April 23, 2019
By Evan Lepler
Week 3 in the AUDL did not feature any overtimes or game-deciding buzzer beaters during an eight-game Saturday slate, but coast to coast drama remained plentiful. We are three weeks into the 2019 AUDL season, and so far 18 of the 19 contests have been decided by five or less. The lone exception, Madison’s 26-17 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday, also happened to be a three-goal game with 10:46 left before the Radicals broke it open down the stretch.
One of the byproducts of so many close games is the collective optimism around the circuit. Coaches and captains across the country remain convinced that their teams are destined for postseason play, regardless of any early results. Any narrow defeat can be framed into a context where just a few things can be cleaned up to change the outcome in the future. Road teams have won just seven of the 19 contests, but ultimate optimists routinely talk themselves into the quality of a close road loss. When they get the rematch a few weeks or months later, they think, they will be poised to correct all errors and pounce on their unsuspecting or overmatched opponent.
It is an understandable mindset, though also a dangerous one. Presumably, San Jose had visions of a fluky last second loss at San Diego flipping into a comfortable victory at home against the same Growlers seven days later. The script seemed realistic enough, but the Spiders failed to execute, and suddenly the team that many considered to be the West’s preseason favorite sits at 1-3 a third of the way into the shortened 12-game season.
Close wins and narrow losses can be fickle predictors of future success. Some teams genuinely have a knack for replicating late-game greatness, while others get labeled chokers after multiple times falling short. For those that have repeatedly struggled in critical spots, the hope is that they can learn from the mistakes.
And while it’s dangerous to draw conclusions from a small number of results, there is at least some evidence that certain franchises have discovered a late-game mettle that maybe they lacked in the past. San Diego went 2-5 in games decided by three or less a season ago, but sits at 2-0 in those games and 3-0 overall here in April of 2019. Tampa Bay, for instance, is 2-0 in tight games this year after going 2-8 in such circumstances a year ago. Furthermore, the Chicago Wildfire went 0-5 in games decided by three or less in 2018, but came through in the clutch in their 2019 opener in Minnesota, surpassing the Wind Chill 26-25 for a huge opening victory. The Growlers, Cannons, and Wildfire have long, difficult schedules ahead in their quests to eventually be back in the playoffs, but their April success in a handful of games that could have gone either way is an important indicator of their renewed value.
At the moment, the Growlers, Cannons, and Wildfire, all teams that finished below .500 a year ago, are a combined 6-0, with five wins by three or less. Time will tell how good these squads actually are, but there’s little doubt that the league is tighter competitively than it’s ever been. Finding a way in the games that are undecided until the very last second provoke a unique satisfaction, especially after enduring the pain of being on the other side.
The Full Field Layout
“As time ran out and we were up by one with the disc in our hands, there was an overwhelming sense of admiration and gratification. Admiration for my players that gave everything they had all the way down to the wire. Gratification that our preseason preparation and plan for the game paid off enough to at least get us a victory. But also that after feeling the sting of single-point losses so many times over the last few seasons, a feeling shared by many of the Wildfire players rosters, we finally came out ahead. It was something we talked about before and during the game—that we WERE NOT going to let it happen this time—and we didn’t. And that may have been the spark of a new Wildfire…And then that moment passed, and a new sense of ‘we still have a whole lot of work to do,’ came rushing in.”
Victory can be a fleeting feeling, especially for a coach like Dave Woods, the new leader of the Chicago Wildfire. In a span of a few sentences in the above quote, Woods revealed how quickly one can go from reveling in glory to feeling uneasy about the future. It’s that type of vigilance, however, that the pursuit of greatness demands.
The only one-goal game in Week 3 unfolded in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Chicago treaded a very thin line between delight and disaster throughout the second half against the Minnesota Wind Chill. Leading by six in the 3rd quarter, the Wildfire were outscored 11-5 over a 19-minute span that eventually saw Minnesota tie the game at 25 with 1:10 remaining.
“We lost a sizable lead in the fourth quarter, which although the Wind Chill was playing well, I think we just gave the disc away too many times,” remarked Matt Rehder, who dished five assists and recorded a pair of blocks in his Wildfire debut. “With three of the four starting cutters playing their first year on the Wildfire, it seemed noticeable at points we are still figuring out how to cut for and with each other as well as our handlers. Ultimately, our defense was the reason we won this game.”
Pawel Janas’s perfect huck to Seth Weaver put the Wildfire back in front with 36 seconds left, leaving Minnesota with plenty of time to seek another equalizer and potentially force overtime. But after the Wind Chill were fortunate to catch a couple of shaky short throws, Chicago rookie Drew Swanson soared and swatted a Tate Halberg backhand toward the sideline intended for James Kittlesen. Swanson’s sensational block virtually ended it, and one more Janas completion officially sealed Minnesota’s fate.
Some members of the Wind Chill felt that Swanson fouled Kittlesen while delivering the layout D with 10 seconds left, though replays were inconclusive. It looked like there may have been contact, but it was a close call, far from egregious oversight. Surely, Minnesota primarily regretted being in that position of needing a call to extend the game.
“Had we done a better job in the first half playing O and better pressure defense, we wouldn’t have been in a position where that throw mattered so much,” remarked Wind Chill Captain Brandon Matis. “The fact that we were able to mount a comeback and give ourselves a shot to win was huge given our [lack of] league experience and limited time together. As we build chemistry and put a few more AUDL games under our belts, I think we’re going to be scary.”
Janas, who emphasized preseason in the AUDL Magazine that he did not care about individual stats whatsoever in 2019, nonetheless put up sparkling numbers as the Wildfire’s quarterback and anchor, going 74-for-75 with six assists, two goals, and one block. Janas was just one of many players that Woods raved about after the game.
“First off, I give full credit for our victory to our captains,” began Woods. “Pawel, for quarterbacking the offense the way that only he can and being the voice of reason. Tommy [Gallagher], for keeping the team singularly focused on the matter at hand and helping the team stay even keeled, even when things began to go awry. And Ross [Barker], for commanding the defense, keeping the team hyped, and leading our battle cry. Together, they inspired and led the team to victory.”
Woods also lavished praise upon a trio of AUDL rookies—Seth Weaver, Jack Shanahan, and Drew Swanson—along with Wildfire newbie and former Seattle star Zane Rankin, who supplied a slew of highlight-reel snags in the high-scoring shootout. The new Wildfire coach further recognized that his team had just barely escaped on the road following Minnesota’s furious comeback, a rally that showed the Wind Chill still have the potential to be a force in the Midwest too.
“I am incredibly impressed by the grit that the Minnesota roster showed,” stated Woods, who replaced Adrian King as Wildfire coach in 2019 after playing 36 games over the previous three seasons for the franchise. “After years of matchups against those guys, we know to never count them out, but they definitely proved their mettle. They continued to ramp up after we may have begun to show some complacency and completely erased the sizable lead we’d gained.”
Elsewhere in the Midwest, the division’s two finalists from 2018 emerged victorious at home by holding off pesky underdogs, both of which looked much improved from a year ago.
It may be a new season, but the Madison Radicals are still cherishing their championship glory. On Saturday, the Rads returned to Breese Stevens Field with a freshly engraved AUDL championship trophy on display, and plans are also underway to raise a special championship commemorative banner; the goal is to reveal it on May 11, when Madison hosts Minnesota in the Game of the Week on Stadium.
On the field, the Radicals led the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds wire-to-wire in their eventual 26-17 victory, though the Thunderbirds were tough to shake through the first three quarters. Madison’s offense was basically grooving, but Pittsburgh’s handler-heavy offense, led by Thomas Edmonds and Jonathan Mast, gave the Radicals D-line some headaches early in the game.
“I hesitate to say this because I don’t want to jinx it, but Saturday’s game felt a little like a flip-flop of our typical pattern on the Radicals,” commented Pat Shriwise, whose pristine performance helped propel Madison to a 45th consecutive home win against Midwest opponents. “For three quarters, our offense was the rock and the defense was kinda figuring things out. Then, in the fourth quarter they took off…It felt really good to be able to provide the defense with a sense of stability and confidence while they settled into our season after years of bailing us out when we were struggling in similar games.”
In fact, the much-maligned Madison O-line finished the game unbroken, with Shriwise leading the way with five assists, two goals, and zero turnovers in 46 throws. Peter Graffy, Colin Camp, Avery Johnson all had strong games as well, though Shriwise’s emergence as a primary handler, along with his improved health compared to past seasons, has opened up new possibilities for the Radicals’ offensive excellence.
“Pat is playing amazing right now,” remarked Madison Head Coach Tim DeByl. “He is seeing the field like a handler and still doing ‘Pat things’ downfield. I’m not sure there is a tougher matchup in the league right now; he starts as the center handler, but can go long when any of our players get it. Pat and Graffy have such great chemistry.”
Meanwhile, even in defeat, the Thunderbirds remained upbeat after keeping it tight for much of the night.
“For us, the story was coming out with something to prove, regardless of the end result,” said Edmonds, who completed 99 of 102 throws in his return to the Thunderbirds after sitting out the 2018 season. “We were close with the defending champs through three quarters. I’m proud of the way we played against them. Out O-line was calm, cool, and collected…Our main takeaways were: We know what we need to work on [and] when we play our best, we can play with anyone. I really believe this one. We kept it close through three quarters with the defending champs. A few adjustments on our part, I think we’re right there.”
Speaking of being right there, eyebrows were raised around the league by the halftime score in Indy, where the Indianapolis AlleyCats were leading the Detroit Mechanix by just one, 15-14. Considering that Detroit had dropped 26 consecutive AUDL games and were nine and a half point underdogs in their 2019 opener according to AUDLPicks.com, the slim margin at the midway point had to give everyone pause.
Well, despite the drama, Detroit never managed to ascend into a lead at any point in the game, falling behind 21-18 by the end of the third and ultimately succumbing to Indy 26-22 as the AlleyCats picked up their first win of the year, handing the Mechanix their 27th straight setback.
“Detroit was definitely better than I expected,” acknowledged Indy’s Travis Carpenter, who accumulated four assists and three goals in the AlleyCats’ victory. “One key to their success was their offensive strategy. They essentially played college ball half the time. They were very quick to go to the deep ball any time they saw a decent one-on-one matchup. Having so many players fresh off a college season, they were clearly very prepared to win those 50/50 balls. They were out-positioning us, bodying our defenders out of the play and forcing them to go up too early.”
Mark Whitton and Andrew Sjogren, who are 22 and 23 years old, respectively, each scored eight goals for Detroit. A couple of other youngsters, David Innnis, 22, and Joe Cubitt, 21, combined to throw for 119 completions, giving the Mechanix a pair of young handlers that were largely able to maintain possession until a deep shot opened up.
“Detroit is much improved from years past,” agreed Indy’s Cameron Brock, who contributed one goal and three assists to the Indy win. “I think the biggest change is that they have handlers that can reliably move the disc around. This created longer possessions for them and give them a chance to score. In years past, they have struggled to keep the disc alive if they didn’t have a look upfield. They added some young, athletic players that made a big difference for them. It definitely caught us off guard.”
Fortunately, from the AlleyCats’ perspective, the surprising jolt of competitiveness against Detroit did not translate into an embarrassing home loss. Despite considerable frustration that Indy’s O-line endured throughout the contest, the Cats did enough to survive. Keegan North paced the offense with six assists and a goal.
“My biggest takeaways were that Detroit is better and that we have a lot of work to do on offense,” added Brock. “We’ll need to find a way to figure that out before this weekend.”
The 'Cats and Mechanix will see each other again this Saturday in Detroit.
While Chicago was the only road team to prevail in the Midwest, East, or South this weekend, the West Division witnessed both SoCal squads record tremendous road results.
In San Jose, the San Diego Growlers impressively improved to 3-0 by jumping all over the San Jose Spiders early. It was 3-0 and 6-1 before San Jose found its footing, and though the Spiders inched back within one on multiple occasions, the Growlers never relinquished their wire-to-wire lead in a 21-16 triumph.
“San Jose’s cutters did not seem comfortable throwing the disc upfield, especially going upwind,” remarked Dom Leggio, who was one of seven Growlers to record at least one goal and one assist on the gusty evening. “Everything they did had to run through [Chuck] Cao and [Justin] Norden, and as the touch count got high, the turnovers started to increase with those two. Max Hume and our other handler defenders forced 13 turnovers between those two guys alone. Our handler defenders probably weren’t credited for many Ds but they did a heck of a job. Scott Radlauer had a great game defensively making Marcelo [Sanchez] work for everything. Scott is our best defender right now; he is hounding all his matchups.”
The Spiders were missing key offensive contributors like Antoine Davis and Lior Givol, but the Growlers were also without a pair of their O-line mainstays in Jonathan Helton and Sean Ham. Still, San Diego converted a slew of easy scores, even surprising themselves at certain points with how crisp their offense hummed through the stiff wind.
“We had multiple points where we just walked it down the live-side, 1-2-3-4-score,” added Leggio. “A few of the O-points I was on, I was doing the ‘sideline shuffle’ as Travis Dunn likes to put it. Sit back and watch our cutters cruise down the field for the score. Tim Okita had a really good give-go game and will beat you up and down the field if you aren’t paying attention. He credited his +7 performance to some nice grabs from his receivers, but he had a very solid game. The best stat of his was 0 turns in 29 touches, a lot of that being in windy conditions. Senda Ryo had some huge circus catches going upwind that led to timely scores; [Steven] Milardovich owes Senda a few cold ones, that’s for sure.”
While the Growlers rose to 3-0 with their most convincing performance yet, the Spiders dropped their third straight after opening the season with that great comeback win in Seattle. Collectively, they realize that their opportunity to coalesce and capitalize on their personnel is running short.
“Certainly, this year we have the most talented team we have had since we won in 2015,” commented Justin Norden, who recorded six assists but also was charged with seven throwaways on Saturday night. “The trick will be if we can put the pieces together correctly in time. All season we have been struggling on offense. We haven’t gotten things to gel correctly, and haven’t responded well to the saggy/help defensed of LA or San Diego. It was hard to lose how we did on our road trip, but even worse losing like that here at home. [On Saturday,] we didn’t figure things out on offense until it was too late.”
San Jose does have a week off to regroup before hosting Los Angeles a week from Saturday in the AUDL Game of the Week on Stadium. It’s certainly possible that they will welcome an Aviators’ squad that’s also riding a three-game winning streak if LA can keep its momentum rolling at home this Saturday against Seattle.
Though the Mark Burton-less Cascades hung tough with the Aviators through a competitive seven-all first quarter, LA’s D-line ran off three breaks early in the second, building a cushion that would widen to an eight-point gap by the early stages of the fourth. Seattle scored the final four points of the game to make the scoreboard feel a bit friendlier by the end of the night, but the Aviators still skipped town with a comfortable 24-20 triumph to improve to 2-1 in the West.
“We knew going in we would have to rely on our depth with so many people either banged up or unavailable,” commented LA player/coach Tyler Bacon. “Everyone was ready to step up and take on bigger roles for this gritty road win. I expect both rosters to look a little different in the rematch this weekend, so we can’t take too much from this victory in preparation for the next game.
Danny Landesman, the 18-year-old wunderkind featured in last week’s “Outside-In”, added three more goals to his ledger despite playing all but two of his 18 points on D. Jeff Silverman also rang the end zone bell three times while uncharacteristically playing all but two of his 16 points on O. Even without Silverman on defense, though, the Aviators found a groove and converted a bunch of breaks.
“The real story is our defense,” remarked Michael Kiyoi, who was one of just two Aviators, along with Ian Ladner, to register multiple goals and multiple assists in the game. “They played really well throughout the game and especially in the second half. There was a time in the fourth quarter where the offense didn’t touch the field for four or five points in a row. The defense [was] led by Zac Schakner. Sam Plasman got a huge block in the first half that led to a break. Danny Landesman went back to D and got a block as well as Joc [Jimenez]; he played really well with shutdown defense and [scored] a couple goals.”
Former San Jose and Toronto contributors Zach Sabin and Jay Boychuk topped Seattle’s plus/minus ledger, but the Cascades finished the night frustrated by their inability to find a consistent offensive rhythm
“Backfield turnovers were an issue for us,” acknowledged Brad Houser, who scored three goals but also was charged with three throwaways. “We had some new handlers that were integrating into the set that are not normally asked to step into that role—myself included—and the lack of chemistry between some of the players in the new roles showed.”
After suffering a pair of setbacks at home to start 0-2, the Cascades hope they can figure something out when they hit the road for a pair in SoCal this weekend. If they fail to earn a least a split, they would dip to 0-4 and find themselves needing to be nearly perfect the rest of the way to have any chance at the postseason.
“Our loss [on Saturday] was not due to personnel, but merely execution,” declared Houser. “We have confidence we can deliver a win with the team we just had and with the team we are bringing to California this week.”
One week after Dallas suffered its first loss in 13 tries against rival Austin, the Roughnecks reasserted themselves against the Sol, winning three of the four quarters to comfortably arrive back in the winners circle with a 21-17 victory. Dallas led 6-5 after one, 12-8 at the half, and quickly responded in the fourth after Austin’s fluky buzzer-beater to end the third inched the Sol back within two at 14-12. The Roughnecks’ 5-1 burst in the final quarter doused the flames of a potential Austin rally, even though the Sol enjoyed a slew of remarkable highlight-reel moments throughout the evening.
“I think we played with a lot more composure tonight,” said Roughnecks Head Coach Wes Nemec, when interviewed right after the game. “We talked before the game about just slowing things down, playing the ultimate we know how to play, just getting our mentality right, and I think the guys really latched on to that and really produced.”
WATCH FULL GAME REPLAY OF AUDL GAME OF THE WEEK
Abe Coffin, Carson Wilder, Dalton Smith, and Jay Froude all recorded multiple goals and multiple assists to pace the Dallas attack on a night when the Roughnecks offense remained patient and often made goal-scoring look easy. It certainly helped that the wind was not nearly as treacherous as the previous weekend, but Dallas also received a boost from its O-line playing great D to earn back possession after a turnover, a notion backed up by the fact that Wilder and fellow O-line cutter Thomas Slack each earned a pair of blocks.
Austin authored the most memorable layouts of the night, as Kyle Henke dazzled with a pair of sensational snags and Jeff Loskorn extended for a massive diving catch in the fourth quarter to fire up his team, but the Sol still headed back home disappointed.
“We were able to force quite a few turns, but did not have a good conversion rate,” said Loskorn, who paced the Sol with 41 completions and three assists. “[Our] O-line needs to improve our D after turns as well. Dallas’ depth really showed in that game, as they are able to roll out two full D lines and don’t have to shrink their roster down the stretch.”
The Sol dipped to 1-2 and have a week off to regroup before venturing outside Texas for the first time this season, heading to Atlanta and Raleigh on May 4 and 5. Dallas rose to 2-1 and has the next two weekends free before another matchup in Austin on May 11.
Meanwhile, both Dallas and Austin find themselves looking up at the Tampa Bay Cannons in the South Division standings, as the Cannons managed another close home win over the Atlanta Hustle to improve to 2-0. Despite playing the two lowest scoring games across the league this season, Tampa has epitomized clutch through its pair of results, an 18-17 triumph in Week 1 and a 17-14 victory this past Saturday.
“It was a great game, and I think the biggest story was our ability to change the mentality of years past in losing close games,” said Cannons Head Coach Andrew Roca. “We are showing that we can hold a lead late and stay in the game along the way. The largest uncontrollable factor was the wind and rain in the third quarter; Atlanta showed some hesitancy and we capitalized on that.”
Tied at seven at the half, the Cannons experienced their only deficit of the game when they were broken at 9-8 in the third. But Tampa responded to that adversity with a 4-0 tear, led 13-10 at the end of the third, and withstood Atlanta’s final haymaker in the fourth. Andrew Roney, Adam Carr, Bradley Seuntjens, and Tanner Repasky all had strong games for the Cannons, while Roca also bestowed praise upon Jacob Clary, James Franklin, Billy O’Bryan, and Ryan Hiser.
How good can the Cannons be? We certainly won’t learn any more the next two weeks, as Tampa will enjoy back-to-back byes in Weeks 4 and 5 before the schedule really ramps up with a home game vs. Raleigh on May 11 followed by three straight on the road to finish May. Nine of Tampa’s last 10 games will be against the three other teams in the South: Raleigh, Austin, and Dallas.
“It’s hard to tell how relatively good Tampa is,” said Atlanta’s Matt Smith, when asked for his honest assessment of Tampa’s ability. “I’m actually rather curious to see how they look against other teams. I think they play especially hard against us and I’ll be interested to see if they’re able to keep that same energy and mentality against other opponents.”
Winless through three games, the Hustle have a pair of home contests against Raleigh and Austin the next two Saturdays, needing at least one win to have any chance at saving their season. Atlanta has been extremely competitive throughout its early season schedule, but again, it’s often all about how a team fares in the close ones. A year ago, the Hustle went 5-4 in games decided by three or less. In 2019, they’re 0-3.
After highlighting Raleigh’s Henry Fisher and Los Angeles’ Danny Landesman as rookie revelations in this section over the past two weeks, today the spotlight shines on Chicago’s Drew Swanson, whose game-saving layout block secured the Wildfire’s one-point win over Minnesota in their season opener. The 23-year-old out of North Park University delivered a memorable debut that was far greater than one play.
“Often times, athletes can shell up during their first appearance on the ‘big stage,’” remarked Chicago Head Coach Dave Woods, commenting on the performances of Wildfire rookies Drew Swanson, Seth Weaver, and Jack Shanahan. “Fortunately, those guys left their shells in Chicago. All three impacted the game greatly, and I’m excited to see how they impact the remainder of the season.”
Swanson somehow found a way to touch the disc six times without ever completing a single pass, while still making an indelible mark on the Wildfire’s win by scoring four goals and registering two blocks, including the game-syncher. It was a remarkable welcome for someone whose first taste of high level ultimate, in his words, was the opportunity to compete at USA U-24 tryouts last fall, an invitation that arrived after he earned some buzz for his performance helping North Park reach D-III Nationals in 2018. He expected that his athleticism would enable him to make the roster, but he was still nervous about ascending to the professional level.
“My lack of frisbee experience has been a learning curve,” said Swanson, who played basketball and also hurdled and high jumped as a high schooler in the Detroit area. “I think that the organization recognized my willingness to learn and decided to give me a hot. Thankfully, I have some of the best teammates and leadership a rookie could ask for. Every practice, I flood these dudes with questions and they’ve been awesome in coaching me up. Heading into the first game, leadership did a great job defining my personal role as well as team objectives. On gameday, I was definitely experiencing the nervous excitement that comes with a debut. I was lucky to have teammates like Rehder and Barker to calm my nerves. They just stressed relying on my instincts and having fun.”
After the enjoyable and dramatic road win, Swanson now has the tough task of replicating his production against future opponents who will have had a chance to scout him. But his teammates are confident that he can grow into a special player, with Rehder offering a particularly generous assessment.
“He is definitely a top 10 big man defender in the AUDL,” said Rehder. “Moves well for his size and plays bigger than his stature. [He] definitely gave it to me good a couple times at practice. He has a bright future as a big man in ultimate, and I’m sure we’ll see him throwing his body around in some top 10 plays this year.”
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
Amidst a busy weekend of ultimate with intense AUDL action and college conferences capping several schools’ seasons across the country, the disc world also saw some history made this past weekend with the opening games in the brand new Premier Ultimate League, a professional women’s league that officially launched its first season on Saturday.
Ten years from now, when you’re asked a trivia question about who won the first ever game in the PUL, you will get it right because you read the Tuesday Toss, or perhaps because you watched the game. Either way, the Columbus Pride beat the Nashville Nightshade 24-13 in the league’s premiere matchup, and Medellin Revolution cruised past the Atlanta Soul 30-20 in Colombia to complete the first weekend of play in the new eight-team league.
If you’re interested, you can watch the full games here and here.
On Saturday night, Megan Tormey and I were arriving at the Northside Drafthouse & Eatery following Dallas’ triumph, eager to grab some dinner at the Roughnecks postgame hangout spot. A gentleman waited outside to check IDs, and he began to ask for proof that Megan and I were north of 21 before reconsidering. He looked at us, then suddenly abandoned his request about halfway through, coming to the realization that we were obviously of age. He kinda halfheartedly smiled and waved us in.
We were each lightly offended, as we are both in our 30s and, we like to think, relatively youthful in our appearances. Alas, apparently we did not look quite as childish as we thought. Or maybe this establishment was just super lenient.
About 30 minutes later, however, a Roughnecks player walked up to the same doorway and was denied entrance on the account of him being shy of 21. Despite being in his second year as a professional ultimate player, he could not enter the Northside Drafthouse after 10 PM.
Seven On The Line
- The only Week 3 game that has not been mentioned yet in this space unfolded in Washington, D.C., where Philly opened its season battling against the talented Breeze and the vicious breeze. “The wind was definitely a huge factor,” commented Philly Co-Coach Nate Venditta, “but it’s something that both teams have to play in. The wind also drastically changed game plans almost instantly, I think for both sides, so it made for some exciting coaching battles between us and [DC Coach] Darryl [Stanley] about how we were going to go combat each others’ moves.” After eight straight holds in the first quarter, the second period featured a bunch of breaks both ways. Philly struck first to take a 6-4 lead, but DC immediately countered to tie it up at six. Holds kept things even at 7s, 8s, and 9s, but the Breeze D-line ran off three breaks in a row to finish the half, heading into the locker room up 12-9 on an 8-3 run. Philly inched within one late in the fourth quarter, but never reclaimed equal footing as DC prevailed 20-18. Even on a blustery day, Breeze handlers Nate Prior and Cody Johnston maintained possession by combining to complete 68 of their 69 total throws. Rowan McDonnell went 26-for-28 with three goals, three assists, and a block, while Anthony McLean caught six goals to lead both teams.
- The finish to Saturday’s Chicago-Minnesota game was marred by an unfortunate injury to the Wind Chill’s Dylan DeClerck, who made a heroic catch on a blading flick with less than 90 seconds left. The sensational snag kept his team’s chances alive, and Kristian Johnson hit Brendan McCann for the game-tying score shortly thereafter, but DeClerck had already jogged off the field gripping his arm and shoulder. It was later diagnosed as a broken collar bone that is estimated to cost him 6-8 weeks. “I know very few players with the heart and tenacity it takes to make that play,” commented Brandon Matis. “We’re definitely going to miss [Dylan’s] on-field presence.” It’s an especially tough loss for the Wind Chill because they have grown so used to having DeClerck on the field. Over the past three years, he played in a possible 45 out of 46 games, including the playoffs, while accumulating 69 goals, 19 assists, and 59 blocks as one of the most underrated playmakers in the league.
- The Pittsburgh Thunderbirds may have lost their game in Madison on Saturday, but at least they avoided getting broken on the first point of the fourth quarter. That was a goal for the T-Birds heading into the night. “Our GM had sent a picture to our Banda chat about how if Madison broke us [on] our first point of the fourth quarter, everyone in the stands would get free pizza,” explained Thomas Edmonds. “We started joking about how we should not only make sure we hold that point, but also get our own pizza to eat on the field/sideline when we did hold. The saying ‘No Pizza!’ became very common throughout the bus ride there and home.
Anyway, we held that point and our GM ran out with a few slices of pizza and we were all yelling ‘No Pizza!’ [Madison’s Kevin Pettit-Scantling] looked back at us and said ‘you guys don’t get pizza either!’ to which we responded by holding up our pizza slices. It was a funny moment in the midst of a serious game that I think both teams took well.” Now, it’s up to every other team that plays at Breese Stevens Field this season to withstand the intensity of the Pizza Point, which will take place every game on Madison’s first D-point in the fourth. It is presented by Ian’s Pizza, a local Madison establishment that will give every fan a coupon for a free slice if the Radicals record a break to begin the final frame. This has potential to be a spectacular activation that gets the crowd going crazy at the most important point in the game; other teams around the league should take note. “[The fans] were trying to figure out what to cheer,” said Radicals Coach/Owner Tim DeByl. “Mostly, [they went with] ‘Pizza, Pizza, Pizza!’”
- Madison has already hosted two Championship Weekends and will be the site of the first AUDL All-Star Game this June. Additionally, many locally have started to refer to the Wisconsin capital as ‘the capital city of ultimate,’ a moniker that pays tribute to their vibrant rec league scene and enthusiastic Radicals fan base. Pat Shriwise, who is one of 10 current players who has been on the Madison roster every season since 2013, expressed great appreciation for being a part of Saturday’s home opener, especially considering he enters this season knowing it might be his last on the team. “It was 65-70 degrees and clear, a gorgeous spring evening in Madison in our newly renovated Breese-Stevens,” reflected Shriwise. “Our fans were loud and happy, which I can only assume was because the beer was flowing and we were winning. There was the usual throw around on the field after the game with people lingering to chat with players or let their kids blow off some steam. I mention all of these things because it’s likely my last year with the Radicals and I’m really trying to drink it all in.” If you’ve never been, know that a Radicals game at Breese Stevens Field is a refreshing elixir, chicken soup for the ultimate soul. Shriwise knows this, and is clearly trying to savor every moment.
- One of the surprises of the weekend may have been that Chicago’s Matt Rehder, who had piled up 61 goals in 19 career AUDL games, did not catch any scores in his Wildfire debut, a 51-goal shootout in St. Paul. He did register five assists, but Wind Chill leadership praised 23-year-old Mitch McCarthy for his defensive effort in Rehder in keeping the big man out of the end zone. When asked about Rehder’s all-around impact, Wildfire Coach Dave Woods shared an interesting response. “I know everyone wants to hear about the impact that Matt Rehder has to our on-field performance,” he stated. “You certainly cannot discount the impact of an athlete like him anytime he steps on the field. However, what myself and the rest of the leadership core have been increasingly impressed by in the type of teammate that he is. One would not think that it’s possible for him to play a greater impact off the field than he does on, but he’s doing it.”
- Under the radar in Seattle, Steph Lim is back for her second year on the Cascades and is notable perhaps for the way she has continued to positively impact games while often being the only female player on the field. On Saturday against Los Angeles, Lim completed 20 of her 21 throws and caught a goal in her 15 points played, all on offense. “[Steph is] one of the most clever players on the Cascades roster, who does not let her stature or speed hamper her ability to contribute to the Cascades’ O-line,” shared teammate Brad Houser. “She is not intimidated by large marks or faster defenders. She plays with a calm, cool, and collected demeanor that makes her invaluable on the offensive line. [She] additionally is a player who is not afraid to open communication channels with other players. She makes a point to talk to other players during and after games to further develop chemistry.” Charlie Eide accompanied Lim as female players in Seattle’s Week 3 lineup. Eide and Lim each played in four games in 2018.
The AUDL has truly been the AMERICAN Ultimate Disc League so far in April, but the league’s three Canadian franchises will join the party this coming weekend, becoming the final three teams in the league to open their 2019 campaigns. Ottawa will host Toronto on Saturday, while Montreal visit New York on Sunday.
With close games on the mind, it’s relevant to note that Toronto (3-1) and Montreal (5-2) had solid regular season success last year in games decided by three or less, though the Rush did fall short in the East Division title game, a heartbreaking one-goal setback vs. New York. Contrarily, Ottawa battled most opponents tough, but endured six losses in seven games that were decided by three or less. The Outlaws 2019 hopes may very well depend on their ability to mimic the turnarounds that we have seen from teams like San Diego, Tampa, and Chicago.
Overall, the upcoming Week 4 slate is another eight-game parade, one each on Friday and Sunday sandwiching the half-dozen contests lined up for Saturday. Seattle and New York each will embark on doubleheader journeys, with the Cascades visiting San Diego on Friday and Los Angles on Saturday while the Empire travel to Philly on Saturday before hosting the Royal on Sunday.
Every game will be broadcast on AUDL.tv, except for Raleigh at Atlanta, which will be televised by Stadium as the “Game of the Week,” Saturday at 7 PM.
Talk to you then.
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