April 9, 2019
By Evan Lepler
On the Friday morning of April 5 at 6:00 AM, about 13.5 hours before the Raleigh Flyers and Dallas Roughnecks took the field for the 2019 AUDL season opener, Roughnecks’ Captain Jay Froude woke up in Columbia, Missouri to continue his cram session for an 11:00 AM exam in thermodynamics. Back in school pursuing another degree at the University of Missouri, Froude finished the test in the early afternoon, immediately returned home to pack, and then raced to the airport for a mid-afternoon flight to Texas. His day was far from over.
After landing in Dallas, he persevered through an hour-plus of rush-hour traffic to arrive at John Paul II High School, the Roughnecks’ new home venue for 2019, squeezing in the best warmup he could muster in order to be ready to face the Flyers, whose combination of speed and skill represented arguably an even tougher test than the one Froude had dealt with earlier in the day.
Fatigue would have been understandable, but the second-year Roughneck showed none of it. Not in the first quarter when his monstrous sky over Raleigh’s 6’7” Mischa Freystaetter helped keep Dallas and its struggling offense in the game. And not in the second half when the Roughnecks rallied on a 9-3 run to go from down 12-8 to up 17-15.
“Most people don’t know what Froude had to go through to get here,” shared Roughnecks Head Coach Wes Nemec. “He had a test this morning, jumped on a flight, literally walked up to the field, warmed up, and played. The game he had after doing all that was awesome.”
Froude, like the rest of the Roughnecks, maintained their energy, a word that several players mentioned after the game as the key to yet again turning things around against the Flyers.
“A lot of it has to do with energy,” said Froude, who finished with five goals and three assists, when asked how his team found its rhythm after a slow start. “Our mentality was not to get down on the sidelines, no matter what the score is. We knew that we weren’t out of it. We’ve come from behind before, and I think we really showed that our energy propels us forward.”
While Raleigh looked like the better team for several significant stretches throughout the first half, the Flyers endured a familiar free-fall in the second half, reminiscent of the six-goal lead they coughed up in last July’s South Division title game, which also unraveled in Dallas. This past Friday night, the Roughnecks rally, culminating in a 19-17 victory, served as a powerful opening statement to the new season and a reminder that, despite Raleigh’s wide array of talent, Dallas remains the more mentally tough team.
“Playing at home helps,” commented Nemec, when questioned about why he believed his team maintained a mental edge in the fourth quarter. “When a crowd gets behind a team, it’s definitely not a non-factor. Whenever the momentum started shifting—we got a couple crucial Ds, a couple crucial breaks—crowd started getting engaged; our team started getting engaged. Energy picked up. And the fact that we know, we’ve done this before, not that we like doing it or choose to do it. Our culture about the energy and belief that we have, that’s where it counts, just the ability to dig deep and bring the energy no matter what’s going on.”
With a track record of winning—the Roughnecks are now 39-4 in regular season games in their franchise history—they have created a habit of coming through when it counts. After going 6-0 in games decided by three or less in 2018, Dallas found a way to eke out another tight win against a top opponent to open 2019.
“This is a good illustration of where our culture’s at right now,” Nemec continued. “It’s strong coming into the first game, which is great to see. This is a good character win for the team, and it’s proof that no matter what’s going on, even if it’s a difficult opponent in our first game where we’re still gelling in a game situation, we can do it. It builds a lot of belief.”
Across the AUDL, Week 1 featured gradual and significant growth, from winners and losers alike. Though no team’s primary goal is to peak in April, establishing the right cultural tenets now can lead to bigger and better achievements in the coming months.
Especially with the shortened 12-game regular season team schedule, every matchup is a new and important test. Ideally, though, you only have to deal with one test on any given day.
The Full-Field Layout
In 2018, the AUDL showcased more close games than ever before, with nearly 64 percent of all games being decided by five or less. We are only five games into the new campaign, but if the opening weekend is any indication, we are destined for an even more competitive landscape this summer.
In fact, all five Week 1 contests were decided by four or fewer scores, with four of the five settled by two or less. All together, the five games were decided by a combined 10 goals, creating drama from the opening pull to the final buzzer. Or beyond.
Indeed, we also saw one overtime game this past weekend, a thrilling shootout in Seattle that featured one of the greatest comebacks in AUDL history.
Despite lofty preseason expectations after a stellar offseason, the San Jose Spiders’ first-half effort barely resembled the high level of ultimate that aspired to showcase.
“We broke on the first point with a huge backhand from Brandon ‘Springs’ Fein, and I think we thought we were gonna just roll from there,” remarked Spiders veteran Jackson Stearns. “That confidence turned into a little laziness as we tried to huck our way through the first half. Every huck we turned, Seattle capitalized on, and we were quickly down one, then two, then four, five, six breaks or however many it was.”
The Cascades, who enjoyed an underrated, decent winter of bolstering their team too, were indeed clicking as if they, not the Spiders, were the favorites in the West division, building a 16-10 halftime lead that mushroomed to 17-10 on the first point of the second half.
“The Spiders didn’t respect us,” said Khalif El-Salaam, who made his return to the AUDL after missing the 2018 season with the Seattle Cascades. “It was obvious in how much space they give our cutters offensively and how easy it was for us to get open. Defensively, they were throwing into really tight windows and had a good amount of execution errors that we were able to take advantage of… Once they realized they needed to want it more than us to win the game, then the mentality switched and the comeback began.”
Indeed, after trailing 17-10 early in the third, the Spiders closed the quarter on a 9-4 run and inched within one after the opening point in the fourth. Just like that, the Cascades lead had been trimmed to 21-20, and it was anyone’s game.
“At halftime, the mood was very low,” remembered San Jose’s Lior Givol, who led the Spiders with five goals and six assists, a performance that earned him a spot on the Week 1 AUDL honor roll. “[Justin] Norden did a good job checking us in, getting people to smile, and reminding us that this is the first game of the season. That kind of reframe lifted a weight off everyone’s shoulders. The offense started clicking, and we started playing to grow rather than not to lose.”
Offense often gets the headlines, but the Spiders rally would not have transpired if not for the defense stringing crucial breaks together. Similarly, while the signings Antoine Davis and Marcelo Sanchez made the most noise in San Jose’s offseason, a few under-the-radar additions were also instrumental in the comeback, as team leaders praised the Spiders debuts of Jacob Greenberg, Keenan Laurence, and Mark Phillipson.
“They played phenomenally down the stretch, applying pressure every point, getting key blocks, and most importantly moving the disc well after the turn,” explained Stearns. “Key plays in the comeback were Mark’s layout D along our sideline, Jacob’s bookends, and Keenan’s deep D on a few plays. Those plays were all followed by grind-it-out offense, with lots of swings and smart cuts, which was something we couldn’t do last season.”
Greenberg, who scored 22 times for the San Francisco FlameThrowers in 2018, found the end zone for the second time as a Spider to even the score at 26 with 1:39 left in regulation. Then, on the final point of the fourth, each team successfully defended underthrown hucks, beckoning overtime. The Spiders, after erasing a seven-goal gap, definitely felt like they had momentum.
That showed in OT, as Phillipson D’d a Seattle under cut near midfield to promptly earn possession. Two quick throws later, Robert Yeagle, a former Spiders practice player, hauled in the go-ahead score that gave his team its first lead since it was 1-0 in the opening minute. The Cascades found a quick equalizer on an offensive hold with 3:54 left, but that turned out to be Seattle’s last score of the game.
Each team had their chances over the next few minutes, as the point at 27-all included six changes of possession, finally ending on a sensational layout score by Phillipson with 54 seconds left, which he punctuated with an emphatic lefty spike.
“That was such a huge play,” recalled Stearns. “You can see in the film that Mark takes off from midfield and his defender is just too gassed to stay with him. I know the throw got away from Shane [Earley] a little bit, but Mark had just enough left in the tank to reel it in.”
Phillipson, who moved to the Bay Area in 2018 after finishing college at Vanderbilt, described the sequence at the end as “all adrenaline.”
“I realized that this might be the last point of the game,” Philipson explained. “It was a long point and our whole team seemed visibly tired. So I took it upon myself to go make a play. I had a few steps on my defender and made a hard cut to the front cone. It felt like our whole team responded to that layout. At that point, we felt like we weren’t going to let this game slip. We really dug in on the last point on D. We made them work for it and forced a bad throw that ended up helping us seal the win.”
Seattle’s last gasp came in the form of a huck that Will Coffin was unable to haul in with 30 seconds left. Then, after a timeout with 18 seconds left, the Spiders completed two passes, called another timeout with two seconds remaining, and used one more completion to close out the wild game, a 28-27 San Jose victory in overtime.
Of course, one team’s historic comeback doubled as another’s heartbreak.
“We had the game,” El-Salaam remarked, wistfully, “and [we] chocked, to be honest.”
Had the Cascades held on, we would be discussing Jay Boychuk’s seven-goal, four-assist Seattle debut, or marveling at Mark Burton’s seven assist, 50-for-51 throwing display. Of course, the team result matters most, rendering those numbers to mere footnote status.
“Obviously, the game was a huge win for us,” reflected Stearns “While we try not to listen to the hype too much, there are high expectations everywhere now with the talent we have, and I think the first half was a real wake-up call for us. If we had continued to play poorly and been blown out it would have been a big letdown. This is where, I think, the former FlameThrower pickups have been huge, guys like Marcelo, Lior, and Antoine obviously have big game experience and their consistency kept the younger guys and team focused…In a 12-game season, it’s nice to overcome some adversity early on.”
Elsewhere in the West, the spread never grew larger than two as the Los Angeles Aviators and San Diego Growlers created a much different pace compared to the Spiders and Cascades. Whereas the two teams combined for 52 goals in 48 regulation minutes in Seattle, the SoCal matchup witnessed just 38 scores, a byproduct of some early season sloppiness.
“It was full of early-season mistakes by both teams,” remarked San Diego’s Jonathan “Goose” Helton, who collected two goals and four assists in his Growlers debut. “Considering how pleasant the weather conditions were, there were many execution errors in the way of drops and poorly thrown discs.”
Leading by one at the half, the Growlers never could pull away, but they never fell behind either. Every time in felt like the Aviators might seize control, San Diego’s Sean Ham seemed to score a goal to re-establish control. By the time the Growlers closed out their 20-18 victory, Ham had scored seven times, including six of his team’s 10 goals in the second half.
“Sean Ham was a machine,” declared Travis Dunn, who added one goal, four assists, and three blocks to the Growlers’ cause himself. “He got it done from wire-to-wire for us offensively. Anything thrown his way came down in his hands, which was huge considering some of the throws he got.”
Indeed, several of Ham’s scores came on imperfect puts, where the former Spiders standout had to make a heckuva play to punctuate the point. The Aviators, though disappointed in the final result, were encouraged that some of the 50/50s may go their way next time.
“[Ham] has always been a fantastic cutter,” commented LA’s Sean McDougall, who accumulated four goals, three assists, and two blocks for the Aviators. “He has a great way of positioning himself to make these plays that seals out the defender while making insane grabs. We will be hard pressed to contain him, but if you watch the game closely, he didn’t have clean scores. Our guys were inches away from making plays several times, and I can only imagine a few of those going our way next time.”
While all acknowledged it was not the prettiest game ever, the Growlers were both relieved and ecstatic to begin the season 1-0 for the first time in franchise history. The Aviators, on the other hand, showed that they can still compete neck-and-neck on the road against their rival after losing several of the key players that helped take LA to Championship Weekend a year ago.
“I’m pleased with how the team played,” said Aviators Player/Coach Tyler Bacon. “It was our game to lose, and we did. I’ve got to have the squad more prepared for critical moments moving forward. We’re going to improve our conditioning, study film, learn from mistakes, and move forward with our eyes up.”
The Aviators and Growlers will both host the Spiders in Week 2, with San Jose traveling to LA on Friday and San Diego on Saturday.
Clearly, no team had a tougher task on the opening weekend of the 2019 season than the Raleigh Flyers, the only team to face a daunting road doubleheader to kick off their campaign. And after Friday night unfolded like an eerie sequel in Dallas, the Flyers quickly regrouped, embracing their evolving culture as the backbone to bouncing back.
“There were a lot of factors that contributed to the [Dallas] loss—new personnel, travel, first game of the season—but at the end of the day, we didn’t execute under pressure,” assessed Raleigh Co-Captain Tim McAllister. “Our main tenet this year is Family. With that in mind, after the game we had a brief, honest conversation about where we fell short but also where we excelled and what we needed to do in order to maintain focus moving forward. After that, we got around each other and ate some Mexican food and enjoyed time together. That’s what makes this team so special, we genuinely care about one another and enjoy spending time together.”
That dynamic showed on Saturday, as the Flyers played with confidence, focus, and determination to spoil the Sol’s opener in Austin. After trailing 4-3 with 2:37 left in the first quarter, the Flyers scored four straight goals to lead 7-4 just 30 ticks into the second quarter. While the Sol would inch within one a couple times later in the quarter and once in the third, Austin never could muster the equalizer, as the Flyers led 11-9 at the half, 15-12 through three, and prevailed 22-18 to earn a split in their two-game Texas trip.
“It’s not easy to regroup that quickly after losing a game in which the team had control,” explained Raleigh Head Coach Mike DeNardis, “but this group is driven and understands that if we push forward embracing each other, and each moment, we can accomplish greatness this season. It’s not going to be perfect, but if we buy into the culture that we’ve created, we can weather the storm when it comes. We certainly failed that first test in Dallas, but we took that moment as a learning experience and were unwavering in our Austin game.”
Noah Saul’s performance against the Sol, in particular, felt noteworthy. After throwing a critical interception late in the third quarter against Dallas that enabled the Roughnecks to tie the game heading into the fourth, Saul responded with authority and precision against Austin, mixing steadiness and sizzle to accumulate a +9, with six assists, two goals, one block, and zero mistakes in 49 throws. No one else on the Flyers was better than +4 on Saturday night.
Certainly, the Sol’s chances were diminished when star handler Chase Cunningham left the game with a knee injury midway through the first half. A scary collision between Matt Bennett and Kyle Henke, two key Austin playmakers, added to the Sol’s issues, though both Bennett and Henke returned to the game in the second half, enabling the home team to remain within striking distance until the late stages.
“Frustrating way to start the season,” remarked Austin’s Jeff Loskorn. “But we have a lot of positives to take forward and know where our weaknesses need improvement. Until late in the fourth, I honestly felt we were capable of striking back at any point. Better end-of-quarter possessions in the first and second and it’s a tie game at half. Raleigh’s zone D did prevent us from finding a rhythm on offense, and that put us in a hole early. Our handler group acknowledged we should have been moving the disc quicker to attack the zone instead of holding and trying to throw our way through it.”
It surely was a missed opportunity for the Sol, considering that Raleigh was on the second day of a back-to-back and Austin was fired up for its season opener. But in another story reminiscent of last year’s South Division playoffs, the Sol could not muster the firepower to overtake the Flyers. Consequently, Austin’s in danger of starting the season 0-3 unless the Sol can finally knock off the Roughnecks, something they have never done in 12 tries over the past three seasons, at some point in the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Flyers and Roughnecks look like they are again on a collision course to meet in July for a berth in the AUDL’s final four, at which point whoever survives will likely be looked at as one of the favorites in the semifinals. Although Dallas clearly has the early edge in the standings, Raleigh has the advantage of knowing that the Roughnecks need to come to North Carolina twice more in the regular season, while the Flyers are done with their lone Texas trip. If Raleigh can take care of business against Dallas at home—which, of course, is far from a given—then the Flyers will put themselves in position to potentially host that playoff blockbuster, which, even three and a half months away, already feels like it could be the AUDL’s game of the year again.
As the three South playoff teams from 2018 opened the season in Texas, the division’s two other franchises waged a nailbiter in Tampa, both hoping that this result would serve as a springboard toward crashing the 2019 postseason party. Throughout the 48-minute battle, separation was hard to find.
In fact, the second, third, and fourth quarters were all played evenly, 5-5 in the second, 5-5 in the third, and 3-3 in the fourth. As it turned out, the Tampa Bay Cannons’ seemingly insignificant 5-4 lead at the end of the first proved to be the difference in the Cannons’ 18-17 triumph. Like most of the other games across the league this weekend, end-of-quarter situations were of the utmost importance in determining the outcome.
“The main story was our ability to stay calm when facing their zone,” commented Andrew Roney, who registered eight assists and four blocks to lead the Cannons in both categories. “And when we did turn it, I think we did a great job of getting it back. We also won the end of quarter each time, either ending on a score or a block so they couldn’t score.”
The Atlanta Hustle experienced their largest deficit of the game early in the third quarter when Tampa surged to a 12-9 advantage, but the Hustle ran off three straight goals to tie the game at 12s, setting the stage for a second half that featured five ties, but no lead changes.
“We came out careless and not nearly as focused as we needed to be,” reflected Hustle Co-Captain Matt Smith, who finished the game with one goal and four assists. “The Cannons came out with more fire and really capitalized on a lot of our mistakes. It felt like we were playing tense and with low energy, while they played with a nothing-to-lose attitude that resulted in higher energy from their team and crowd. When you play with that energy, things tend to work in your favor, and their two buzzer beaters in the first and the third really hurt us, especially because they received in the second and fourth. Between that and two silly breaks we gave up out of half, that’s four points I know we would love another chance at. They also got a great game out of Roney, and credit to them for playing some inspired ultimate.”
Still, the Hustle had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes, only to have the Cannons thwart their final opportunity.
“The biggest play of the game was when Jack Kern got an incredible layout D on Matt Smith near, if not in, the end zone,” shared Tampa’s Adam Carr, who completed 52 passes without a turnover in the narrow victory. It was [late in] the fourth and Atlanta had the opportunity to tie the game. If Jack didn’t get that D, the end of the game likely would have been different.”
After the Kern block, the Cannons converted 18 consecutive completions to reach the finish line of a slim win, no small feat considering Tampa Bay went just 2-8 last season in games decided by three or less.
“It felt great,” admitted Roney. “It’s nice to start out the season on a positive note, especially with such a young group of guys. A lot of the guys were playing in their first game and said afterwards that they are pumped for the next game. Leadership and captains really stressed what we did well, which was sticking to our strategy of winning the end of quarters and coming out with fire at the beginning of each.”
Up next, the Hustle host Raleigh this weekend, while the Cannons schedule features the quirk that their next game is the exact same as the first, a home date with Atlanta a week from Saturday.
The purpose of “The Outside-In” is to feature a player who perhaps, prior to that weekend, was on the outside of your general awareness. In other words, who’s someone that you probably were not too familiar with who made a significant difference for his team’s chances?
Although Raleigh’s Henry Fisher certainly entered the season with more notoriety than more anonymous rookies like San Jose’s 18-year-old wunderkind Keenan Laurence or Tampa’s out-of-nowhere athlete James Franklin, Fisher blew away even the loftiest expectations by mixing his speed, size, and instincts to catch 11 goals across his team’s two game trip.
As Dallas Coach Wes Nemec commented afterwards, “We knew [Fisher] was a threat coming in, obviously, but didn’t realize the extent of his speed.”
Jay Froude added, “Henry Fisher played phenomenal [on Friday]. His downfield prowess was just amazing. He was just beating everybody up and down the field. He’s tall, he’s fast, and he just grinds you down.”
Meanwhile, no one on Raleigh was too surprised by Fisher’s contributions. After all, his pedigree included championships at the youth and college levels, and Fisher will be a member of the USA U-24 team that is heading to Germany this summer. But playing the pro game can have a different feel than any other ultimate, and it was amazing how quickly Fisher looked not only like he belonged, but appeared to be in complete command.
“It was very different from any ultimate I’d played before,” shared Fisher. “The games I’ve played in stadiums in front of large crowds have been semifinals and finals of tournaments, so it felt like jumping to a very important game without the usual three-day pool play buildup. Going into the Dallas game, I was very nervous. I’ve had a lot of excellent coaches and teammates over the years, but the only thing that really stuck out to me that night was something that [former Carleton College teammate and assistant coach] Natan Lee-Engel said to our O-line in 2017 before we went to Nationals. We hadn’t won any elimination games the entire season—we had been in the consolation bracket in every tournament—and although we were excited, we were understandably apprehensive. He said, ‘even though we haven’t been in any high-pressure games all season, we have a ton of high-pressure game experience on this O-line. Whether that’s been worlds, YCC, or high school, we all know that we can play when it really.’
“I realized before the Dallas game that it’s just frisbee, I’ve done this before, and I’m going to have a lot of fun on this huge field. My minimal success this past weekend was just the result of me trying to have a ton of fun and being really competitive. Obviously, some logistical things helped, like me having more room to run, [Jacob] Fairfax and Eric [Taylor] throwing dimes, and me being in more of a primary role. When Jack [Williams] was on the team, [Raleigh] deferred to him, which was correct because he was better than me. But without him on the team, I just literally have more opportunities to catch the disc and drive the boat. The stats that come with the role aren’t important. They’re a fun thing to joke about, but [Carleton] taught me that the team is more important the individual. When I’m mentally frustrated my stats can’t save me, but my team can.”
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Fisher’s performance was how he appeared to be the Flyers’ nuimber one option, despite playing alongside experienced star cutters like Fairfax, Mischa Freystaetter, and Terrence Mitchell. Throughout the weekend, both Fairfax and Freystaetter, in particular, flexed their throwing prowess by launching deep shots to Fisher.
“Last year, we were fairly straight-forward with our attack,” commented Raleigh Assistant Coach and Offensive Coordinator David Allison. “Our personnel was set up to run a specific play and run it as well as possible. This year’s team is going to be different. We’re going to try to put guys in positions to utilize a bigger portion of their skillset and become more versatile with how we work offensively. We have some bigs that are going to attack teams if you want to give them a free under.”
Fairfax finished the weekend with six assists, three shy of his total from the entire 2018 season. All six of his scoring throws went to Fisher.
“Fairfax has largely under-utilized his ability to throw,” Allison added. “Part of his growth as a player is learning when and how to attack opponents with the disc in his hands. I’m proud of his efforts so far. Mischa very much fits into this mold as well.”
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
I grew up watching Tony Bennet play high school basketball in Green Bay, and his dad's schemes are what the Radicals defense/offense is based on. Congrats to Tony and Virginia!— Tim Debyl (@TDeByl) April 9, 2019
Coming to ultimate journalism sometime soon—maybe from me, maybe from another worthy writer who beats me to it: An in-depth deep dive into the defensive principles that Madison Radicals’ Coach Tim DeByl adapted from Dick Bennett to create a champion in professional ultimate frisbee. That’s a piece that will take some time, but I look forward to writing (or reading) it.
Personally, I feel enormously privileged to have broadcast big games both for the Radicals and Virginia men’s basketball in recent years. They are both teams led by intelligent, crafty, and most importantly, classy head coaches.
I rarely am thrilled or starstruck by crossing paths with a famous person, but I considered it a cool omen for the 2019 AUDL season after recognizing one of the most unique professional athletes in sports history at the Charlotte airport last Friday morning. As I scurried toward the TSA Precheck line, I saw a 14-year NBA veteran talking to someone at the airline ticket counter. But unlike most in the professional basketball world, he did not stand out because he was crazy tall. Quite the contrary.
It was Muggsy Bogues, the 5’3” wonder who played for four different NBA teams from 1987-2001 and continues to hold the distinction of being the shortest player in the 72-year history of the Association. Kids these days may not remember Muggsy (unless they have seen Space Jam), but he was an inspiration to all of the vertically challenged basketball wannabes around the world, myself included.
Thinking about his career and marveling at his ability to play over 900 NBA games despite his lack of physical stature, it served as a reminder that greatness comes in all shapes and sizes. That thought occurred to me again as I watched 6’7” Mischa Freystaetter pose for a photo alongside 5’5” J.D. Hastings after the Flyers win over the Sol on Saturday night.
I imagine Hastings wouldn’t want to guard Freystaetter, but Freystaetter also probably wouldn’t want to guard Hastings. Frankly, few would be eager to cover either of them.
As Muggsy was in the middle of something and I was eager to catch my flight, I did not bother to go introduce myself. However, just seeing him was a good reminder that neither size nor stature by themselves can make someone great or disqualify someone else from having a chance.
Seven On The Line
- One of my favorite random moments of the week was LA’s Sean McDougall delivering a unique, bizarre, and entertaining spontaneous celebration after one of his goals against the Growlers on Saturday night. He adjusted well to Zach Theodore’s overly lofty backhand, snagged the disc while corkscrewing through multiple defenders, then twirled around an excessive and amusing number of times before tumbling downward and twirling twice more. It’s hard to believe he wasn’t dizzy afterwards. When asked about it, McDougall explained, “I had to twist my head and body around, while suddenly coming to a complete stop after a full speed sprint while trying to find the disc. So after I caught it, I figured I might as well have some fun and keep rolling around with some momentum and found myself on the ground. No name [for that particular celebration] yet, but I’ll try to come up with some more antics to keep it light and fun.”
- Austin’s Chase Cunningham never returned after departing Saturday’s game with an apparent knee injury early in the second quarter. After the game, though, Cunningham expressed optimism that he was not too severely hurt, saying that despite the scary non-contact nature of the malady, it might not be a long term absence. “It definitely doesn’t feel very good right now,” he acknowledged after the game. “Walking’s not too terrible, I can squat on it, a little bit of pain, but hopefully in a few weeks it will be alright. PT did those kind of initial tests and didn’t think anything tore, but the ligaments and stuff are definitely sprained and loose.” Though the Sol adjusted without him, clearly Cunningham is a critical component of Austin’s best version of itself. When he left the game, Matt Bennett shifted from D-line to O-line, giving the offense another capable handler but also removing the scooper-slinging risk-taker from the team’s break-train.
- Perhaps the Seattle Cascades never want to lead 17-10 ever again. As the great “Stats of the Game” twitter account pointed out, San Jose’s remarkable comeback against Seattle matched the largest deficit overcome in AUDL regular season play since 2014. The Spiders trailed 17-10 before winning 28-27 in overtime. This occurrence equaled another time when the Cascades blew a big lead against a division foe. On June 9, 2017, Seattle led San Diego 17-10 before the Growlers roared back to prevail 21-20. Of course, the Cascades also memorably overcame a huge deficit in an even more important circumstance. Back in the 2016 final four, Seattle was down 20-13 in the second half against Madison before closing the game on a 13-5 rally to dramatically advance to the championship game, which they would lose to Dallas a day later.
- While seven goals is the largest deficit ever overcome to win in an AUDL game, there are instances where even bigger gaps have been erased. On June 14, 2015, for instance, Seattle led San Jose 19-10 in the third quarter before the Spiders delivered a massive 13-4 run to force overtime. In the extra session, however, Seattle scored the only two goals of the five-minute overtime period to prevail 25-23. A couple new members of the Chicago Wildfire had huge games that day for the Cascades, as Zane Rankin registered six goals and four assists while Matt Rehder contributed three goals, one assist, and five blocks to help hold off the Beau Kittredge, Ashlin Joye, Cassidy Rasmussen-Spiders. A week later, San Jose did exact revenge, though, lighting up Seattle for 35 goals in a 35-28 win. Seven weeks after that, the Spiders won their second straight AUDL title.
- As mentioned on the Friday Forecast Podcast leading into the opening weekend, the 2019 AUDL schedule includes 27 total doubleheader weekends for the 21 teams. Ten franchises have two, seven others have one, and four teams do not have any. For this conversation, we are defining a doubleheader weekend as any weekend where a team has two games on the schedule. Most frequently, this consists of two games on the road in consecutive days, however their are a few exceptions where a team will play Friday/Sunday or have one of their two games at home. San Jose, Seattle, Austin, Toronto, Tampa, Philadelphia, Dallas, New York, Montreal, and DC each have two doubleheader weekends. Raleigh, Minnesota, Ottawa, Madison, Chicago, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh each have one. San Diego, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Indianapolis are the four teams without any two-game weekends on the season. Of course, this is all subject to change as weather could always alter the schedule as the season progresses.
- The two teams with the quirkiest schedules, in my opinion, are New York and Montreal. The Empire open their season with five of their first six games at home before closing their season with five of six on the road. Meanwhile, the Royal have almost the exact opposite, opening their season with six of seven on the road before returning home for their final five games in a row.
- After nine of the league’s 21 franchises opened their seasons this past weekend, four others make their 2019 debuts in Week 2. DC and New York kick off their seasons against one another in the East Division on Saturday night in the AUDL Game of the Week, while Madison and Indianapolis launch their campaigns in the Midwest Division on Sunday evening. Interestingly, these are both playoff rematches from 2018. Last summer, New York upset DC in a game played during a torrential downpour in our nation’s capital, while Madison steamrolled Indianapolis at Breese Stevens Field to begin its postseason march to the championship.
The upcoming Week 2 docket includes six games, all of them compelling in their own way. But none possesses the intrigue of our Stadium Game of the Week, where we will witness the first test for the franchise that most consider the closest thing the league currently has to a super-team.
The New York Empire’s depth will be the team’s biggest question heading into its opener against the DC Breeze, and it’s also fair to wonder how the top 7-10 stars on the roster will share the disc productively if and when they take the field together. It’s absolutely tantalizing to imagine an important line featuring the likes of Harper Garvey and Ben Katz as primary handlers with Jack Williams, Grant Lindsley, Ben Jagt, Jeff Babbitt, and Beau Kittredge all working as cutters downfield. Of course, the role players on the roster will have plenty of responsibility throughout the game as well.
The DC Breeze will surely have their hands full, but it’s also fair to expect that Breeze Coach Darryl Stanley will have a trick or two up his sleeve, aside from the dynamic 2018 MVP Rowan McDonnell. Additionally, DC has been a thorn in New York’s side through the years, even on the Empire’s home field.
Saturday at 6:00 PM/ET, it will be just another test, our first chance to see if the Empire truly deserve their preseason status as better than the rest.
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