance at Claude-Robillard Stadium from 15 days prior. This time around, the Empire led 9-6 after one, 13-9 at halftime, 18-12 through three, and prevailed 26-18, avoiding any letdown whatsoever.

“Offensively, we built off our rhythm from the day prior and I believe were only broken four times all day, two of which were in the fourth quarter,” explained New York handler Harper Garvey, who had three goals and eight assists on the road trip. “We made a few minor tactical adjustments that allowed cutters some more rest and utilized play calls that spread the work more evenly. To be honest, we rarely felt particularly pressured by Montreal’s D. Most of our turns were mistakes on our part… Overall, we felt really good about the weekend. We hadn’t won a road game in quite some time and it felt great. We know we can play with anyone. It’s more about us than it is about anyone else, and that is exciting. If our offense continues to improve at this rate, we are going to be in a great spot.”

Ben Katz (eight goals, seven assists) and Ben Jagt (six goals, six assists) both had strong statistical weekends, while the D-line got a boost from having both of its twin leaders.

“Both times we [previously] played Montreal we have had only one Drost brother,” noted Garvey. “When you get them together, something just changes. It’s as close as it gets to having two players with the same brain. They really helped drive things.”

The Empire’s remaining three games have them facing Philly at home this weekend and then DC and Philly on the road the following weekend. With at least two wins in their final three combined with one Montreal loss (vs. either Toronto or Ottawa), the Empire would be back in the playoffs. The Royal, at 6-6, still control their own destiny and would be in the playoffs if they win their last two games, but Montreal felt it let a golden opportunity slip by.

“It definitely stings not to sweep New York with the playoffs coming soon,” said Montreal’s Kevin Groulx. “Our offense didn’t really get a good rhythm, but I think the biggest problem was the unforced errors our D-line offense made. We got a lot of turnovers, but we just ended up giving it back pretty easily.”

Meanwhile, the Breeze also took a significant stride toward the franchise’s third straight postseason appearance by breaking Philly early and often on Saturday night. DC scored eight of the first 10 points, led 10-3 after one, and held a 15-5 lead at halftime. The Phoenix crawled back within six in the second half, but DC finished strong to prevail 25-15 and avenge their 18-18 tie at Philadelphia on April 28.

“We were much more efficient and potent with the disc than they were this week,” said Breeze Head Coach Darryl Stanley matter-of-factly. “Our D-line conversation rate was very high. And as we’ve been starting to do, we are protecting the disc well on offense.”

Stepping into the O-line void created by Kyle Khalifa’s injury, Christian Boxley led the Breeze with six goals, half of which came in the first quarter as his team created early separation. Rowan McDonnell did not catch any goals, but he registered six assists and completed 48 of his 49 throws.

“Every game [the O-line] always talk[s] about ‘the perfect game,’ which is a turn-free game, and it’s something we want bad,” McDonnell told Breeze beat writer Tyler Byrum. “We had a good run at it; it was definitely creeping into our heads. Finally, it cracked. We turned it, but got it back so we still had the ‘no-hitter.’ We just felt comfortable, confident, and fast [on Saturday.]”

Although Philly’s D-line broke DC’s offense four times in the second half, the Breeze never felt seriously threatened. The win moved their record to 7-5-1, dropping the Phoenix to 5-6-1. Now, they both will focus on scouting New York, as the Empire are the lone remaining opponent for each.

“That New York vs. DC ‘Game of the Week’ [on July 14] is going to be spicy,” said Stanley. “If we win, we are in and shoot all the way up to number two. If we lose, we are probably out unless the Rush beat Montreal one more time.”

For the Phoenix to make the playoffs, they need to win their final two games and also hope Montreal loses once.

*****

As New York reignited its hopes, San Francisco’s two-game trip ended with a disappointing thud. Of course, one team’s thud is generally another team’s joy, and the San Diego Growlers proudly helped usher the defending AUDL champs from the brink of the playoffs to the edge of elimination.

A week after requiring a buzzer-beater to survive in Seattle, the Growlers stormed to a 3-0 lead at the outset and never trailed for any moment in their 27-22 victory over San Francisco, riding huge games from Travis Dunn (four goals, six assists) and Steven Milardovich (two goals, three assists, six blocks) to take the season series against the FlameThrowers.

“One of the big keys for us throughout the game was the patience and discipline that our D-line offense had,” commented Milardovich. “Our first break of the game was a huge upwind point that set us on track to have a good night. Max Hume was key; he pressured a huck to Antoine Davis and forced the turn. He then broke away for a deep shot from Will Turner. It was upwind, so we still had to work the disc patiently after the huck, but eventually punched in the break to Sam Fontaine. The next point had multiple turnovers, but eventually we converted the downwind break thanks to a huck from Mark Slader to Wes Groth. We grabbed a three-goal lead and never looked back.”

Dunn, who’s currently sixth in the league in plus/minus at +68, called it the Growlers’ most complete game of the season. The victory moved San Diego to 6-7, giving the Growlers back-to-back wins to keep their season alive after losing five straight.

“This season has sure been a roller coaster,” said Dunn, commenting on how the Growlers have gone from 0-1 to 4-2 to 4-7 to 6-7. “It’s a pretty good feeling to know that we have worked our way back to controlling our own fate.”

Though San Diego’s fate is in its hands, the bad news is the Growlers can only guarantee their playoff position by knocking off Los Angeles on July 14, something no West Division team has done all season.

The Aviators improved to 11-2 and stayed perfect against the West by outlasting San Francisco 28-21 on Sunday afternoon. Again, Sean McDougall paced his team with five goals and five assists, raising his plus/minus for the season to +84, second in the league behind Dallas’ Jay Froude.

“Sean always seems able to get separation on deep cuts, and our handlers are usually willing to put it for him,” said Zach Theodore, who led the Aviators with three blocks in Sunday’s win. “Chris Mazur, especially, his hucks have been a huge asset this year. On some of our longer O-points, Sean is one of the guys we look to to get the block back. After the turn, he still has legs to cut. It’s been fun for me to watch him this year. His stat line is pretty ridiculous. I think he’s done an excellent job of filling Bryan Nguyen’s role from previous years. Fast, good in the air, and always wiling to cut deep.”

The FlameThrowers played Los Angeles even through the first 20 points, but stumbled in the middle portions of the game. By the end of the third quarter, the Aviators led 23-16 and San Francisco’s frustrating 0-2 weekend felt inevitable.

“Our offense dropped the ball and we were asking way too much of our defense to get us back into the game,” said Antoine Davis, whose sentiment rung true for both games on San Francisco’s trip.

“We knew that we had to get the San Diego game for the best path to the playoffs,” acknowledged FlameThrowers Coach Joshua Greenough. “Full credit to them for running a great junk defense the whole game and taking away what our O team wanted to do. I believe we were down eight at one point and then worked back to within three and had the disc. Once they went back up four, it was hard to do much with the clock winding down…In both games, our huck game was not available or on point, which made for a lot of miscues that got punished.”

Two FlameThrower setbacks put San Jose, who owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against San Diego, in prime position to surge into the driver’s seat for the West’s second playoff berth. All the Spiders needed to do was beat Seattle. But as has been the case all season long for the bottom four in this division, the team with the worse record has frequently upended the status quo.

San Jose and Seattle went down to the wire on Sunday afternoon, and unlike last weekend when the Cascades suffered a painful buzzer-beating setback against San Diego, the Cascades delivered a dramatic and victorious finish in front of their home fans.

After letting a 24-22 late lead slip away, the Cascades readied to receive with the game tied at 24 and only 32 seconds left. Ten throws later, Kodi Smart’s last-second prayer found a skying Sam Cook, who soared over the pack for the exhilarating game-winning grab as time expired.

For the entire game, Mark Burton and Brad Houser led the Cascades, combining for six goals and 15 assists. San Jose’s Jackson Stearns scored five times and Steven Chang finished with four assists and 50 completions, but the Spiders had to absorb their third straight setback that dropped them to 5-8. Of their eight losses on the season, five have been by three or fewer.

With everyone in the West off this weekend, the final playoff spot will be determined by the Week 16 results. San Diego can clinch with a win, but that would require a triumph over Los Angeles, something no team in the division in 2018. The Growlers could also secure the berth with a loss if Seattle sweeps its Bay Area trip or if the Cascades just beat San Jose.

If the Growlers fall and both Bay Area teams beat Seattle at home, then there would be a three-way tie and the tiebreaker would be overall point-differential for the season. If only one Bay Area team beats Seattle and San Diego drops its game vs. LA, then the head-to-head tiebreaker would apply to a two-way tie; San Jose went 2-1 against San Diego and San Diego went 2-1 against San Francisco.

*****

If the Dallas Roughnecks did not exist, the Austin Sol might be looked at as a legit championship contender. With wins over Los Angeles, Raleigh, and Atlanta, the Sol have collected more quality results than most. But for three years running, the Sol have been unable to get by Dallas, which has been their ultimate downfall.

This trend continued on Saturday at The Colony, where the Sol fell to 0-12 all-time against Dallas following the Roughnecks’ 29-25 victory. By comparison, Austin has gone 17-12 in franchise history against all other opponents.

“This game felt similar to many games we’ve had with them,” said Austin’s Chase Cunningham, who registered five goals, three assists, and two Ds against the Roughnecks. “They didn’t throw any crazy game plan at us; just relied on athletes to make things happen. Our opportunities to gain/maintain momentum were there, but we just haven’t consistently capitalized on those chances.”

In windy conditions, the teams traded scores through the first eight points before Dallas registered three breaks late in the first to lead 8-5. The Roughnecks, heavily relying on Brandon Malecek’s throws, Kevin Richardson’s catches, and Froude’s everything, added three more breaks early in the second to extend the advantage to 17-11 by halftime.

“[Malecek] proved again he’s one of the best throwers in the game,” commented Cunningham. “We put big marks, double teams, smart defenders on him, and he still delivered some incredible passes.”

Malecek completed 51-of-54 throws in swirling conditions, despite the Sol doing everything they could to try and disrupt him.

“I found out post-game that Austin’s game plan was to try to put me in tough situations and get some high-risk shots,” said Malecek, who dished five assists in the Dallas win. “I had already kind of internally decided to be aggressive with my throws this game—already clinched, less handlers with Matt Jackson and Chris LaRocque not playing, downwind hucks still left [the other team] 80 yards. It was a perfect storm because just about every difficult shot out of the sideline double-team seemed to find an open receiver.”

Of course, the Roughnecks were far from a one-man team. Throughout their three-year franchise history, the squad’s depth has always been underrated, steadily bolstering the team’s hearty collection of top talent. After Saturday’s victory, the Roughnecks sit at 12-1 this year and 41-5 all-time, including the playoffs.

“The most impressive thing this year for me is the fact that through the change and diversity of each game and each line, we’ve come away with some immaculate team wins,” said Froude, who racked up seven goals, five assists, and two Ds on Saturday against the Sol. “Comeback wins, gritty wins, etc. It just goes to show that we have another gear, and we aren’t willing to give up even if we are losing. The drive and will this Roughnecks team has will push us when we need it most. Hopefully through playoffs and into Championship Weekend.”

While Austin slipped to 6-7 with one game remaining (vs. Tampa Bay this Sunday), the Sol remained just a half-game behind Atlanta thanks to those Cannons, who earned their second win of the year and spoiled the Hustle’s chance to separate themselves from the Sol. After trailing 16-15 midway through the fourth, Tampa Bay closed on a 4-0 run to cathartically prevail 19-16.

“The biggest moments to me [were] the end of first quarter layout block by [Andrew] Roney and the layout dump D from [Austin] Koffarnus to start the run in the fourth quarter,” remembered Cannons Head Coach Andrew Roca. “Roney’s layout block kept the pressure on Atlanta to produce going into the second quarter and energized the team to an extent I can say is unmatched this year. The emotions were fluctuating, but for the first time this season, regardless of all the frustration we’ve dealt with up to that point, we were collected and focused.”

Tampa Bay’s triumph halted a frustrating five-game losing streak, in which all the losses have come by three or fewer. On the season, the Cannons had previously dropped 17-15, 19-18, and 27-26 results against Atlanta, making Saturday’s result that much sweeter.

“To play spoiler to someone’s season was a huge motivation factor going into this game,” remarked Roca. “More than that, it was deeply meaningful for us to win against Atlanta at home for our final matchup of the year against them. Any game we’ve played thus far against them could have gone either way, but this game was different and it felt that way from the first point when Roney secured the team’s first layout D on the second pass of the game which led to the first break. The fourth quarter was different from others in many ways, but what stood out to me was the composure of which this team carried itself during the toughest points. Especially when a couple drops cost us the lead. Whether it was the idea of ending someone’s playoff hopes, or the fact it was Atlanta or just the need to win, this was a different team that balled out on Saturday night. One I have never been more proud to coach.”

Roney’s scintillating stat-line included eight assists, three blocks, and 84 completions in 85 attempts. Along with Bobby Ley, the Cannons’ two primary throwers recorded 12 of the team’s 19 assists, but the goal-scoring was evenly distributed, with six players recording two goals apiece and seven others adding one.

“I feel like there was a sense of relief and happiness from finally getting a win over Atlanta,” said Roney. “We knew that they wanted this game for their playoff implications, and it led to a very competitive game. Overall, Billy O’Bryan and Austin Koffarnus stepped up in in big ways. AK had a few Ds and a few scores. Billy was aggressively cutting and distributing the disc when needed. That’s the young talent that we want to continue to develop and will become big names in the league in the future.”

While Tampa Bay finally celebrated a close win after previously going 0-8 in games decided by three or less, the Hustle were forced to regroup after dipping to 6-6. If the Sol can defeat the Cannons this Sunday when Tampa will be on the second day of a back-to-back, then Atlanta will have to finish the season 2-0 at Raleigh and vs. Nashville in order to claim the South’s final playoff spot.  

The Outside-In

Entering this weekend, the individual record for most Ds in single AUDL game was eight, achieved this year by Andrew Meshnick and in the past by five others: Nathan Champoux, Jonathan Helton, Eric Hubbard, Ben Ivers, and Peter Graffy.

On Saturday in Detroit, that record was broken by a guy you’ve almost certainly never heard of.

Choosing a focus for this section of the Toss, devoted to featuring someone on the outside of your attention and bringing that person into the main view, became a no-brainer after 21-year-old Justin Perticone was credited with an AUDL-record nine blocks in the Mechanix’ one-goal loss to Pittsburgh.

“We ran a 2-4-1 zone that essentially put six people around the disc, trying to force over the top throws and hucks,” explained Detroit’s Brendan McCann. “Justin Perticone was our deep-deep. On an AUDL field, those deep shots one-on-one seem appealing, but Justin won most of them. We were making jokes on the sideline like, ‘Dang, Justin you’re gonna get the AUDL record for Ds.’ We were aware the record was eight because it was shared by two of our other buddies, former Mechanix Nathan Champoux and Eric Hubbard. But then when we finished, we realized he actually did. Some of the Ds were crazy too.”

Perticone, who will be a senior at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan this fall, entered Saturday’s contest having registered six Ds in seven career AUDL games. Against Pittsburgh, the Mechanix accumulated 16 blocks as a team, with more than half coming from Perticone.

“He was on another level,” said Mechanix Captain Ryan Mariouw. “He is fast, young, and hungry. One D he had on a scoober across the field and he covered tons of ground to get a layout D.”

The game conditions, around 97 degrees and even hotter on the turf, prompted Pittsburgh to launch its fair share of hucks. When they did, Perticone was ready.

“I think it was a combination of running a zone with myself in the deep space, the heat causing fatigue in the second half leading to Pittsburgh taking more deep shots, and using my speed to cover ground when needed,” remarked Perticone. “It didn’t hurt that Pittsburgh players peer pressured their teammate into throwing an unnecessary buzzer-beater in the fourth quarter that I was able to D.”

While the AUDL website has updated its record page to showcase the achievement, it is worth mentioning that Perticone acknowledges that of the nine Ds, he only got his hands on seven of them.

“The other two came from bodying out [Ethan] Beardsley and letting it hit the ground near my feet and positioning myself to make [Mark] Fedorenko attack the disc where he couldn’t grab it,” remembered Perticone. “I could not find the game where Meshnick recorded eight blocks anywhere, so I am not sure if those kind of plays would have added to his total. All seven of the Ds I got my hand on occurred in the second half of play, and if the positioning Ds count, that would make nine total Ds.”

AUDL stat-keeping always leaves some room for interpretation, and the ‘spirit of the game’ presumably compels teams to report their numbers accurately. For the moment, at least, Perticone’s mark stands.

Asterisk or not, seven Ds or nine, it was still one spectacular Saturday for the kid who is just in his third season of playing competitive ultimate. After being limited athletically in high school due to a variety of leg issues, his appreciation for being able to compete has easily surpassed any worrying about the numbers.

“In middle school I was a cross-country runner, basketball player, and track runner,” explained Perticone. “Beginning in eighth grade, I was diagnosed with a bad case of Osgood-Schlatter disease. This kept me out of sports for two years after I caused a couple bone fragments in my left knee while trying to play basketball through the condition. After that healed and I was attempting to get back into the sports I loved, I was diagnosed with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome—which required surgery—and Paraoxysmal Exercise-induced Dyskinesia, both in the right leg. This extended my time away from sports until my senior year of high school. During my senior year, I managed to run both cross-country and track. However, I was only physically able to participate in one practice or half a practice each week on top of competing. I had to primarily train on stationary equipment such as the gym bike and elliptical. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to play ultimate and keep my leg conditions under control. The sport of ultimate has done so much for me in all aspects of my life, and I could not be more grateful.”\

The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)

After Los Angeles dispatched San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, many players from both teams were excited to meet one of ultimate’s most famous fans. Over the course of the day, Bill Nye “The Science Guy”, whose ultimate background dates back to his days at Cornell University in the 1970s, posed for pictures with players and spectators alike.

“I did get to meet Bill Nye!” said LA’s Zach Theodore. “That was so cool. He was great, and willing to take a lot of pictures with fans. He said he played ultimate at Cornell in 1973 and he threw with us for a few minutes. He was impressed with our ‘sidearm’ (forehand) throws.”

Check out this post from Bridget Fitzgerald, who has brilliantly portrayed the league’s best mascot, Ace the Aviator, throughout the season, alongside the ultimate fan with maybe more twitter followers than anyone.

 

 

For the record, Bill Nye currently has 5.8 million followers on twitter, a cool three million more than Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) and almost six times as many as Brodie Smith. Of course, at age 62, Bill is older than Marques and Brodie combined, so the latter two have plenty of time to catch up.

Traveling Tales

The cheese curds were delicious, in case you were wondering.

A staple of any Madison weekend, I’d like to think I alleviated some of the unhealthiness of all the fried dairy goodness with a six-ish mile stroll along the edge of Lake Mendota on Saturday afternoon, curling my way past the Memorial Union Terrace and cherishing the breeze off University Bay in the mid-90s summer heat. If I lived in Wisconsin year-round, I obviously would need to seriously moderate my curd intake, however I feel no shame about ordering them three times during my three day visit in Radicals country.

For the fourth consecutive Sunday, I dealt with an unwanted delay on my way home. However, this weekend’s travel troubles paled in comparison to most of June’s drama, and hopefully that will continue to trend upward in July.

After 12 straight weekends parking at a North Carolina airport, this week yields a nice break from the monotony of repeatedly telling gate agents and flight attendants that ‘yes, indeed, I am willing and able to help from my cushy exit row seat in case of an emergency.’

Whereas our Game of the Week schedule initially had us visiting Dallas on July 7, the AUDL made the wise call to ‘flex’ us to Raleigh, where the Flyers will host Atlanta in a game that matters greatly for the Hustle. Consequently, this weekend, instead of parking at the airport, progressing through security, and waiting at the gate, I’ll simply drive the 90 minutes east to Cardinal Gibbons High, the cozy home of the Flyers.

I doubt there will be cheese curds, but the postgame barbecue will surely suffice.

Seven On The Line

  1. Thirteen days after suffering their first ever loss to Indianapolis, a 21-20 road result endured with a shorthanded squad, the Madison Radicals left little doubt that they still are the undisputed kings of the Midwest Division.

    By ramping up the defensive intensity, Madison led 6-3 after one, 14-9 at the half, and 21-14 through three, prevailing 26-17 to improve to 10-2 and retake sole possession of first place. Pat Shriwise distributed seven assists and five other Radicals scored three goals apiece, but after the game the AlleyCats still felt like they were the reason for their own demise. “We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Indy’s Rick Gross, who finished with a quiet two goals and no assists. “I can’t remember how many throwaways we had. Had to be in the upper 20s and some of them just straight into the turf…We just didn’t execute all game long.” Levi Jacobs recorded seven assists to lead the Indy offense, but the top seven AlleyCats throwers accumulated 19 throwaways. Contrastingly, the top eight Radicals in terms of completions combined for only six turns. Madison’s O-line was boosted by the return of Kevin Brown, who played his first game since suffering an ankle injury on May 19 and contributed three goals and three assists. “It felt great to be back out there playing with my team,” said Brown, whose deep look to Colin Camp on the Radicals’ first O-point seemed to open up the entire field for the rest of the game. “My ankle felt fine and I think I got rid of any rust in practice the last couple weeks. Overall, it just felt good to get a convincing win and get a little closer to securing the playoff bye and homefield the rest of the way.”
  2. If you watched the AlleyCats-Radicals game, you may have been surprised to see Madison’s speedy and towering cutter Scott Richgels begin the game on defense. He raced down on the opening pull and put a long, lanky mark on Indy’s primary handler, Keenan Plew. Considering Richgels had only played six D-points all season—most of which presumably came late in quarters in anticipation of jump ball buzzer-beaters—the AlleyCats had to be surprised to see Richgels on D. “Richgels gave me the strike to the sideline where they immediately doubled and I got myself in trouble,” remarked Plew. “They baited me, and I took the bait.” Aside from the Richgels wrinkle, which led to the Radicals registering the game’s first break just 55 seconds in, Madison also used well-timed poaches from the back of the stack. Even though Indy was expecting these defensive tactics, the AlleyCats threw the disc right into Madison’s well-orchestrated alignment time and time again. “Our offense was very aware that when Madison runs man defense all they want to do is poach,” said Plew. “Unders, deeps, and pretty much everything. We didn’t utilize our fakes to see the poaches and just were not simply aware. We dropped easy passes, turfed at least 2-3 throws, and never recovered.”
  3. Elsewhere in the Midwest, Minnesota got six assists and three goals from Ryan Osgar and bounced back from last week’s overtime loss by edging Chicago 25-23.

    After leading 9-6 at the end of the first and 14-12 at halftime, the Wind Chill coughed up their advantage and fell behind 21-20 entering the fourth, but Minnesota remained poised and patient in the final 12 minutes. “In the fourth, we had a marathon zone D point that chewed up five minutes of game time,” remembered Wildfire Head Coach Adrian King. “They completed 90+ consecutive throws, which was astounding. By the time the dust cleared on that, we were down 23-22 with 2:39 left in the game. We scored to tie with 2:04 left. They easily scored and pulled to us with 1:42 left. The ending was a little nuts. We gave up the disc in their red zone. They had the disc on the goal line with an opportunity to break and go up two points with a minute left. They turfed a scoober and we got it back with a chance to tie. We turned it on a scoober and they had a strong lead with :39 left. We couldn’t overcome that and they dribbled out the ball.” According to Dan Fiorino, the astrophysicist, data scientist, and 17-year ultimate vet who operates the twitter account @sotgstats, Minnesota’s 90-throw possession was the longest string of consecutive completions in the league since at least 2014. On the 90th throw, Jason Tschida connected with Charles Weinberg to successfully punctuate the point, helping Minnesota improve its record to 7-4. The Wind Chill are back in action Tuesday night against Madison, while Chicago hosts Indy on Saturday.
  4. While Justin Perticone’s nine-block performance stole the headlines, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds stole the victory in their only visit to Detroit this season, a 20-19 result that dropped the Mechanix to 0-13. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, rose to 3-10, with all three of the Thunderbirds’ victories coming by one goal. Detroit led 17-15 early in the fourth quarter, but Pittsburgh’s clutch 4-0 rally reclaimed control. “We were on D down 20-19, got the turn, and took a timeout with eight seconds left,” remarked Detroit’s Mariouw. “We were unable to convert the buzzer beater.” Pittsburgh’s Max Sheppard recorded seven assists and four goals, but also finished with nine throwaways. Jon DeAmicis collected six blocks for the Thunderbirds, who close out their 2018 season at home against Detroit on July 14. With a win, the T-Birds could end their campaign on a three-game winning streak.
  5. Raleigh officially clinched the number seed in the South by routing Nashville 33-20 in conjunction with Atlanta’s loss at Tampa Bay. At 9-4, the Flyers are hopeful that their best ultimate is ahead of them. “I think as a team we have gained confidence in utilizing some new offensive concepts this season regarding our spacing and progressions,” explained Raleigh Assistant Coach David Allison. “This has increased our ability to get the isolation matchups we want. Our work is starting to pay off as we’re getting better looks and continuations more consistently. I’ve been proud of our commitment to learn and grow; we’ve tuned out any noise about the week-to-week analysis of game results, and we’ve focused on finding our form in time for the playoffs.” Against the NightWatch, Jonathan Nethercutt led the Flyers with eight assists, completing 29 of his 30 passes. Jack Williams added five assists and three goals, while Jacob Fairfax and Terrence Mitchell each tallied five goals apiece. “Nashville did a nice job of mixing up their junk looks and their man-to-man sets, but we rarely got to a play where we felt uncomfortable,” said Allison. “They struggled with out athleticism and depth despite what I thought was a good defensive effort. I specifically thought that we were able to take advantage of matchups when we got Terrence and Fairfax in good spaces. The times when Nashville forced a turnover, our O-line showed more defensive focus and worked hard to get the disc back. This sort of focus and effort is what helped us in conceding only one break in the game.” Considering that the result of their final game against Atlanta will not impact their seeding at all, the Flyers have the luxury of buying some extra rest for some of their players who are banged up. Additionally, with many of the Flyers set to play in the upcoming World Ultimate Club Championships that start in Cincinnati on July 14, Raleigh will be careful against Atlanta this weekend. “We’re going to rest a substantial portion of our Ring of Fire players due to the proximity to Worlds,” said Flyers Coach Mike DeNardis. “We would very much like to go into that tournament without any more injuries as Matt Bode, Bob Liu, and Jacob Mouw have suffered various ailments over our last couple of games. This game will give some of our newer players a chance to shine, and we’re looking forward to seeing [them] step up and produce.”
  6. While Tampa Bay Coach Andrew Roca has channeled the wardrobe styles of several prominent professional and college football coaches throughout the season, this past weekend against Atlanta involved reshuffling his lines with a futbol theme. With Nathan Vickroy and Michael Fairley both dealing with injuries and unable to play, Roca looked to mix and match players into groups where they could each be successful, and each line took on the identity of a World Cup soccer team. “Seeing as we were without two of our biggest producers, [we went with] cohesion over capability,” Roca explained. “I set up three lines that had more chemistry together, even though it might not have had the most talent. World Cup-themed, of course, I named them Germany, Belgium, and France. Germany was all University of Florida alumni/active [players] that just know each other’s capabilities and play within themselves. Belgium was more of a defensive minded line that had sparkplug counter-attack capability. That line includes UCF players and ex-Coach Tyler Kunsa, as well as Roney and Hayden Wachob, who has generated more production with Kunsa and Roney. France was the Tampa contingent of our team. The Tampa contingent does virtually everything together; lifting running, throwing, you name it, they do it together since day one. We then had power-up and end-of-quarter lines respectively named after the prowess of Portugal and the whatever-it-takes mentality of Russia. Heading down the stretch, it was the different looks of each line and the creativity that organically grew quarter to quarter that we felt the confidence and swagger that might have been absent in similar situations. Everyone was vibing and everyone was present in the moment.”
  7. Heading into Week 15, LA’s Sean McDougall still leads the league with 54 goals, five ahead of Ottawa’s Alec Arsenault, who has 49. Dallas’ Jay Froude, San Francisco’s Lior Givol, and Indy’s Cameron Brock each have 48. In the assist department, Seattle’s Mark Burton tops the league with 81, putting him within five of Tyler DeGirolamo’s single-season record 86, set in 2015. Behind Burton, Chicago’s Pawel Janas has 71 assists, Pittsburgh’s Max Sheppard has 57, Ottawa’s Derek Alexander has 56, and Austin’s Chase Cunningham has 52. While Indy’s Rick Gross did not record any blocks against Madison on Saturday night, he still leads the circuit with 26 blocks, two ahead of Dallas’ Dillon Larberg and three clear of San Jose’s Brandon Fein. Los Angeles teammates Sean McDougall and Jeff Silverman are tied for fourth in the league in Ds, with 22 apiece.

The Hammer

While Week 14 did not necessarily showcase it, there have been a wild number of close games throughout the 2018 season, and a team’s success in contests that go down to the wire often dictates whether that team can advance and do damage in the postseason.

Here’s a look at every team’s record in games decided by three or less, separated by division:

Dallas 6-0
Atlanta 5-3
Austin 5-3
Nashville 2-3
Raleigh 2-3
Tampa Bay 1-8

Toronto 3-1
Montreal 5-2
New York 2-1
DC 3-3
Philly 2-2

Ottawa 1-6

Los Angeles 3-2
San Francisco 4-3
Seattle 4-3
San Diego 3-5
San Jose 3-5

Indianapolis 2-0
Madison 3-1
Pittsburgh 3-1
Minnesota 2-4
Detroit 0-2
Chicago 0-3

Every team had plenty of ‘what-if?’ moments throughout the season, where things could have gone differently. It’s important to learn from them, but can be dangerous to dwell on them.

“Personally, I try not to think too much about past games and close calls,” said San Diego’s Steven Milardovich. “Every team has close calls that go for and against them, so you just have to go out every single game and compete.”

The action continues tonight in Madison, where, if history is any indication, another tight game between the Wind Chill and Radicals is on tap.

Enjoy the ultimate this week, have a great Independence Day, and thank you for reading!

We’re getting to the good part.

 

The Tuesday Toss is published weekly on theAUDL.com during the season. Got a comment or question about the AUDL or the current state of ultimate? E-mail Evan Lepler at AUDLMailbag@gmail.com. Feedback can also be levied on twitter: @EvanLepler