April 24, 2018
By Evan Lepler
First things first: it’s still very early.
We’re four weeks into the 2018 regular season, a quarter of the way through the 16-week schedule, and about a fifth of the way (actually: 19.3 percent) through the total number of games on the full docket. At the moment, 10 teams have played just twice and 10 others have only three results. Only three teams—3-1 Raleigh, 2-2 Los Angeles, and 0-4 Tampa—have played four games.
The 31 outcomes already in the books, though, have given us a skeletal framework of what we can expect in the coming months. By combining the available data and my own personal observations, here’s a look at the current hierarchy of the AUDL, organized in tiers.
Let’s call it the quarter-pole TPI, or Toss Power Index.
Toronto’s depth, skill, purpose, and experience make them an easy pick for #1. While a tight game with Philly may have raised some eyebrows, the Phoenix illustrated this past weekend that they are vastly improved from the East Division pushover of the past. Like the Rush, the Radicals are unbeaten despite only playing on the road thus far, showcasing their ability to travel and prevail against solid, but ultimately inferior opponents. Dallas and Raleigh meet again this week in Texas; the Roughnecks won 17-14 in North Carolina on April 7 in frigid, rainy conditions. It should be in the high 60s/low 70s on Saturday at The Colony.
Final Four Contenders
Even though they are very close to being 0-2, I must admit that the Sol have looked better than I expected. I thought they could contend for a playoff berth, but after watching their first eight quarters, they could absolutely go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. It’s the second year in a row where three of the league’s top five may be in the South, with the Sol replacing the Cannons in that conversation.
New York ran away from Ottawa in the final 20 minutes on Saturday, making exciting plays that showcased the team’s ceiling when everything is clicking. Consistency remains an issue, though the reps of the season should promote improvement. Los Angeles has unquestionably been the most complete team out West, with both losses coming in interdivisional play against Austin and Dallas.
Chicago Wildfire (1-1)
Atlanta Hustle (3-0)
San Jose Spiders (1-2)
San Francisco FlameThrowers (1-2)
Minnesota Wind Chill (1-1)
Montreal Royal (1-1)
Philadelphia Phoenix (1-1)
San Diego Growlers (2-1)
Indianapolis AlleyCats (2-1)
DC Breeze (1-1)
Put these 10 teams in a hat, pick them out one by one, and that order might end up being more accurate than this one. The margins between these teams are infinitesimally small, and they all appear capable of prevailing against the leader(s) in their division on their best day. While undoubtedly talented, they also have various questions regarding depth or star-power or both. Frankly, it’s a tribute to the league that this tier is so strong collectively. The vast majority of the league provides fans with a belief that they can win every game they play.
Fighting While Falling
The Cannons, Cascades, and Outlaws probably won’t win too many games, but they will prove to be treacherous for teams that don’t bring their A-performance. The Cannons have stated explicitly how this is a developmental season for the franchise, but they have a handful of stars who can be special. They just need to play better, get more help from the supporting case, and execute late in close games. Speaking of special, Seattle’s Mark Burton and Ottawa’s Derek Alexander are two of the craftiest throwers in the league, capable of taking over a game anytime they take the field.
Building Toward 2019
Nashville has not played poorly in two losses by a combined six scores to a pair of teams that are an aggregate 6-1, but the AUDL, especially in the South, has become a gauntlet that can chew up and spit out even respectable rosters. Pittsburgh has playoff wins in each of the past three years, a streak that seems certain to end this summer. And Detroit, who has won only five of its last 59 games, looks like Detroit.
I will happily listen to any chatter that players or fans wish to share on social media, but the most persuasive arguments will emanate only from the play on the field. If a team does not like where it is ranked, there’s one primary place to prove me wrong.
In four weeks, the TPI will reemerge, and the deck will certainly reshuffle. Until then, the floor is open for all 23 teams, who will have multiple opportunities to state their case between the lines, the one spot that matters.
The Full Field Layout
Week 4 featured all 23 teams in action across 12 games, four of which were either decided by one or, in the case of Austin and Dallas, settled by two in OT.
On Sunday afternoon, the Sol traveled north more confident than ever in their ability to beat their big brother. When they jumped ahead by five goals in the opening quarter, a stretch that included a fluky but brilliant Callahan from Austin’s Andrew Walch, players on both teams let their minds wander to the possibility of an unprecedented outcome.
“When they went up 7-2 on us in the first quarter, I definitely thought to myself that this might finally be the game where Austin gets the better of us,” admitted Roughnecks Captain Matt Jackson.
While Austin led throughout the first half, Dallas refused to go quietly after halftime. Trailing 14-11 in the third, the Roughnecks made their move with a string of breaks in the gusty conditions, scoring four straight, including three breaks, to take their first lead of the day at 15-14. O-lines held to close out the third 17-16, but Austin surged again in the fourth, scoring three in a row to take a 19-17 lead. Of course, Dallas responded promptly with a 3-1 run, tying the game at 20 with just over a minute remaining.
“I remember [Coach] Wes [Nemec] calling me for a D-line, basically thinking, this is the last point,” remembered Dallas’s Jay Froude, who led the Roughnecks with six goals. “We count off and pull. Austin goes center pass, swing, swing, downfield power position, and huck for the score; clinical offense, leaving 45 second on the clock.”
“We are now downwind on O, and of course, I’m thinking, this is familiar. We figured Austin would come down in junk to prevent any fast-paced movement. We patiently moved the disc line to line and get within 15 yards or so from the end zone towards the break side of the field. Matty swings me the disc a little closer to the middle of the field and I quickly scanned left, then right, and look directly at the scoreboard. Three seconds [remaining.] I looked back left, see Kai [Marshall]—my tallest receiver on the field—and wind up for a blade flick to the back corner. With two defenders closing in on Kai, he jumps, catches, and toes the line to tie the game up, 21-21. I let out a big sigh and go hype up my receiver as we head to overtime.”
Thanks to Froude’s buzzer-beating dime, an extra five minutes beckoned. It was the first time in Roughnecks history that overtime was required. Despite Dallas’ dramatic equalizer, Austin’s leadership remained confident that Sunday would be their day.
“It was a very high intensity feeling down the stretch,” said Sol cutter Jerrod Wolfe, who scored three goals with two assists in the game. “Play got physical, but fair, and there was a general feeling of respect between the two teams. I think the Sol did a decent job of not getting too high or too low with the lead changes and big plays that swung momentum.”
In overtime, Dallas won the toss and received, going upwind. Austin forced a turnover on an errant huck from Brandon “Muffin” Malecek, but Froude regained possession by intercepting Doug Richardson near Austin’s end zone, giving the Roughnecks a short field.
In Froude’s words: “I give-and-go to Muffin and find Carson [Wilder] for the score. A huge relief. Our defense gets out there, everyone is 110% and we have the crowd with us. We get the turn and pack in the downwind break. Those two scores ended up being the only ones of overtime. It truly was an amazing team win.”
After playing for Austin in 2017, Wilder, who has very quickly become one of Dallas’ go-to-guys, shined in his first game against his old team, delivering a game-high +10 with four goals, five assists, and three Ds. Jackson scored three and dished three, connecting on 47 of his 48 passes. Noah Chambers, the 20-year-old University of Texas sophomore, led the Roughnecks with four Ds. The win improved Dallas to 3-0 on the year and 9-0 all-time against the Sol, who were left to wonder what could have been.
“There was some obvious frustration after the game because we felt we were in a good position to win the game and just came up a little short,” acknowledged Wolfe. “Hats off to Dallas on making big plays down the stretch to force overtime and then capitalize on a couple of our mistakes to get the win. They deserve all the credit, and I don’t necessarily feel like we lost the game, but that they won it. That being said, I think the team knows that if we clean some things up in different aspects of our game—end zone, swinging the disc, etc.—we’re going to be in a position to be a really good team this year.”
The Roughnecks concurred with the sentiment that Austin had taken a significant step forward. When asked about his takeaways from the narrow overtime victory, Jackson immediately sought to praise the Sol.
“One obvious takeaway is that Austin is a top team in the South,” Jackson declared. “The Austin vs. Raleigh game on Friday will be very telling. I expect it to be close. Another takeaway is that Dallas can play from behind. We’re not the 2016 juggernaut anymore, and we’re not just going to demolish teams. So it’s reassuring to know that we can grit it out on defense and recover from a large deficit to win games.”
The wackiest ending of Week 4 unfolded in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Wind Chill earned a 24-23 double overtime triumph over the Wildfire despite a baffling sequence that threatened to overshadow an otherwise gripping evening. Minnesota’s 12-9 halftime lead evaporated in the third and disappeared completely in the fourth, and the evenly matched teams progressed to overtime deadlocked at 22.
“It was a game of inches,” said Wind Chill Coach Erin Mirocha. “There were a lot of really close bid attempts and possession saving skies—you know, [the type of plays that lead to] coach heart attacks.”
The drama only intensified in OT, as each team scored a relatively quick goal, and then nobody scored on a marathon point that lasted around three minutes, ending the five minute period with nothing decided, and controversy imminent.
Just like the start of the first overtime, the refs flipped a coin and the Wind Chill won the toss, giving Minnesota the chance to receive in the sudden death second OT. But Chicago owner and player CJ O’Brien sensed that something was wrong. He had been re-reading the AUDL rulebook on the bus ride to the game, and though he had only skimmed over the overtime bylaws, he believed that a mistake had been made.
And he was absolutely right.
“Something was definitely off, because I thought we were supposed to receive since Minnesota got the disc [to start the first overtime],” O’Brien explained. “I was sort of frozen, not wanting to be ‘that guy’ that claims to know all the rules. I didn’t feel good about it though, so I ran back to the locker room and grabbed the rulebook right as we were pulling it to Minnesota. Minnesota punched it in cleanly for the score, and that’s when I ran onto the field with my arms up and flagging down the head ref. I showed him the rule, and he agreed we had done it wrong. We called Minnesota’s coach onto the field, along with their owner, Ben Feldman, our coach, Adrian King, and talked it out.”
A lengthy discussion ensued, with the game’s outcome hanging in the balance.
“Everyone agreed there had been a mistake, but Minnesota wanted to keep the ruling, saying that you can’t take points off the board and redo a decision that the refs had called. I said we could finish like this and I would appeal the game, but I wasn’t sure how that would end—if the league would take away Minnesota’s win, or award us each a tie, or make us replay the whole game later on; the cleanest way to finish it right now seemed to be to replay the point with Chicago receiving, as it should have been in the first place.”
After making calls and connecting with various league officials, they went with the cleanest and, in my opinion, the correct solution. They would replay the point, with Chicago receiving. About 20 minutes had passed, both teams frantically warmed up again, and the universe point lines took the field for the decisive final point.
“Greg Cousins got a crucial block, we took possession, called our timeout, put our O-line back on the field, and Ryan Osgar found Jason Tschida on an away look that sealed the deal,” remembered Mirocha. “The head official took full ownership over the misunderstanding. “I sincerely hope that Chicago doesn’t hold anything against him, especially since we replayed the point and they had a full and fair opportunity.”
Afterwards, O’Brien acknowledged, “They cemented the victory in both double OTs, fair and square.”
Aside from the controversial, drawn out conclusion, the Wildfire and Wind Chill had waged 53 minutes of brilliantly competitive ultimate. Tschida’s game-winner made him a game-high +8, with five goals, three assists, and 64 completions without a single throwaway. Michael Jordan added five goals, while Osgar and Josh Klane each had five assists. For Chicago, Danny Miller registered five goals and two assists, while Pawel Janas contributed 53 completions in 55 throws, with four assists and two goals.
Unfortunately, Chicago’s frustrations at the end of the night had just as much to do with injuries as the bizarre circumstances that surrounded the finish. They were already without Nicky Golini, a main o-line handler, after the 22-year-old Dartmouth product pulled a hamstring at practice on Thursday night. Then, three points into the game, they lost an even more important cog.
On just his second point on the field, Kurt Gibson streaked deep and felt a twinge. The two-time AUDL champ had also pulled his hamstring, and his night was over. He expects to miss at least the next two games.
Unbelievably, in overtime, another talented Wildfire newcomer, Nate Goff, endured the third Chicago hamstring pull in as many days. Goff had scored three goals in regulation, but like Golini and Gibson, was unavailable for the critical conclusion.
At 1-1 through two road games, the Wildfire have their next three at home, starting with Indianapolis this Saturday. Meanwhile, the Wind Chill also sit at 1-1 after bouncing back from their one-goal loss at Seattle.
“After taking a skeleton crew to Seattle, the players are definitely pumped to get a win on home turf, and scoring in sudden death twice and breaking to win is going to do a lot for team confidence going forward,” said Mirocha.
The conclusions in San Diego and Atlanta also went down to the wire, though without any auxiliary controversy. They were simply another pair of great games, with ramifications stemming from a couple critical points that could help define the seasons of the Growlers and the Hustle.
The circumstances leading into the two games were relatively similar, as San Diego and Atlanta had both recently won tight games on their opponent’s home field. Returning home, they still understood that going two for two against Seattle and Tampa, respectively, would not come easily.
As San Diego took the field at their home opener, 27-year-old Travis Dunn, recently anointed as a Growlers captain, suited up for his first appearance of the season. His impact was immediate and significant, producing a silly stat line that included five goals, nine assists, and a 100% completion rate on 40 throws. The Arizona State alum was +15 on the day.
“He played very confidently and was a great leader on the field, not only with his play but chatting guys up on the sideline and between quarters,” explained San Diego Coach Kevin Stuart. “He took it upon himself to make plays on offense and dictate the pace.”
Overall, the Growlers and Cascades tangled in high-scoring shootout. San Diego opened up a 10-7 lead in the first half and had the disc on the goal line to extend the lead to four. Instead, Seattle’s D-line made a few plays, and suddenly the game was even at 10. After that, amazingly, the score was always within one or two. The Cascades’ biggest edge came at 18-16 late in the third, only to see the Growlers score the final point of the period and the opening goal in the fourth to even things at 18.
The game remained tied at every number from 18 to 25, and the Growlers O-line calmly converted a 21-throw, turnover-free possession, with Dunn finding his former college teammate, Nate Bridges, to give San Diego a 26-25 lead with around 90 seconds left. The Cascades had a couple of chances to punch in another equalizer and force OT, but the Growlers defense stood tall.
“Seattle had the disc on the front cone of their end zone with about 17 seconds left,” remembered Stuart. “We double teamed, and they couldn’t complete the first pass hammer, and we were able to outlast them.”
The slim win improved San Diego to 2-1 and elevated the Growlers to first place in the West, an especially improbably perch considering their season began with a 13-goal setback. They will have a chance to prove their worthiness this weekend with a tough doubleheader in the Bay Area, against San Jose on Friday and San Francisco on Saturday.
Meanwhile, for the third consecutive week, Atlanta’s Kelvin Williams came through with some late-game D to seal the deal. The Hustle led virtually wire-to-wire—the game was tied just twice, at 1s and 16s—to prevail 19-18 over Tampa Bay. The Cannons had a lengthy ‘Hail Mary’ attempt at the buzzer, but Williams ate it up for his second D of the day and his 11th of the season.
When the teams met two weeks prior, the Hustle used their zone to slow down Tampa, a strategy that was aided by miserably rainy and windy conditions. On Saturday, even though the weather was much nicer, the zone remained a primary weapon, and it continued be an effective way to slow down the game.
“We would come out and score relatively quickly against their man defense, and then they would come out and score against our zone after working it for a few minutes,” remembered Atlanta’s Matt Smith. “I think they were trying to force us to play a faster pace than we could handle and we were trying to force them into a slower pace then they wanted. We are a taller team than they are, but we still didn’t want to give Bobby Ley, Tyler Kunsa, or Andrew Roney chances to rip it to athletes like Nathan Vickroy or Michael Fairley downfield. They did a much better job against our zone this game, likely due to the improved weather conditions, but I think the pace still made them uncomfortable.”
After Tampa Bay scored to inch within one with around 25 seconds left, the Cannons rolled the pull out of bounds and set up a double team. The strategy worked, as Atlanta fired a hammer downfield over the defense that landed incomplete. Following a timeout and a few resets, Ley uncorked a backhand that soared around 60 yards, but Williams benefitted from the low trajectory, charging in front of the goal line to record the block and wrap up the win.
The victory was another illustration of Atlanta’s depth, with 19 goals scored by 13 different players. JP Burns found the end zone four times, while a dozen others added one or two. Austin Taylor, Matt Smith, and Parker Bray each contributed three assists.
While the Hustle have by no means been dominant—their three wins have be decided by just four goals—they believe their balance and depth has benefitted them greatly early in the season.
“These wins have been 100% a team effort,” said Atlanta Captain Christian Olsen. “We expect everyone to make plays and contribute to the win.”
Meanwhile, the Cannons have been within striking distance late in all four of their games, only to be sitting at 0-4 with losses by one, two, three, and five. It’s a testament to the thin margin between victory and defeat in the 2018 AUDL.
“It’s absolutely a frustrating process,” admitted Tampa Coach Andrew Roca, who sported a simpler coaching wardrobe on Saturday, wearing basic Cannons gear and not appearing to imitate another famous coach with his garb. “While each game we are getting better and better, we keep falling short. 0-4 is a learning experience, and we really only have two options at this point: fold our hand or go all-in. I do want to say I’m super proud of our team’s resilience. I’m sure most teams would be in a drastic level of panic mode at this point, but we aren’t there yet. This Saturday is a must-win game, clean and simple.”
The Cannons host Nashville this weekend, with both teams looking to avoid the bottom of the South Division standings. Atlanta will enjoy a bye week at 3-0 before hosting Austin on May 5.
When Toronto took the field against San Francisco, the Rush’s lineup of 20 players included 15 who had competed in last August’s title game. Contrarily, the FlameThrowers only had six.
Among the five Rush players who were not active for the 2017 postseason, four of them—Jay Boychuk, Jonathan Edwards, Remi Ojo, and Anatoly Vasilyev—still had extensive AUDL experience with Toronto. This gave the Rush a clear edge in cohesiveness, and they used it to take advantage of the overmatched FlameThrowers in a relatively dominant 28-18 victory over the defending champs.
But what about the one guy who played for the Rush for just the second time and has little North American ultimate experience? That would be 18-year-old Benjamin Oort, Toronto’s import from The Netherlands, who caught two goals and had one chase-down D in the Rush’s Bay Area rampage.
Born on January 1, 2000, Oort not only has become the first player born in the new millennium to compete in the AUDL, he has also quickly and impressively fit into a team with so many veterans that it seems like a strange fit. Alas, it’s all worked well so far.
“I have always had the ambition to play in North America,” said Oort. “I’ve grown up on the ultimate sidelines. My dad has been playing for over 30 years, and he taught me how to throw when I was very young. I started playing ultimate when I was nine years old. When the end of my high school years were coming closer, I needed to make a decision on what to do the following year. I figured this was the perfect time to take a gap year, save some money, and make my trip across the Atlantic. I worked as a cook back in Amsterdam for seven months to earn all the money I needed to make the trip.”
Oort reached out to several AUDL teams and managed an itinerary of trying out for both D.C. and Toronto. He impressed both franchises and ultimately decided to play for the Rush. Then, shortly before the season began, the teenager journeyed by himself back across the Atlantic for his AUDL adventure.
“I arrived in Toronto a few weeks ago, and it took me a while to really acclimatize,” he said. “[Rush Coach] Sachin Raina has been extremely helpful with helping me settle in Toronto. He lived in Amsterdam for some time a few years ago, so he knows how it is to arrive in a new country with no contacts and a new language and all that stuff.”
Having played in two of Toronto’s first three games, Oort already has four goals, one block, and many memories. Above all, he’s hoping to cherish this experience and better himself in the process.
“I came all the way to Toronto to compete at the highest level,” he said, “so I want to go back to The Netherlands at the end of the season with as much knowledge and experience as I can.”
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
She's doing features for @theAUDL on @WatchStadium and she won Masters Nationals this last season; making her worthy of @USAUltimate putting her on the cover email. That's Megan Tormey (@Meagles000 to her fans) and we get to work with her. pic.twitter.com/tY6bmWjTBc— Fulcrum Media Group (@FulcrumPro) April 23, 2018
I’m fired up to have Meagles back alongside for the Raleigh-Dallas broadcast this Saturday night on Stadium!
When you travel every single weekend, blunders are inevitable. Like anything, you can only try and limit your mistakes.
This past Sunday morning, for just the second time in my life, I missed a flight. Scheduled to depart at 7:00 AM from San Francisco for my cross-country trek home, I knew that I had erred when I woke up and immediately saw bright daylight shining through the window. The alarm on my iPhone had failed in its duty, and it was around 7:06 when I angrily grabbed it from the nightstand.
A quick hopeful check that maybe my flight was delayed proved unfruitful, and I was left no choice but to call the airline, explain the situation, and plea for mercy from the flight-change Gods. Instead of arriving home a little after 5:00 PM, American Airlines kindly offered an arrival around 11:00 PM for a $75 change fee or around 9:30 PM for an approximately $1,050 fee plus full custody of my first born child. I may be misremembering the exact terms, but you get the idea.
I reluctantly coughed up the $75, watched my Celtics drop Game Four while at the airport, and commenced my journey home in the early afternoon, finally arriving home just before midnight eastern. All things considered, it could have been much worse.
But here’s a friendly reminder to all iPhone users out there: make sure your alarm volume is boisterous enough to disturb your slumber, especially if you have a flight to catch. For almost every day this decade, the iPhone alarm has done the job well. Unfortunately, on Sunday, it failed.
Seven On The Line
- New York set the tone early for its first win of the year, with Beau Kittredge scoring the opening goal and Jeff Babbitt recording a D on the second point to give the Empire a 2-0 lead. Early in the third quarter, the Outlaws only trailed by two, but New York finished the game on a 15-5 blitz to close it out, prevailing 28-16.
“Cutting was definitely the biggest improvement for our team in game two,” said Babbitt, who led the Empire with three Ds. “We did much better getting more cutters involved, and timing and spacing were both much improved.” Giving Ben Jagt more offensive responsibilities boosted the O-line, as Jagt collected five goals and two assists. Kittredge added four and two, while Harper Garvey and Ben Katz combined for nine assists.
- One day later, the Outlaws had a slim lead at D.C until the Breeze scored the final three goals of the first half to lead 12-10 at the break. In the second half, the Breeze stepped on the gas to pull away. A 15-4 burst spanning from late in the second quarter to early in the fourth gave D.C. a 10-goal lead, and, eventually, a 26-19 triumph. Rowan McDonnell again was in the middle of it all for the Breeze, collecting six goals, five assists, and two blocks. His +11 on Sunday put him at +23 through two games on the season. “I think Rowan is going to be in the MVP conversation this year,” D.C. Coach Darryl Stanley told Tyler Byrum for the official Breeze Recap. “He is going to be in that kind of situation to put up points and help carry our team.” Ottawa’s Derek Alexander registered 11 assists and completed 96 of his 99 throws during the Outlaws doubleheader weekend, while Greg Ellis led the squad with eight goals.
- Elsewhere in the East, Philadelphia authored perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend by taking down Montreal 26-21. The Phoenix never trailed and led 8-4 after one, 14-11 at half, and 22-16 through three behind Ethan Peck’s +12 performance, with eight assists and four goals. Scott Xu completed 54 of 55 passes to anchor the offense, while player/coach Trey Katzenbach went 32-for-32. Himalaya Mehta (five goals, four assists) and Sean Mott (four goals, four assists) were consistent downfield contributors too. “In last year’s first home game against Montreal, we were winning by a similar margin, but ended up blowing the lead and losing in OT,” explained Xu. “Winning this game was a testament to our growth and showed us what we are capable of at full strength.” The Phoenix, Royal, Empire and Breeze are all 1-1 through two games, in a four-way tie for second behind 3-0 Toronto.
- Los Angeles recovered another lackluster start and raced past San Jose in the second half, as the Aviators surpassed the Spiders 25-16 on Sunday afternoon in SoCal. “The temperatures were in the mid-80s, but the turf felt scorching,” explained LA Captain Tyler Bacon. “The Spiders, who I don’t think have experienced this kind of heat since September, just couldn’t keep up in the second half.” The Aviators were lifted by the play of Sean McDougall, who continued his sizzling start to the season with six goals and four blocks, good for a game-high +10. In three games, McDougall has compiled 10 goals, four assists, and 12 blocks, with a +24 that trails only Seattle’s Mark Burton (+26) for best in the league. Even more impressively, McDougall has tabulated these numbers will playing nearly 80% of his points on the D-line. “Sean has been our best player all season,” said Bacon. “He doesn’t show up on many highlights because he’s making the blocks look too easy, then he instantly transports behind all the defenders for wide open goals.”
- Buoyed by buzzer beaters, the Raleigh Flyers scored the most goals of any team across the league this season in their 31-26 triumph over Nashville. Mischa Freystaetter and Jacob Fairfax each rose up for towering skies as time expired to provide a boost, two of their combined 12 goals. With Jonathan Nethercutt unavailable, Bob Liu and Jack Williams shared the distributing duties, dishing 10 assists and completing 123 of their 124 throws.
“The Nashville game felt very similar to last week’s game against Tamps, as we failed to stick to our defensive game plan early and took about a half to settle down on offense,” explained Raleigh Coach Mike DeNardis. “After we scored our second end of quarter buzzer beater and made our halftime adjustments, everything seemed to fall into place.” Up 15-13 at the half, the Flyers stretched their advantage as wide as seven, eventually prevailing by five.
- Indianapolis used a 5-0 run in the first quarter to create separation against Pittsburgh, leading by as many as 10 in the AlleyCats’ comfortable and satisfying 27-18 victory over the Thunderbirds. “Our defense got off to a hot start led by some incredible layouts by Nick Hutton,” explained Keenan Plew, whose seven assists and 71 completions (in 72 throws) paced the Indy attack. “The defense fed off of his plays and the entire line dug in and played solid offense to complete those breaks. Offensively, we made very few errors all night. We were patient whether they threw their zone or their man defense at us. Sam Sohn, Travis [Carpenter], and Keegan [North] all stepped up and played extremely well to help lead us all night. I’m encouraged with how the team as a whole played, and I like the direction we are heading.”
- Elsewhere in the Midwest, Madison and Detroit were neck and neck for the first 12 minutes before the Radicals rolled through the final three quarters. In the opening period, Madison’s O-line only turned it once, but the Rads’ D-unit went 0-for-8 on break chances.
This shifted dramatically during a second quarter where Madison’s O-line never saw the field. Instead, the Radicals defense strung together nine breaks in a row, winning the quarter 9-0 to lead 14-4 at the half. The lead swelled to 19-7 through three, as Madison mauled Detroit 27-12. For the second straight game, Tarik Akyuz, who played 10 games for the Mechanix in 2016, led the Radicals in goals (four) and plus/minus (+6). Aside from Akyuz, eight other Radicals also scored multiple goals, while Nate Bosscher, Kevin Brown, and Victor Luo each dished four assists. Kevin Pettit-Scantling tallied five blocks to pace the defensive effort.
The final weekend of April includes the first two Friday night games of the 2018 season, and both are quite intriguing. Using the TPI rankings, #4 Raleigh is at #5 Austin, while #15 San Diego visits #10 San Jose.
The doubleheader weekends continue for the Flyers and Growlers a day later, with Raleigh meeting #3 Dallas and San Diego colliding with #11 San Francisco, two of the seven games on Saturday’s schedule.
From the “Good Teams with Plenty to Prove Tier,” #17 D.C. travels to #14 Philly in a pivotal East Division matchup, while #16 Indianapolis visits #8 Chicago. The wounded Wildfire could certainly in trouble if the AlleyCats can replicate their smooth offensive performance from this past weekend.
Over the next four weeks, there will be 45 AUDL games, compared to just the 31 that have unfolded in the past four weeks. By late May, logic suggests that we will know a lot more than we do now. But ironically, it’s also possible, even likely, that teams will beat up on each other so much that the league’s middle class becomes larger than ever. In this version of the AUDL, all we will know is that every week feels like a toss-up.
Unless it’s double overtime, simply flip a coin 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