January 27, 2020
By Adam Ruffner
- 2020 Championship Weekend In Madison
For the third time in five years, Madison will host AUDL Championship Weekend. The "Capital City of Ultimate" has had record-setting crowds in each of their past two events, and has produced some of the most memorable games in league history.
- Packers Halftime Showcase
- Player Signings
The Dallas Roughnecks continue their biggest offseason in years, following their Kurt Gibson and Kyle Henke signings with the addition of longtime Austin Sol player Cunningiham. The four-year Sol veteran holds the franchise records for both career assists (140) and blocks (47), using his big 6'3" frame effectively as a lefty handler and defender. Cunningham suffered an injury in his first game of the 2019 season, playing just nine points total before missing the remainder of the schedule.
Cunningham was a major factor in the Sol's first and only playoff appearance during the 2018 season. Playing a 60-40 offense-defense split, Cunningham racked up 52 assists, 29 goals, 16 blocks, and 300+ completions in 13 regular season games.
The Dallas offense was inconsistent at times during the 2019 season, and Cunningham's ability to plug into numerous roles as a scorer will allow the Roughnecks in greater flexibility in their lineups. He functions best as a big thrower and receiver, gaining huge chunks of yardage in a single possession, which gives Dallas yet another dangerous playmaker in the open field.
Jarrod Banks, Dane Warner
The DC Breeze received big contributions from numerous role players in 2019 on their way to the playoffs, and two of their most productive performers were Banks and Warner. Both rookies last season, Banks averaged over four scores per game while playing as a cutter for the Breeze offense, while Warner was one of DC's more effective defenders in coverage.
Jacob Fella, Corey Hardesty, Heath Kalaba, Keegan North, Xavier Payne, Carter Rae
The Indianapolis AlleyCats had great rotations in their lineups last season on their way to the division title, and it looks like that will once again be the case in 2020 with their recent spate of signings. Returners Fella and Kalaba add defensive depth to an AlleyCats unit that finished tied for third in fewest points allowed per game in 2019, while North has been one of the most underrated offensive talents in the league the past two years.
Since joining Indy in 2018, North has had back-to-back 30+ assist, 20+ goal, 200+ completion seasons. The 25-year-old hybrid does a great job of recognizing his matchup and making adjustments, operating equally well as both a distributor in the backfield and as a downfield threat. He possesses one of the better hammer throws in a half field set, and isn't afraid to wield it. But if defenses try too hard to contain his handler routes, North will burn them downfield with his speed and pogo stick hops.
In addition to the returners, the 'Cats are bringing aboard three former Nashville players in Rae, Payne, and Hardesty. All three have good upside, and can fill in immediately for Indy. Rae has spent the past two years in Atlanta getting limited minutes as a defender, but has shown glimpses of his potential. Payne is a solid pickup for the AlleyCats defensive counterattack, as the team is losing veteran handler Brett Matzuka to free agency (more on that in a few paragraphs). Hardesty is a big target and a natural receiving threat, owning a 50-goal season in 2016, and scoring 110 goals in just 41 career games.
Tom Annen, Avery Johnson, Sterling Knoche, Victor Luo, Chase Marty, Chris Wilen
The Madison Radicals continue to announce the re-signings of a roster core that has won five regular season divisional titles in the past six seasons. Marty and Luo could see expanded roles with a Radicals offense that will have a lot of spots to fill after veteran departures. Knoche has been one of the best defenders since entering the league in 2017; his career average of 2.03 blocks per game is third all-time among players with at least 20 games played, and he had the sixth most blocks in 2019 with 22 in 11 games.
The Minnesota Wind Chill aren't done with their big free agency acquisitions after inking Mark Lloyd and Matt Rehder in recent weeks, now signing one of the most reliable throwers in league history in Matzuka for the 2020 season. Matzuka enters the season sixth all-time in AUDL history in completions (2321), having split the past six seasons between DC, Chicago, Raleigh, and Indianapolis.
A high-volume distributor who functions as a field general, Matzuka is a great fit for a Minnesota team that has struggled with converting defensive takeaways into scores. He filled a similar role as a defensive handler for Indy in 2019, completing 410 passes and 14 assists at a sterling 97.60 percent rate during the regular season, and helping Indy earn a bid to Championship Weekend with his poise leading the counterattack. Matzuka excels at getting everyone ample touches, and has the kind of throwing style that lends itself to creating many opportunities for others despite his sometimes lackluster assist totals.
Mathieu Bosser, Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky
The Montreal Royal are restocking on French imports, re-signing Bosser and Poitte-Sokolsky. While somewhat limited in playing time, Bosser was very efficient on offense for the Royal, collecting 15 scores and 144 completions in just 119 points played. Poitte-Sokolsky emerged as a perfect receiving complement to AUDL goal scoring leader Quentin Bonnaud, earning All-AUDL Rookie Team honors and scoring the most goals (39) of any rookie in the league in 2019; Poitte-Sokolsky had 16 goals alone in his final three games of the season.
- New York
One of the most talented all-around offensive stars the past two seasons, Williams is back for his second season with the New York Empire in 2020. Although Williams seemed to fly a bit under the radar at times in a stacked Empire lineup, he still finished the regular season with 33 assists, 25 goals, and 362 completions (95.30 percent) in 295 points played; Williams was almost perfect during New York's title run, committing just two turnovers while scoring 12 times in three postseason games.
Mark Burton, Dennis Casio, Marc Munoz, Shane Worthington
Coming off a two-win season, the Seattle Cascades have announced their first wave of signings for 2020. There were rumors a season ago that 2019 would be Burton's last season, but the veteran playmaker is set to return for his fifth season with Seattle; Burton holds the title of "most dangerous scorer in league history", averaging a ridiculous 9.0 scores per game in 43 career games; he's second all-time in assists per game (6.19), trailing only Pawel Janas. The 25-year-old Worthington exploded for 26 blocks during his rookie season in 2018, but experienced a regression last season, earning just nine takeaways in 2019.
- San Diego
Jacob Bartholomew, Sam Fontaine, Steven Milardovich, Tim Okita
The San Diego Growlers are returning three team vets in Fontaine, Milardovich, and Okita, and adding a SoCal speedster in Bartholomew.
Fontaine has been an attacking, efficient throwing presence for the Growlers D-line the past two seasons, throwing 43 assists on 347 completions in 2018 and 2019. He uses his speed effectively both in coverage and on the counterattack.
The franchise leader in blocks and points played, Milardovich has been a team leader on defense since day one. He had a career-low 12 blocks in 2019 after four straight seasons of 20+, but was a focal point in initiating the counterattack.
One of the most underrated offensive players in the league last season, Okita is coming off a career year. He ranked in the top 15 in the AUDL in assists (44), completions (511), and completion percentage (97.90 percent; min. 200 completions). One of the most dangerous handlers in the redzone, Okita also operates well cycling into the downfield as a receiver despite being listed at just 5'8".
A former track athlete, Bartholomew could be a valuable pickup for the defense. He's played just 76 points total the past two seasons in LA, but had 23 goals and 11 blocks for the Aviators in 2017.
Kieran Charnock, JJ Edwards, Cam Harris, Jacky Hau, Nathan Hirst, Jason Huynh, Dan LaFrance, Paul Mensah, Akifumi Muraoka, Adam O'Donnell, Marijo Zlatic
The Toronto Rush are coming off their worst season in franchise history that still saw them qualify for the East Division championship game. All-Star and AUDL legend Harris and Japanese rookie sensation Muraoka headline the group of re-signings, but Toronto also gains two former Ottawa standouts in Mensah and O'Donnell.
Harris had his best season in years in 2019, earning All-AUDL honors and leading Toronto to their seventh straight appearance in the divisional championship. He enters 2020 fifth all-time in AUDL history goals, third in assists, 17th in blocks, and eighth in games played.
Muraoka paired with Hirst to give Toronto one of the speediest one-two receiving threats in the division last season. At 6'2", new signing O'Donnell could work well in tandem giving the Rush receiving corps more size.
Hau leads the list of defensive returners, which includes Zlatic and Edwards coming back from season-ending injuries in 2019. Zlatic had 28 goals and 23 blocks in 23 regular season appearances between 2017 and 2018, while Edwards was coming off a 25-goal, 14-block year in 2018 before missing the entirety of the 2019 season. Adding a coverage defender of Mensah's caliber will give Toronto a lot of options in picking matchups in 2020.