Sitting at second place in the South Division at 7-3, 1.5 games behind the Dallas Roughnecks, the Flyers are in good position to go to the playoffs for the fourth straight year. They are coming off strong wins against the previously undefeated Madison Rascals, the current Midwest Division leaders, and Austin Sol, a divisional rival against who they absolutely controlled the pace in a 34-16 win.
Earlier in May however is was a different story for Raleigh. Traveling to Washington D.C., the Raleigh Flyers were looking to extend their record to 6-2. The DC Breeze were sitting a game below .500, and Raleigh was the favorite to win their second cross divisional game. The tables turned in this matchup, and the Breeze took the Flyers to the wire and beat them by 24-23, dropping Raleigh’s record at the time to 6-3. It was a game that saw multiple lead changes, and one in which the Flyers held a lead in the last 10 minutes of the game.
The Breeze re-took the lead, and won the game behind the play of Rowan McDonnell, who scored 10 goals that night. This is not unusual of McDonnell, as his coach calls him “a top five player right now in the country,” but one can usually find McDonnell on defense. Rowan challenged every matchup the Flyers put on him and delivered a performance that stuck him in the AUDL MVP conversation. Raleigh Flyers Head Coach Mike Denardis had a few things to say about his team’s performance in the D.C. game.
One of the things that Denardis cited was that the DC was “simply a case of us not playing to our potential and knowing we can scheme and execute better moving forward.” Raleigh is historically known for being a good defensive team, and this season, they have been known for their high-scoring games, as they failed to score 20 points only once this season. But the wheels were just not turning on May 12th.
The Breeze played a better game in the first half, and stopped the Flyers’ momentum late in the 4th quarter. As captain Noah Saul noted after the game, the difference between the Flyers winning the regular season in the South in 2017 and coming in second or third, came down to games won on universe point. Executing at a higher level would require more focus, particularly at the start of games. It was a the wake-up call that the Flyers needed, as Coach Denardis noted it was “that final kick we needed to hit our stride.”
Raleigh finally seemed to hit that stride over Memorial Day weekend in Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Midwest Division first place team Madison Radicals. Raleigh’s game plan immediately put the Radicals on their heels in the first half, with one of the key plays of the game being Shane Sisco’s block on what seemed like a surefire point for Madison in the opening minutes. The Flyers would go on to dominate the rest of the first half and build a 13-5 halftime lead. Coach Denardis was very impressed with his team’s showing, stating, “We were very focused this game, and we played with a chip on our shoulder, which usually drives us to play better.”
Jonathan Nethercutt’s impact following a brief hiatus in April was huge over the course of May. Against DC he led the Flyers in Assists (11), Completions (30), Points Played (51), and Plus/Minus (10) against DC. In the game against Madison, Nethercutt led the team in Assists (8), Completions (63), Points Played (24), and Plus/Minus (9). Nethercutt is historically known for his accurate hucks, something that is very tough to do, especially when you have defenses swarming you from all directions. In the “10 Things: Raleigh vs. Madison” Article, DeNardis says that he likes to use Nethercutt on defense so that the Flyers can “maximize its conversion chances after a turn.”
Nethercutt continued his strong play on into Raleigh’s home game against the Austin Sol, with 52 completions in a 34-16 dismantling of the Austin Sol, a rematch of the 23-25 defeat the Flyers suffered in Austin back on April 27th. With Nethercutt’s return and the Flyers looking better and better as they head into June, the Flyers’ playoff picture continues to look bright. All that remains during the regular season are two games against Nashville and two very critical games against Atlanta. The Flyers will continue to compete at home on June 16th taking the field alongside the Raleigh Radiance against Nashville.