July 10, 2018
By Evan Lepler
Comparatively, Week 15 was quiet. Only six games were completed, and despite some thrilling fourth quarters, every outcome was secure in the final seconds.
Toronto and Dallas both completed magnificent 13-1 seasons, while Raleigh and Indy, both of whom had already clinched a playoff berth prior to the weekend, reinforced their second-place standing with strong performances.
Elsewhere, the New York continued its trend of being as up and down as any team in the league. On Saturday night, the Empire trailed by multiple goals for much of the evening, yet closed their game with a scintillating 6-0 spurt to surpass Philadelphia, silencing the Phoenix’s faint postseason hopes.
Meanwhile, in Austin, an expected coronation instead became uncertain confusion, a result of an extended lightning delay that halted the Sol’s quest to clinch after just one quarter. More on that shortly.
But first, here’s the brief rundown of postseason situations around the league heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Let’s deal with the simplest status first. All three playoff spots are certain after Indianapolis’ 25-18 victory over Chicago this past Saturday, which clinched the #2 spot for the AlleyCats and eliminated the Wildfire.
Consequently, #2 Indy (10-3) will host #3 Minnesota (7-5) for the right to play at #1 Madison (11-2) in the Midwest final.
Interestingly, the AlleyCats also host the Wind Chill in this weekend. Presumably, both teams will be relatively conservative with their game plans, waiting to unleash their A-games in the playoffs.
Los Angeles (11-2) is the top seed. San Diego (6-7), San Francisco (5-8), and San Jose (5-8) are all still in the mix for the last spot. Remember, in the five-team West, only two teams qualify for the playoffs, unlike the three berths in each of the other three divisions.
Regrettably, I made an error in summarizing the possible tiebreaker scenarios in the Tuesday Toss last week. Originally, I wrote that a three-way tie would be settled by point differential. That is NOT accurate.
A three-team tie is first broken by collective record against the other teams in the group. If the Growlers, FlameThrowers, and Spiders all finish at 6-8, then San Francisco would advance to the playoffs. The FlameThrowers went 4-3 against the other two teams, while the Growlers went 3-3 and the Spiders went 3-4.
The Growlers can avoid all uncertainty by defeating Los Angeles this weekend to improve to 7-7. However, if the Growlers lose, either San Jose or San Francisco can steal the spot. Both the Spiders and FlameThrowers play Seattle, on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Here are the scenarios:
- If the Growlers lose and both Bay Area teams win, the FlameThrowers win the three-team tiebreaker.
- If the Growlers lose and the Spiders win and the FlameThrowers lose, then San Jose makes the playoffs thanks to their 2-1 record vs. San Diego.
- If the Growlers lose and the Spiders lose and the FlameThrowers win, then San Diego makes the playoffs thanks to their 2-1 record vs. San Francisco.
- And if all the Growlers, Spiders, and FlameThrowers all lose, San Diego will finish in second place. (In this outcome, the Cascades would enter the conversation because they would be tied with the Growlers at 6-8, but San Diego holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Seattle).
Toronto (13-1) is the top seed.
This Saturday’s Game of the Week between New York (7-5) and DC (7-5-1) will determine second place, with the winner getting to host a first round game the following week. Entering the game, however, only one of the two teams is assured of a playoff berth.
Thanks to Montreal (6-7) and Philadelphia (5-7-1) losses this past weekend, the DC Breeze clinched a playoff spot. If they win against New York, they’re #2. If they lose, they’re #3.
The Empire are #2 with a win at DC. If they lose against the Breeze, however, Sunday’s NY-Philly and Ottawa-Montreal games will both matter greatly. The Royal would make the playoffs as the #3 seed if they win and the Empire lose again.
To put it succinctly: NY is the #2 seed with a Saturday win, the #3 seed with Saturday loss and Sunday win, and out of the playoffs with two losses IF Montreal wins on Sunday.
Dallas (13-1) and Raleigh (10-4) have both concluded their seasons and seem on a collision course for an epic playoff game on July 28. But who are the Flyers gonna have to beat first to earn the right to face the Roughnecks?
With Atlanta’s loss to Raleigh, Austin took the field on Sunday in position to lock up the first playoff berth in the Sol’s franchise history. Weather intervened, and storms prevented the Sol and Cannons from playing after the first quarter.
Initially, it was reported that Tampa Bay forfeited. However, AUDL games, according to the official bylaws of the league, cannot be forfeited without the franchise accepting a substantial fine. In actuality, Sunday’s game between Austin and Tampa Bay was cancelled/postponed.
Throughout a hectic Monday and Tuesday, league officials and owners engaged a variety of calls to work out a reasonable resolution, which most likely will involve the Cannons-Sol game getting rescheduled. As of the time that this Tuesday Toss was filed, there was still no official word from either team or the league about how this situation would be resolved.
The Full-Field Layout
Despite both the New York Empire and Philadelphia Phoenix missing key players on Saturday night, the Empire and Phoenix still delivered one of the most exciting games of the season. And for much of the battle, it felt like the Empire were again destined for a disappointing outcome.
“Philly did not turn it the entire first half, and we were not generating any Ds,” remarked Empire Head Coach Eileen Murray. “We were pretty flat, especially on D. Missing the Drosts and [Ben] Spielman and [Ryan] Holmes and [Ben] Katz, a lot of them are our big playmakers, especially on defense, and we were missing all of them. I knew we were going to struggle a bit on defense. But I was anticipating that they would turn it, and when they didn’t, it was trying to figure out how we can generate some Ds or generate a little more pressure on defense to get them to make the mistakes we wanted them to make. And that didn’t happen until the third quarter. The end of the first quarter didn’t help either.”
After trading offensive holds through the game’s first 14 points, the Phoenix seized control by scoring three goals in 54 seconds spanning two quarters. After a Ben Jagt throwaway and Philly timeout, Scott Xu connected with Greg Strouse to give the Phoenix their first lead at 8-7 with 22 seconds left in the opening quarter. Then, the Empire quickly turned it over near their own end zone, gifting the Phoenix another break as Sean Mott promptly found James Pollard as the buzzer sounded. Receiving to start the second, it took Philadelphia just seven throws over 32 seconds to make it 10-7, as Dustin Damiano hit Xu for the score to cap the sudden 3-0 run.
“The first time that we played New York, they made it very hard for us to get open downfield,” explained Philly Player/Coach Trey Katzenbach. “We were patient and instead of trying high difficulty throws, we looked to the reset early and never really struggled with them our entire game. It was mentally fatiguing to play that perfect—I think the offense had one turnover through almost three quarters—and when they ratcheted up the pressure, we pressed a little.”
The Phoenix stretched their lead to four at 13-9 early in the second, but the Empire stabilized and never let the deficit grow larger. Although New York trailed for the entirety of the second and third quarters, the Empire started to make its move late in the third, inching within one at 21-20 heading into the fourth. Beau Kittredge delivered a vintage layout catch block in the final seconds of the third, ensuring that the deficit would remain one.
“You could feel the energy shifting,” said Murray.
New York tied the game at 21 just 46 seconds into the fourth, as Marques Brownlee skied over Mott for a dramatic equalizer, set up by a layout D from Jagt earlier in the point. The partisan crowd was amped and it felt like the Empire were ready to roll, but the Phoenix, for the moment, remained poised.
Amazingly, 47 seconds after Brownlee’s energizing grab, the Phoenix had scored twice more, an eight-throw hold and then a one-throw break, quickly capitalizing on Josh Alorro’s throwaway. With 10:27 remaining, Philly led 23-21 and had arguably taken momentum back.
But momentum is a tricky thing, not always what it seems. Stunningly, Philly would not score again.
After a lengthy multi-turnover point, the Empire punched in a hold with 8:06 to go. The Phoenix still had the disc and the lead, but Xu launched a first-throw huck to no one, and Matt Weintraub found Kittredge deep for the break, tying the score at 23 with 6:55 left.
The Empire had tightened up their rotations and relied heavily on Jagt and Kittredge to get back in it. To take the lead, Jeff Babbitt, who had been relatively quiet throughout the game, entered the highlight reel too.
“[Mike] Arcata was on the break sideline and he had an open guy for a midrange end zone throw, but he had to throw it over the stack,” recalled Katzenbach. “When it left his hand I thought it was good, but the last guy in the stack was covered by Babbitt. They were just standing there and I initially thought that it was going to go over them, but then Babbitt leaped up and made a hard play look relatively easy and he caught the disc from a standing jump.”
Babbitt intercepted the Philly huck by soaring “11 or 12 feet in the air,” as described by Murray. Then, his 45-yard hammer angled into Jagt’s bread basket with 4:16 remaining, vaulting the Empire in front at 24-23, their first lead since 7-6.
“We got some really spectacular Ds by all the heavy hitters when we really needed stops,” said New York’s Matt Auletta. “Jagt, Babbitt, and Beau all made amazing plays.”
Philly continued to unravel as New York maintained the pressure. Ross Ward registered a D and a goal, exuberantly celebrating his bookends that doubled the Empire’s lead with 3:56 left. Trailing by two, the Phoenix patiently set up a decent huck look, but Arcata underthrew an open receiver, and New York made it 26-23 after working it in with just 2:18 to go. There were only 55 ticks remaining when New York scored again, capping the unreal 6-0 rally. As Chris McGlynn, calling the play-by-play on the Empire video stream, aptly declared, “The wheels have completely fallen off for Philadelphia.”
“The game was intense,” said Auletta, who recorded two goals and four assists in the Empire’s comeback victory. “Philly played really patient on offense and barely gave us any break chances for most of the game. A lot of credit to them for playing smart and working really hard. They had to grind out some really long points against our defense. I think that grind finally showed in the last few minutes of the game. Our defense was able to capitalize and take the disc away. When we got the first D of the fourth quarter, the crowd erupted and you could feel it in your bones. The energy was palpable, and we definitely rode that wave for a few more breaks. It was awesome.”
Jagt finished with four goals, five assists, and two blocks, while Kittredge registered three goals, four assists, and one block, completing 38 of his 39 passes. Xu, Arcata, and Mott combined for 10 goals and 17 assists, but the Phoenix offense failed to score at all during the final 10 minutes of the game, getting eliminated from playoff contention in the process.
“After the game, I was in a daze,” recalled Katzenbach. “I was so locked in for two hours that when it unraveled so quickly it was hard to believe. I just wandered around amongst the New York players and fans and we talked about what a great game it was. I spent probably 15 minutes meeting Babbitt’s dad and with Eileen and her family and a lot of other people. It made for a special moment and showed me just how great our sport is. I have played ultimate for almost 20 years and never had a moment quite like this. I really felt for our team and guys like Matt Esser and Sean Mott and Eric Nardelli, who have played with the team for years. We knew that if we had won this game and Montreal lost to Toronto that we would have a chance to win at home on Sunday to earn the last playoff spot in the East. To get so close and not pull it out was hard. As it stands now, a least we get a chance to knock New York ou if they lose to DC.”
While the Phoenix will look to avenge their shortfall and potentially play spoiler against the Empire this Sunday, New York is hoping to ride the wave of momentum into their final two games of the season.
“Right after we shook hands, Babbitt called everybody in and, as the captain, said ‘remember what this feels like,’” remembered Murray. “He was really psyched and everybody was really happy. [Babbitt] had a really nice speech at the end and everyone was really, really excited.”
Undoubtedly, the Empire excitement only increased when they realized that Montreal, who entered the night just a half-game behind New York, stumbled in its second half in Toronto.
The Royal led the Rush 13-12 at the half and maintained a two-goal lead at 18-16 late in the third, only to surrender a 5-2 Toronto burst that left Montreal trailing by one at 21-20 entering the fourth. The Rush continued their rally in the opening minutes of the final period, extending their edge to 23-20, and Toronto would not be broken in the fourth, securing the 28-24 triumph to hand Montreal its third straight loss.
“It felt like our defense was gradually building, getting closer to Ds as the game wore on,” said Cam Harris, who had three assists and three goals, including a bookends score following a poaching layout D in the fourth quarter. “Iain [MacKenzie] had a big handblock. [Andrew] Carroll made a big D to save our offense from getting broken, and we were able to wear Montreal down until the floodgates opened.”
Playing without O-line mainstays Kevin Quinlan and Stève Bonneau, the Royal were paced by Cam Burden’s six assists and Francis Vallee’s five goals and felt very much in the game until the meltdown in the fourth.
“During the whole game, I was thinking we [had] a chance to beat Toronto,” said Nasser Mbae Vogel, who added four goals and two assists playing on the Montreal O-line. “It’s kind of the résumé of our season. We made too many individual mistakes. At the end of the third quarter, we started throwing discs away and the score was too tight to fool around. The Rush is the best team in the East, so yea, it’s very frustrating to lose a game when you know you played well and you had the control. We still have one more game at home which we have to win and might have a tiny chance to [make the] playoffs.”
The Royal will be rooting for DC on Saturday and Philly on Sunday, needing help from both of those teams along with a win against the Outlaws to finish third in their division.
The plan was for Jonathan Nethercutt to rest. But plans change.
Despite not being officially activated until a couple hours before the game, last year’s MVP looked fierce and ready when the Raleigh Flyers took the field against the Atlanta Hustle. The list of inactive Flyers was massive—Jack Williams, Jonathan Helton, Noah Saul, Jacob Fairfax, Justin Allen, Brett Matzuka, Jacob Mouw, Bob Liu, Hunter Taylor, Kiron Allen, Shane Sisco, and others—but Nethercutt still had plenty of capable weapons at his disposal.
“Nethercutt is a special talent and he had a significant impact on the game, as we expected,” remarked Hustle GM and acting coach John Boezi. “His stat line speaks for itself. We decided he was going to have to do that on our terms—tight reset defense and pushing him downfield—and he was up for the challenge. Mischa Freystaetter is the perfect complementary piece to Nethercutt to attack us. I think Charlie Muniz was the variable we did not anticipate.”
While Nethercutt recorded five assists in the first half and scored three times in the second half, completing all 70 of his passes, Muniz registered six goals, three assists, and went 30-for-31, taking advantage on his coveted opportunity to contribute to the Flyers’ O-line.
“I usually only play in Flyers games when there’s 10+ guys unavailable,” acknowledged Muniz, who produced 33 goals and 50 assists in two seasons with the Charlotte Express, but has struggled to find a regular role with Raleigh. “I’ve never been a starter on the Flyers. I never play or even practice on offense. I’m never allowed to handle in practice. I’m rarely called in initiation plays if we get the turn on D. This weekend, I was starting O-line on the Game of the Week. I found out like an hour before the game; (expletive) dream come true, man. There was pressure and uncertainty and of course some nerves, but also excitement, determination, and confidence. I found my zone, and crushed it…I made it my mission to bring the heart, bring the fire, and bring the grind. This was my biggest opportunity to make an impact on the field personally, and I also waned to make the biggest impact I could on my teammates’ performances.”
Muniz cherished his chance and helped the Flyers stay even in the 6-all first and then create separation in the second and third. Raleigh outscored Atlanta 8-5 in the second quarter to lead 14-11 at halftime, and the difference swelled to five in the third, with the Hustle inching to within 21-17 by the start of the fourth. Atlanta registered a couple late breaks to claw within one, but there were only three seconds left when Anders Olsen scored his fourth goal to make it 26-25.
Rather than launch the ensuing pull, the Hustle casually dropped it, forcing the Flyers to sprint 80 yards to commence their final possession. Nethercutt calmly lofted a hammer to Terrence Mitchell, who made the catch as the final seconds ticked away to preserve Raleigh’s one-goal win, avenging the Flyers’ 30-20 loss against Atlanta from two weeks prior.
“I think the main difference between the two meetings was Raleigh’s ability to connect on deep shots,” commented Atlanta’s Austin Taylor, who went 41-for-41, leading the Hustle in completions. “We weren’t able to keep the disc out of Nethercutt’s hands, and that cost us dearly. Hats off to him for an incredible performance.”
The victory improved the Flyers to 10-4 on the year and 43-13 in their four regular seasons since joining the league in 2015. The Hustle slipped to 6-7, losing control of their destiny in pursuit of the final playoff spot. Atlanta’s only chance involves beating Nashville this weekend and hoping Tampa Bay can knock off Austin, if the game does get rescheduled.
“Our system relies on discipline, and that is a muscle which you need to train,” said Boezi, who filled in for Hustle Director of Coaching Miranda Knowles, who was unable to be at the game. “At this point, we are still developing the endurance to play in control as a group and execute for four quarters. We have shown flashes of great chemistry and a clear trend of improvement, but there is more work to be done. I was proud of how our team was emotionally resilient without Coach Knowles on the sideline. Another great sign is how we stormed back in the fourth quarter with a spartan intensity.”
While Atlanta awaits the result from Tampa Bay and Austin to see if it may squeak into the playoffs, the Flyers head to the postseason with a steely determination, hopeful that this is the year for them to surpass Dallas. For a guy like Muniz, he’s clinging to the desire to contribute.
“Four weeks ago, I would have told you that I’m 98.675 percent not going to make the playoff roster, assuming most guys were available,” Muniz admitted. “But after being +18 in the last three games, I may just have been able to earn myself a roster spot. That’s my primary focus right now, crushing practice and making the best case to earn a spot.”
After going 14-0 in 2016 and 11-3 in 2017, the Dallas Roughnecks improved to 38-4 in regular season play by going 13-1 in 2018, capped by their 21-16 victory over the Tampa Bay Cannons on Saturday evening. Like Raleigh, the Roughnecks were missing a plethora of mainstays, taking the field without Dalton Smith, Jay Froude, Kai Marshall, Chris LaRocque, Brandon Malecek, Matt Jackson, and others. In their place, Dallas promoted a half-dozen practice players for their AUDL debuts. Additionally, an 18-year-old who’s been quietly overshadowed by the team’s stars all season had his best game yet.
“Ben Rogers has been paramount to our success this year,” commented Roughnecks Captain Dan Emmons. “Being 18-years-old and just finishing his last year of high school would lead some to believe he is just trying to find his role on the field, but in actuality he has showed poise and control since the opening tryout before the season began. This was a big game for him as he led the team in goals, blocks, and plus/minus. Ben has been playing great all season and this game goes to show that he’s not timid at all. He’s a dominant player that will be making big plays for us come playoffs.”
Although Rogers only completed four passes—and has only thrown 30 on the season, completing 29—he paced the Roughnecks with three goals and three blocks against Tampa Bay, giving him 10 goals and 10 Ds in his 11 games played on the year.
“Ben Rogers has been a force all year,” agreed Dallas’ Carson Wilder, who moved into a handler role and led the Roughnecks with 42 completions on Saturday. “He just graduated high school this year, so I think the year has been him figuring out his play style. He has had great defensive vision and anticipation all year, and it’s really paying off coming down the stretch. I remember being really young in this league and walking onto a field nervous and wide-eyed, and I had to work to become comfortable. I think he has really become comfortable; he had a great game and put himself in positions to succeed.”
Thanks to Rogers and the veteran presence of Emmons, Dillon Larberg, Kevin Richardson, and Thomas Slack, the Roughnecks never trailed against the Cannons. Dallas led 5-2 after one, 12-6 at half, and 17-9 thru three before Tampa Bay surged back late to make the final score a more respectable 21-16.
“Our defensive units came out from the first pull and brought that high level of intensity and focus we wanted and were really working to make every throw contested,” said Emmons. “I believe that is what helped set the tone for the entire game.”
After a refreshing weekend that did not require a suitcase, I’m back to pack for my longest trip of the season this week. On Friday, I fly to DC for Saturday’s East Division showdown between the Empire and the Breeze, and on Sunday, I will voyage to Ohio, site of the 2018 World Ultimate Club Championships, which commence on Saturday night just outside Cincinnati. Ambitiously, the plan is to contribute to Worlds coverage throughout the week and then journey back east for the launch of the AUDL playoffs on July 21.
It happens to be my birthday week, and all I want as a present is for the travel gods to smile upon me over the next dozen days.
Seven On The Line
- The Indianapolis AlleyCats set a new franchise record with their tenth victory of the season, impressively rising to 10-3 with a methodical effort against the Chicago Wildfire.
Although Indy’s offense was broken on the game’s opening point—reminiscent of the team’s struggles against Madison the previous week—the AlleyCats quickly recovered to score the next three goals and won all four quarters against the Wildfire, leading 4-3 after one, 8-6 at half, 16-13 at through three, before pulling away to prevail 25-18. “The main turning point in the game was in the last minute of the third quarter,” recalled Chicago Captain Pawel Janas, who led the Wildfire with five assists. “We kept trading until 15-13, had the ball with 20 seconds left, but turned it over and Indy scored at the buzzer. Felt very deflated after that. [The fourth quarter] is where everything unraveled—drops, head-scratching throwaways, miscommunication on both sides of the ball. [We] gave up a couple breaks to start the fourth quarter and never rebounded.” The Wildfire loss officially extinguished their faint playoff hopes, while the AlleyCats turned their attention to their potential playoff opponents, Madison and Minnesota, whom they have gone 1-3 against this year. “As for confidence to play well against Madison and Minnesota, we didn’t lose much confidence after the game in Madison,” said Indy’s Cam Brock, who paced the Cats with six goals and three assists on Saturday. “We know that most of the mistakes were self inflicted; bad throws and drops. Considering how many discs we threw into the turf or out of bounds and how many discs we dropped, we should have been beaten worse. We still have confidence that we can beat them and Minnesota, but we know it will take our best game. So there is not a lot of margin for error.” Rick Gross matched Brock with six goals and three assists in the AlleyCats’ victory over Chicago, raising his plus/minus to +80, tied with Dallas’ Jay Froude for second in the league. LA’s Sean McDougall, at +84, enters the final weekend of the season at #1.
- Despite their 2-10 record, the Ottawa Outlaws had been competitive in almost all of their games, unfortunately going 1-6 in contests decided by three or less. On Sunday, the Outlaws were fresh against the Rush, who were on the second day of a back-to-back. But Toronto quickly erased any ideas about a potential Ottawa upset, scoring four of the first five goals to hand the Outlaws a 26-13 loss, their largest setback of the season. “I think the wind played a larger part in the game than we expected it would,” said Ottawa’s Mike Lee, who led his team with three goals. “Throwing around beforehand it did not feel very windy, but it was windy enough that Toronto was effective in their zone D. For the most part, the O-line was 90% effective working it up the field, but could not seem to complete the final few passes to punch in the goal. With such a consistent team as Toronto, those mistakes quickly added up to a pretty large deficit.” By halftime, the Rush led 12-6, and the gap swelled to 17-8 by the end of the third, as Toronto put together a balanced performance with 15 different players scoring a goal and 15 different players picking up at least one assist.
- As if the Rush didn’t already have enough talent, Toronto picked up Justin Foord from Great Britain for the first time this year this past weekend, and the talented veteran led the squad with a +7 on Sunday. In two games, Foord contributed four goals, three assists, and five blocks, continuing the trend of Europeans finding success in the AUDL. Teenage phenom Ben Oort, from The Netherlands, still leads the Rush with 31 goals on the season, while Montreal’s French trio of Nasser Mbae Vogel, Quentin Bonnaud, and Steve Bonneau have all been important contributors to the Royal since joining the franchise in 2017. “It’s always fun to see European players playing in North American,” said Mbae Vogel, the soon-to-be 39-year-old vet who moved to Boston for a club season back in 2010 to improve his English and his ultimate. I’ve known Justin for a long time and we’ve played in a lot of tournaments together. He sure is one of the top players in Europe and Oort is young but definitely a smart and great player. I know his father [Jeroen] better because I played a lot of times against him and his team, the Red Lights. There are a lot of great players in Europe and I’m sure there will be more players coming overseas to play AUDL or clubs. It’s a dream for everyone to play the best level of ultimate!”
- Part of any athlete’s dream is to play in front of an electric crowd, and if a team can generate a home atmosphere that can help swing the result of a game, that’s even better. On Saturday in New York, several participants from both teams mentioned how the Empire crowd gave them a critical lift. “Shoutout to the field manager at the Fosina complex,” said New York’s Matt Auletta. “All season long, he has cheered for us at practices and games. He doesn’t know all the ins and outs of ultimate yet, but he has been a tremendous hype man. My family was telling me after the game that he got the crowd going with some classic ‘defense’ and banging on the stairs cheers, and then we finally started getting Ds and everyone went nuts. I think I’m going to give him a huge at practice on Thursday.” Philly player/coach Trey Katzenbach agreed that the energy at the stadium made a difference. “The weather was great and there was a good sized crowd,” he explained. “We kept the crowd in check for most of the game, but when New York started to make their run you could feel the crowd getting into it and it made for an exciting game. The crowd definitely played a role in their run.”
- With six goals on Saturday, Cam Brock brought his season total to 54, tying LA’s McDougall for the league lead. Ottawa’s Alec Arsenault and Brock’s Indy teammate Gross are tied for third at 51. “I think if I’m up there in goals, it’s cool, but it’s not my goal to lead in goals,” said Brock, who owns the AUDL record for most goals scored all-time, with 438. “I think the fact that Rick and I are both up there is indicative of how dangerous our offense can be. And we have some great talent around us that alleviates pressure from us. So it’s cool to be up there, but it’s cool because it means we have had a lot of success as an offense because we have a lot of guys that can go off and score 5-6 in a game.”
- Seattle’s Mark Burton still tops the circuit with 81 assists, five shy of Tyler DeGirolamo’s single-season record. Burton is unlikely to play in the Cascades’ final two games, but that does not mean the record will certainly survive. Chicago’s Pawel Janas, who’s currently second in the league with 76 assists, has two games scheduled this weekend, at Madison on Saturday and vs. Minnesota on Sunday, with an opportunity to break the mark. A year ago, Janas finished with 85 assists, one shy of the record.
- Meanwhile, I also am feeling a silly sense of statistical pressure heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Over on audlpicks.com, I have been lucky enough to correctly prognosticate 97 of 149 games, tops in the season-long competition and one more than “Eric_W,” who’s at 96/149 and making me very nervous as I try to prove that I am worthy of covering the league for all of you loyal readers. Aside from the two of us, no other picker has gotten more than 90/149 correct in a season with a bevy of surprises every week. This coming weekend should be particularly challenging to predict, with a handful of teams competing in games with no playoff implications. Best of luck to Eric_W, wherever you may be. Regardless of what happens, you have earned my respect.
On Saturday in Raleigh, the Flyers dug into new layers of their depth in defeating the Hustle, utilizing three players who had not competed on the roster all year, the 39th, 40th, and 41st players to suit up for the franchise on the season. In Dallas, the Roughnecks used six players who were competing in their first AUDL game, bringing their total of different players to see the field in 2018 to 39. These numbers are among the highest in the league, but not #1. That distinction belongs to Austin, who has dressed 43 different players this year.
Obviously, depth is essential in the AUDL, and while only 20 players can be active on each gameday, teams around the league all go way beyond 20 over the course of the season.
Here’s a look at how many players each team has used this year, based upon the team-provided data on UltiAnalytics (which is occasionally incomplete):
43 - Austin
41 - Raleigh
41 - San Francisco
40 - Detroit
39 - Dallas
38 - Atlanta
38 - Tampa Bay
37 - Madison
36 - Minnesota
36 - Nashville
36 - San Jose
35 - Philadelphia
34 - DC
34 - Indianapolis
34 - Pittsburgh
33 - Chicago
33 - Toronto
32 - New York
32 - Seattle
31 - Ottawa
30 - Los Angeles
29 - San Diego
28 - Montreal
At first glance, it seems challenging to draw too many significant conclusions about the benefits or perils of using more players over the course of the season and how that impacts winning. For example, LA has performed magnificently with only 30 players, third fewest in the league, while 40 players, fourth-most in the circuit, have not helped Detroit find any victories.
The playoffs will be particularly fascinating as teams have to narrow themselves down to their top 20, for it is always interesting to see what surprises might make the cut and contribute in the most critical moments. In several cities, coaches will certainly lose some sleep thinking about who their final rostered players should be.
Pretty soon, those decisions will be made and the climactic competitions will begin. I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am.
As always, thank you for reading, and enjoy the ultimate!
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