March 26, 2018
By Tyler Byrum
After this eventful AUDL offseason, it is fair to say that the start of the 2018 season is going to be compelling. Numerous faces have switched allegiances, players have ‘retired’, franchises moved, and a new crop of talent has emerged as the dust settled. The 2018 DC Breeze organization fits right into these storylines.
Already in just a handful of months the franchise has moved to a new home, hired a new Director of Game Day Operations, and invested more than ever before in the team.
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Once again a new look Breeze squad will take the field to start the season. Well known D.C.-area players Alan Kolick, Markham Shofner, and Tyler Monroe will not be back with the team this season, leaving some gaps to fill. Throughout the 2016 and 2017 seasons Kolick was often the team’s go-to player, Monroe was a top deep-option for the offense, and Shofner was a plug-in-anywhere type of handler.
Those losses should not keep the organization down by any means. Head coach Darryl Stanley, who returns to the Breeze with a new two-year commitment after a successful campaign in 2017, is intent to make sure of that.
New players have already increased their roles and rookies are going have the platform to shine this season. The team-leader in touches, Lloyd Blake returns after a successful rookie campaign. Completing 95 percent of his passes a season ago with 19 goals and 33 assists, the 6-5 Blake is going to once again be the heart of the offense. Alongside him will be fellow second-year player Nathan Prior (four goals, 10 assists) who played on the O-line with him for a majority of 2017.
But joining the offense will be one of the most electrifying throwers in not only the AUDL, but all of ultimate. UNC-Wilmington legend Xavier Maxstadt will be suiting up with the Breeze this upcoming season. All you need as proof of his disc throwing prowess is one look at his 2015 Callahan video. This will be his fourth season playing professionally with seven goals and 32 assists in his career. The 25-year-old handler also brings important experience, having played on both of the 2018 Cross-Divisional opponents of the Breeze, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (2017) and the Raleigh Flyers (2015-16).
His options down the field will include the Breeze’s leader in goals a year ago, Max Cassell. The cutter re-upped for his third and fourth Breeze seasons with a two-year contract extension. Last year he brought home 40 goals and 30 assists, both in the top ten of all Breeze players. The 2016 leader in goals and former All-AUDL Second Teamer Jeff Wodatchwill be back this year as well.
On the defensive side, fan-favorites Delrico Johnson and Matthew ‘Rowan’ McDonnell will be disc-hawkers once again. Together they combined for 38 blocks with the defensive unit. The return of Brad Scott from injury will also give another strong defensive element to the Breeze, but essentially all three guys can be plugged in anywhere on the field.
In total 24 players on the 36-man roster have played in the AUDL prior to this season. Of those, 20 helped the Breeze make their second straight run at the East Division Championship a season ago. Welcoming 12 AUDL-rookies there will be plenty of youth on this roster with 10 never having played professional ultimate before this year.
The roster will not be the only difference this season for the DC Breeze. Moving from Gallaudet University to Cardinal Stadium at Catholic University of America, the new home will be in a more convenient location, has room to house more Breeze fans, and should provide a terrific game day experience. To help ensure success of the events, the team has also hired a Director of Game Day Operations with professional ultimate experience, Matt Dewhurst.
Coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, the team is looking to take another step forward in 2018.