Seven On The Line: Week 13

July 25, 2023
By Evan Lepler

Tuesday Toss: Week 13 | Part one

  1. Boston claims first playoff berth
    The Glory simultaneously made franchise history and AUDL history on Friday night against Montreal. Not only did Boston clinch its first ever playoff berth, but the Glory also won with the fewest turnovers in any game ever.

    Of course, the game was called at halftime, so add a bold asterisk to this record, but it stands true that Boston’s three turns in the first half against Montreal marked the fewest in a *full game since the founding of the league. More importantly, the 18-12 triumph against the Royal improved the Glory to 7-5, punching their ticket for a Saturday matchup at DC. “It’s been a process for sure,” said Ben Sadok, commenting on the team’s three-year journey to the playoffs. “We knew we had the talent over the first three years, but it was a learning curve finding the right strategy for our team. We found a sweet spot this year with critical additions to round out our offense and defense.” Several of those Glory rookies shined on Friday, with Simon Carapella catching four more goals in the first half, while Rocco Linehan and Colin Sunde each tossed four assists. The Glory D-line went 8-for-9 on break chances, while the Boston offense only turned the disc over twice, with one of those being a desperation prayer as the first half clock expired. Then the bad weather arrived, the game was halted, and the Glory knew they were DC-bound. “After three years and being on the cusp of the playoffs, it’s sweet to finally be rewarded,” said Sadok, “but we can never rest on our laurels and we’re looking to avenge our loss just a weeks ago against a formidable DC team. I love playing at Carlini [Field] and I’m glad we get to be fully rested for a fun matchup under the lights.”

  2. A rough conclusion to 2023 for Canadian ultimate
    Along with Boston’s Friday win over Montreal, the Royal also suffered a 28-19 loss at New York on Saturday, as the Empire and Royal experienced the two extremes of regular season success and disappointment. Perhaps 12-0 and 0-12 can both be viewed as perfection, eh? Meanwhile, the Toronto Rush also went winless on the weekend, falling by 10 in DC and by three in Philly. Overall, the two Canadian franchises finished the year just 2-16 against American competition, with those only wins coming in Toronto’s two interdivisional games against Central Division opponents Pittsburgh and Detroit. The Royal actually hung with the Empire for much of the night, but New York’s 9-3 barrage in the fourth created comfortable separation to secure the Empire’s 27th consecutive win.

    “Montreal had one of their better offensive games for stretches, particularly in the third,” said New York Co-Coach Charlie Hoppes. “It was nice to pull away in the fourth.” The Breeze wasted little time seizing control against the Rush on Friday, leading 7-2 after one, but put added emphasis on maintaining their efficiency throughout all four quarters, in anticipation of what’s ahead. “We really tried to focus on bringing that intensity from start to finish, and I think our D-line did that,” said DC’s Ben Oort.

    “Throughout the season, we haven’t really been able to put in four great quarters. And against New York, that is just not enough. So it was good to see that we could dominate from the start and not put ourselves in a situation where we have to make a comeback.” As the Breeze brace for Boston, the Philly Phoenix are onto their offseason, but not before capping their second straight 6-6 campaign with an entertaining 25-22 win over the Rush. “Toronto likes to huck and lets other teams huck a lot as well,” said Philly’s James Pollard. “That was ideal for us and our fans. The fans got to see big plays both ways all night.” Combined, the two teams went 19-for-26 on hucks, as James Lewis and Greg Martin each caught seven goals. Sean Mott’s 63-for-63 passing performance, along with 716 throwing yards, anchored the Philly attack that managed a season-low 10 turnovers.

    “The overall feelings of the team’s season are that we took another step forward,” said Pollard. “The team was an improvement off of last year’s team. We got some wins that last year’s team wouldn’t have and had teams like DC and New York on the ropes until the very end. It’s only a matter of time until we take a game off of them and really make the East Division exciting.”

  3. Madison's fine finish
    Though it cannot completely cure the feelings of anguish that accompany six losses coming by a combined eight goals—five of which came against playoff teams—the Madison Radicals matched their win total from the first 12 weeks of the season by going 2-0 in Week 13. On Friday in Chicago, the Radicals produced 11 breaks in a 22-17 road win.

    One day later, back at Breese Stevens Field, Madison fought off the feisty Mechanix in the fourth quarter, outscoring Detroit 3-0 in the final eight and a half minutes in an 18-15 victory. “I feel spirited and proud of our finish this year,” said veteran Radical Avery Johnson. “I wholeheartedly believe this past weekend will be the catalyst for the Radicals’ upcoming season. The feeling and energy we had at that Chicago game was something we haven’t felt all season and many players on our team have never seen. It’s an intoxicating and addicting feeling to beat a team that completely. Being on the team for so long, I remember when almost every game felt like that; it was the norm. Many of our players do not know that reality, but they got a glimpse on Friday.” Even with the fine finish, the Radicals went 4-8 in 2023, the first time in franchise history that Madison did not win at least half of its games. But they remain hopeful that they reset the foundation for the future. “These types of seasons are building blocks,” added Johnson. “Championship Weekend level teams are built on the back of strong foundational building block seasons, and those building blocks have to be connected, strung together, and exist additively. We can’t hope to rebuild every season in one season and be back to old, but we can definitely use this season as a perfect starting point towards a better future for the program.”

  4. Indy edges Pittsburgh for second straight week
    The game did not matter from a seeding standpoint, but much like Carolina and Atlanta, the AlleyCats and Thunderbirds put on a show for a lively crowd at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh. The AlleyCats 17-14 lead late in the third quarter vanished courtesy of a 4-0 Thunderbirds run, but Indy answered with their own 4-1 spurt, surging back ahead by two at 21-19 with 1:48 remaining.

    Pittsburgh inched within one again 22 seconds later, but the AlleyCats offense successfully closed out their 21-20 win by completing short passes and letting the seconds run all the way down to zero. “I’m just really proud of the team for winning both of these Pittsburgh games,” said Indy’s Cameron Brock. “We were missing a lot of players last week and even more this week. That could have been an easy excuse for a loss or lower effort, especially after the lackluster performance in Minnesota. We didn’t buy into any of that and held the expectation that we were gonna win those games. I’m not sure that would happen in many, if any, other seasons for this team.” Indy closed its regular season by winning nine of 10, finishing 9-3 and earning the two-seed in the Central. They’ll host Chicago this Saturday, determined to advance and get another crack at Minnesota two weeks later. “As much as we’d like to look ahead to a rematch with Minnesota, we still have to earn our right to play in that game,” said Brock. “I’m really chomping at the bit to play them given I had to miss our road trip this year, but we’re all keeping our focus on Chicago for now. That’s the only opponent on our schedule for the rest of this season at this point.” As for the Union’s level of confidence heading into the playoffs following three losses in their last four games, Chicago is hopeful that this new season will give the team new life. But even as the two-time reigning Central Division champs, they enter as sizable underdogs. “I don’t think many outside of the Chicago Union believe we can pull off an upset,” said Union Captain Sam Kaminsky. “And truthfully, I don’t blame them based on our play as of late. But Chicago Union believes. And that’s all that matters.”

  5. Two straight for Dallas
    On the national level, it’s something of an afterthought. But for all the local homegrown members of the Dallas Legion, their two-game winning streak after beginning the year 0-9 marks significant progress on the rebuilding front. For the second consecutive week, the Legion bested their new rivals from Houston, winning on the road this past Saturday for the first time since the team re-branded from the Roughnecks. “The common themes of our team have been centered around commitment and trust,” said Dallas handler Jason Hustad, “and it takes a whole lot of both to lose nine games straight and still find the drive to show up as a team every week and prove that we belong, and we definitely do. I was most pleased with the defensive side of the disc during both games. Most of our season, we got in the habit of learning to get turns and giving the disc straight back. Over the course of [Saturday’s] game, our defense was able to possess the disc and find early breaks.” Though Dallas’s D-line efficiency was subpar at just 33 percent for the whole game, the volume of break chances gave the Legion more than enough tries to build a lead. Up 11-5 at halftime, the advantage remained at six through the midway mark of the fourth, when Houston went on a too-little, too-late burst to make the final score a more respectable 18-15. The Havoc saw their inaugural season end at 2-10, while the 2-9 Legion actually have one more regular season contest on the docket, a rare Tuesday night makeup game at Carolina that promises to showcase plenty of new faces on both sides. 
  6. Seattle smashes Portland in season finale
    Add the Seattle Cascades into the conversation when talking about non-playoff teams that still finished the season strong. After an 0-5 start, the Cascades went 4-3 in their final seven, including a 25-15 win over the Nitro on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. It was Seattle’s first double-digit victory since the 2018 season finale, when the Cascades clobbered the San Francisco FlameThrowers 31-20. Seattle’s 22 blocks on Saturday against the Nitro were the most for the Cascades since 2016, the year they advanced to Championship Weekend and played in the finals. Chris Roach dazzled with four goals, two assists, and four blocks, finishing a career-best plus-nine, while Dominic Jacobs added three goals, two assists, and three blocks. Four wins represents progress for the Cascades, who won either two or three games in each of the past three seasons, but there’s still considerable work to be done for the franchise to earn its first playoff berth since 2016. 
  7. Another year, another winless season
    The Detroit Mechanix continue to battle and grind in ways that are both admirable and head-scratching. In their pair of Week 13 challenges, on Saturday at Madison and Sunday at Minnesota, the Mechanix had numerous moments to be proud of, plays that made you think, ‘this team really has made strides.’ Yet those positive sentiments are still fleeting in the wake of another winless season, extending Detroit’s historically staggering losing streak to 74 consecutive games, during which they’ve scored 721 fewer goals than their opponents. Only two of their 12 games this year, and just 12 of the 74 games during the streak, right around 16 percent, have been decided by three or less. When they take the field in 2024, assuming the team does return for its 12th season, the franchise will enter with an all-time record of 16-134, seeking its first win in over 2,500 days. The Mechanix have gone 5-113 in their past nine seasons, just 1-75 in the last six, and 0-62 in the last five. Their existence continues to baffle, yet also inspire. Theoretically, one day, they will again experience the taste of victory. But theoretically remains the key word. Until it actually happens, there is little proof it ever will.

The Hammer

Alrighty, back to the important business at hand.

We’ve got four playoff games this weekend, Boston at DC, Chicago at Indianapolis, Carolina at Austin, and Los Angeles at Colorado. 

Each of these games represents the third meeting between the teams this season, with Carolina being the only road team that could be reasonably considered as a favorite. DC, Indy, and Colorado all went 2-0 against the Glory, Union, and Aviators, respectively, while the Sol went 0-2 against the Flyers during the regular season. 

But the postseason is usually a place for surprises, and after last year’s chalky run through the bracket, one could argue we are due for some mid-summer shockers. On any given day, at the mercy of Mother Nature and the whims and wobbles of 175 grams of plastic, anything can happen. 

The Austin/Boston rhyme-time parlay sure feels unlikely, considering that the Sol are winless all-time in the playoffs (0-2) and the Glory have never previously beaten the Breeze (0-5), but as the 2018 New York anecdote at the top of today’s Toss pointed out, it just takes one magical day, where all the stars align, for past failures to bloom into unprecedented achievement.

The AUDL playoffs are upon us, and the results will reverberate for years to come.