by Larry Snyder
Pittsburgh, Pa – The Pittsburgh Thunderbirds begin their 2023 American Ultimate Disc League campaign Saturday, April 29, against the Madison Radicals. This battle between AUDL Central Division squads starts at 6:00 p.m. at Highmark Stadium.
In March, the Thunderbirds and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League announced the T-birds would play all six of their regular season home contests on the South Side of the Steel City. Last season, the Thunderbirds played one match at Highmark Stadium against the Radicals in June, and the Black and Gold retired the #4 jersey of David Vatz at that game.
Pittsburgh second-year head coach Max Barowski looks to build on 2022’s four victories and a fifth-place finish in the Central. He will have the help of two new assistant coaches in Andrew Miller and Nick Bozich. General manager Andrew Gardner spoke to me about the coaching staff, “They have really delved into the analytical side of the disc which is something we really haven’t explored since our inception. The sheer volume of dialogue shows management and the players that all three coaches are not just dedicated to their jobs, but show a true passion for the sport and the team.”
AUDL 2022 All-Star Max Sheppard (34 goals, 32 assists, 11 blocks, 3161 receiving yards) is back as one of the critical components of the Thunderbirds’ offense. Jimmy Towle, who supplied 20 goals, added to the score sheet, while Pete Zaccardi furnished 18 points. Jacob Anthuvan is bringing his 21 goals, and 15 assists from Detroit last season to Pittsburgh.
Ready to return from knee injury to the Black and Gold offense is veteran handler Jonathan Mast, who owns a 96.4 percent completion rate and ranks 10th per league records in completions. The 29-year-old told Evan Lepler on the AUDL website, “I’ve been battling some lingering knee issues from my ACL construction a few years ago and took off last year to potentially get another surgery, but ended up focusing on rehab instead. We’ll see how it holds up through the season, but it’s been holding up well so far.”
Preparing to help the Thunderbirds get back to the playoffs is Anson Reppermund (17 goals, nine blocks), Connor Newell (13 goals, 18 assists), Clint McSherry (five goals, 27 assists), and Sam VanDusen (two goals, 13 assists). McSherry commented on the team’s vibe to Daniel Cohen on the AUDL web page, “Defiant.”
I look forward to seeing Alex Thomas and Dylan Best on the field for the T-birds. Thomas produced 13 goals, six assists, and ten blocks in 2019, while Best contributed 15 goals and 18 assists in the same year. Alex Rubin at ultiworld.com urges the Pittsburgh faithful to track the efforts of defender David Snead and cutter Mikey O’Brien.
One AUDL 2023 rule change is pulls will no longer take flight from the end zone. Each point begins with the defense throwing the disc from the brick mark, and it is a 20-yard difference from 80 down to 60 yards. What it means for the fans is that defenders have less distance to race down the field to guard their opponent. VanDusen is one of the best pullers in the league, and we will see how it affects the distance and angle of his throws.
From 2022 AUDL YouTube: Madison Radicals At Pittsburgh Thunderbirds – Week 6 Game Highlights At Highmark Stadium…
Madison finished 2022 with a 6-6 record and placed fourth in the Central. Since the Radicals began play in 2013, the steady hand of Tim DeByl has been on the sideline as the head coach. He is the founder and co-owner of the teal blue and chartreuse and is the longest-serving AUDL coach.
Looking back at 2022, defender Sterling Knoche put up 30 goals, and cutter Jack Kelly chipped in 22 scores to fuel the Madison attack. Victor Luo and Joshua Wilson kept the disc moving with 30 and 23 assists, respectively. Keeping the defense strong is Luke Marks with 14 blocks and Jake Rubin-Miller providing ten stops.
Brian Hart could be a critical return for Madison, as he claimed 12 goals and 19 assists in 2017. One rookie with potential is cutter Anthony Gutowsky from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
There has been a recent setback to the Radicals roster with the torn ACL injury to Kevin Pettit-Scantling. The 31-year-old defender delivered 13 goals, 26 assists, ten blocks, and 2852 total throwing and receiving yards to the Madison box score. Everyone wants to see how his loss affects the overall defensive chemistry of the team.
Broadcast: The home opener is also available on the subscription streaming service AUDL.tv. Matt Weiss returns to handle the microphone duties.
Tickets: Check out your possible seats for Thunderbird home contests online here. Kyle Archer is back as your host on the field, and everyone will have a good time with the new mayor of the South Side.
Weather: The Weather Channel has your latest update on how the skies look here on the web.
= Your Remaining Thunderbirds 2023 HOME Schedule =
Saturday, May 27 – Vs. Philadelphia Phoenix At 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 11 – Vs. Detroit Mechanix At 2:00 p.m.
Friday, June 30 – Vs. Detroit Mechanix At 7:00 p.m.
Friday, July 7 – Vs. Chicago Union At 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 22 – Vs. Indianapolis AlleyCats At 6:00 p.m.
NEXT UP: After a bye week, the Black and Gold cruise across the turnpike to the Great Lakes State to confront the Detroit Mechanix Saturday, May 13, at Grand Rapids Christian High School. These Central Division combatants meet at 5:00 p.m. EDT.