June 27, 2023
By Evan Lepler
Through the first eight weeks of the 2023 AUDL season, there were just seven instances of a team recording multiple wins in a single weekend. In Week 9, we saw three teams go 2-0, as Atlanta, Chicago, and DC swept their foes by a combined 20, 11, and 11 goals, respectively.
Earning two wins in a weekend doesn’t guarantee a playoff berth, though it does indicate relevancy. For example, here’s a week-by-week look at the teams that have enjoyed this type of success so far this season.
Week 1: None
Week 2: Colorado, Salt Lake
Week 3: None
Week 4: Oakland
Week 5: Chicago
Week 6: New York
Week 7: Carolina, Los Angeles
Week 8: None
Week 9: Atlanta, Chicago, DC
First observation: of the four West Division teams on this list, there will be one that misses the playoffs.
Second observation: it’s a pretty good encapsulation of the league’s top title contenders. The Union’s pair of two-win weekends both featured one home win and one road win. The Summit, Shred, Spiders, Empire, Flyers, Aviators, Hustle, and Breeze are the eight teams who’ve swept two-game road trips this year. That’s a pretty good representation of the league’s elite. Among that octet, Los Angeles is the only squad ranked outside the top eight in Adam Ruffner’s recent Power Rankings.
Looking ahead, Salt Lake and Colorado both have opportunities to earn their second 2-0 weekend of the season this coming weekend, as the Shred go to LA and San Diego while the Summit venture to Portland and Seattle. A couple weeks further down the road, New York will embark on perhaps the most anticipated two-game trek in AUDL history, as the Empire visit Colorado and Salt Lake on consecutive days for a couple high-profile tests at altitude.
Obviously, winning the AUDL Championship requires defeating two division champs in two days, so preparing accordingly during the regular season is ideal for building belief along the way.
The Full Field Layout
It’s worth mentioning that not every team has a chance to win multiple games in a weekend during the regular season.
The Indianapolis AlleyCats, for instance, were bestowed a schedule with 12 contests on 12 different weekends, denying them the opportunity to join the ‘elite eight’ franchises who’ve earned two road wins in as many days this season. But since starting 0-2, the Cats are now riding a six-game heater into July.
Should Indy be viewed as a threat, or should we be skeptical after they only beat Detroit and Madison, who are a combined 1-13, by one goal apiece over the past couple weeks?
“Honestly, I realize that it makes perfect logical sense to say that we may not be as good as our record shows just because we only beat Madison and Detroit by one,” said AlleyCats veteran Travis Carpenter. “But on the flip side of that coin, we obliterated Chicago, and we beat Minnesota almost all game long, but simply dropped the ball in the last five minutes when we played them. Those two results would tell a different story. So here is the inside scoop: Detroit played the game of their lives against us two weeks ago, and Madison chose the best strategic moves they made all season and implemented new styles of defense that finally clicked for them. I believe we just so happened to be the opponent on the night those things occurred.”
This is clearly a convenient outlook for the AlleyCats, who do own the league’s third-longest active winning streak after edging Madison 23-22 on Saturday at Breese Stevens Field. As for whether Indy can actually prove that their May 6 collapse against Minnesota was just a one-time thing, time will certainly tell. The AlleyCats travel to St. Paul a week from Sunday, on July 9.
As for this past Saturday’s drama, Carpenter heaped praise upon the Radicals’ game plan, mentioning how Madison’s switch-heavy scheme reminded him of the team’s 2018 defense that helped the Rads win the title that year. The AlleyCats’ offense was broken seven times (in nine chances), but Indy’s D-line converted eight breaks (in 11 tries).
With Indy up one in the final minute and looking to finish the job, Xavier Payne saw Levi Jacobs deep and launched a game-sealing forehand, putting the Cats ahead 23-21 with 57 seconds left. The Radicals scored with three seconds remaining to get back within one, but never had the disc to tie in the closing moments. Certainly, Jeremy Keusch’s sky-scraping third quarter buzzer-beater, which the officials deemed a goal on a strip call, loomed large in the final score as well.
“Getting a win in Breese Stevens is a great accomplishment, no matter how you cut it,” added Carpenter. “It’s easily the toughest place to play in the division, so I’m proud of our team for overcoming the adversity you face in that stadium.”
Madison, now 1-6, won’t have to wait long to try and avenge this most recent home loss; the Radicals head to Indianapolis this Saturday.
The AlleyCats’ first-place companion in the AUDL’s Central Division did not do the region’s reputation any favors on Saturday night in Colorado.
The excuse parade could mention that it was just one game, at an unfamiliar stadium, while missing several key contributors, but the Summit’s 25-15 thrashing of the Wind Chill sent a loud message about the West and Central’s respective narratives.
It also turned out to be a critical get-right-game for Colorado, who snapped their three-game losing streak by overwhelming Minnesota all night long. The Summit offense was not broken through three quarters, and they pressured the Wind Chill into a season-high 25 turnovers, converting 11 breaks along the way.
“I’m proud of how we came out the gate,” said Colorado’s Alex Atkins, who finished plus-seven with five goals, two assists, and no turns. “A lot of energy. Obviously, this was a big game for us, we wanted to bounce back, and I think the team did a really good job, starting with energy and finishing it through the whole game.”
With Jonathan Nethercutt’s return to the Summit O-line, Atkins became more of a cutting threat, producing a season-high 310 receiving yards, showcasing his dynamic playmaking ability in the deep space with several thrilling highlights.
“I love to get downfield,” said Atkins. “I think some people forget that I’m like 6'3", 6'4". I like to go down there and stretch the field a little bit. With Nutt’s throwing ability, it definitely makes it easier. I love to get out there and be a little bit more of a hybrid, go deep, come under. I love throwing it deep, but I think I love going deep more.”
Overall, the Summit connected on 10 of their 15 hucks, while also limiting the Wind Chill to a season-low 42 percent huck rate. Minnesota’s Abe Coffin returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a hip flexor injury on May 20, but it was a bumpy re-entry. Tricky wind and superb defense left Coffin with seven turnovers, the most in his six-year AUDL career.
Despite Colorado’s domination, the 6-2 Wind Chill remain in control of their own destiny in the Central, with time to regroup prior to a tricky Week 11 that features a Friday challenge at Madison before a Sunday showdown vs. Indianapolis on July 7 and 9. Meanwhile, the 6-3 Summit head to the Pacific Northwest knowing that they can lock up a West Division playoff spot by sweeping Portland and Seattle in Week 10.
The Los Angeles Aviators joined the Summit at 6-3 in the thick of the West race, thanks to their 22-18 home win over skidding San Diego on Saturday afternoon. Despite a sluggish start, which included a dropped pull and a Callahan, LA ultimately found its swagger and closed both halves strong to sweep the season series against the Growlers.
“We were completely unfocused to start the game against San Diego, and they pounced,” said Aviators Captain Pawel Janas. “Silly mistakes, an effective force middle, and a slight breeze was enough to make us second guess our offensive identity on both O and D line. We were looking down the barrel of a three-goal deficit going into halftime, but we woke up with four minutes remaining in the second quarter and got a couple of breaks.”
Indeed, the Aviators took their first lead on Garrett Santi’s toss to Lukas Ambrose with one second remaining in the first half, part of a 5-0 Aviators spurt that changed the game. San Diego kept it close into the fourth, but Los Angeles rallied on a 5-1 surge to finish the game.
“We have had some growing pains, but feel like we are coming into our own with the O-line consistency and D-line getting some breaks,” said Aviators Coach Jeff Landesman.
Neither Janas nor Landesman wanted to dwell on the team’s winning streak, recognizing that their five consecutive victories have all come against the three teams at the bottom of the West standings. Truthfully, the Aviators season will boil down to their final three games, starting this Friday night against 8-0 Salt Lake and then with two critical contests opposite 5-3 Oakland in July.
“We know we played a horrible game in Salt Lake, and even though they are so athletic and consistent, we feel like we can beat them if we play our game,” said Landesman. “Obviously, we need to stop their deep game.”
Janas added that the key to slowing down the undefeated Shred is ‘keeping the game as a frisbee game and not a track meet.’
“Those kids are grass-fed organic purebreds on steroids compared to everyone else,” said Janas.
Coming up later today in "Seven on the Line", DC reasserts itself, Atlanta makes history, Toronto remains relevant in the East Division playoff race, and Detroit’s losing streak rolls on.