The Tuesday Toss: Comebacks, Debuts, and the Cannons’ Road Rampage
April 25, 2017 — By Evan Lepler
More than eight and a half months later, I still find myself thinking about it.
262 days later, it is still hovering somewhere in the forefront of my mind.
With apologies to all of the loyal and passionate Wisconsin ultimate fans for even bringing it up—I cannot help myself. It’s more than a memory: It’s a lesson, a warning, and a blueprint.
Of course, the "it" I’m referring to here is last year's second semifinal at Championship Weekend V in Madison, which saw the Madison Radicals unbelievably surrender a seven-goal lead in the second half against the Seattle Cascades. The shocking comeback stunned the massive, energetic, and partisan crowd at Breese Stevens Field, and it became the paradigm for every impossible rally or stunning collapse in the AUDL.
Full game footage from last year's semifinal between the Radicals and Cascades.
Moving forward, every fourth quarter deficit feels far more surmountable. Down by five late in the game? Believe like Seattle believed, and maybe you can still win. The Cascades somehow overcame incalculable odds, amplified by the presence of an unmatched hometown atmosphere.
If they could do it, perhaps you can too.
In Week 4 of our 2017 AUDL journey, we saw this happen twice. Obviously, the stakes were not nearly as high, nor were the circumstances for the trailing team quite as drastic as Seattle’s seven-goal deficit. But on Saturday night, we saw both the Raleigh Flyers and Montreal Royal transform late five-goal gaps into dramatic, emotional overtime wins. The DC Breeze and Philadelphia Phoenix filled the Radicals’ role, coughing up advantages that, for most of their respective evenings, felt like the foundations of signature victories for each team. The turnarounds in the two games were remarkably similar, with the Flyers closing on a 10-3 run and the Royal finishing on a 10-4 surge, punctuated by one of the most chaotic, heart-pounding, double overtime universe points in AUDL history.
Until we see ‘it’ surpassed in a truly critical moment, every significant comeback in the AUDL will evoke recollections of that Cascades-Radicals event. Every gameday, it gives hope for the trailing. It creates nerves for the leading. Even if it’s just among us fans.
Eight and a half months later, it still is very much alive in the pantheon of ultimate memories, and no matter who takes a lead between the Atlanta Hustle and Dallas Roughnecks this Sunday on the AUDL Game of the Week, I’m sure that Seattle-Madison classic will remain firmly in my mind.
These comebacks, along with a bevy of dynamite debuts, are among the top headlines of a gripping Week 4. But first, there was another team that earned two road wins this weekend, another reminder that things can change quickly in this awesome sport.
The Full Field Layout
In the Cascades-Radicals allegory, Jacksonville’s weekend is somewhat reminiscent of Will Chen’s 80-yard buzzer-beating bomb. While not nearly as spectacular or miraculous, it could eventually be seen as a key turningpoint for the Cannons in their journey back to the AUDL postseason.
One year ago, Jacksonville traveled home unhappy after every trip. They went 0-7 outside of Florida, falling by five goals or fewer in every one of those games except in Dallas, where they were routed by 15.
Following an ugly home loss against Raleigh nine days ago, the Cannons embarked on their quest through Atlanta and Nashville understanding that it was truly gonna be a gut-check weekend. They could fall to 1-3 for the third straight season, or they could possibly emerge 3-1 with a renewed confidence and vigor to try and conquer the challenging upcoming three-game homestand.
“Going into this weekend, our coaching staff/captains preached to bring up our overall intensity on defense and be more conservative with the disc on offense,” said Jacksonville’s Mischa Freystaetter. “This change in mentality came out during the first game against Atlanta.”
The Hustle were even a little surprised by the new mindset employed by the Cannons offense.
“We’re so used to seeing Jacksonville send long flick hucks and big hammers that it was unusual to see them consistently possess the disc and work it up,” admitted Atlanta’s Matt Smith. “I’m pretty sure they threw under five hammers, which has got to be some sort of record [for them.] I thought they did an excellent job of slowing the game down and just running it between their top four guys on O: Cole Sullivan, Freystaetter, Bobby Ley, and Jeremy Langdon.”
From wire to wire, neither side ever led by more than three on Saturday at Grady Stadium. Breaks were at a premium, and the Cannons clung to a slim lead down the stretch.
“We felt right on the edge of taking control for most of the game,” said Atlanta Coach Greg Swanson, “but we didn’t convert enough chances. Our unforced errors were the story of the game.”
While Atlanta came to grips with its mistakes, Jacksonville expressed pride in its poise.
“The story was definitely our offense being able to hold strong under pressure,” said Sullivan, who dished seven assists and scored an uncharacteristically high seven goals in the Cannons 27-25 road win. “The composure with the disc was at an all-time high, something we worked on after the Raleigh loss, and led to us converting at a consistent rate to keep us in the lead.”
Typically Jacksonville’s center-handler, Sullivan shifted into a downfield-cutting role since the Cannons were without Travis Catron. Tyler Kunsa moved over from the D-line to handle on offense with Ley, and the tinkering paid off, with Sullivan having one of his most prolific and balanced games in the AUDL.
“I was just going to number one in the stack and catching a lot of break-side passes,” Sullivan explained. “I have been doing that for years just due to my big body and sure hands, but have had to transition back to handling due to needs of the Florida scene. It was definitely fun to return to downfield cutting, and hopefully when Brodie [Smith] comes over, I can stay downfield a little bit more.”
The Cannons are not sure when the decorated Smith will make his debut with Jacksonville, but they expect it to be sometime in the first half of the season.
Though Sullivan’s stats led the way, the Cannons awarded their own player of the game award to Chris LaRocque, who remained an anchor on the D-line, setting the tone for the entire team’s intensity, according to Jacksonville Assistant Coach Beth Vavrica.
That team-wide defensive mindset was critical on Sunday, as the Cannons sought a sweep of their two-game trip. It became evident early that it was be a low-scoring struggle with the NightWatch, with conditions not meant for pristine ultimate.
“It was cold, wet, and windy,” explained Freystaetter, who caught 10 goals on the weekend. “It was an ugly game with players slipping and falling due to the mud.”
Consequently, the Cannons put added value on a quick start, sensing that mounting a several goal comeback would be unlikely. Early in the game, Jacksonville used timeouts to substitute the offense on the field after a turnover to try and ensure a break. When they held the NightWatch to just one goal in the first quarter and three goals in the half, it seemed the strategy had paid off.
Jacksonville led 8-3 at the half and hung on for the unglamorous but satisfying 14-11 victory. It was a far cry from the Cannons 40-23 victory over the NightWatch from three weeks earlier, but it still counted the same in the win column.
Despite playing most of his points on offense, Ley accumulated a game-high five Ds in the turnover-laden affair. Freystaetter and Jeremy Langdon each scored four goals, totaling more than half of the team’s Sunday scoring between the two of them.
“As we learned first-hand last year, wins on the road never come easy in this league,” Freystaetter said. “We already have two more wins on the road than all of last year so we were definitely pleased with how the weekend went.”
Added Sullivan, “3-1 feels great! We were shooting for 4-0 so we can set ourselves up for a home playoff game, but 3-1 is still decent. We need to convert some big home games coming up into some Ws, and we will see where we stand after mid-June.”
The Cannons don’t have another road game until they visit Atlanta again more than a month from now. They have Austin at home this weekend, a week off, and then will host Dallas and Raleigh in back-to-back weeks on May 12 and May 20.
Elsewhere in the South, the Flyers fortuitously found victory in overtime, while the Roughnecks improved to 20-0 all-time thanks to their sixth consecutive win over the Sol.
In the capital of North Carolina, the Flyers overcame the fact that they did not lead for a single second in regulation, yet still prevailed 23-21 over DC to kick off the AUDL Cross Coast Challenge. The Breeze followed up their impeccable performance against Toronto by controlling the game against Raleigh for three quarters, only to let it slip away in the final frame.
Full game footage from the inaugural CCC showdown between DC and Raleigh.
Even though DC was missing Tyler Monroe, Jeff Wodatch, Markham Shofner, and Rowan McDonnell—a quartet that combined for 15 of the Breeze’s 32 goals against the Rush on April 9—the Alan Kolick-led offense looked in sync early. The lefty sniper dished six assists in the first half as the Breeze stormed to a four-goal lead over the discombobulated and mistake-prone Flyers.
DC stretched the lead to five in the third and maintained a five-goal edge when Max Cassell’s ambitious cross-field diagonal scoober astonishingly landed in Jonathan Neeley’s grasp for the goal that made it 18-13 with 9:39 remaining in the fourth. Much like DC’s opener against the Rush, this throw seemed to symbolize that everything was going the Breeze’s way.
But after winning seven consecutive quarters to start their season, DC slowly saw their lead unravel. Noah Saul quickly hit Matt Bode for an immediate downwind score to make it 18-14, and then Jeff Nordgren registered a pair of Ds to help the Flyers pick up the critical upwind break.
DC threw it away twice on the ensuing point, and Raleigh paid off another downwinder to suddenly have the score at 18-16, as close as it had been since the first half. Saul, Bode, Jonathan Nethercutt, and Justin Allen all played huge roles, bouncing around between lines to give the Flyers some additional throwers in the difficult conditions.
Raleigh evened the score at 19-all with 1:33 left, and a couple points later, after DC’s desperation Hail Mary was stuffed by David Richardson, it was 20-20 and overtime beckoned.
At this point, the Flyers felt incredibly confident. Like DC, Raleigh was also missing a handful of its key O-line stalwarts like Jacob Fairfax, Goose Helton, and Ben Dieter. But riding a 7-2 rally, the Flyers looked to carry the momentum, not to mention the energy of their lively home crowd, to a wild win.
DC won the coin toss and selected the side of the field, choosing to go downwind. Raleigh selected defense, confident they could get an upwind goal and ensuring that they would get the disc if the game progressed into double OT. Obviously, it never got that far.
Each team registered one offensive hold to keep it even at 21, but then Richardson came through with a clutch run-through D. Nethercutt picked up the disc and launched deep for Richardson, who made the one-handed snag for the upwind bookends break 100 seconds into the overtime period, sparking a euphoric celebration as the Flyers took their first lead of the game.
David Richardson celebrating the big bookends score in overtime.
While Richardson’s fourth D of the day led to the goal that gave Raleigh the lead, Hunter Taylor matched that block total to help seal the victory. Taylor’s fourth block led to the Flyers’ downwind score that made it 23-21 with 1:44 to go. Another 100 seconds of defense put the improbable win on ice.
After the game, the Flyers were relieved and fired up, yet still frustrated with the overall effort. Head Coach Mike Denardis had been thrilled with the team’s execution the previous week in Jacksonville, and felt like they lacked the similar 48-minute performance against DC.
“I am proud of the comeback,” Denardis said, “but we want more complete wins and less scrambling from necessity.”
Assistant Coach David Allison added, “This type of performance won’t bring home any championships, but the grit and determination we showed Saturday night indicates that we have the right mindset to reach our overall goals.”
As for the Breeze, the certain disappointment was tempered a bit by the reality that they are still in solid shape in the East Division. Every team who has played in the East has at least one loss, and the Breeze have a winnable home game this weekend against an Ottawa team that will be making its season debut.
“I have what I’ve always wanted as a coach,” DC’s Darryl Stanley explained, “a team that is elastic and will play in whatever style is necessary to win games. We will be dangerous. We have used 26 of our 34 players already and were able to be in good positions to win games against some of the league’s strong teams. We sought to address several things from the Toronto game, and I think we addressed all of them very successfully, as evidenced by our performance for the first three quarters. Now, we have some new material to grow from, and I’m confident we will.”
While Raleigh and DC both looked like title contenders, Dallas simply looked like champions in another victory over Austin. The Roughnecks improved to 3-0 this year and 20-0 all time heading into their upcoming five-game stretch that includes four on the road.
Dylan Freechild and Jimmy Mickle continued their superb statistical starts to the season, each registering a +7, while former Radicals Abe Coffin and Jay Froude combined to put up a +13 for their new team. The latter pair will be critical for Dallas this coming weekend as Freechild and Mickle miss the Roughnecks twin-bill due to Team USA responsibilities.
Game highlights from Saturday's 30-24 Roughnecks win over the Sol.
It’s far from surprising, but Coffin and Froude’s quick assimilation into Dallas’ system and chemistry has been a great boon for the roster that seemed less invincible when Beau Kittredge and Cassidy Rasmussen departed and Kurt Gibson and Matt Jackson got injured.
“After the first mini camp [Coffin and Froude] played in, I knew they would fit in nicely,” said Roughnecks Coach Patrick Eberle. “It’s easy to fit in when you are constantly open and have great disc skills. They are great teammates too.”
Through three games, the new Roughnecks are fifth and sixth on the team in plus/minus despite playing very different roles. Froude has played 52 of his 59 total points on D, while Coffin moved to the O-line after the first game, a move that immediately paid dividends with eight goals and seven assists in the last two games.
“Jay has taken a really dominant role on our D line, taking hard matchups and creating offense on the turn for us,” explained Mickle, who added three goals and four assists himself on Saturday. Abe has been a bit of a Swiss army knife for our O-line, filling in wherever we need some additional help. His versatility allows us to have him cut or handle, same as Stanley [Peterson], Dylan, Ben Lohre, and me. I think this makes our O-line pretty difficult to guard.”
The most recent triumph over the Sol, a comfortable 30-24 final, left the #2 team in Texas shaking its heads. After trailing 9-5, Austin had rallied back with four straight scores to tie it up at 9-all at the end of the high scoring first quarter. But the Roughnecks quickly regained their composure, delivered an early break to begin the second, and led the rest of the way. It was 16-14 at the half, 21-18 through three, and the Roughnecks scored nine more times in the final frame to reach the 30-goal plateau for the ninth time in the franchise’s short 20-game history.
“The last game against Dallas was, in my opinion, the toughest one to take,” said Austin’s Jeff Loskorn, who dished three assists in his return to the lineup after missing Austin’s previous game for the birth of his son. “We gave up an early lead, but brought it back to nines at the end of the first. We felt good physically, we had momentum, we were confident. It was really the first time we were able to punch back and not let them keep a comfortable lead. We had them on their heels a little bit. But we made a few minor mistakes to start the second, and Dallas really doesn’t afford you any mental lapses. They got a couple breaks and were able to maintain it the rest of the way.”
After the game, Austin Coach Edith Teng stressed to her players that the Sol had been broken within the first two points of every quarter, and that needed to improve. Although there’s little shame of being 0-3 with two games against Dallas and a third against Raleigh, the reality is those two teams make up nearly half of Austin’s schedule 14-game schedule. Before they play the Roughnecks again in June, the Sol have a six-game stretch starting this weekend with a daunting double road trip to Jacksonville and Raleigh, followed by home and homes with Atlanta and Austin.
No team in AUDL history has ever gone from 0-3 to the playoffs, and the Sol will need to be at least 4-2 and more likely 5-1 in their next six to have a chance at changing that trend. It’s not an impossible goal because of the squad’s overall talent, but they are going to have to find their groove very soon.
Austin Captain Michael Matthis realizes this, saying, “I think going into this next weekend, our two big things are 1) to continue to clean up execution errors, which is something we improved on this past weekend from the Raleigh game but can always be better. And 2) to be stronger mentally. These are long games, and going down two or three breaks isn’t nearly as daunting as it is in [club ultimate, when games are not as long and played to 15]. We discussed that as a team and need to respond a little better to small adversities and realize it’s very feasible to come back from that sort of deficit.”
It’s true. Just ask Seattle or Madison.
After this past weekend, you can also ask Montreal, who overcame its own late deficit to force overtime before eventually prevailing in an epic double overtime capper against Philadelphia. Five different players on the two teams registered game-saving Ds on the final point, a back-and-forth extravaganza that finally ended when Steve Bonneau’s cross-field hammer connected with Miguel Goderre for the thrilling final goal. It gave the Royal their first lead since it was 1-0, and it crushed the hopes of the Phoenix, who were searching for their first win since July 12, 2015, 653 days ago.
Steve Bonneau's game-winning hammer in sudden death, double overtime for the Montreal Royal's first win of the season.
“I like the analogy of a boxing match in which Philly was taking huge swings to the head and we were chipping away at the body,” said Montreal Captain Kevin Quinlan. “A resilient win for us.”
Both teams were without their head coaches for their opening games, but assistants Sam Morgan (Philly) and Caroline Cadotte (Montreal) helmed the roller coaster ride for these two hopeful East Division squads. The Phoenix led 12-9 at the half in the debut of many new players, including Nicky Spiva, Trey Katzenbach, and Marques Brownlee, and they stretched the lead to 19-14 late in the third. But the Royal clawed their way back in the fourth, tying things up at 21-all and sending it to OT even at 22. Each team managed just one score in the overtime before the marathon final point, when Jordan Taylor, Scott Xu, Quinlan, Oak Nelson, and Nathan Dandurand all came up with Ds.
The full, final point from Saturday night's thriller.
“It was truly electrifying,” said Philly’s Stephen Ng.
Undoubtedly, there were several decisions that throwers wanted back with the game on the line.
“We were working it up fine,” Spiva recalled, “then called timeout. I forced an up-line that we had done as a play call—regret forcing that throw. But we had more chances. Both teams had nice blocks.”
While disappointed in the loss, the Phoenix realized that the culture is changing quickly in Philly.
“We have a lot of low-hanging fruit for improvement as a team,” Spiva explained. “We haven’t had many reps together with guys from Philly, NJ, elsewhere in Pennsylvania, etc., and I think with a couple adjustments we will be a much stronger team. Not thrilled with how I played overall, but it is a learning process with such a new team; we have to build trust and just have reps together.”
Sean Mott, who recorded 33 goals and 36 assists in two previous seasons with the Phoenix, returned after a year away with a big game, scoring four goals and dishing six assists to lead Philadelphia in each category. Will Hoehne added three goals, two assists, and four Ds without committing a single turnover.
Game highlights from Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the Royal had little time to celebrate their improbable 24-23 double overtime win, as about 16 hours later, Montreal put seven on the line at MCU Park in Coney Island to battle the New York Empire. After a tight first quarter, things unraveled fast for the Royal. Trailing 3-2 through 12 minutes, it became 8-4 at half, 14-5 through three, and 21-8 by the final buzzer. It was the first time in franchise history that Montreal failed to reach double digits.
“We played awful,” Quinlan admitted. “I won’t sugarcoat it. We lost that game. We didn’t play together. We beat ourselves. New York is strong, but we can compete at that level. We just didn’t show up. You can make a lot of excuses for poor play, but at the end of the day, it’s throws and catches.”
It’s also Babbitt.
Highlights from Jeff Babbitt's dominating performance, finishing the day with 5 goals and 4 blocks in the Empire win.
The teenage mutant ninja defender—Jeff’s actually in his early 20s, but you get the idea—collected five goals and four Ds in his 18 points played, all for the D-line.
“Of course there were other people who played well, but Jeff kind of stole the day, as he can do,” acknowledged Ryan Drost, who added four Ds himself to complement Babbitt’s performance. “He made a bunch of incredible plays and the last layout block he got was really just unbelievable. It felt like he made up 10 yards in two steps. You can see on the video that I was literally applauding on the field.”
Unlike Sunday’s weather in Nashville, it was a much nicer day in New York. Even still, the Empire embraced a mentality of gritty defense to fluster to the fatigued Royal.
“The conditions at MCU were pretty ideal for an ultimate game,” Babbitt explained. “There was a slight wind that pushed the disc a few extra yards when thrown downwind, and when throwing upwind the disc would lift and sit in the air a bit longer. That was definitely ideal for defense, allowing for plays to be made all afternoon.”
Babbitt’s former college teammate, Conor Kline, also finished with five goals for New York, who improved to 1-1 heading into their Week 5 matchup with Philly. After this Saturday, the Empire will have three of their next four against DC, a stretch that will certainly indicate whether or not New York is ready to truly challenge the Breeze and the Rush for the top spot in the East.
“I feel like we are coming together as a defensive unit,” said Drost. “We’ve taken another step since [last year].
While Jacksonville earned a pair of road wins and Montreal’s crazy comeback earned the Royal a 1-1 split, San Diego was not nearly as fortunate in its multi-game weekend. The Growlers fell short in both of their Bay Area battles, slipping to 0-3 on the season following a 30-25 loss at San Jose and a 28-19 setback in San Francisco. It was not what former Spiders Kevin Smith and Sean Ham had in mind for an ideal Foothill homecoming.
“[Being] 0-3 is not what we hoped for to start the season,” said San Diego’s Tyler Bacon, who caught three goals on the weekend. “But I knew it was a possibility; the other teams out here are pretty good.
“San Jose might be the most athletic team in the division," Bacon continued. "Their offense just took what we gave them. If they got receivers behind us, throwers got the disc downfield. When we played the cutters tight, the handlers consistently found open break space with soft throws. Their D-line attacked us very well in transition, consistently converting our turnovers into four or five passes before we even got a mark back on.”
Game highlights from Friday's matchup between the San Diego Growlers and San Jose Spiders.
San Jose took its first lead at 3-2 and never trailed again, though the Growlers nearly overcame their own five-goal deficit in the second half. From down 19-14, a 4-0 run inched San Diego within one. With just a couple seconds on the clock at the end of the third quarter, a controversial call changed the game.
“We were able to get a shot to their end zone in a buzzer-beater situation,” remembered San Jose Coach Tyler Grant. “The throw went up, and it looked like Kelly [Van Arsdale] was accidentally tripped while making a play for the disc. He went down hard in a situation where I thought he had a good shot at coming down with it. The ref called a foul as time ran out.”
Before play resumed with one second left, Grant used a timeout to get the disc to a handler, and Justin Norden hit Steven Chang for the score as time expired, giving the Spiders a 20-18 lead at the end of the third. Then, San Jose scored the first two points of the fourth to double the lead, seizing control en route to their second win.
Many members of the Growlers felt that Van Arsdale had been out-positioned and a phantom call had given the Spiders an undeserved gift.
“It was frustrating, to say the least,” Smith remarked.
One day later, San Diego came out slowly and the FlameThrowers pounced in a hurry, bolting to a 9-4 lead by the end of the first. San Francisco led by seven a halftime, and the Growlers never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Full game footage from Saturday's matchup between the San Diego Growlers and San Francisco FlameThrowers.
“We didn’t execute at a high level, and [San Francisco] took advantage of our mistakes,” said Growlers Coach Kevin Stuart. “They are a veteran team and made us pay for being sloppy. In each game, there were flashes of what we are capable of, but right now we are a bit too inconsistent on both ends to get a victory.”
While the Growlers were licking their wounds, the Spiders and FlameThrowers were both pleased to be 2-1, right behind Seattle and Los Angeles, who are both 2-0 at the top of the West. For the first time this season, both San Jose and San Francisco leave the Bay this weekend, with the Spiders going north and the FlameThrowers venturing south. Each club has a twin-bill on the road to close out the month of April.
“Last year, we knew Seattle was stacked and felt Vancouver was on our level,” explained San Jose’s Jackson Stearns, whose +21 is tops on the squad and tied for third-best in the league so far this year. “We dropped both games last year [on his Pacific Northwest trip], but weren’t overly surprised or disappointed by that. This year, it feels different; we’re definitely the underdogs, but we’re gaining momentum. All in all, I think we want to stay humble and hungry, but if we come back 0-2, we will definitely be disappointed.”
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s journey will begin with a Saturday showdown at Los Angeles. For the first time, the FlameThrowers are returning to the site where their season came to an end last year against Seattle in the West Division final.
“It’s not hard to find motivation for this weekend,” said San Francisco’s Lucas Dallmann, who led the way with four goals in this past Saturday’s victory.
Antoine Davis delivered another brilliant and balanced performance for the FlameThrowers, recording three goals, three assists, and three Ds, playing primarily on the O-line alongside Dallmann, Kittredge, Marcelo Sanchez, Joel Schlachet, Justin Lim, and Patrick Baylis. Since coming to the Bay Area last year, Davis has made a significant impression on many of scene’s top ultimate leaders.
Game highlights from Saturday's matchup.
“I’m very impressed with Antoine’s level of commitment off the field,” Dallmann remarked. “He often times makes some sky balls look routine, but knowing how hard he’s working during the week is what really impresses me.”
The Cascades rose to 2-0 and sank their Riptide rivals to 0-3 by hanging on for a 27-24 triumph in Vancouver on Saturday evening. After establishing a 6-4 lead through 12 minutes, Seattle always remained in front by multiple goals the rest of the night, though the Cascades never widened the margin larger than five.
Game highlights from Saturday's matchup between the Seattle Cascades and Vancouver Riptide.
“I was very nervous when we were warming up,” said Seattle Captain Mark Burton. “We had 12 players warming up in the rain, and a group of players told us that [because of travel delays] they were showing up near game time. They showed up about 10 minutes before the game. We had a different roster than normal, but they all bought in and we took on the adversity of the rain and lack of numbers and we played with heart and fight. I am so impressed with the young players on this team. Aldous Root stood out and had a huge sky over Morgan and pumped us up.”
If the Cascades can beat San Jose and Pittsburgh at home in their next two games—far from a certainty, of course—then Seattle would be 4-0 heading into its next road trip, a journey to San Francisco on May 13.
Wrapping up the Week 4 action with the Midwest, both the Thunderbirds and Wind Chill were pleased by their convincing home wins to kick off their seasons.
Pittsburgh trailed Chicago 8-6 after one, but found a winning rhythm and welcomed back Tyler DeGirolamo to the field with a comfortable 30-22 triumph over the Wildfire. Max Sheppard, still just a 21-year-old senior at Edinboro, scored eight times and finished with a +10, while Joe Marmerstein, Max Thorne, and Jonathan Mast combined for nine assists and 91 completions without any turnovers on the O-line. Pat Earles distributed six assists and 27 completions himself, despite four throwaways.
But the return of DeGirolamo, the All-AUDL First Team member from two years ago, was the story of the day. Playing 24 points (19 on offense), DeGirolamo scored four goals, recorded five assists, and threw only one turnover.
After nearly two years since stepping on the field with the Thunderbirds, Tyler Degirolamo looked in rhythm with the hammer throws on Saturday night.
“Mentally, I felt at home,” DeGirolamo said. “Physically, I was still a little apprehensive about some movements. Couple that with the fact that I’m not quite back in the shape I’d like to be, I didn’t quite feel like myself. But that will come with time and patience. The highlight of the day for me was probably catching a simple deep goal from a Max huck. Felt right, and was nice to see that I was still capable of being a deep receiver in this game.”
In the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Wind Chill also delivered a dazzling season debut against Indianapolis, storming away from the AlleyCats in the second quarter en route to a 26-16 victory. Minnesota trailed 7-6 after one before scoring seven consecutive goals with a thrilling string of breaks.
Ryan Osgar, serving as a captain while simultaneously making his AUDL debut on the Wind Chill’s O-line, led the way with a +8 line that included five goals and three assists. But he was quick to give all the credit to his teammates on defense. The Wind Chill totaled 21 blocks on the day, led by Jay Drescher’s four. Dylan DeClerckand Brandon Matis each had three.
Minnesota brought the defensive intensity to their home opener on Saturday.
“Without a doubt, our D-line was the star of this game,” Osgar said. “It was close for the first quarter, but then our D-line broke six or seven times out of the break. That’s insane! Our D-line guys are so incredibly fiery that anytime they get rolling I think it is going to be difficult to stop them.
“I remember a point where we had three layout D attempts on unders in a row! That is the kind of intensity we are going to need every game going forward, and I have no doubt our guys will keep it up. I don’t think anything changed in terms of strategy before started getting break after break; it was simply our guys making huge plays and all feeding off each other’s energy. Once we got that snowball rolling, there was no looking back.”
Compared to multiple wins by just one goal over Indy in 2016, the 10-point triumph suggests that the Wind Chill have taken a sizable step forward. They will get a chance to see exactly how much they have improved when they host Madison this weekend, with the Radicals riding a 21-game regular season winning streak.
Game highlights from Saturday's matchup between the Indianapolis AlleyCats and Minnesota Wind Chill.
When the Montreal Royal announced a slew of offseason signings that included a bunch of Boston-rooted players—Christian Foster, Jordan Taylor, Max Rick, Ben Katz, and David Ferraro—that received a decent amount of attention. Most in the world of ultimate have a great respect for Boston’s prestigious history and abundance of talent.
The Royal also added a trio of players from France’s national team, a move that did not drum up nearly as much hype, at least here in the U.S. Understandably, most American fans are not very familiar with the French ultimate scene.
Well, it’s time you learned a little bit about Steve Bonneau, Quentin Bonnaud, and Nasser M’bae Vogel, all of whom competed with France’s men’s team at the World Ultimate and Guts Championships in London last summer. Bonneau and Bonnaud were the team’s top two playmakers, each finishing among the top 15 assist-makers in the entire week-long, 30-team tournament.
“They have incredible talent,” said Quinlan. “Nasser has ben a breath of fresh air for us, adding much needed veteran leadership with whatever role we give him. Quentin’s athleticism mixed with his team-first mentality makes him a valuable asset. Steve is renowned as the best player out of France. Center handler. Has every throw. Super confident.
Although two of the three French additions speak little to no English, the Royal are committed to integrating them into this collection of multicultural international talent. Montreal has also imported Mauricio Martinez from Colombia. Known in the South American ultimate world as “Choco,” he will add another style into intriguing Montreal mix.
It remains to be seen whether the pieces are enough to truly threaten the existing hierarchy, but it will be interesting to follow the Royal as they look to blend all of these backgrounds together to create a unified team.
“We can be good,” Quinlan said. “Talent is there. Coaching is there. Belief is there. We are just battling the time it takes to put it all together.”
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
While the number one greatest belonged to Raleigh’s Dave Snoke, the top social media post goes to the Cannons for sharing Ryan Chard deciding to turn the Nashville sideline into his own personal slip ‘n slide.
A post shared by The Jacksonville Cannons (@jaxcannons) on Apr 23, 2017 at 12:00pm PDT
Everyone ultimate player has practiced and competed in these conditions before. It’s messy, and it’s also amazingly fun.
Since the majority of the Jacksonville Cannons are spread out all across the state of Florida, players arrived home at very different times on Sunday night/Monday morning following their pair of road wins. The group traveling by road did not return to Jacksonville around 3:00 AM, and the South Florida contingent continued through the night until the 7:00 AM sunrise.
Meanwhile, a couple members of the team were fortunate to fly, though progressing through TSA was not an ordinary experience. After the wet and muddy afternoon in Nashville, the luggage was expectedly mucked.
“I think you can put the game into perspective when I tell you that TSA checked Tyler Kunsa’s bag because it appeared that he was trying to transport a couple gallons of water through the security line at the Nashville airport, but it was actually just his muddy and soaked clothes from the game,” explained Jeremy Langdon.
Most of us have unknowingly left a bottle of water in our backpack and gotten it confiscated by security. But having your drenched clothes mistaken for jugs of liquid is one thing that I have not witnessed before.
It surely gave Kunsa the chance to explain his Sunday ultimate adventure, an act that’s been known to invoke awe and praise from TSA agents around the nation.
Brought a disc thru airport security &the guy says 'I think that says a lot of wonderful things about your character' pic.twitter.com/wB2IPWus8i— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 18, 2017
Seven on the Line
1.Lots of leftovers from the 11-game weekend; including another dazzling performance from Indianapolis’ Rick Gross. The AlleyCats’ cutter continues to make mesmerizing gravity-defying moves and is adding consistent production to his obvious athleticism. Gross has put up a +22 in just three games, second highest in the league behind Langdon’s +28. It’s worth mentioning, though, that Langdon has played in four games compared to Gross’ three. Indy did not have too many bright spots in their 10-goal loss at Minnesota, but Gross’ four goals, one assist, and three Ds definitely stood out. I asked Indy veteran Cameron Brock if he thought Gross might be playing his way into the All-AUDL conversation, and here’s what he said: “Rick is a great athlete with more than capable throws. Whether he should be in the conversation for All-AUDL is a matter of subjectivity, but I’d pick him to be on any team I play on even with access to any players in the league. I’ll take him in the air against any ultimate player out there. Literally anyone. I don’t know if there is a player in the league that has as much potential on both sides of the disc as he does.”
Rick Gross leaps into the stratosphere to get this interception! pic.twitter.com/oTgKaw5hbH— AUDL (@theAUDL) April 24, 2017
2. Although Matt Jackson’s arm injury is expected to keep him out of the lineup until the summer, it’s not necessarily keeping him out of warm ups. Despite breaking multiple bones in his arm, Jackson was on the field and running through the pregame drills prior to Dallas’ game in Austin on Saturday. With his right arm in no shape to throw, he used his off-hand and tossed the disc lefty throughout the warmup. His coach was amazed. “[Matt] is such a great leader/captain, always leading by example,” said Eberle.
3. There was definitely lots to unpack after Raleigh’s comeback win over DC, but one of the things that stood out was the Flyers ability to defend with their athletes at the end of quarters. Athletes like David Richardson and Hunter Taylor, in particular, seemed to cherish and thrive in these moments. Richardson confirmed as much after the game. “The end of the quarters are my favorite part of the game,” he said. “The best part is that I don’t have to run anywhere, or if I do run, it’s not far.” What is he looking for in these “Hail Mary” situations? “The first thing I try to do is locate the other team’s star player. Some teams split up their guys so that there will be less defenders going up for the disc, but they ultimately throw it to their tallest or best receiver, so I try to guess which part of the end zone he is running towards so, again, I don’t have to run too far. Once the disc is in the air, I try to get behind it so I can take a step forward into the jump. The rest is all timing. I know where I can reach the highest when I jump, so I quickly check to make sure I won’t be jumping on anybody, and when the disc is right above my highest reach, I go up and hope for the best. I’m trying to avoid getting caught in a pile where I can’t make a full jump, being caught too far in front of the disc so I’m jumping backwards, or being in a situation where there is a high percentage that I could hurt myself or someone else.”
4. The interconnectivity in the West Division, in terms of players who have played for multiple teams and have completed alongside one another in the past, is pretty amazing. Obviously, the Growlers had not just Kevin Smith and Sean Ham returning to face the Spiders on Friday, but also Tyler Bacon and Jeff Silverman, who won titles with San Jose in 2014. There are a bunch of Bay Area players who have competed for both the Spiders and the FlameThrowers at different times over the past four seasons. And beyond just the professional histories, so many guys have previously competed against one another in college ultimate as well. For San Jose’s Jackson Stearns, a San Diego State alum, he particularly relishes the opportunities to face the Growlers, for example. “I love playing San Diego,” he said. “I’ve played with or against half of that roster my entire career, and it’s always a treat to see those guys. Last year, before signing with the Spiders, I was very close to signing with the Growlers just to get another season playing with Dom [Leggio], [Steven] Milardovich, Zeke [Ivers], Max [Hume], Will [Griffin], and all those guys. So each time we play them it’s fun to talk a little trash—they know I’m not much of a thrower—catch up on life, and then go play really hard. I particularly love playing against Steven because we had a healthy rivalry as teammates in college and have both grown a lot as players since then. After the game this week, we were chatting about guarding each other. He admits that I’m probably faster in a straight line, but that he has better footwork. It’s that kind of familiarity and healthy competition that makes the game so fun and why I love playing them so much.”
5. Smith and Ham both spoke highly about their trips back to San Jose, aside from the result of the game. At times, they said, it felt a little bit like a practice from past years, going against some common faces. “[Matt Crawford] got two Ds on us by helping over the top on my deep cuts,” said Ham. “He used to do that to me at practice, so it was strangely familiar, albeit annoying.” While Ham was never on the Spiders at the same time as his current Growlers’ teammate Tyler Bacon, one San Jose fan particularly enjoyed seeing the two former Spider champs on the field together. Ham explained: “A fan mentioned that there had to be a joke regarding my last name and Tyler Bacon [because] both of us—Bacon and Ham—used to play for the Spiders and [team owner Andrew] Zill is a vegetarian. She hadn’t quite worked out the punch-line, but found it humorous.”
6. There’s only one team left in the AUDL that still is 0-0, and that will change when the Ottawa Outlaws take the field on Saturday in DC. Ottawa should be strong in the handler set, with Derek Alexander and Kinley Gee back to shoulder the throwing load. Nick Boucher and Erik Hunter join Alexander and Gee as captains, but the Outlaws will have to figure out how to replace Karl Loiseau, who is not expected to play this season after his non-ultimate career took him to France for an extended work term. Like Montreal, though, the Outlaws have added some international flavor, picking up Luca Miglioretto from Switzerland and Pierre Lemerle from France. Miglioretto led the Switzerland national team in assists at last year’s World Championships in London, while Lemerle scored the fourth-most goals on Team France. Realistically, while the Outlaws would love to upset the Breeze on Saturday, their Sunday matchup in Philadelphia is probably the more likely opportunity to create a 1-1 weekend.
7. Finally, a plea to the ultimate community. It’s one I’ve made before, and clearly, I don’t feel like I’ve been heard. When reporting scores in ultimate, the higher score should always go first! No exceptions! It really isn’t hard. Yet I still see things like this, scrolling through twitter on Saturday night, from the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds: “First quarter ends with Pittsburgh trailing the Wildfire 6-8.” Argh! Few things make me angrier about our community! Obviously, the ultimate pitchfork mafia can feel passionate about certain things that they feel are wrong. People can feel different ways about issues, and that is perfectly fine. But this score reporting is not a gray area. 8-6 is right. 6-8 is wrong. Don’t talk to me about tennis or volleyball. I like both tennis and volleyball, and those both involve different dynamics where reporting “15-40” or “19 serving 20” are ok. But ultimate is lumped in with baseball, football, soccer, basketball, hockey, and other sports where it is not acceptable to list the lower score first. The Red Sox did not lose 4-7; they lost 7-4. The Packers did not fall 31-35; they fell 35-31. You get the idea. Please oblige; I beg you. I don’t ask for much. All 8,000 some-odd words of the Tuesday Toss are completely free. Do me this solid. Higher score first. Thank you.
For reference, here’s a look at the AUDL regular season week-by-week schedule, in terms of number of games:
- Week 1: 7 games
- Week 2: 7 games
- Week 3: 2 games
- Week 4: 11 games
- Week 5: 15 games
- Week 6: 10 games
- Week 7: 12 games
- Week 8 10 games
- Week 9: 8 games
- Week 10: 15 games
- Week 11: 9 games
- Week 12:
- 13 games
- Week 13: 12 games
- Week 14: 8 games
- Week 15: 7 games
- Week 16: 11 games
- Week 17: 11 games
Obviously, on the precipice of Week 5, we are set for a pretty significant weekend of ultimate. Would you believe that this upcoming weekend is the only time all season that all 24 AUDL teams will take the field on the same weekend? It’s true!
San Jose, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Austin, Dallas, and San Francisco all have twin-bills, while the other 18 teams in the league each play once. I’m already nervous about how long next Tuesday’s Toss might be.
San Jose-Seattle is the lone Friday action, while Madison-Minnesota and San Francisco-Los Angeles highlight the Saturday schedule. On Sunday afternoon, feast on four more games, including Austin-Jacksonville and Dallas-Atlanta, the latter of which will be the AUDL Game of the Week on AUDL.tv and the Eleven Sports Network.
And if you’re in need of even more ultimate to watch, the finals of Australian Nationals happened yesterday, and it turned out to be a pretty epic game. I won’t tell you who won, but check out this link for a little high-stakes ulty from around the world:
I know there are plenty of AUDL fans in Australia and New Zealand, including many of the players who competed in this game. Give them a gander; it seems only a matter of time before some of them might be playing in our league too.
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