May 16, 2023
By Evan Lepler
Tuesday Toss: Week 3 | Part one
- Indy gets off the schneid
Heading into Week 3, the Indianapolis AlleyCats were a disappointing 0-2 and entering a challenging matchup at Chicago, a place they had not won in five years. The Union, despite numerous key personnel changes, were coming off an 11-1 season and clear favorites in their home opener. Alas, that’s why they play the games. “We haven’t beaten a winning team since before Covid,” said Indy’s Travis Carpenter. “Before the season started, I said that we were the best team on paper in the Central Division, and I stand by it.” After getting broken early and falling behind 2-1, the AlleyCats found their groove, clawing on an 8-2 run to lead 9-4 late in the first half. Indy’s edge grew to as many as seven in the third quarter, and while the ‘Cats were not pleased with their final 17 minutes—Chicago finished the game on a 8-4 spurt—Indy still prevailed 19-16.
“We played three good quarters, not four,” said AlleyCats Coach Drew Shepherd. “That said, the headline is still positive: Indy’s offense is beginning to own a selfless identity. For three good quarters, our offense worked hard with their legs, not with their throws. And for three good quarters, our defense applied constant pressure.” Carpenter completed all 42 of his throws, including five assists, while four different AlleyCats defenders, including 18-year-old William Wettengel, finished with multiple blocks. Chicago struggled offensively, going just 11-for-28 on their offensive possessions; that’s below 40 percent. “We shot ourself in the foot with a handful of uncharacteristic drops and throwing errors,” said Union Captain Jack Shanahan. “I’m not sure whether it was the wind, first-game jitters, or some early growing pains.” Both the AlleyCats and Union play Madison in their next game, Indy at home this Saturday and Chicago on the road in Week 5’s FOX Sports Game of the Week.
- Colorado feeling Golden
Seattle had a chance to break Colorado on the very first point on Saturday night, but the Cascades’ D-line could not complete a pass. Soon thereafter, the Summit led 4-0, an early onslaught that included a dramatic layout score from the Colombian rookie Rodrigo Gould Rodriguez on his very first AUDL point, and the rout was on.
“It took me by surprise how fast the frisbee was coming down,” recalled Rodriguez. “At first, I thought I wouldn’t catch it, but then there was a moment of silence when I was in the air, and then total euphoria in the stands and with my teammates.” The Cascades had two more break chances later in the opening quarter, but failed to convert either, and Colorado’s O-line was perfect from there, proceeding unbroken through the rest of the Summit’s 26-14 victory. Jonathan Nethercutt tossed six more assists to give him a lead-leading 21 dimes through three weeks, while Quinn Finer completed all 51 of his throws, including five assists. Seattle’s Mark Muñoz accumulated 799 total yards, the third-most for any AUDL player in a game so far this season, but the Cascades officially registered just one block, the lowest total in team history.
- Carolina tastes first triumph of 2023
In danger of falling to 0-3 for the first time ever, the Flyers pounced immediately against an Austin Sol squad playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Producing four breaks in the first 10 minutes, Carolina led 3-0 and 6-1 before Austin could counter. The Flyers led 12-9 at halftime and outscored the Sol by two goals apiece in the third and fourth quarters, rolling to a 26-19 home win. “It [felt] great to play a complete game for the first time this year,” said Carolina’s Trevor Lynch, who finished with four assists, one goal, and one block. “We’ve felt like we had opportunities to win both of our first two games, but weren’t quite able to put together four full quarters…Liam [Searles-Bohs] and Kevin [Pignone] were standouts in their debuts; both dependable pieces for our line and adjusted to the pace of game immediately. I thought Dylan [Hawkins] played great too; guarding Mark [Evans] is a tough ask and he did a great job sticking to the assignment and getting a few blocks.” The Austin Sol saw their 2-0 start sink to 2-2 following losses in Atlanta and Carolina, however the Sol have all eight of their remaining games in Texas, starting with an interdivisional battle against San Diego this Saturday night in the FOX Sports Game of the Week. Despite Atlanta’s early-season excellence and Austin’s winless Week 3 trip, it’d be reasonable to still see the Sol as the odds-on favorite to finish first in the South Division for the regular season. With that said, the Hustle and Sol won’t see each other again, so Atlanta’s got the edge in a potential head-to-head tiebreaker. Atlanta’s also got a much tougher remaining schedule, including road games at Carolina (twice), Boston, and New York. At 1-2, Carolina is far from eliminated from another regular season crown too, of course.
- History for Houston in first franchise win
Houston also will aspire to make some noise in the South Division race, an idea that feels way more realistic after the Havoc’s 28-17 win in Dallas on Saturday.
“Getting our first win was obviously exciting and amazing and something we have worked really hard for,” said Matt Bennett, who completed all 43 of his throws for the Havoc. “This team has emphasized workouts pretty heavily in the preseason, and that really showed this past game. We have a team-wide subscription to GPP [Game Point Performance], and it worked wonders for a lot of our players’ explosiveness and stamina as well. That third quarter was a big representation of that. As a team that’s learning an offense that’s brand new to all of us, this win definitely makes a big difference in our confidence going into the San Diego game.” The Havoc outscored the Legion 8-4 in the second quarter and 9-4 in the third, registering 11 breaks on the night compared to Dallas’ one. “Both teams had plenty of break chances and chances to hold after a turn,” said Brooks Wallace, who had five assists, three goals, and a block for the Legion. “At the end of the day, it came down to Houston capitalizing on those opportunities better than we did.” As the final buzzer sounded, the Houston sideline celebrated, dumping a cold gatorade bucket of water onto their Head Coach, Bex Forth. “Her reaction was hilarious,” said Havoc handler Jimmy Zuraw. “It really was the perfect way to cap off our first win. Bex does so much for this team, even outside of the normal coaching duties, so I just hope we can continue to try and build on her vision and add even more wins for her.” Postgame, the Havoc chowed on tacos and popped champagne to toast their franchise’s first victory. They’ll go for number two on Friday night against San Diego.
- Portland endures tough SoCal trip
Despite Raphy Hayes collecting cartoonish yardage totals for Portland, the LA Aviators and San Diego Growlers both outlasted the Nitro on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Aviators were even at 6-all midway through the second quarter, but seized control from there to win 20-13 for their first win of the season.
“I was pleased that our O-line played much better and there was a real connection between cutters and handlers,” said LA Coach Jeff Landesman. “It helped having Lotto [aka Brandon Van Deusen] back. I was also happy with the defense and their offense. A lot of hard work has gone into preparing for the season, and it was nice to see it starting to pay off. Unfortunately, another main story was Jason Vallee hurting his wrist and probably being out for 5-6 weeks.” The Growlers did not create quite the same separation on Saturday, but San Diego still led by multiple goals throughout the entire fourth quarter, prevailing 22-19. Travis Dunn’s eight-assist, two-goal, zero-turn, 650-yard performance headlined San Diego’s effort, which endured despite not having returning mainstays Paul Lally or Kyle Rubin in the lineup; both were late scratches. “I think what pleased [Co-Head Coach] Kaela [Helton] and I the most was the fact that we had so many people stepping up to fill in for injured starters and filling roles that weren’t necessarily their roles at the start of the season,” explained San Diego Co-Head Coach Kevin Stuart. “I didn’t even realize Travis had such a great game in the moment. It was only after I watched the game and saw his stat line that I was like, ‘Wow!’ I guess I am just numb to how good he really is; he has made great games like that seem like the norm.” Max Gibson, currently a junior at UCSD, also excelled in his AUDL debut, totaling 583 yards and six scores, while Jordan Queckboerner produced four blocks for the San Diego defense. Meanwhile, Portland’s Hayes followed his 756-yard explosion on Friday by erupting for 818 more yards on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Nitro, Hayes’ six goals, eight assists, three blocks, and 1,574 total yards were not enough to lead to a road win, as the Nitro dipped to 0-3.
- Feel the Rush
After a mighty disappointing opening road trip through New York and Boston, the Toronto Rush looked much smoother in their 25-20 home win over Montreal on Saturday at Varsity Stadium.
The Royal had won their previous three trips to Toronto, but Montreal never led in their 2023 opener, falling behind 3-1 and 6-2. Toronto held a 12-10 lead at halftime, but stretched the advantage to as many as six in the fourth. The triumvirate of Malik Auger-Semmar, Kevin Quinlan, and Christophe Tremblay-Joncas combined for 13 goals, 12 assists, four blocks, and over 1,500 total yards, but each also had multiple throwaways for the Royal. Mike Mackenzie tallied four goals and four assists with no turns to lead Toronto in his first appearance of the season, while James Lewis and Ty Barbieri each produced four goals and three assists. Unfortunately for the Rush, Jeremy Hill suffered an injury in warmups, and it’s feared to be a torn ACL. Both Toronto and Montreal have difficult and important home games this coming Saturday night; the Rush host the Breeze, while the Royal welcome Boston to Quebec for their 2023 home opener.
- 63 straight
There was not much drama in Detroit on Saturday, although we did witness something unprecedented. For the first time during the Mechanix’s staggering losing streak, they lost by exactly 16 goals. Pittsburgh led 6-2 after one, 13-5 at halftime, and 22-11 through three, en route to a 29-13 blowout victory over the hometown Mechanix, who suffered their 63rd consecutive loss in their 2023 season opener. The Detroit Mechanix have not won an AUDL game since April 29, 2017, and 30 of the 63 losses during the streak have come by at least 10 goals, including Saturday night against the Thunderbirds. “I think the main story for us was our disc retention,” said Thunderbirds handler Clint McSherry, who tossed a game-high five assists and scored two goals. “We know we have a ways to go this season as a developing team, and most of our nine throwaways were self-inflicted errors. But that was a big improvement from last year when our Detroit games were much less comfortable.” The Thunderbirds, 2-0 for the first time since 2017, went 16-for-24 on break chances against the Mechanix. Detroit went 1-for-5. Only 10 times during the 63-game streak have the Mechanix lost by more goals than Saturday’s margin. “The outcome was unfortunate and we have a lot of kinks to work out,” said Mechanix veteran Joe Cubitt, “but still very optimistic for this year…I would have loved to ‘break the streak’ game one, but Pitt came prepared and started off hot!” The Thunderbirds now head to Minnesota for a matchup between the last two remaining unbeaten teams in the Central Division. “This will likely be our toughest test yet to prove we can and should be in the Central playoff conversation this year,” said McSherry. “We aren’t quite sure what to expect from the Wind Chill defense in an outdoor game, since we assume we have not seen their full strategies from their indoor Indy game, but I do know that Dylan DeClerck and Tanner Barcus will need to be accounted for after their three block games at Indy.” Detroit is also preparing for the Wind Chill, whom they will host in their next game on May 27.
Last August, we braced for the most anticipated Championship Weekend ever, in large part because the four qualifying teams only had three combined losses all season. New York was undefeated, while Carolina, Chicago, and Colorado all had just one loss apiece.
After the Union’s opening setback to begin their 2023 campaign, the quartet of semifinalists from last year already have as many losses this year as they did all of last season.
Credit to Larry Macdonald who pointed this fact out on twitter over the weekend.
Entering Week 4, only seven teams across the league remain undefeated, and that number is guaranteed to shrink by at least one as 2-0 Pittsburgh and 1-0 Minnesota intersect on Saturday. Atlanta, Boston, and New York also have tricky road tests this coming weekend.
We’ve now seen every team compete, yet all 24 franchises know they are works in progress. How each team evolves over the course of the next three months will go a long way toward determining who’s left standing when we arrive at Championship Weekend in the Twin Cities in late August.
Enjoy the journey, everyone, and I’ll talk to you this weekend from Texas.