May 23, 2023
By Evan Lepler
Tuesday Toss: Week 4 | Part one
- Boston 3-and-0 Party
Following their 17-15 win in Montreal this past Saturday afternoon, the Boston Glory are 3-0, a noteworthy and intriguing achievement to be sure. But it’s about to get much harder for the boys from Beantown. The three teams they’ve beaten—Toronto, Philadelphia, and Montreal—are a combined 1-9.
Their next two games, vs. 4-0 New York and 3-1 Atlanta, will be a much more meaningful measuring stick for a Boston franchise that’s seeking its first ever postseason berth. But considering the Glory went 0-6 on the road last season, spoiling the Royal’s home opener in front of their loyal and dedicated fans was an important building block for Boston’s bigger ambitions. “This game was huge for us,” said Rocco Linehan, “as it could have playoff implications.” Boston led 14-10 through three quarters thanks to a 6-1 spurt, but Montreal rallied back within one at 15-14 with just under six minutes left. Despite the Royal’s surge, a couple key Glory stops in the late moments helped secure the two-goal win. Orion Cable led Boston with four goals, three assists, and over 400 yards of offense. “Final whistle feelings: excitement and relief,” said Linehan. “Lots of changes of momentum made the whole game challenging and fulfilling. Looking ahead, New York is beatable and do make mistakes. They have scraped together two very close wins. We need to clean up our systems a bit, but if we work hard and prepare for another competitive matchup, we will be fine. It’s still early in the season.” The Royal dipped to 0-2, but were still encouraged by their potential. “That was definitely a tough loss,” said Montreal’s Kevin Quinlan. “Felt like we gave that one away there in the third. We are still learning what we are. I can tell you that we have only seen glimpses of what this squad is capable of.”
- DC Dazzles in Toronto
The last time the Breeze traveled to Toronto, they needed a late rally to prevail by one. On Saturday, DC arrived with urgency and purpose, pulling away from the Rush much earlier in a comfortable 20-13 win. “Last year in this game, we had one of the worst defensive performances ever by the Breeze,” said Captain David Bloodgood. “So everyone on D-line this year wanted to prove that we can bring the pressure even after having to travel all the way up to Toronto.” The Breeze actually held the Rush to exactly half as many goals as they scored in last year’s narrow 27-26 result, and DC recorded a season-high blocks across the four quarters, with AJ Merriman and Moussa Dia leading the way with four apiece. “AJ and Moussa knew when to be aggressive and go for blocks and ended up on the top of the stat sheet, but never gave up any big plays despite their aggression,” added Bloodgood. “They both played great team defense throughout the day and finished the plays when we needed the block. I thought Cole Jurek had his best game of the season for us. He was always open for big gainers under and deep and showed his throwing ability with a few deep shots as well.” Offensively, the Breeze were only broken twice, utilizing their unique style to flummox and frustrate the Rush. “Honestly, the thing that always impresses me about DC is their ability to play small ball so effectively,” said Toronto’s James Lewis. “They hit a lot of throws in really tight windows.” If the Rush had pulled off the victory, both teams would’ve been even at 2-2; instead, DC rose to 3-1 with the road win, while the Rush dipped to 1-3 in defeat. “I think we still have a long way to go as a team,” added Lewis, “but we are building the right things and I can’t wait for what our future holds.”
- 5-0 Shred
Since the team’s inception, Salt Lake has always embraced an aggressive mindset that Head Coach Bryce Merrill acknowledges can lead to stretches full of turnovers. On Friday night against Los Angeles, those miscues were far less common, though Merrill was still not necessarily thrilled with the team’s decision-making.
Reading his postgame words, you wouldn’t think the Shred rolled by 12, winning 25-13 and committing just 11 turnovers, the fewest in any game in the franchise’s short history. “O-line got a little cute in that game for my liking,” said Merrill. “I mean, it was a great 90-plus yard rip from [Sean] Connole. And [Jace] Duennebeil had a great snag between multiple defenders. And the [Jordan] Kerr blade just snuck by [Nate] Kirchhofer to find the cutter on the back-line. But sometimes those plays are inversely proportional to longer-term efficiency…So the guys can choose to just keep shooting mediocre shots since it worked Friday night and then in a few weeks we can address what went wrong when it shockingly doesn’t work at the rate it did last weekend, or they can show some discipline and run the sets and trust each other and walk the disc in each point.” Defensively, the Shred converted 12 breaks in 20 chances, led by Chad Yorgason, Gene L’Heureux, and Braden Eberhard. In contrast to the O-line’s choices, Merrill was especially pleased with his D-line’s patience and precision, saying they’ve come a very long way over the past couple months in that department. “We had a practice in April where the entire focus was on D-line offense from their own goal line, with no transition option available,” he recalled. “And I’m not exaggerating what I say the D-line converted on about seven percent of those looks. It was a rough three hours, mentally and physically, for that group. And to see the work they’ve put in the last six weeks and how that has transformed from what felt like was a Sisyphean exercise in futility into an efficient unit that successfully attacked the LA O-line D several different ways speaks to the guys’ buy-in and focus this season.” After winning five straight games in the season’s first four weeks, Salt Lake finally gets a breather. The Shred are idle this coming weekend, but return to action on Saturday, June 3 hosting 3-1 Oakland before traveling to Denver for a showdown with the undefeated Colorado Summit on Friday, June 9.
- Summit rolling in the Rockies
Speaking of the unbeaten Summit, Colorado swept their season-series with Los Angeles and ensured a winless weekend for the Aviators by earning an 18-14 victory on Saturday evening in Golden.
For the second straight day, LA was even after the game’s first 10 goals, before surrendering a slew of breaks as their altitude-savvy opponent took charge. “Our defense will be one of the best in the league this year, and it really keeps us together in games,” said Colorado’s Alex Atkins, who made his 2023 debut for the Summit despite a torn labrum in his left shoulder that had him alongside Ian Toner broadcasting the Summit’s home opener against Seattle on AUDL.tv one week earlier. “After doing a good amount of rehab the past few weeks, my shoulder feels pretty normal.” Despite the injury, Atkins led the Summit with three goals and completed all 15 of his shows, while Jonathan Nethercutt again anchored the O-line with seven assists and 49 completions Saeed Semrin and Seth Faris each tallied multiple blocks for the Summit D-line, while Lukas Ambrose produced five blocks for Los Angeles in defeat. “Our offense has a lot to figure out, but luckily we are afforded that time due to an amazing defense,” added Atkins.
- Here come the Flyers
Turfing the opening throw and getting broken before a single completion is not the ideal way to start any game, but the Carolina Flyers have certainly shown they can handle and overcome adversity. On Sunday in Durham, the Atlanta Hustle were basically gifted a break 30 seconds in, but then only produced one more break for the remainder of the game.
By the end of the day, the Flyers were 7-for-10 on break chances, while the Hustle were just 2-for-9, and Carolina pulled away with a 21-15 home win to even their record at 2-2 and their season series with the Hustle at 1-1. “Obviously, an important bounce back the last couple weeks,” said Carolina’s Sol Yanuck, “and with the college season coming to a close we’ll be able to start really digging into the meat of our season with our whole group available. [We] have a couple weeks here to prepare ourselves for the toughest stretch I’ve been a part of as a member of the Flyers, with the road trips to DC/Philly and then Texas the following weekend. Beginning of the season I told the team I’d never won both games on a Texas road trip and I wanted to change that this year.” While the Hustle still completed 6-of-7 hucks against the Flyers on Sunday afternoon, their overall offensive efficiency was notably down compared to their three previous home wins. “Carolina did a great job pressuring us in the handler space, which also contributed to stagnation downfield,” said Atlanta’s Matt Smith. “They were good at jamming the lanes, and while it felt like we generally won the long shots, we didn’t put ourselves in a position to shoot many clean ones. We’ve been spoiled with our home crowd and definitely felt a let-up in energy at an away venue, especially with it being a 1 PM Sunday game.”
- Minnesota blows out Pittsburgh in home opener
Ahead 6-4 and pulling with two seconds left in the first quarter, the Minnesota Wind Chill showed just how diabolical the AUDL’s new rule can be. Sam Berglund angled the pull perfectly, forcing Pittsburgh to pick up from the very back of the end zone.
An active double-team, a quick deflection, and a Dylan DeClerck Callahan later, the Wind Chill had created more significant separation and were off to the races in their 26-12 rout over the Thunderbirds. “When we pulled, I don’t think anyone was thinking we were going to be able to set up a double team on the backline, but Abe [Coffin], Sam, and Dylan hustled down to create that opportunity before the disc was put into play,” said Wind Chill Coach Ben Feldman. “Sam, ironically, was on the mark and also the one who pulled it.” Bret Bergmeier finished a game-best plus-seven and added another Callahan for the Wind Chill in the second quarter, as Minnesota led 12-5 at half, 19-9 through three, and ultimately prevailed by two touchdowns, handing the Thunderbirds their first loss of the season. “I was really pleased with the team’s performance and effort on Saturday,” said Feldman. It was not a completely perfect evening for the Wind Chill, however, as Coffin sustained a lower body injury and is listed as doubtful for the team’s doubleheader weekend that’s ahead. Minnesota travels to Detroit on Saturday and Chicago on Sunday. Pittsburgh returns home at 2-1 for an interdivisional matchup with the feisty and desperate Philly Phoenix, who are 0-4 following their overtime loss against New York.
- San Diego split Texas road trip
San Diego returned to SoCal at 2-2 following a 1-1 weekend in Texas, winning comfortably in Houston on Friday night before falling behind by double digits in Austin on Saturday. Against the Havoc, the Growlers trailed 6-5 early in the second quarter before unleashing seven consecutive goals, including six straight breaks, before halftime. The lead grew to 19-10 before Houston battled back, but San Diego still prevailed 23-17, taking advantage of the Havoc’s relative inexperience.
The Growlers, founded in 2015, were playing their 101st game on Friday night—and matched their second-most breaks ever recorded in a single game with 12—whereas Houston was on the field for just the third time ever. “The timing, the line-calling, I’m still figuring it out, still tweaking it,” said San Diego Co-Coach Kevin Stuart, who’s led the Growlers since the team’s inception. “You’re never gonna have it perfect. You gotta have that comfort level…Over the years, we know what we need to work on, and so we’re able to practice and hit those points. I think it’s showing as we go. I think we’ll get better as we keep moving [forward] too.” One night later, the Austin Sol built their own big lead, going up 14-4 early in the third quarter prior to the Growlers gutty but ultimately inconsequential effort down the stretch, as the Sol eventually won 21-17. “It was great coming out hot, especially after two slow offensive starts on the road, so we were really excited to get out there on offense early,” said Austin’s Kyle Henke. Despite some second-half sloppiness, the Sol still finished with 15 turnovers, their fewest of the season through five games. Six of Austin’s final seven games in the regular season are against Houston and Dallas, whom the Sol have already beaten once apiece, by six and 14, respectively. “We’re gonna have to keep playing quarters and try to win quarters as opposed to winning games here on out,” said Henke. “It’ll definitely be a test of our mental fortitude playing games by the quarter compared to coming out hot in the first quarter and letting the lead dwindle like it did [on Saturday against San Diego].” The Growlers were bummed not to perform better on the back-half of their Texas trip, but still are upbeat about the road ahead. “But I think we gave Austin the win, which was disappointing,” added Stuart. “Good growth moment for us.
Memorial Day Weekend typically involves a slower AUDL schedule, and this year is no exception. After a dozen games graced the slate each of the past two weekends, only eight contests are coming up in Week 5, and despite plenty of intriguing action, not a single game pits two teams that both have winning records.
I promise I’m not looking past this coming weekend—two desperate teams both scraping and clawing for their first win in front of the best crowd in ultimate in our FOX Sports Game of the Week? Sign me up!—but it’s hard not to feel giddy looking at some of the matchups on tap for early June, especially on Friday nights.
On Friday June 2, we’ll see Carolina at DC and New York at Boston. Two monster games.
One week later, Friday features Atlanta at Boston and Salt Lake at Colorado, an epic AUDL.tv doubleheader.