The Tuesday Toss: Traditional Powerhouses Returning To Form
May 9, 2017 — By Evan Lepler
After all kinds of chaos broke loose in Week 5, things returned to a more natural, anticipated order this past weekend.
Whereas 75 percent of the 2016 Championship Weekend quartet tasted defeat as April concluded, those four franchises combined to go 5-0, with various levels of dominance, in begin the month of May.
We saw road teams win the majority of the action in Week 5, only to see them go 2-8 this past weekend. The Toronto Rush (3-2) picked up road wins at the Ottawa Outlaws (1-2) and Montreal Royal (2-2)—vitally important results for the Rush but far from groundbreaking shockers—while the rest of the home teams in the league went 8-0 in Week 6.
Despite these relaxing realities, plenty of drama remained.
Five of the seven Saturday games were decided by three scores or less, including another one-goal decision between New York (2-2) Empire and DC Breeze (3-1), the fourth consecutive regular-season meeting that has been settled by this margin. Of course, like the three previous occurrences, DC emerged victorious.
We nearly saw another great late-game rally in the Cross Coast Challenge! At Memorial Stadium, the Seattle Cascades (3-1) saw their six-goal second-half lead whittled down to two in the fourth quarter by the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (2-1), but too many missed opportunities—painful drops, mainly—doomed Pittsburgh’s comeback quest.
The Thunderbirds loss left the Dallas Roughnecks (6-0) and Minnesota Wind Chill (3-0) as the only remaining undefeated teams in the league, while San Diego and Austin each picked up their first victories of the year to escape the guild of winless warriors.
Meanwhile, the Madison Radicals (2-1) got back on track in front of a fantastic home crowd. It’s not a radical opinion to suggest the 2-1 Radicals haven’t looked like world beaters so far in 2017, and with huge tests against Pittsburgh and Dallas over the next four weeks, not to mention a tough road game against improving Indy this Saturday, Madison finds itself at a crossroads unlike anything the franchise has really experienced over the past few years. While no one would be shocked to see Madison find its form and roll through this daunting stretch, the Radicals are definitely in danger of entering unfamiliar territory. Considering this team has gone 27-1 over the last two regular seasons, multiple losses before June would indeed be mightily untraversed terrain.
On the verge of a tantalizing Week 7—Dallas will visit both the Jacksonville Cannons (4-1) and Raleigh Flyers (5-1), DC’s traveling to Toronto, and all four one-loss teams in the West will be in the Bay Area for a pair of juicy matchups—let’s run through the muted but still tremendously meaningful commotion of Week 6, beginning with a team that may have saved its season.
The Full Field Layout
Three weeks into April, no AUDL team had gone 2-0 on the road on a single weekend. Three weeks later, that has obviously changed.
Jacksonville pulled off the road sweep in Week 4, while Dallas, San Francisco FlameThrowers (4-1), and San Jose Spiders (4-1) all tasted two road victories apiece in Week 5.
To begin the month of May, the Toronto Rush hit the road riding their first two-game losing streak in their five-year franchise history. Coming off a home loss to Montreal, the Rush were in dire need of at least one win. Deep down, they realized that going 2-0 could completely re-orient their season.
On Saturday in Ottawa, neither side looked smooth in the first half. Undesirable conditions prevented either team from making a big early move.
Game highlights from May 6.
“It was chilly, there was rain, and there was a stiff breeze,” said Toronto Captain Thomson McKnight. “Neither team seemed all that confident in these conditions, and the score reflected it at 7-7 at the half.”
If not for a wild last-second strike, Toronto would have trailed at the half for the fifth consecutive game, a streak that dates all the way back to last year’s Championship Weekend.
“Toronto threw a desperation hammer at the buzzer that fell short of the end zone, but Mike MacKenzie was able to volleyball bump the disc into the end zone, and it was caught for a goal,” remembered Ottawa’s Nick Boucher.
With back-to-back breaks to begin the second half, the Rush seized momentum. The skies cleared, making scoring a good bit easier, leading them to a nine-goal third quarter and a 17-score second half. The Outlaws remained within striking distance, but never could find the equalizer, as Toronto prevailed 24-21.
After the game, the Rush veterans knew that their young playmakers were the anchor of the win. Ottawa star Derek Alexander had distributed five assists, but the ugly first-half conditions, not to mention the fierce defense of a Toronto teenager, also left Alexander with five throwaways.
“I’m not sure many people outside of Canada full understand how good a thrower Derek Alexander is,” said Toronto’s Jonathan Martin. “A long-time Team Canada central handler, this guy is almost unguardable. So what stands out to me? 19-year-old Bretton Tan getting three hand-blocks on him in one game!”
Bretton Tan earning three pointblocks on May 6.
Those three rejections were just half of Tan’s team-high six Ds in the game, while the MacKenzie brothers—Iain and Mike—combined for seven more Ds between them. Connor Armstrong, another teenage rookie on the Rush, led the squad with 24 completions and finished the game as the only member of the O-line without a single turnover. Between Tan, the younger MacKenzie, and Armstrong, ‘you have three guys under 20 dominating games,’ said Martin.
“It’s always a joke about age with the young dudes,” he continued. “Road trips are great for bonding, though. We room vets with rooks so there is learning on both ends. The young guys teach us about memes and whatever the new thing they are into that minute, and we teach them about life before the internet. I remind them I didn’t get into ultimate until I was 23.”
Following their victory in Ottawa, the Rush enjoyed a celebratory bus-ride to Montreal. Aside from the triumph, it was also Greg Ellis’ and Isaiah Masek-Kelly’s birthday. Turning 29 and 26, respectively, the occasion gave even more reason to appreciate the evening. At the same time, everyone understood the task on tap, with the mission of spoiling the Royal’s home opener on Sunday.
“Obviously, our goal on Sunday was to catch discs,” Coach Scott Hastie stated simply. “The film showed that that was our undoing the week earlier against Montreal. It was a windy one in Montreal as well, and there were a few drops caused by the disc emerging from the cover of the stands as it reached the end zone and seemingly popping just before it reached the receiver. Eventually, we started to catch them and got rolling.”
Despite a last second score by Montreal to end the half, Toronto led 13-12 at the midway mark, its first halftime advantage of the season. Like Saturday in Montreal, the Rush found their groove in the third, scoring five of the first six goals in the second half.
Despite unprecedented struggles in the first few weeks, the Toronto Rush are getting back in rhythm.
“We had a productive halftime where we clarified some defensive aspects of our strategy, and the whole team came out dialed in out of the half,” Hastie said. “Some highlights of that run were some sweet upwind puts by Jeremy Norden, [the brother of San Jose’s Justin Norden who was making his debut for the Rush,] as well as Jaret Meron. Jeremy also had some good grabs while under some intense Royal pressure D.”
Norden registered five assists on Sunday and eight on the weekend, while Martin compiled an impressive +10 in the victory at Montreal, with five goals, two assists, three Ds, and zero turnovers.
“I feel like I was often in the right place at the right time,” said Martin, whose +22 for the season tops the charts for the Rush. “But, I mean, it was my type of game. Montreal plays very physically with lots of exciting throws, which plays into my defensive style. I was just happy to play my part in the big win for the team.
“I won’t lie; we definitely approached the Montreal game as a must win. It’s the first time we have really felt that kind of pressure early in the season, but it’s good for us. Like I’ve said in the past, every team is better, the league is better. It’s great to be challenged every game we play.”
With a home test against DC on tap this Saturday, the Rush could rise back into a first-place tie with a home win against the Breeze. Toronto will be looking for payback after the Breeze dominated their first meeting, 32-21, back on April 9.
The Rush are returning home with momentum, though, having gone 3-1 in their first four road games, including 2-0 this past weekend. Over the past two years, 14 of the 18 teams (77.8%) to earn multiple road wins in the same weekend have gone on to make the postseason.
“This is going to be a rollercoaster in the East,” said McKnight, “and keeping a level head may be the key to coming out on top. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
DC and New York experienced that wild ride as well on Saturday, and for both teams, it was a familiar finish, with the Empire once again falling just one goal shy of their rivals from the nation’s capital.
“Our D-line carried us,” said DC Captain Jonathan Neeley after his team’s 22-21 victory. “If it weren’t for them—including coming in and getting holds where we weren’t doing our job [on offense]—we wouldn’t have won. Pick a guy on the line and I could rave about him. I love our D-line.”
Game highlights from May 6.
After leading by one through one and by two at the break, the Breeze coughed up the advantage by surrendering three straight goals to begin the third quarter. New York’s slim 12-11 edge would be short-lived, though, as DC immediately roared back with four goals in a row, making it 15-12.
Up 19-16 heading into the fourth, the Breeze narrowly found a way to hang on, despite the Empire winning the fourth period 5-3.
When New York’s Sam Little found Ryan Drost with 1:54 left, the Empire were within one, and they had a chance for the equalizer after DC’s Jeff Wodatch’s fired a sailing throw over the head of his teammate near midfield with about 30 seconds left. But a well-timed double team from DC’s defense forced an overly floaty swing, and Josh Alorro’s cross-field flick was tipped away by Neeley with about 15 seconds remaining. The Breeze completed three more passes, and when Wodatch caught the disc near the goal-line with four seconds left, he simply held on to the plastic as the clock disappeared, clinching DC’s hard-fought victory.
“Obviously, another close loss had us a little bummed as we were walking off the field when time expired.” explained New York’s Matt Auletta, “But we were able to focus on some of the positives in our post game huddle, including the fat that we had great sideline energy for most of the second half, something we hope to continue building on as it should pay off in other close games this season. One of the biggest takeaways for us is that we need to pick some of our deep shots better, and we just need to focus for the full game. We had some miscues and bad throws from both lines, and if we clean up just one or two of those, the outcome would likely have been different.”
New York’s Taylor Brooks recorded a game-high seven assists, while Chuck Cantone topped DC in several statistical categories, notching three goals, three assists, and a team-best +6.
Chuck Cantone continues to be one of the most reliable players in the East Division.
“Chuck is a guy who does a little bit of everything,” said Neeley. “He gets blocks, he can be an iso or a flow cutter, he doesn’t throw turnovers, he’s really hard to force into a bad position when he’s guarding you as a cutter, and he’s incredibly unselfish and calm. He’s the best utility man I’ve every played with.
“I also think Alan [Kolick] is just continuing to show how incredibly gifted he is. He did our playcalling on Saturday, and personally, that gave me a bit more confidence. He also got in on some D points and got a few blocks and threw a break or two.”
Alan Kolick has been borderline unstoppable in the open field this season for the DC Breeze.
New York’s Jeff Babbitt defensive presence generated three Ds, giving him 14 in four games to move him past Raleigh’s Hunter Taylor and Pittsburgh’s Anson Reppermund for the league lead in blocks. But Babbitt did not destroy the Breeze with the disc, and for the first time this year, he finished with no goals and no assists.
The Empire, who are off this coming weekend, sit at 2-2 with four of their next five games at home, a stretch that includes another pair of contests against the Breeze on May 27 in New York and June 4 in DC.
There’s a chance that, after this coming weekend, the East Division race could be amazingly tight. If DC falls in Toronto and both Montreal and Ottawa can win at home against Philadelphia, then five of the division’s six teams will all have two losses. On the other hand, if the Breeze can go to Toronto and win, they could create a little separation between first place and the rest of the pack.
“I’m looking forward to that one,” Neeley said, referencing the upcoming Toronto trip. “It’ll be a good test of how good we’ve gotten at managing ourselves while traveling. I thought that we were particularly good at that going to Raleigh, but Toronto is a different beast.”
By late Saturday evening, a pair of Midwest favorites had squeaked out victories at home. But neither Minnesota nor Madison enjoyed a stress-free experience.
The Wind Chill had walloped Indianapolis by 10 in their first meeting on April 22, but the AlleyCats brought a completely different execution level to Saturday’s affair. Even after Minnesota jumped out to a three-goal lead by the end of the first quarter, Indy responded win a run to tie things back up.
Game highlights from May 6.
That became the theme of the high-scoring night: Minnesota would go up a break or two, and Indy would rally back. Late in the third quarter, the AlleyCats grabbed their first lead of the game at 19-18, only to see Minnesota close the quarter with back-to-back scores to retake a slim, one-goal edge. The last goal of the frame was a truly spectacular sequence, with Josh Klane laying out for a heroic catch near the end zone, then quickly popping back up to connect with Colin Berry in the end zone.
“Usually, I’m the one throwing it to Ryan [Osgar] downfield, but this time it was the opposite and I went up and made a play,” said Klane, who finished the game with five assists and three goals. “Colin Berry made a phenomenal cut to the front corner of the end zone, which made it easy to toss it in to him before the buzzer went off.”
Over the final 12 minutes, both offenses were quite efficient, producing 14 goals in the period.
Indianapolis registered its lone break of the quarter to tie things up at 23 with just over six minutes left, but then Minnesota scored two straight and led the rest of the way, prevailing 28-25.
“The main story overall was how close the game was,” said Osgar, who racked up five goals and four assists in the win that improved the Wind Chill to 3-0. “Compared to the last time we played Indy, their offense looked far more polished, which made all the difference for them throughout the game. The first time we played Indy, they gave us the disc for free, whereas during this game we had to work hard to get those Ds.”
While the AlleyCats fell to 1-4, they know that they are improving and have played a torrential schedule so far, going 0-4 against the three Midwest playoff teams from last year. At the same time, three of those four losses have been one-score games late in the fourth quarter, and the AlleyCats are hopeful that they will be able to rally back into the playoff race themselves.
“We know we are a better team than 1-4,” said Cameron Brock, who led the AlleyCats with five goals and seven assists on Saturday. “I think our last two games could have easily been wins and had us at 3-2. Luckily, we have the opportunity to take the series against every team in our division other than Minnesota, so we have by no means given up on the playoffs. We know we just have to keep fighting and getting better.”
The AlleyCats will host the Radicals for the second time this season this weekend, and the Rads are coming off an uncharacteristically close home win over Chicago. Considering that last year Madison won all seven of its home games by an average 12.3 goals—the closest margin was six—the Radicals 18-16 victory had to be a little unnerving.
Game highlights from May 6.
“I think we’re still working through some things and figuring out our identity as a team this year,” said Madison’s Andrew Meshnick. “Chicago came out ready to play, and we didn’t match that intensity which resulted in the halftime deficit.”
The Radicals, who only have lost one regular season home game in franchise history—against Chicago in 2013—found themselves trailing 9-5 late in the first half before flipping the switch. Madison scored the final two goals of the half and then opened the third on a 5-0 run to seize control. The Wildfire did score the first point in the fourth quarter to inch within one at 13-12, but the Radicals responded with three straight to widen their lead, eventually hanging on for the two-goal triumph.
“The turning point was our defensive line picking up their level of play,” said Meshnick, who spearheaded the effort with three Ds and two assists. “We challenge each other to win our individual matchups and that came to fruition during the third quarter run. The D-line’s offense is still working out the early season kinks, and every point we play together is a valuable learning experience.
“I think we’ll continue to have close games until we decide together as a team what we want to become this year. No one on our roster doubts our potential, yet up to this point we haven’t fully bought in either.”
From Chicago’s perspective, the Wildfire unquestionably were encouraged by their calculable improvement. One week after falling at Detroit by nine, they had hung tough with the perennial kings of their division. Pawel Janas (four assists) and Michael Pardo (four goals) again led Chicago’s offensive attack.
“We split the first and fourth quarters,” said Chicago Coach Adrian King. “Wildfire won the second quarter, and they took the third, but their run was simply better… We were successful in that we accomplished our specific strategic goals. We outlined a couple guidelines for playing against their zone defense and were decently successful in not getting beat within those parameters… Although we lost, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. Our offense regained their confidence from the week before, and our defense had a better gameplan and was able to execute it. We actually won a few end-of-quarter situations, which we had struggled with in previous games.”
After beginning their season with three straight road games, the Wildfire will host Minnesota in their home opener on Saturday, a two-game homestand that also includes a rematch with Detroit on Sunday, May 21.
While the second showdown in the AUDL Cross Coast Challenge did not feature a single lead change in 48 minutes, the visiting Pittsburgh Thunderbirds still were able to create some fourth quarter drama on Saturday night in Seattle. Playing without Tyler DeGirolamo, who tweaked his groin in practice earlier in the week, the Thunderbirds took a while to find their rhythm against a Cascades team that was looking to bounce back from their own tough loss at the buzzer against San Jose eight days prior.
Game highlights from May 6.
Seattle’s Matt Russell began his excellent all-around game by catching the game’s first break to give the Cascades a 2-0 lead, creating a margin that would stand through the first 12 minutes. Up 7-5 after one, Seattle’s offense kept holding serve behind Brad Houser’s four-goal, five-assist effort, and the D-line widened the Cascades lead to six before holding onto a 15-10 halftime advantage.
Throughout the game, Pittsburgh was perpetually plagued by its own mistakes. The Thunderbirds dropped an appalling number of discs in the end zone, letting as many as five potential scores slip away. Still, they narrowed a six-goal difference down to two in the final minutes. Pat Earles aggressively distributed the disc, finishing with 10 assists, while Mark Fedorenko tallied seven goals and Max Thorne chipped in with four scores and six assists.
Down the stretch, however, the Thunderbirds’ cringe-worthy drops prevented them from completely overcoming their game-long deficit. Fedorenko caught his final score from Earles at the buzzer, but Seattle had prevailed 26-24 in the first ever meeting between the two franchises.
“Pitt exerted good defensive pressure, but I believed that if we ran hard and executed fundamentals, our offense would be able to hold serve,” said Seattle’s Will Chen, who registered three Ds despite playing 22 of his 23 points on the O-line.
Two of Chen’s three blocks were spectacular denials on the mark. He athletically rejected attempted backhands from Pat Hammonds in the first quarter and Xavier Maxstadt in the third, giving his team a great jolt on both occasions.
“On those two marks, I was thinking about taking away the most damaging throw with my body while leaving the second best throw slightly attractive for the thrower,” Chen explained. “Then, I watched their eyes and body for the cue to race them to that spot.”
Russell joined Chen with three blocks in the game, while Seattle’s Mark Burton led the Cascades at +9, with four goals, four assists, two Ds, and just one throwaway in 21 attempts.
The victory moved Seattle to 3-1 on the year, while dropping Pittsburgh to 2-1. Both squads have tough road games on deck, as the Cascades visit San Francisco this Saturday while the Thunderbirds travel to Madison the following Saturday.
While San Diego and Austin were not involved in the highest profile games of the weekend, the Growlers and Sol each registered a satisfying victory, the first of the year for both squads.
On Saturday, San Diego overcame windy and unseasonably cool conditions to break away from Vancouver fairly quickly. The Growlers did fall behind 2-0, but proceeded to run off six of the next seven scores to lead 6-3 after one. They increased their lead to 14-7 by halftime and ultimately prevailed by a comfortable eight-goal margin at 22-14.
Game highlights from May 6.
“After our road trip in the Bay Area, we made an effort in trying to establish our defensive identity, and we felt that we set a good tone during our one point loss to San Fran at home,” San Diego Coach Kevin Stuart explained. “So going into this game against Vancouver, our mindset was to give a consistent defensive effort for four quarters, and for the most part I believe we achieved that. The biggest takeaway from this game was that if we have consistent defensive effort, we give ourselves a a very good chance to get the win. We also realize that we need to clean up things on the offensive side in order to realistically have a chance at making a run.”
For the game, the Growlers recorded 25 blocks as a team, with Tyler Bacon, Dan Bellissimo, Nate Bridges, and Nate Page all registering three apiece. Offensively, Hunter Corbett tallied three goals and six assists to lead the scoring barrage.
“Overall, this absolutely reinvigorates our team energy and perspective,” Corbett said. “It’s on us to get back to .500 over the next couple of weeks. These next few weeks should be really telling of our team and season.”
The Growlers have their next three games on the road, including two games at Vancouver and one at LA, a stretch that begins this Saturday in British Columbia.
“Vancouver was missing a lot of their big guns [this past weekend,] so I expect a significantly different roster from them when we see them on Saturday,” Stuart acknowledged.
As the Riptide remained winless in the West, Nashville was stuck in a similar squalor in the South. Though the NightWatch competed better than previous efforts against Dallas, they completely ran out of gas on Sunday in Austin, as the Sol enjoyed a cathartic 31-11 blowout to earn their first win of 2017.
The Sol tallied 22 blocks in holding Nashville to just half that many scores, while Caleb Denecour paced Austin with five goals. Additionally, 10 other members of the Sol scored multiple times in the 20-point win.
“Offensively, it was great to see us fight to get the disc back after turns,” remarked Denecour after the victory. “Our offense’s lack of defense has been a huge issue for us in the first five games and is one of the many reasons we’ve played most our games from behind. Scoring on all of our O-points created a more relaxed atmosphere for our defense, which was able to generate a high amount of Ds. This level of performance on both sides of the disc felt great, but we still have plenty to work on.”
For once in 2017, the bounces went the way of the Austin Sol on May 7.
At 1-5, the Sol have a road-map back to .500 with five of their next six games against Nashville and Atlanta, but they know they have dug themselves a hole with their April performance.
“Last season, we learned the hard way how much every point of every game matters,” said Denecour, whose currently second in the league with 23 goals, trailing only Jacksonville’s Jeremy Langdon, with 27. “It’s left a bitter taste in our mouths which hasn’t gotten any sweet with this season’s performance. Coach E[dith Teng] has challenged us to focus on winning these mini-games, keeping the energy high, and practicing with purpose. Doing so will put us on the right track for a playoff run.”
Around the league, there have been a bunch of first-year AUDL players making major contributions to their teams. Of course, only a small handful of them are still in high school.
A few weeks back, this section of the Toss, meant to introduce the ultimate world to a player they may not be that familiar with, was devoted to Raleigh’s Liam Searles-Bohs, an 18-year-old who will be a freshman at UNC this fall. If you watched the Seattle-Pittsburgh game on Saturday night, you saw one of Searles-Bohs’ Team USA Jr. Worlds’ teammates deliver an incredible performance for the Cascades’ O-line.
The Cascades actually had three members of the 2016 USA U-20 gold medal winning roster on the field on Saturday night, but no one had a greater impact than 18-year-old John Randolph, who completed all 32 of his passes while taking a fair share of deep shots that led to four assists in a brilliant overall effort.
18-year-old John Randolph fits in effortlessly with the Seattle Cascades.
“It’s great because in the AUDL, no one knows who he is yet, so he rarely draws the tough matchups,” said Adam Simon after the game on Saturday, a conversation you can hear via the AUDL Podcast. “It might change after tonight, but I don’t think that’ll affect John at all. When I have the disc and John’s running around out there, I’m pretty confident his defender is not really ready to deal with the boundless energy of a super athletic 18-year-old. Handling with him is great. He has good instincts for the game, he’s been well-coached throughout middle and high school, and he’s shown up like really a well-developed player in his youth, so I have no trouble or difficulty trusting him at all.”
Despite his baby-faced appearance, Randolph showed no signs of nerves on he field, displaying poise with the disc well beyond his years.
“His play speaks for itself, and he did a great job anchoring the O-line against Pitt,” added Chen. “It’s a testament to his discipline, experience, and talent that I often forget he’s nearly half my age…until someone reminds me.”
Randolph showed a lot of confidence with the disc on Saturday night.
While spending several years living in Seattle, Fulcrum Media’s Luke Johnson coached Randolph at Lakeside High, but the videographer extraordinaire claimed that he is unworthy of taking any credit for Randolph’s abilities at age 18.
“Entering his junior year, he was already more skilled and knowledgeable than I was,” said Johnson, who coached Randolph for two seasons. “His humility and strong sense of Spirit of the Game are what make John one of the two most impressive players I have had the privilege of coaching. The other player is Dylan Freechild, whom I’d say John is very similar to in style and swagger.”
Randolph plans to enroll at Brown University as a freshman this fall. Up until then, he’ll be a gamechanger in the Cascades backfield, presumably with a confidence level that will grow with every game.
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
The Los Angeles Aviators earned a 23-18 victory over Vancouver on Sunday, but #1 highlight of the day unfolded at halftime, when an innocent ceremony to honor the team’s stat-keepers turned into an unforgettable life-changing moment.
Zach Theodore, the third-year Aviator who had played seven points during the first half, had masterfully orchestrated the scene. With two other teammates, he would present discs at gifts to the two dedicated statisticians. As everyone watched, he handed the disc to his long-time girlfriend, Evie Herzeld, and flipped it over.
On the bottom of the disc, he had written five magical words, “Evie, will you marry me?”
The reactions were captured brilliantly and showcased on the Aviators Instagram account:
When you surprise everyone (including your own teammates) by getting down on one knee and proposing at halftime.... congrats to #16 Zachary Theodore and Aviators statistician Evie Herzeld! #ultimateproposal #frisbeelove #aviatorsdominate #engagementring #engagements #frisbee
A post shared by Los Angeles Aviators ✈️ (@losangelesaviators) on May 8, 2017 at 10:52am PDT
On Monday evening, Theodore filled me in about the details of his elaborate plan.
“About two months ago, I decided I wanted to propose at an Aviators game,” he explained. “We met playing ultimate at CSU-Long Beach, we play together regularly, and she helps with stats for the Aviators. I wanted the proposal to be meaningful to our relationship, and I feel great about how it went.
“The actual details didn’t get finalized until Saturday, the night before the game. I was working with JP [James Park], one of the owners, to pull this off. I’m very grateful to him for his handling of the logistics and organization. It turned out far better than I imagined, and he was vital to that success."
“She was completely surprised. JP handed me the ring and a mic, I showed her the ring, and said, ‘Evie, will you marry me?’ on the mic. She grabbed the mic to say yes! Then, everyone cheered. Their response blew me away. They had no idea.”
Asked if he was nervous either during the first half of the game or during the proposal itself, Theodore claims that he was not.
“I was so focused on her that I didn’t register anything else that was going on,” he explained. “Nothing else really mattered. I was nervous that people would figure out I was going to propose, so playing a game actually helped me act natural. Before the game, I had to hide a ring and write on a disc without anyone knowing, but playing ultimate was comfortable. It helped that I was absolutely certain she would say yes. She’s been asking about my plan to propose for months, and I’ve been playing dumb. During our three years and three months of dating, I’ve found that I’m more confident when she is nervous or anxious, so I think that played a big part in keeping me steady during the proposal."
“Her parents live nearby and have season tickets, so I expected that they would be there. Unfortunately, they were busy, but we did go out to dinner with them after the game. I did not trust them to keep it a secret from their daughter, and they understood, but I feel bad that they missed it. My parents were there, and I sent texts or Facebook posts to the rest of my family. And thanks to JP’s organization, the gameday media crew was prepared. I have more pictures than I know what to do with!”
Congrats to Zach Theodore and his new fiancé, Evie!
The Tuesday Toss wishes you a lifetime of happiness, full of flick hucks and layout Callahans!
Since I now consider North Carolina home, the West Division broadcasts include my most grueling travel. Going cross-country and back in a weekend can lead to some Monday weariness, but overall, this most recent journey to Seattle went smoothly enough.
Unfortunately, I experienced a delay of a couple hours on Friday afternoon, which pushed my arrival from 4:30 to 6:30. This would not have been a huge deal at all, except I had already made arrangements to attend the Mariners game at Safeco Field, which started at 7 PM.
Most of you non-baseball fans may be wondering, ‘what’s the big deal? So maybe you miss an inning or two!’ It’s a totally fair premise, but I was still bummed, since I enjoy seeing sporting events, especially baseball games, in their entirety.
By the time I deplaned, made it to ground transportation, and arrived to walking distance from the ballpark, it was already 7:45 PM, and I made it inside as the third inning began. I would still see seven innings, or so I thought.
I actually saw 11 innings, as the contest continued beyond midnight into the 13th frame. Around 12:15 AM, the retractable roof at Safeco began to close as a light mist harmlessly fell. Shortly thereafter, Texas’ two-run blast in the top of the 13th proved to be the difference, as the Mariners fell 3-1.
All in all, it was a fun first experience at Safeco Field, and I look forward to my next visit to the great city of Seattle.
Seven on the Line
1. The Dallas Roughnecks are now 6-0 on the year and 23-0 all-time, but might that impeccable string of perfection come to an end this weekend? Coach Patrick Eberle says the Roughnecks will have a fairly light roster of about 16 or 17 players for its trips to Jacksonville and Raleigh. “We have been riddled with injuries and sicknesses,” said Eberle. “Couple that with the Friday game [at Jacksonville], which requires people to take off from their day jobs and it makes it pretty difficult. We will still have a talented squad going, but it likely won’t resemble our Madison or later season offerings.”
2. One player Dallas will have, stunningly, is Matt Jackson, who has decided to return to the field way earlier than expected after suffering a broken right arm on April 9. Wearing a youth soccer style shin guard to protect it, Jackson played a small handful of points against Nashville on April 29 and then took the field for 23 defensive points on Saturday against the NightWatch. “He still can’t throw yet and is only playing with his legs and left arm, but those are good legs,” said Eberle. A captain this year, Jackson has said that, aside from his arm he feels totally healthy and desperately wants to contribute to the team. “I’ll be playing exclusively left-handed,” Jackson shared. “I’ve changed my play style a bit, mainly playing a containment-style defense and cutting for the purpose of clearing space on offense. Essentially, I’m playing in a way that significantly decreases my chances of ruining my surgically repaired arm. There were a few times during the game [on Saturday] where I could have laid out or tried to sky a group of players, but I opted to stay far away from any potential contact with my arm. I’ll play in a similar manner this coming weekend: very cautiously.”
3. While Nashville’s still looking for its very positive number in the win column, the NightWatch did make SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays before a lot of teams in the league. Colin Grandon’s epic grab against Austin on Saturday checked in at number three on Monday night’s Top 10. Aside from the highlight, the ‘Watch endured a pair of lopsided losses against Dallas and Austin, falling by the combined score of 63-34. “Overall, the attitude coming out of that [Dallas] game was really positive,” said Nashville Assistant Coach Will Hannon, “but I think it just drained us too much for the next day. We went back and forth with Austin for a few points, and a steady wind was making upwind scores difficult. Austin managed to punch one in and that really took a lot out of us. With people playing a little banged up and mentally and physically exhausted from the last game, we just couldn’t bounce back in the Texas heat.” Nashville will reach the midway point of its season this Saturday with evening action in Atlanta.
4. In an interesting development with the Toronto Rush, Scott Hastie, who has been serving as the team’s GM and Head Coach, no longer possesses the “Head Coach” title. Sachin Raina, who has played for the team since its inception and has served as an assistant coach and part-time player this year, has been promoted to the top coaching spot. Hastie informed his players after the game on Sunday that Raina was the new head coach. “Sachin is doing some fantastic work with the team right now and deserves the full credit for the wins this weekend,” Hastie said. “After suffering historic back-to-back losses, the general manager had to do something to right the ship, and while the move wasn’t announced to the press, it paid off immediately.” While the last part of this quote was fairly tongue-in-cheek, it is clear that the decision was Hastie’s alone and that he was not asked or encouraged to cede any responsibilities. “Shooter is still the GM of the Rush,” said Team President Phil Watanabe. “He is in no way being forced to step down as coach because of the performance of the Rush or for any other reason. We love Shooter and everything he stands for. He has the freedom to do whatever he wants within the Rush organization, even expanding his role, if that’s what he wants to do.” Hastie may lead the team on gameday again when Raina has commitments with the Canadian U-24 National team, but still insisted that this was the right move to make. “It allows me to put everything into the World Games and also have some time to reacquaint myself with my wife,” said Hastie.
5. Considering that Jeremy Langdon’s leading the league with 27 goals in five games, it’s worth noting a relatively unknown scorer who has found the end zone 19 times in just three games. Ottawa’s Alec Arsenault, who managed 22 goals in 14 games last year, has scored five, 10, and four goals, respectively, in the Outlaws’ first three games this season, an average of 6.3 per game. Although he was a relatively unknown player heading into the Outlaws 2015 tryouts, Arsenault impressed and became the third player to sign with the organization. Though the Moncton, New Brunswick-native would only score two goals in three games played as a rookie, the Outlaws’ patience and believe has clearly paid off. “Alec really broke out last year playing primarily on the D-line,” said Nick Boucher. “He’s extremely athletic and has a nose for the disc. Last year, he finished second on the team in blocks while scoring his fair share of goals. Coming into this year, we were missing Karl Loiseau and Mike Lee. We had to replace their production on offense, so we tested out Alec as an option. By the first half of our first game, it was clear he was a perfect fit for the O-line. With plenty of huckers like Derek, Kinley Gee, Andy Ouchterlony, and Luca Miglioretto, Alec was exactly what they needed in a long athletic receiver.”
6. One nugget of news that should delight Toronto fans is that the organization is expecting Mark Lloyd to make his 2017 season debut this Saturday against the Breeze. Lloyd was involved in 171 scores (goals & assists) in 2013 and 2014, during which he also recorded 58 blocks. Though an ACL injury prevented him from competing in 2015, he managed to create 36 scores and eight blocks last year when he returned to the field around midseason. Obligations to Team Canada along with his relocation to Winnipeg have prevented him from seeing the field yet this year, but that will change this weekend. While it’s unclear how many games he expects to play the rest of the season, his presence should give the Rush a gigantic boost as they seek to even up their season series with the Breeze.
7. Despite their loss on Saturday night, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds still have plenty of reason for optimism throughout the 2017 season and beyond. Aside from the team’s established core of stars and veteran, the Thunderbirds have six different guys who have been invited to try out for the USA U-24 National Team this summer. Jake Rovner, Max Sheppard, and Scott Trimble have already made impacts for the Pittsburgh AUDL squad this season, while Thomas Edmonds, Carl Morgenstern, and Sam VanDusen are all expected to join the Thunderbirds after the college season concludes. More than 550 athletes applied for the right to tryout, and 180—90 men and 90 women—were selected to audition this June for the 2018 U-24 World Championships, which will be head in Perth, Australia this coming January. Aside from these half-dozen Thunderbirds, there are more than 20 other invitees who either have already played in the AUDL this season or are expected to play after their college campaigns finish at the end of May.
We’re a few days away from a 12-game Week 7, I would not be surprised if the main storyline at the end of the weekend is revenge.
Four big games, in particular, are rematches of earlier showdowns, and the team that lost the first meeting is home this weekend: DC at Toronto, Dallas at Raleigh, Madison at Indy, and San Diego at Vancouver. Additionally, San Francisco will be at home against Seattle, the team that upset the FlameThrowers in the West Division title game last year.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, with a precarious challenge for still-perfect Roughnecks in Jacksonville. A nine-game Saturday culminates with a 10 PM eastern start in San Jose, as the Spiders look to lay claim to the Aviators playoff spot from a year ago. On Sunday, Minnesota will be a vulnerable favorite in the second game of the Wind Chill’s weekend, a matinee at upstart Detroit.
Collectively, it’s shaping up to be another captivating weekend of disc.
In 110 days, the 2017 AUDL champion will be crowned. The march to Montreal continues.
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