June 5, 2018
By Evan Lepler
Round three of any golf major is often called “Moving Day,” where the leaders try not to self-destruct and the challengers hope for a few magical shots to bring them back into the mix of top contenders. If you’re in the hunt by Saturday’s sunset, you have guaranteed yourself a chance in the final round, when it matters most.
A 14-game AUDL season, spanning three and half months, is a much longer grind, but the ebb and flow of every dump, swing, and huck can mimic the pace and poise required of each stroke over 72 holes. In order to hang in there, it’s all about stringing together one good shot after another, limiting mistakes, and managing inevitable errors. Just like an unlucky lip-out bogey, your O-line will get broken eventually. Calmly sinking the next tough putt is the golf equivalent to using three dozen throws to patiently find the end zone following the ensuing pull. Making enough pars or consistently converting O-line holds ensures that you’ll make the cut and remain in the race through the midway point, heading into the stretch of play that can set the stage for a title.
Welcome to June, the closest thing we’ve got to Saturday at Augusta. It’s officially moving month in the AUDL.
There will be 60 wins up for grabs here in June, 18 more than we saw in May and 20 more than we had in March and April combined. The most hectic month on the AUDL calendar started with 20 of 23 franchises still very much in contention for a postseason berth, and the next four weekends will help separate the contenders and pretenders heading into July.
Moving month began with a bang this past weekend:
- The 13-game slate included eight road winners, the most visitor victories of any week this year.
- Nine of the 13 games were decided by four goals or less, including four one-goal games.
- After having zero overtime games in May, we got five minutes of bonus disc in San Diego, the sixth OT tilt across the league this season.
- Four teams had doubleheader weekends: One went 2-0, cementing top-level status; two went 1-1, remaining alive with a crucial split; and one went 0-2, sinking back into the outskirts of the playoff conversation.
- For the second straight week, one team’s six-game winning streak was halted in the Midwest.
Time to delve deeper into the details and share the perspective of many of the sport’s top contributors, who are all hopeful of moving their team into a prime position during this critical month.
The Full-Field Layout
Since dropping four of five to start the season, the San Francisco FlameThrowers had won two straight and sat at 3-4 heading into their pivotal two-game SoCal road trip. The dream was to win both, but most everyone on the squad knew they needed to get one.
On Saturday in San Diego, the FlameThrowers and San Diego Growlers battled for 48 minutes of intense, competitive ultimate in regulation. And it was not enough.
Throughout the second half, neither side ever led by more than two. San Francisco took an 18-16 edge early in the fourth, but the advantage quickly disappeared. San Diego responded with three in a row to surge ahead 19-18, the Growlers first lead since the score was 3-2 in the opening quarter.
After a handful of holds, the FlameThrowers had the disc in the final minute, trailing 22-21. They calmly worked it down the field, and on the 11th throw of the possession, Eli Kerns tossed a blade toward Lior Givol, who made the catch in the end zone with less than two seconds remaining to tie the game at 22. When Antoine Davis blocked the Growlers’ desperation “Hail Mary” on the ensuing throw, overtime beckoned.
San Diego, who felt they had let a regulation triumph slip away, dealt with a similar feeling in the overtime.
“In OT, we had another great chance to take control,” said San Diego’s Steven Milardovich. “They won the toss and started on O, and both teams had a hold. On our second D-point, we had a break opportunity with the disc in the red zone and called a timeout. Immediately out of the timeout, we had a drop on a routine swing pass, so we failed to punch that in and take the lead.”
Michael Tran led the Growlers with 45 completions with only one throwaway throughout the entire game, but his drop near the goal line proved costly. San Francisco marched back down to retake the lead at 24-23, and then the FlameThrowers had about 30 seconds left on the clock to try and win the game after the Growlers tied it up at 24.
Nine throws into the that final possession, the disc once again found Kerns, and the FlameThrowers trusted him to make the winning decision.
“When Eli got the disc, I knew he was throwing it my way,” said San Francisco’s Greg Cohen. “We made eye contact and he waited until one second left or so to throw it. [San Diego’s] Travis [Dunn] had great position and made a play on the disc—he luckily tipped it back. It happened to fall right behind me and all I need to do was one of my fall/layouts. When I caught it, I thought to myself, ‘did that really just happen?’”
With more than 20 of his close family members and friends in attendance, Cohen, who grew up in San Diego, cathartically celebrated the game-winning buzzer-beater, which prevented a double overtime universe point, in which the Growlers would have received. The joy from one side contrasted the sorrow from the other, as the Growlers endured their third straight setback to fall to 4-5 on the season.
“Much like last week, we feel like we let this one get away from us,” said Milardovich. “Not sure what else to say about the buzzer beater; I was on the other side of the end zone and it looked like Travis was going to make the play; he was in perfect position to get the block. We couldn’t pick a better guy to be defending there; Travis is huge in the air, and it looked like he got the job done knocking the disc away, but Greg stayed with it and made the play.”
After the game, Cohen remarked how Travis Dunn had gotten the better of him more often than not throughout the game. “I was guarding Travis all game,” he said. “He is quite the cover. I feel like he beat me deep 100 times.
The FlameThrowers certainly would not have come close to winning the game without their “Revolver Five,” as Cohen, Kerns, Givol, Davis, and Marcelo Sanchez finished as the team’s top five leading scorers, combining for 18 of 25 goals with 14 assists. Stanford alum Elliott Chartock also dished six scores and completed every one of his team-high 72 passes to help San Francisco survive.
“It would have been better to put the game away in regulation, but we needed a win and got one,” said Kerns, who paced his team with four goals and seven assists.
Dunn led San Diego with four goals and six assists for a team-high +9. Milardovich finished at +7 for the frustrated Growlers, who dropped to 1-3 on the season in games decided by two or less.
“There are always some strategic tweaks and adjustments after every game, but the biggest takeaway from this type of loss is something that we kind of already know,” Milardovich added. “We can’t afford to have any lapses during the game; we need to play with discipline and energy for the whole game in order to win. We don’t feel like we played a bad game, and we know that we can beat anyone in our division. It was really just a few critical mistakes that cost us.”
One day later, the FlameThrowers had an even tougher test up in Los Angeles, where the first-place Aviators were rested and ready. Missing a few guys who got banged up on Saturday, the FlameThrowers fell behind 9-7 after one and trailed 14-12 at the half, but refused to go away. Even after Los Angeles built a four-goal lead at 17-13, the FlameThrowers responded with a 4-0 rally to even things up at 17 early in the fourth quarter. Down the stretch, however, the Aviators closed on a 6-2 rally, capitalizing on San Francisco errors and winning with their athletes to prevail 23-19.
“They have a bunch of 5’10”-6’ guys that just grind and frustrate you,” reflected Cohen. “They are quite deep with athleticism. LA won the game. They ran us in the end, played patient O, and came out on top. We had some chances that we didn’t take advantage of, and they played better than us.”
The Aviators, who extended their winning streak to six in a row, felt like the reason for their success on Saturday was their defense.
“So far throughout the season, our defense has been known for our Ds laying out on underneath passes or getting up to knock the disc away on a huck; but this game really stood out because of our marks,” explained Tim Beatty, who led the LA O-line with five assists and 40 completions with zero throwaways. “I think we had four blocks on the mark.”
As Los Angeles improved to 7-0 against divisional foes and strengthened its perch atop the West Division, San Francisco’s Sunday loss denied the FlameThrowers their first above .500 record of the season, leaving them at 4-5, even with San Diego and the San Jose Spiders in a three-way tie for second-place.
The Spiders, meanwhile, have surged back into the mix thanks to their back-to-back wins over Seattle, the most recent of which was a 29-25 triumph on Saturday night underneath the Space Needle. After falling behind 5-1, San Jose took its first lead at 10-9. Later, with the score even at 17, the Spiders used a 10-3 burst to lead 27-20, a stretch in which they repeatedly frustrated the Cascades’ offense.
“The D-line for the Spiders plays person defense and never gives an inch,” remarked Seattle’s Brad Houser, who finished at +3, tied among four other teammates for the Cascades’ top plus/minus in a frustrating evening. “Very contrary to, say, San Diego, who plays very junky. San Jose refused to let easy deep looks go off and often played help off of weakside rail, and we struggled to move the friz across the field. Mark [Burton] was quiet, and every offensive starter struggled to find a groove.”
In their last two games against the Cascades, the Spiders held Mark Burton to just seven assists, offset by 13 turnovers. Comparatively, Burton had recorded 50 assists and only 19 turnovers in Seattle’s first six games of the season.
“In terms of lynchpins, I’d have to say Andrew Moore and David Hammer were key players because they had the task of covering Mark Burton,” commented Spiders Coach Tyler Grant. “Both Andrew and David have speed on their side and both have an eye for getting blocks. I tend to think that their constant harassment of Burton was able to slow down the Seattle offense and force them to make tougher throws…We got away with some ‘easy’ Ds where the disc either hit the ground or there was a miscue because of tight coverage.”
At 2-6, Seattle has slipped into the West Division cellar, but it does not mean the Cascades’ playoff hopes are completely destroyed, especially since they plan to welcome John Randolph and Sam Cook back from their college teams in the coming weeks. At the very least, Seattle should be very capable of spoiling something for one of their West rivals before the season is done.
In the six-team South Division, both Texas teams hit the road for a pair in Week 10, with the Austin Sol trekking through the southeast to face the Raleigh Flyers and Tampa Bay Cannons, while the Dallas Roughnecks journeyed to face the Nashville NightWatch and Atlanta Hustle.
If you just saw the final score to the Sol’s Friday night affair with the Flyers, you would believe that Raleigh absolutely pasted Austin. And while that is a somewhat accurate description of the Flyers’ 32-14 victory, it also ignores the fact that the two teams were tied at 9-all late in the second quarter before Raleigh rout commenced.
“We had a great start against Raleigh, but we knew it was going to be hard to hang with them given the roster we had for the weekend,” acknowledged Austin’s Michael Natenberg. “After we lost momentum after some pressured errors, we subbed to save legs because we knew the Tampa game [on Saturday] was critical for our playoff hopes.”
As Raleigh rolled thanks to a 14-3 second half, the Sol were playing the long game, desperate to secure the weekend split in Florida.
“Thankfully, we had a flight the next morning to Tampa instead of having to drive nine and a half hours,” added Natenberg. “Not being cramped in the car for the road trip definitely helped me feel fresh on [Saturday.]”
The Sol built a four-goal load over the Cannons early in the second quarter, but Tampa Bay fought back to even things at 13-all by halftime. In the third, the teams traded back and forth, creating ties at every integer from 13 to 19. Late in the period, the Cannons broke to surge ahead 21-19, but quickly surrendered that lead early in the fourth as the Sol scored six of the next seven goals to lead 25-22.
“Lots of guys made plays at clutch times,” said Natenberg. “If I had to pick two, I’d say [Andrew] Walch and Chase [Cunningham] made the biggest impact. We were able to pull Walch over to our O-line—he rested a calf injury against Raleigh the day before—and he always seemed to be open downfield for a continuation cut. He was our downfield engine, which was critical because we didn’t have our big deep cutters, Ethan [Pollack] and Kiran [Thomas], with us. Chase came up with a few Ds and anchored the transition O with break mark throws and hucks at the right time. He was a worker bee, probably playing the most points on our team and doing it with great energy throughout the whole game.”
In the closing minutes, Tampa Bay whittled Austin’s fourth-quarter lead down to one, with Jordan Huston scoring his team-high fifth goal with 18 seconds left to make it 27-26. The Cannons rolled the pull out of bounds and set up a double-team, but were unable to force another turnover and found themselves on the short side of yet another narrow heartbreaker. Tampa Bay dropped to 1-8 on the season, with a stunning 0-7 record in games decided by three or less.
“Every game has felt a little different, but our losses have been mostly due to the same mistakes,” reflected Huston. “We had a lead at some point in the fourth quarter and couldn’t quite close it out.”
Bobby Ley and Nathan Vickroy each finished with eight assists for the Cannons, but it was Austin that celebrated the narrow triumph, lifting the Sol to 3-0 in games decided by one on the season. At 5-5 overall, the Sol hoped that their rivals from Dallas could do them a solid and hand 4-3 Atlanta another loss on Sunday.
Before thinking about the Hustle, though, the Roughnecks had to take care of business in Nashville against a NightWatch team that was riding a three-game winning streak.
“The biggest thing we thought about before playing Nashville was to give them the respect they deserved for their recent wins,” shared Dallas Captain Dan Emmons. “We knew if we came out slow and didn’t have high energy that they could punch us in the mouth early and make it difficult to dig back from a deficit. We went into the game knowing they are as competitive as any other team in the South Division, and I think that’s how we were able to push and extend our lead later in the game instead of letting them keep it close.”
Dallas’ O-line put on a clinic, never getting broken by the Nashville D throughout the entire game. The NightWatch offense battled respectably, but the Roughnecks gradually wore them down. Dallas led by one after one, by three at the half, by six through three, and poured it on in the fourth to prevail 31-21, the Roughnecks’ highest-scoring game of the season.
On Sunday, the Hustle squelched the Roughnecks’ unbroken streak fairly early in the first quarter, scoring on Dallas’ O-line three times in the opening 12 minutes to build an 8-5 Atlanta lead. In the middle quarters, the Hustle stayed in front, denying the Roughnecks a lead at any point in the second or the third.
But Dallas made its move in the fourth, building on a strong finish to the third with a 4-0 rally to transform a 22-19 deficit into a 23-22 advantage.
“I was happy with how the team responded to a lot of adversity,” reflected Emmons. “We had multiple injuries throughout the game that ultimately sidelined multiple players by the fourth quarter. We never lost our focus despite limited numbers and continued to maintain energy and focus throughout all four quarters. Even with trailing since the middle of the first quarter, we never counted ourselves out and continued to be positive for one another on the field.”
Among the Roughnecks injuries were Emmons tweaking his hamstring, Kai Marshall hurting his leg, Kaplan Maurer dinging his ankle, and Joel Clutton dealing with leg cramps. Beyond that, Griffin Miller, Zach Marbach, and Connor Olson also dealt with various maladies that limited their playing time in the second half.
Despite all of these issues, the Roughnecks relied on a veteran line of Jay Froude, Kevin Richardson, Chris LaRocque, Matt Jackson, Brandon Malecek, Thomas Slack, and Dalton Smith to record the game’s biggest break late in the fourth, giving Dallas a 29-27 lead, matching the Roughnecks’ largest lead of the game. Atlanta’s Josh Bush made a fantastic leaping grab over Clutton to bring the Hustle back within one with 23 seconds left, but Malecek and Jackson completed four throws in the handler set to seal the deal and finish the game, a hard-fought 29-28 victory.
It was Dallas’s first one-goal game of the season compared to the fifth for Atlanta, most in the league. The Hustle, who opened the season with a slew of close wins, dipped to 3-2 in one-goal games.
“We were very disappointed because we felt like we had them at many points in the game, but small errors started to build up on our end,” said Hustle Captain Christian Olsen, who led Atlanta with four assists.
Added Atlanta’s Matt Smith, “Statistically, we only had one player with a negative plus/minus and overall it felt like most everyone played well. When you play championship caliber teams, though, the margin for error is very small and we definitely left the door open. They did an excellent job of playing tired but efficient ultimate.”
As Atlanta fell to 4-4, Dallas rose to 7-1 to remain in the top spot in the South, ahead of 7-3 Raleigh. The Roughnecks had to be pleased by their offense, which averaged 30 goals per game on the weekend after scoring just 22 goals per game through their first six contests. Jackson continued his sure-handed distributing, completing 108 of 109 throws throughout the two-game trip, while Malecek registered 11 assists. Smith scored 13 goals with six assists in the two games, while Slack contributed nine and six, Richardson delivered eight and five, and Froude chipped in with seven and five.
Aside from the standout veterans, the Roughnecks also expressed how vital their youngsters were to the cause throughout the weekend.
“Griffin Miller had a few key blocks in the Nashville game, including a goal-line stop after a long marathon point,” remembered Emmons. “He also had a momentum changing interception block in the second half of the Atlanta game to give us an extra boost of energy when we needed it. Ben Rogers, our young 18-year-old, had a huge block in the waning minutes of the Atlanta game that we ultimately converted and tied up the game with only a few minutes left.”
The Roughnecks may not have the firepower of years past, but they continue to avoid costly bogeys and make more birdies than many expected. They were one of the leaders entering moving month, and with two impressive road wins in Week 10, Dallas firmed up its status as a premier title contender.
Mentioned by multiple coaches as one of the top handler defenders in the West Division in 2017, LA’s Andrew Padula has a brand of bothering throwers does not often lead to him accumulating blocks. In his 20 career AUDL games entering this weekend, Padula only registered nine blocks.
On Sunday against San Francisco, however, Padula was a huge part of the Aviators strong marking, even if his style went against his coach’s wishes.
“One player that I would like to call out for having a great game was Andrew Padula,” said Tim Beatty. “Before the game, our coach told him to focus more on using his feet to shift around on the mark instead of kicking and going for foot blocks. I think that must have motivated him because Padula came away with three foot-blocks on the day.”
Though only officially credited with two blocks on the stat sheet, the UCLA product played an important role in helping the Aviators surpass the FlameThrowers, something they failed to do in three tries last year.
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
Although the Madison Radicals were the only idle franchise in the league this past weekend, veteran handler Andrew Brown continued to successfully branch out into the competitive disc golf world.
Brown, who turns 37 this Saturday, also finished second in the 2018 Amateur World Doubles Championships back in April alongside Brandon Malecek. His throwing accuracy is well documented, despite the fact that his 95.7 percent completion rate this year in the AUDL is the lowest of his career. From 2013 to 2017, his full-season completion rate hovered between 96.8 percent and 98.0 percent, always among the best in the league for a thrower of his volume.
Back on March 31, my ultimate broadcasting season began in Raleigh, commencing a 20-week Odyssey describing disc around North America. This past weekend, Week 10 on the AUDL docket, was the midway checkpoint.
It goes by fast.
The Twin Cities’ travel highlight was probably a Friday night excursion to Target Field, where the Twins took care of the Indians 7-4 in brisk two hours and 39 minutes. I had walked by the ballpark before, but it was my first time inside for a game, and I would give strong reviews. Beer prices are steep, but that’s every big league ballpark. I went straight for the Surly, the pride of the Wind Chill Owner Omar Ansari.
Beautiful night in the Twin Cities! pic.twitter.com/MMjrAcxqbj— Evan Lepler (@EvanLepler) June 2, 2018
Before arriving to Target Field, I had no idea that it happened to be a bobblehead giveaway night. In my life, there has never been another “Lepler” in professional sports, but now I have some memorabilia that’s about as close to my name as I’ll ever get.
Pretty good form on the layout from my very distant cousin, Twins outfielder Max Kepler.
First 10,000 fans today get a Max Kepler Bobblehead! Get to the game early tonight to get yours! @Twins #TwinsGiveaway pic.twitter.com/xuPEfR7vZo— Target Field Eats (@TFEATS) June 1, 2018
Seven On The Line
- The Minnesota Wind Chill beat the Indianapolis AlleyCats for the ninth straight time on Saturday night, only getting broken once in a 22-18 victory that ended the AlleyCats six-game winning streak.
“For a team that has built ourselves on defensive playmaking abilities, we’ve had a surprisingly challenging time generating blocks this season,” commented Minnesota’s Brandon Matis. “Even in games we’ve won, it has felt like we’ve been gifted a lot. This one felt a lot different. [Coach Erin] Mirocha mentioned Indy only had one turn-free hold in the first half, and I think we ramped up defensive pressure even more in the second half. I was happy with our ability to pressure Indy into taking tough looks and us making plays on them.” Colin Berry led the Wind Chill with four blocks, while Greg Cousins, Eric Johnson, and Jordan Taylor each contributed two apiece. The play of the game was undoubtedly Taylor’s shoulder-high layout D to deny Levi Jacobs a score in the third quarter.
Offensively, Michael Jordan and Charles Weinberg each scored five goals for Minnesota, helping the Wind Chill win their fourth straight game. It was an abrupt wake-up call for the AlleyCats, we were reminded that the toughest part of their schedule is ahead of them. “We’ve had a fairly easy go of it early on,” remarked Indy’s Cameron Brock. “Outside of a Madison game played in frigid weather, we’ve had very little adversity to face this year. Honestly, I think we needed this reality check. We needed to get punched in the gut like this to help us focus on aspects on our games that need some work.”
- One additional note from Saturday’s Midwest showdown: shockingly, Brock almost went the entire game without finding the end zone. The AlleyCats found the league’s all-time leading scorer for his only goal of the day with 3:26 remaining in the fourth, but it still snapped a 13-game streak of scoring multiple goals, dating back to last season. In his career, he has averaged 4.4 goals per game, but he only has registered 11 goals in his last four games against the Wind Chill. “Minnesota is a very good team,” said Brock, matter-of-factly. “They play very tough and physical defense that sometimes borders on too physical. I think they toe the line very well, only crossing it occasionally, and I never felt during the game that anything was intentionally over-physical or dirty. All credit in the world to Minnesota for the game they put together.” Brock also noted that the AlleyCats offense never found its rhythm on Saturday. “I think everything was just late,” he said. “People were not cutting at the right times, or sometimes at all. There seemed to be a level hesitation that hasn’t been there in the first eight games. I credit Minnesota’s physical play for this. I think sometimes when someone is being physical with another player, it causes that player to just not want to move or do anything at all. Their physicality is to blame for our hesitation in our cuts…This game will make us better, physically, mentally, and strategically.”
- The Toronto Rush remained the lone unbeaten team in the league with a 24-20 victory over the Montreal Royal in front of nearly 1,600 fans in Quebec City, where the Royal hosted a game for the first time. Even in front of a hostile, pro-Royal crowd, the Rush seized control early.
“It’s starting to become the norm that we start the game with two breaks,” remarked Toronto Captain Thomson McKnight. “Our D-line was playing really strong and they executed our game plan very well and made great adjustments to make life hard on Montreal.” Despite starting the game on defense, the Rush led 2-0 and were ahead 7-3 after one. They stretched the lead to six early in the second quarter, but the Royal fought back and inched within one at 16-15. Montreal could not quite fully erase the deficit, though, as Toronto preserved its multi-goal lead throughout the entire fourth quarter. Playing on his 28th birthday, Andrew Carroll contributed three goals and three assists. Iain MacKenzie paced the Rush in plus/minus at +7, with five goals and two blocks. While the Rush improved to 8-0—Toronto’s best start to a season since beginning 2014 with 13 consecutive wins—the Royal dipped to 3-4, falling into fourth place in the East.
- Replacing the Royal in the East’s third slot was the DC Breeze, who moved to 4-4-1 thanks to their 20-11 interdivisional triumph over the Pittsburgh Pittsburgh.
The Breeze trailed 6-4 early in the second quarter, but found a groove and closed the game on a 16-5 run. “I think the main story for us was seeing a lot of fresh faces have impactful games,” said Nate Prior, who led D.C. with four assists and 68 completions with no throwaways. “A lot of college guys rejoined the team the past few weeks after graduation and nationals, and that has given us a new energy in practice and in games. Once we got settled in, our team speed was really evident this past weekend, which helped us generate a lot of defensive pressure and finish long points.” Playing without O-line stalwarts like Rowan McDonnell, Max Cassell, and Jeff Wodatch, the Breeze leaned on their youngsters to step up. “The college guys—Alex Fall, Alex Liu, Christian Boxley, Joe Richards, Johnny Walden, Rhys Bergeron, and Zach Norrbom—were all really impressive,” commented Prior. “Most of those guys hadn’t played much this season, and they all stepped up and had huge games.” The Breeze will look to move above .500 for the first time in 2018 when they host Toronto on Saturday at 6:30 PM in the AUDL Game of the Week, broadcast live on Stadium.
- The Philadelphia Phoenix still can’t get a nice, calm, sunny, 75-degree day at home, but they are gradually becoming more comfortable in the elements.
“The weather still didn’t cooperate,” said Philly player/coach Trey Katzenbach, about Sunday’s conditions for his team’s game against the Ottawa Outlaws. “It wasn’t raining, but there was a steady 10-15 mile per hour wind, making for a true upwind/downwind game. It wasn’t impossible to work upwind, but it made it a grind. It probably helped us in the long run. We had a similar game with Toronto at home earlier this year, so we were able to make adjustments sooner.” The teams traded the lead four times in the first half, and the Outlaws were up 11-10 through two quarters. The Phoenix took control in the third, though, using a quick 4-1 run to dictate the game’s final lead change. Ottawa drew within one several times in the fourth quarter, but never could convert the coveted equalizer in Philly’s 22-21 triumph. “They had a chance to tie it late in the game, but a midrange upwind throw went off the hands of an Ottawa receiver about 20 yards out from our goal,” remembered Katzenbach. “There was some minimal contact about a second after the drop that Ottawa thought should have been a foul, but it was clear to me that the contact came after the drop and was not excessive. Ethan Peck came back into the game on our next to last possession and caught a deep huck from [Sean] Mott that put us up two with just under a minute to go. After that score, I felt like we were going to win the game. We had a chance to make an easy D on the next point, but whiffed on a floaty pass and they cut the score to one with 20 seconds left. We definitely were aware how Ottawa lost to Montreal earlier in the season in the same scenario, and we talked about what to do if we were about to get stalled. In the end, we didn’t have any contested throws and we were able to run the clock out.” The win moved the Phoenix to 3-5-1, dropping the Outlaws to 2-6.
- Ottawa’s weekend was competitive but disappointing, as the Outlaws also fell to the New York Empire in a tight game on Saturday.
It was a key third quarter lapse that caused their downfall, as the score went from 10-all to 15-11 in favor of the Empire quite quickly after halftime. Ottawa narrowed the gap to one at 18-17 early in the fourth, but New York held on for the 24-21 victory. Playing without Jeff Babbitt, Ben Jagt, or Beau Kittredge, the Empire got a big game from Ryan Drost, who compiled five goals, four blocks, and a team-best +8. Marques Brownlee chipped in with four scores and two Ds as the Empire bounced back from their previous week’s setback to rise to 4-2. Idle this coming weekend, New York will close its campaign with a grueling eight games over the final five weeks of the regular season, including six road games and two doubleheader weekends.
- Desperate for a win to remain in the Midwest race, the Chicago Wildfire took advantage of the still-winless Detroit Mechanix, opening the second quarter with a 6-0 burst to create separation in a 25-18 road victory.
Most notably, it was the first time this season that All-AUDL handler Pawel Janas did not lead the Wildfire in assists, something he had done in 14 straight games and 19 of the last 20 dating back to last year. Janas still led the squad in completions and chipped in with four assists, but it was Ross Barker who dished nine of his 22 throws for assists. “I was pleased with his number of assists, but even more with his 100 percent completion rating,” remarked Wildfire Coach Adrian King. “This makes his strong cutting that much more impactful. Strong cutters without throws are a huge liability, but Ross generally manages to be productive once he gets the disc.” The former Radical had recorded 13 assists in his first five games with the Wildfire before erupting for nine against the Mechanix. Michael Pardo also enjoyed a strong game for Chicago, delivering five goals and four blocks.
What to watch for in Week 11? For starters, three division leaders have tough road games, as Toronto travels to DC, Dallas looks to remain perfect all-time at Austin, and Madison goes to Chicago on the second day of a back-to-back after hosting Minnesota the previous night.
The eight-game slate also includes the eighth and final interdivisional game of the season, as Philadelphia hosts Pittsburgh in a Keystone State showdown. While the two teams have never met in a regular season AUDL game, the players are still quite familiar with each other from their frequent high-stakes meetings in past club regional tournaments.
“They have beaten us on Saturday only to fall to us in the ‘game-to-go’ on Sunday a few times,” said Philly’s Katzenbach, when asked about his memories with Pittsburgh. “There is never an absence of emotion when our two teams get together.”
While the Thunderbirds have unquestionably had a tough season, they could do their entire division a huge favor by snagging a road win at Philly. If Pittsburgh cannot prevail, the Midwest Division will slip to 0-6 in regular season interdivisional games over the past two seasons. The South has gone 5-1 in interdivisional play, while the East is 4-1 and the West is 2-4.
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