Tuesday Toss: Week 13

July 2, 2019
By Evan Lepler

Before diving into the deep of Week 13, featuring an unexpected Philly upset, a buzzer-beating San Diego clincher, and a Radicals requiem, let’s begin with an interesting big picture realization: In the 12 games across the AUDL in Week 13, only four involved a road team who was not playing back-to-back days. And in those four games, all four road teams were victorious. 

Chicago earned its first win in Madison since 2013, Philadelphia prevailed in Toronto for the first time ever, Indianapolis snapped Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak after a lightning delay in the Steel City, and Raleigh fought off the feisty Tampa Bay Cannons for a two-goal triumph down in Florida. Together, these four results occurring are obviously somewhat coincidental, but it does continue a trend that we have observed throughout the season. 

Would you believe that road teams who are not playing two straight days away from home actually have a winning record this season? Through 13 weeks, it is true. 

Road teams are 36-32 (.529) when embarking on just a single trip in a weekend; comparatively, road teams journeying on a daunting back-to-back have gone just 13-29 (.310), including both the opener and closer of the trip

There are several possible theories for why this drastic dichotomy has transpired. Perhaps a team is more likely to have a stronger roster when the road trip possesses a shorter commitment. Maybe a team can play harder and with better focus knowing that there’s just one game to win. There’s also the dynamic that a doubleheader weekend always means either a difficult Friday night game, usually after traveling that day, or a tough Sunday turnaround following Saturday’s battle. Plus, a lot of the common doubleheader destinations like SoCal or Texas feature some of the league’s top teams this season; San Diego, Los Angeles, and Dallas, for instance, are a combined 25-7 overall and 15-3 at home. 

Interestingly, in back-to-backs, road teams have actually had more success on the second day of the trip. In the 21 road twin-bills, the visitor has won only five of 21 openers (.238). On the tail-end of a trip, the road team has gone 8-13 (.380). Postulating why this is occurring feels precarious, but perhaps there’s something to the idea that after a loss on Saturday a team embraces more of a ‘nothing-to-lose’ attitude, becoming more relaxed and comfortable on the field? It’s also a relatively small sample size and obviously matchups play a part—six of the eight wins on the second day of a back-to-back have been over Austin, Detroit, and Ottawa, all of whom are last place teams. 

While every team would prefer to play at home in front of their own fans, often road success is a better indicator of a group’s long-term abilities to achieve greatness. Coaches and captains can harp upon both the challenges of travel and the opportunity it provides for bonding, building cohesiveness, and developing a team’s personality, all things that are both true and unquantifiable. Transforming all of that chatter into victories, of course, is way more important, and the teams that can do that typically exhibit a toughness and mettle that bodes well for the postseason.

This past weekend, the New York Empire became the first team in the 2019 AUDL season to earn two road wins on back-to-back days, a strong display from a banged up bunch that banded together to remain the only undefeated team in the league. At 11-0, the Empire will seek to become the AUDL’s fourth franchise to complete a perfect regular season this coming Saturday, with another road test at Philadelphia. And that game could matter very much to the Phoenix if they can get a gigantic boost in the form of the DC Breeze replicating their feat of a first-time road win in Toronto. 

There are plenty of contingencies, caveats, and celebrations ahead in the belly of this Tuesday Toss.

Hope you’re hungry.

The Full Field Layout

Few results have shocked me more throughout my nearly six years covering the AUDL than seeing the Philadelphia Phoenix put down the Toronto Rush on Saturday afternoon in Ontario. Previously, the Phoenix had lost by margins of 10, 14, 20, 22, 13, and 5 in their six road journeys to face the Rush. Even with last year’s contest being the closest yet and factoring in Philly’s two-goal win over Toronto back in May, it still felt pie-in-the-sky to contemplate the Phoenix surviving this game.

And yet, here we are, after Philadelphia jumped out to a 4-1 lead and never trailed in their mighty impressive 26-24 triumph, a surprise that’s even more astounding considering the Phoenix were playing without three of their top four goal scorers from the first eight games of their season, not to mention their quarterback Ethan Fortin, who registered more than twice the number of completions of anyone else on the team and who also was unavailable for Saturday’s game. Somehow, none of this mattered.

“There were amazing performances across the board as everyone was playing their best game,” assessed Philly GM and on-field standout Mike Arcata. “The most notable were from some of our less regular players. Connor Boyle defined composure through every point. Dylan Smith stepped up to guard Toronto’s top handlers. Brandon Pastor and Colin Masino played near perfect games. A lot of these players have been consistently hard workers in practice all season, and it was great to see them have their moment on the field. All year, we’ve maintained a larger roster and developed an identity of ‘team’ that extends beyond the 20 players on the field each week. That depth has been so helpful for us, and it’s so satisfying to see it pay off.”

Four members of the Phoenix—Arcata, Dustin Damiano, Marc Sands, and Ryan Weaver—each registered multiple goals and multiple assists, with Weaver pacing the squad at a team-best +9. It was a relatively out-of-nowhere performance for Weaver, a 25-year-old Shippensburg alum who had a negative plus-minus through the first 11 games of his AUDL career. 

“Ryan Weaver flipped a switch this weekend,” remarked Arcata, who finished +8 himself. “He admits he struggled earlier in the season, but he absolutely came to play in Toronto. Not only did he open up the field with huge range, he had great shot selection, threw very few turns, and patiently. Distributed the disc when necessary. Absolutely stellar game from him. He’s well-known for having all those skills, but it was great to see him put everything together in a high-pressure game.”

Philly stretched its lead to five late in the third quarter and then managed to withstand Toronto’s inevitable rally that inched the Rush within one early in the fourth. A calm offensive hold and another break extended the Phoenix’s edge back to three, and Toronto never had the disc with a chance to tie after the opening minutes of the game.

“I think all game the whole team was super focused and didn’t allow themselves to get too excited, but once we got to the locker room the celebration was definitely on and didn’t really stop till we were halfway back to Philly,” added Arcata, who along with Sean Mott is the only player to be active for the Phoenix in all nine of their games this season. “Winning in Toronto was big for us on a lot of levels, most especially in the way of proving that we’re capable of being a winning team in the AUDL’s toughest division.

Philly’s victory prevented Toronto from clinching a playoff berth and kept the Phoenix’s slim playoff hopes alive. At 3-6, the Phoenix must win the rest of their games, starting this Saturday against 11-0 New York. Beyond that, the Phoenix are also completely reliant upon Toronto faltering at home again this weekend when the Rush host the DC Breeze. A Rush win would make Toronto the two-seed, while a loss would leave the door ajar for the Phoenix surge down the stretch.

“We should be closer to full strength next weekend with Thomson [McKnight], Jacky [Hau], and Mike [Mackenzie] back in the lineup, and we think are a couple adjustments we can make that should clean things up,” expressed Rush Coach Sachin Raina. “Given what’s at stake, next Saturday’s game should be pretty fun.”

In their first six years in the AUDL, the Rush went 78-8 in the regular season. In 2019, they are 6-5. Obviously, they have not enjoyed any of their recent setbacks, but they also remain intently focused on the big picture that’s ahead

“Every loss is a lesson for us to learn from, and we have learned a lot this year as a team,” said Toronto’s Cam Harris, who has been a part of all five of the Rush’s setbacks this season, a franchise record. “But the most important lesson was our loss last year to New York; and that taught us the season starts over in the playoffs. We are going to make the playoffs, and I do not envy teams that will have to play us. We took a bit of a page from the [Toronto] Raptors playbook and have abided by load management, giving some key players opportunities to rest so that we will be at full strength for the playoffs.”

Harris went on to praise the Phoenix for their all-around performance, while remaining confident that the Rush would bounce back this weekend against the Breeze. It’s imperative they do so in order to potentially avoid the same fate of another perennial power whose 2019 season has been unlike anything it has experienced before.

*****

Like Toronto, the Madison Radicals have largely conquered their division rivals through the years, a reality that has—like the peculiar world of Netflix’s Stranger Things—been completely flipped upside-down. 

The Radicals went 76-10 in regular season games from 2013-18, a testament of consistent greatness. This year, they are 4-6, mired in mediocrity. Furthermore, Madison’s home record vs. Midwest opponents from 2013-18 was 46-1. This season, it’s 1-3.

The question has been asked repeatedly by folks around the league: what’s wrong with Madison?

Well, they have the offseason to try and diagnose all their issues after Friday night’s 21-18 home loss to the Chicago Wildfire that, along with the other Midwest results over the course of the weekend, conspired to officially eliminate the Radicals from postseason contention for the first time in franchise history. The downfall has been sudden and fairly convincing, even though each of their defeats against divisional rivals have been by three goals or fewer.

The answer to the ‘what’s wrong with Madison?’ query is complex and multi-faceted, frankly deserving of its own column after digesting the struggles a bit more. Generally, it’s related to the Radicals being slightly weaker than years’ past and the rest of their opponents improving. That may seem obvious, but look at the pieces that the other four Midwest competitors added in the offseason: Matt Rehder and Zane Rankin in Chicago, Thomas Edmonds and Dylan Best in Pittsburgh, Brett Matzuka and Sam Ellison in Indy, and the six Winnipeg dudes who joined Minnesota, highlighted by high-flying Quinn Snider and steady distributors in Cam Burden and Jesse Greenberg

Who did the Radicals add to their 2019 team? Dylan Power, the 21-year-old Wisconsin-Whitewater product, is the only newcomer who’s made any substantive impact at all, and he’s a solid role player at best, registering a meager +6 in eight games. 

Beyond the lack of any star recruits, the returning core has floundered. Veterans in their 30s like Tom Annen, Nate Bosscher, Seth Meyer, Ben Nelson, Pat Shriwise, Chris Wilen, and Dave Wiseman have finally showed signs of being past their athletic primes. Other long-time Radicals like Peter Graffy and Kevin Brown, who are both 27, have struggled to carry the additional weight that the team has needed to thrust on their shoulders. Madison has also lost a bunch of stars gradually through the years, impact players like Jay Froude, Abe Coffin, and Ross Barker. Frankly, it’s been amazing that they have continued to relentlessly rule the Midwest the way they have. 

And above any individual not being in the right form, the team has struggled most of all to find the right mindset, an issue that has plagued the team throughout the year. Practice attendance has been smaller than past seasons, and gameday focus has been more casual and less intense. In some ways, malaise has been related to the championship hangover, but not entirely. There are clearly other issues in play that will require management’s focus in order to return to the postseason in 2020. In the meantime, the door is open for another Midwest team to make the final four, and there are four teams still in the mix that fashion themselves as true contenders.

After important road results in Week 13, Chicago and Indy are occupying the front-row seats of the division’s postseason dreams, each sitting at 7-3 heading into the final two weeks of the season. The AlleyCats can clinch the top spot by beating the Wildfire by two or more goals in Indianapolis this Saturday in the AUDL Game of the Week. Chicago almost certainly would not be able to lock up the #1 seed until the following weekend, when both team’s host Pittsburgh on July 13 and 14th to cap their seasons.

The Wildfire enjoyed a unique two-game weekend, with a road trip to Madison on Friday followed by a home date with the Midwest’s sacrificial lamb on Sunday. Perhaps stealing a page from Kevin Pettit-Scantling’s championship book, Chicago’s Pawel Janas brought a couple bottles of sparkling wine to Sunday’s contest against Detroit. When the game was called at halftime due to bad. weather, the Wildfire popped the corks to celebrate their first playoff berth since 2014. Quibble with the timing if you want—Madison didn’t spray any champagne until winning the whole thing last August—but Chicago was overjoyed to be in the postseason at 7-3 following their two-win weekend. 

“The theme going into the [Madison] game was relentless positivity,” said Janas, who completed 89-of-92 throws in his three halves on the weekend. “We knew there was a good chance [the Radicals] would go on a run and it was on us to stay up in the game and stay loose. We were finally at full strength and had our best dudes playing defense.”

Matt Rehder, Chicago’s leading goal scorer throughout the season, did not throw or catch any goals but registered a game-high five blocks while playing mostly on the D-line, and Seth Weaver and Drew Swanson also had big nights for the Wildfire defense. Though the teams were tied at 15 after three quarters, Chicago opened the fourth with a somewhat cruel and eyebrow-raising break—former Radicals Barker and David “Buddy” Meinecke connecting on the go-ahead goal—that set the tone for the final 12 minutes. 

“We knew going into the game that the defending champions would give it their all since their season was on the line, and being able to compete with that intensity makes it that much more special,” added Janas. [Breese Stevens Field] has given us nightmares for the last five years—it was fun to be on the other end for once.”

On Sunday against Detroit, the Wildfire sensed scary weather coming and purposefully ate up clock with the hope that they could make it to halftime before the storm struck. Though the skies opened up with 45 seconds left in the half, they did manage to close out the second quarter ahead 12-6 before racing to the locker rooms. A while later, the game was called due to the severe thunderstorms in the area, and the celebration officially began. 

A day earlier in Pittsburgh, the Indianapolis AlleyCats and Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, like a bunch of AUDL teams in Week 13, were also impacted by the weather. After a pregame delay and an intense, entertaining first half, Pittsburgh led 12-11 at the break, an advantage that dissipated quickly in the third.

“The turning point was probably Nick Hutton’s in-cut D that led to a shift in momentum for Indy,” acknowledged Max Sheppard, who registered five goals and seven assists for the Thunderbirds. “They continued to pressure us very well and then played consistent offense on a turn.”

Indy proceeded to dominate the third quarter 7-3, buoyed by the three blocks that Hutton procured in that one period. Up 18-15 heading into the fourth, the AlleyCats maintained their lead to prevail 23-20, their second three-goal win in Pittsburgh this season.

“Nick Hutton singlehandedly took over the third quarter on defense,” declared Indy Head Coach Eric Leonard, as Hutton’s three blocks all led to breaks. “He was an absolute beast. [Our] offense played clean the entire quarter and allowed us to take a three-point lead into the fourth. We pretty much cruised offensively. The rest of the way.”

Matzuka, Keenan Plew, and Alex Henderson anchored the AlleyCats O-line, completing 138-of-139 passes, while Travis Carpenter, Rick Gross, Cam Brock, and Levi Jacobs all divvied up the stats downfield. Overall, it served as a convincing statement for an offense that has struggled to avoid simple mistakes in certain big games in season’s past. Embracing patience in 2019 has enabled the AlleyCats to take their game, and their record, to a new level.

“Coach Leonard has told our offense over and over again to take the easy shots and work the unders,” remarked Gross, who caught five goals and completed all 20 of his throws. “He’s kind of engraved the mindset in all of us to take care of the disc and maintain possession. We talk about it all game long and hold each other accountable on taking the right looks and easy shots."

Presumably, every coach and captain in the league preaches calm offense and possession-oriented decision-making, but successfully executing with relentless precision is no easy feat. In their last two games, the AlleyCats have completed 97 percent of their passes, putting them in a position to clinch the top spot in the Midwest this Saturday. 

“This big game just sets up an even bigger game against Chicago next week,” mentioned Leonard. “Even before we got back to the locker room, I was talking game plan with Cam and Brett. I watched their game against Madison, and Chicago looked very good. We’re excited for the challenge.”

******

The San Diego Growlers needed a pair of clutch sequences to pull out their dramatic 26-25 win over the Seattle Cascades on Saturday night, a game that was unnervingly tight from wire-to-wire. Neither side led by more than two at any point, and it got even tighter in the second half, with the score being either tied or a one-goal difference for the final 20 points. Still, the counterpunching creating six lead-changes throughout the suspenseful 48 minutes of action

“We were down to about two minutes left and in dire need of a block when the wildest sequence and the real turning-point of the game happened,” explained San Diego’s Steven Milardovich. “Scott Radlauer played some lockdown dump defense on Jay Boychuk and got a huge layout block. He picked up the disc, dished it to Kyle Rubin, and streaked deep. Rubin then attempted to huck it to Scott, got hand-blocked by a Cascade, the disc fortuitously deflected straight into the hands of Trevor Purdy, and Trevor was then able to fire it to Scott in the end-zone to complete the break and give us the lead back at 25-24.”

The Cascades clawed their way downfield for the equalizer with 30 seconds left, leaving the Growlers with half a minute to try and walk-off with a win, a victory that would officially lock up home-field advantage in the West Division playoffs. 

“Prior to the point starting, we determined that we wouldn’t take a shot to the end zone until fewer than eight seconds were left on the clock, because at worst, we would head into OT,” clarified Goose Helton, one of the seven Growlers on the field for the culminating sequence. “There was no scoreboard nor clock in the end zone we were attacking, so the home crowd was really quite instrumental in maximizing the remaining time. When [Michael] Tran threw the final up-line to me, I thought ‘catch, then scan, then shoot.’”

San Diego Coach Kevin Stuart initially thought the Growlers had waited too long to launch the final throw—“if you watch the replay closely, you’ll see my throw my hands up in frustration,” he said—but Helton indeed fired a hammer toward the end zone before time expired. Milardovich was waiting. 

“I was just trying to portion myself to have a good approach if [Helton] came back across the field,” said Milardovich. “I got to the spot where I could go up strong with two hands, there was definitely some pressure from the Cascades defender, but fortunately I had a good read on it and was able to grab it. The moments after I caught it are a bit of a blur, I was just super pumped up to get the W."

Amazingly, it was San Diego’s second wild buzzer-beating finish at home this season, along with Max Hume’s fluky and spectacular grab off a deflection as time expired against San Jose on April 13. That win was important in helping to set the tone for the year, but this one was historic, as Milardovich snagged the disc and the Growler’s first regular season division title ever in the same catch. 

“Seeing Steven grab the game-winner and secure the home playoff game for us was fitting,” remarked Stuart. “He is one of a few guys that has been there for all five years of the franchise. He has been a great leader for us whether we have had two wins or nine, and it’s fitting that he made that play to get us in the best position possible for a playoff run.” 

Several Growlers went out of their way to praise Seattle’s all-around effort, with Boychuk, Mark Burton, and Khalif El-Salaam all having fine nights for the Cascades. San Diego survived though, and as you might imagine, cherished their own postgame party, which included drenching Stuart, their long-time coach, with the water-cooler. 

“It was a sweet moment on Saturday and we enjoyed it, but we are now shifting our focus to preparing for LA,” said Milardovich. “We know that playoff game is not going to be easy, and we have bigger goals than just making the playoffs.”

The Outside-In

The Philadelphia Phoenix benefited from a bevy of great playmaking from contributors without a ton of previous big-game success in their Saturday triumph in Toronto. Of course, one named was saved exclusively for “The Outside-In.”

A former D-III tennis player, James Pollard was first exposed to ultimate in high school gym class, but really began to play competitively in college as a way to stay in shape for the tennis season. Now in his second year with the Phoenix, the 6’5” 22-year-old has taken his game to a new level. 

“A lot of standout plays [against the Rush] came from James Pollard,” said Arcata, singling out the Jefferson University alum for his performance in Toronto. “He did a great job exploiting his matchups after getting a turn on defense and was unstoppable on deep cuts, leading to several of our breaks.”

Pollard’s ultimate abilities have been noticed in the past; for example, USA Ultimate invited him to tryout for the U-24 National Team last fall. On Saturday, he was instrumental in helping the Phoenix earn their first ever win in Toronto, collecting two goals and an assist in the process. He had managed just one goal and one assist total in his previous four games on the active roster this season. 

“Late in the third quarter, Pollard pulled down another sky to make it 21-16,” remembered Arcata. “Although Toronto did close the gap a bit from there, it felt at this point like we’d built a significant cushion that would allow our offense to weather any comeback push Toronto might make.”

The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)

One thing about bad weather: it often creates crazy beautiful skies. On Saturday, we witnessed multiple rainbows in Montreal.

Traveling Tales

Another thing about bad weather: it often gives creative ultimate players more time to brainstorm weird games. Waiting out the storm in Pittsburgh, the AlleyCats got loose with an innovative version of trashcan knockout.

“Brett [Matzuka] made up a sort of knockout in the locker room to keep us moving,” shared Indy’s Rick Gross. “We were throwing Gatorade bottles into a trash can like it was a basketball hoop for a solid 30 minutes.”

Having been a part of several interminable rain delays during my years covering minor league baseball, I can vouch for the fact that keeping your mind and body occupied during an uncertain delay gives you a much better chance to succeed once the game finally starts. Although the AlleyCats did not jump out to a 7-2 lead in the opening quarter like their last trip to Pittsburgh, they were absolutely ready to go.

“Fun times, and a little reminder for me about the beauty of our culture,” added AlleyCats Head Coach Eric Leonard. “Despite the long drive and rain delays, we were in great spirits when the game started.”

Seven On The Line

  1. After becoming the first team this season to go 2-0 on the road in a single weekend, the New York Empire sit at 11-0, guaranteed the top seed at Championship Weekend if they can get there. Like the vast majority of their season, the Empire did not obliterate their competition in Canada this past weekend; instead, New York continued its pattern of hanging onto small leads down the stretch in both games. On Saturday in Montreal, a rough first quarter from the Royal combined with smooth Empire offense to give the visitors an early 8-2 lead, as New York registered five breaks in the first 12 minutes.

    Montreal found its footing in the second and won the two middle quarters, inching within one goal early in the fourth before the Empire closed out their 22-19 victory. A day later in Ottawa, it was New York that started slowly, falling behind 6-3 in the first. “I thought in the first quarter, this will be the game we lose,” admitted Empire Head Coach Bryan Jones. But his shorthanded squad rallied ahead 13-12 by half, led 20-18 through three, and then pulled away in the fourth to prevail 27-23. “Ottawa came out and gave us a good game,” asserted Empire handler Harper Garvey,  who completed 101-of-104 passes on the weekend, with seven assists and three blocks. “Their offense is strong and know each other well. And their defense is very physical. This is a strength and weakness for them. They do well staying close, but when we have [Ben] Jagt, Jack [Williams], Grant [Lindsley], etc. downfield, you can’t hope to contain them with that sort of defense.” The Jagt/Williams/Lindsley combined for 16 goals and 27 assists on the weekend to lead New York, while Conor Kline added 10 more scores for the Empire O-line.
     
  2. Perhaps New York’s top highlight and biggest win this past weekend actually came early Friday morning, when a pair of long-time Empire contributors became parents. Liana Georgia Sullivan Ouellete arrived a little after 6 :00AM on Friday, adding another Empire fan into the ultimate universe. New dad CJ Ouellette has played or coached on the Empire for every year of the team’s existence, while new mom Elly has been a fixture on the management side, currently serving as the team’s Director of Operations. Big congrats to the Ouellettes! I’m already excited to see the cute Empire onesie that Liana will sport for the playoffs.
     
  3. After dropping the the double overtime heartbreaker against New York, the Raleigh Flyers were eager to retake the field and get back on track this past weekend against Tampa Bay. Quickly, the Flyers led 5-1, but the Cannons boomed right back into the game with an 8-3 rally to take a 9-8 lead at halftime. “They put up an excellent fight, played their style of ultimate, and almost ran away with it,” said Raleigh’s Henry Fisher. “The first quarter we came out fighting and were playing well with a lot of confidence. Coming off the close loss to New York, we had a great desire to prove ourselves again, but this was certainly coupled with an emotional and physical fatigue after such a high-octane game. In the second quarter, they started to have some success, and we started to let the externals affect the way we play a bit…The Cannons taking half was a blow. For sure, and I think to a certain extent we took our feet off the gas a little in the second quarter. At halftime, we were able to cool down a bit and channel that frustration we were having with the externals into a focus that allowed us to dictate the rest of the game…The second half was a testament to our resilience, and I hope we remember it going into the last part of our season.” The win improved the Flyers to 8-2 and maintained their spot at the top of the South standings. The Cannons dropped to 4-7, losing for the sixth time in their last seven games after starting the year 3-1. “I loved the way that we fought back in this game,” said Andrew Roney, who paced Tampa Bay with 11 assists and 70 completions. “I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but the season has always been focused on developing our younger talent. And there’s been highs and lows throughout the season. But I can honestly say that we are a better team now than we were at the start. We gave Raleigh a hard fought game with their entire roster. I’m not sure if we do that at the beginning of this year.”
     
  4. Just like Raleigh, the Dallas Roughnecks also trailed 9-8 at halftime in their contest against Atlanta. The deficit doubled when the Hustle D-line broke the Roughnecks’ offense again to begin the third quarter, but Dallas quickly rampaged on a 5-0 blitz to transform a 10-8 deficit into a 13-10 lead, en route to an 18-15 Roughnecks victory.

    Without the handling services of Brandon Malecek, Abe Coffin helped to anchor the O-line backfield, completing all 56 of his throws with four assists and two goals. Jay Froude, Connor Olson, Thomas Slack, and Carson Wilder all added multiple goals and multiple assists as well, boosting Dallas to 8-2 on the year heading into their final games of the year, Friday at Raleigh and Saturday at Atlanta. Regardless of what happens against the Atlanta Hustle, the Flyers game will determine where the 2019 South Division title game will be held. As a reminder, Dallas defeated Raleigh 19-17 way back on April 5, while the Flyers dominated the last meeting, cruising 27-18 on June 15.
     
  5. In Austin on Sunday, the Hustle bounced back against the Sol, narrowly prevailing 22-21 in a wild, back-and-forth affair that went down to the wire. Trailing 21-20 midway through the final quarter, a Rory Orloff snag near the back of the end zone was ruled out of bounds, denying Austin the equalizer in one of many opportunities the Sol would have on a lengthy turnover-plagued point. With 1:06 remaining, the seven and a half minute point that included seven turns culminated with Atlanta’s Matt Smith hammering to Kelvin Williams, giving the Hustle a 22-20 advantage. Austin inched back within one with 19 seconds left,  but Atlanta completed a pair of sizable retreating flicks to run out the clock on the Sol’s season. The final throw of the game actually hovered near the goal-line, giving Austin’s Brandon Dial a desperation bid for possibly a game-tying Callahan, but Atlanta’s Zach Avello rose up first to make the catch as the last seconds ticked away. With the one-goal setback, Austin became the first team in the league to complete its 2019 schedule, finishing 3-9, one win behind Tampa and Austin for the third spot in the South. Meanwhile, the Hustle finally experienced success in a tight game, improving to 4-7 on the year and 1-6 in games decided by three or less.
     
  6. While Seattle gave San Diego all it could handle on Saturday, the same could not be said about the Cascades contest in Los Angeles on Sunday. The Aviators soared ahead 3-0 with three consecutive breaks and led 8-2 by the end of the first, extending their advantage to 15-6 at half, 21-11 through three, and 27-14 by the time the final buzzer sounded, providing  Seattle some mercy. “Right from the get go, it was apparent that Seattle was exhausted,” commented LA’s Aaron Weaver, who led the Aviators with a career-high five goals. “They played a grueling game the night before, losing a buzzer-beater to the Growlers, and then they had to play us on a hot summer day in LA. Not only that, but they had multiple players that were obviously playing through some injuries. That’s a tall order on its own. And then you flip the perspective and look at our side, with 20 players competing for their roster spot in the West Championship game. We’ve had a lot of personnel get playing time. This year, with Coach [Tyler] Bacon testing many different combinations of pods/lines this whole season. So while this was a game that didn’t have any playoff implications, there was still an individual intensity to go out and earn playing time.” Five different Aviators finished with multiple blocks, led by Jeff Silverman’s four and Eric Lissner’s three, as Los Angeles improved to 8-3. The two SoCal rivals each have one final tuneup, LA at Seattle and San Diego at San Jose, prior to their postseason showdown that will decide who advances to Championship Weekend.
     
  7. Despite Seattle’s Sunday struggles, the largest rout of the weekend was recorded by the Minnesota Wind Chill, who smacked the minor league Mechanix around in a 27-12 blowout on Saturday in St. Paul. The Wind Chill scored the first six goals of the game, led 14-4 at the half, and only got broken twice as they destroyed Detroit. With a career-high six blocks, Jimmy Kittlesen was one of four Wind Chill players who finished +7, along with Isaac Leonard, Brandon Matis, and Quinn Snider, who led Minnesota with five goals. Detroit’s Jordan Kinde dished six assists, half of all the Mechanix’s scores, but he was also one of eight players on his team who had multiple throwaways. While the Wind Chill moved to 6-5 heading into their must-win regular season finale at Madison, the Mechanix suffered their 35th consecutive loss, with contests vs. Pittsburgh and at Madison separating them from a seemingly inevitable second straight winless season.

The Hammer

Only 16 games remain in the 2019 regular season, with 10 of them on the agenda on this lengthy upcoming holiday weekend. We’ve got the first Thursday game of the year as Ottawa and Montreal clash in just a couple days, and there will be plenty of meaningful action throughout the slate. On Friday, Dallas and Raleigh will decide where the South Division final will be. On Saturday, DC and Toronto can both clinch the #2 seed in the East. In the Game of the Week on Stadium, Chicago and Indy can both claim control over the top spot in the Midwest.

And for history’s sake, the New York-Philly matchup also carries plenty of significance, as the Empire look to keep their undefeated run alive against the desperate Phoenix. As we discussed at length in last Saturday’s Game of the Week telecast in Montreal, the Empire are close to achieving perfection in a completely different way than any team ever has. Ten of their 11 wins have been decided by five goals or fewer, and the Empire do not have a double digit win all year. When comparing that to their predecessors, it’s jarring. 

Undefeated Regular Seasons in AUDL History:

YEAR TEAM RECORD MARGIN THRU 11 GM

2013

Toronto 16-0 +118 10.7 g/gm
2016 Dallas 14-0 +115 10.5 g/gm
2016 Madison 14-0 +124 11.3 g/gm
2019 New York 11-0 +41 3.7 g/gm

All season long, the Empire have succeeded in tight games. They are unquestionably the favorite to take the title in 40 days in San Jose, though they are far from untouchable.

“For the remainder of the season, the focus is squarely on us,” declared New York’s Harper Garvey, who’s fourth in the AUDL with 518 completions on the season. “We will absolutely continue to develop and strengthen our offensive chemistry and defensive sets. Despite our record, we are a better team than what we’ve shown this season, which is exciting.”

 

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