April 10, 2018
By Evan Lepler
Heading into Week 2, it was totally logical to think that the four teams that saw the field in Week 1 - the Raleigh Flyers, Tampa Bay Cannons, Detroit Mechanix, and Indianapolis AlleyCats - might have an advantage over their opponents who were making their 2018 debuts. Presumably, the early wrinkles would be ironed out, and the new players would be more comfortable in their second game in a system. Plus, three of the four would be at home, providing further rational reasoning behind the idea that those teams were in particularly good shape this week.
But logic, rational reasoning, and sports do not always mesh. Emotion and energy, for example, are unquantifiable. Circumstances like weather and scouting savvy create additional variables. And after a slew of confounding results, one begins to realize that the premise behind those initial prognostications may have been out of whack from the start.
With eight more AUDL games in the books, the league-wide landscape looks as fascinating, and perhaps baffling, as ever. All four teams who took the field for Week 1 in late March lost their April opener, as Raleigh, Tampa, and Indianapolis fell at home, with Detroit, which lost by a dozen in game one, getting narrowly edged by one on the road to the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds. The Mechanix-Thunderbirds’ nailbiter represented one of the three exhilarating one-goal games across the continent, while three other contests were decided by just two or three. In fact, if you remove Los Angeles Aviators' 30-17 rout of San Diego Growlers from the conversation, the other seven games on April 7 were decided by a grand total of 17 goals. That’s the same sum that separated the participants in just two games on March 31. The sample size is certainly small, but home field advantage has not meant a ton either. Overall, road teams have started the season 6-4. If Pitt and Seattle had not squeaked out narrow victories, road teams could have been 7-3 or 8-2.
Accordingly, results throughout 2018 will be tougher than ever to predict, as each division features franchises that by and large look pretty even on paper. There are a small handful of exceptions at the top and bottom of select divisions, but the general uncertainty over ‘who’s best?’ is bolstered by a bunch of potential “changing of the guard” outcomes from this past weekend.
The defending champion San Francisco FlameThrowers lost at home, as did the team (the Flyers) that most anointed as their likely title successor. The young Dallas Roughnecks defense announced their presence in primetime on Saturday night in Raleigh. Meanwhile, the Montreal Royal spoiled the DC Breeze’s home opener, avenging a disappointing double-digit loss that ended the Royal’s postseason last summer. In the Midwest, Pittsburgh’s slim one-goal win over Detroit understandably raised some eyebrows, as did the Minnesota Wind Chill’s tough one-goal loss out in the West to the Seattle Cascades. It seems the Bay Area talent has never been divvied up so evenly, with the San Jose Spiders and FlameThrowers both looking strong and balanced. And then there’s the Atlanta Hustle, delivering arguably the biggest surprise of the season thus far with a clutch fourth quarter to steal a triumph away from Tampa! While the Madison Radicals and Aviators put up relatively convincing victories, every other game remained in doubt until the final minutes.
That’s where we focus in today’s "Full Field Layout", with the goal of illuminating how all of these battles were won.
The Full Field Layout
In their first three seasons of existence, the Atlanta Hustle never won a game in Florida; five long trips to Jacksonville resulting in five losses, all by five goals or less.
Well, now the Hustle are 1-0 in Tampa Bay, following their improbable fourth quarter comeback on Saturday night. Trailing 14-12 through three quarters and pulling to start the fourth, Atlanta dialed up the D, utilizing an active and stingy zone to cool down the Cannons offense. Whereas Tampa erupted in the third quarter for eight goals—two more than either team had scored in the 6-6 first half—the Cannons only found the end zone once in the final 12 minutes, as Atlanta notched four breaks in five chances to seal the satisfying 17-15 victory.
“In the fourth quarter, we just had more wheels than them,” said Hustle Coach Miranda Roth Knowles.
“I think we had more left in the tank. I think that’s a lot due to the training we’ve been doing coming into the season and also we’re a very deep roster. I personally don’t think we’re priding ourselves on superstars, but our roster, on average, is very, very strong.”
Matt Smith, known throughout his career for scoring goals, served as an initiator and facilitator in leading the Hustle with five assists. But Atlanta largely tossed aside the idea of strict O and D-lines, instead choosing to put fresh legs on the field every point. The Hustle wanted to slow the game down, and they succeeded. Furthermore, 18 of the 20 players who took the field recorded at least one goal, assist, or block, fulfilling the team’s desire to utilize everybody and make it a true team win. The only two players without an old-fashioned fantasy point, Kyle Stapleton and Austin Taylor, combined to complete 39 of their 40 throws.
On the other side, the Cannons were left to wallow in the missed opportunity, as the frustrating fourth quarter diminished the largely positive vibes that had emanated from the team after playing so well in defeat against Raleigh the previous week.
“Unfortunately, our offense got impatient,” acknowledged Cannons Captain Andrew Roney. “Atlanta played a zone for the entire field, and although it wasn’t particularly terrible conditions, we had a tough time breaking through. We’re still working to build line cohesion since we’ve had a lot of changes this year. Thy capitalized on a few throws that floated or were underthrown and got breaks as a result. I’ll give credit to the Hustle defense—they seemed well-coached and active in their zone.”
Miranda Roth Knowles was not the only new head coach to taste victory in the South Division this past Saturday. Dallas’ Wes Nemec insisted before the game that neither he nor his players would be intimidated by Raleigh’s top-tier talent, and his words held firm as the Roughnecks delivered a huge haymaker in the early minutes on a wet and blustery night in North Carolina.
Half of the Roughnecks’ 20-man active roster was making its Dallas debut, and all 10 of them looked comfortable immediately. Zach Marbach delivered a D and a dime on the game’s first point, connecting with fellow newcomer Kaplan Maurer for an upwind break 1:45 into the opening quarter. Maurer scored again on a dish from Dan Emmons a few minutes later, giving Dallas two breaks and a 3-1 lead.
There would be nothing but downwind offensive holds for the rest of the half, but Dallas’ defensive intensity had set the tone. Each team had turned the disc over a bunch in the watery and windy conditions, but at halftime, Dallas’ 16 turns were a product of by just five Raleigh blocks. Meanwhile, the Flyers’ 17 turns were very much related to 14 Ds from the rugged Roughnecks.
It was a similar story in the second half. Raleigh recorded its only break of the night when Mischa Freystaetter hit Noah Saul with 7:35 left in the third, tying the game at 10. But Dallas responded immediately with a 3-0 rally, winning a couple different marathon points to all but put the game away.
“Two things brought us the win, in my opinion,” explained Nemec. “Number one was our defense. I think the production on D was just outstanding. A lot of really big plays that were fun to watch. Even bigger than that, though, was our energy. That’s a cliché thing to say, but that was one of the most fulfilling things for me, just how energetic guys were in adverse conditions against a good team. They rose to the occasion. It was just super fun to be a part of.”
Dallas finished the game with 23 blocks, a tribute to their passion and intensity throughout the night. Seven different players recorded multiple Ds, led by Dillon Larberg’s five. Chris LaRocque earned plenty of praise by distributing five assists, while Dalton Smith paced the team with 40 completions, anchoring the offensive effort and crossing over on D a bunch of times too.
With the win, the Dallas franchise improved to 31-4 all-time, including a 3-1 record at Raleigh, a testament to the foundation of returners and strong recruiting that brought the 2017 Callahan Award nominees from Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arkansas, and Oklahoma all on the same page. It also sent a message that perhaps the Flyers were elevated to the status of ‘Final Four Favorite’ a tad too soon.
“It was a great wake up call for all of us,” admitted Raleigh Coach Mike DeNardis. “We were a little mentally unfocused and a little full of ourselves, and the elements kinda took the wind out of our sails. We had some really bad short field turnovers because we were trying to play offense like we usually do [without regard for the windy, rainy conditions we encountered.]”
After opening the season with two straight home games, the Flyers will play their next four on the road, including a rematch with the Roughnecks in Dallas on April 28. Dallas has its next three games at home, with Los Angeles and Austin preceding the Raleigh rematch.
Of the three games decided by one, two of them ended with the trailing team firing a potential tying shot into the end zone at the buzzer. Both were out West, where down-to-the-wire finishes should be plentiful in the coming months.
San Francisco had trailed 20-17 after San Jose’s Sonny Zaccaro connected with Steven Chang with 7:55 left, but the FlameThrowers gradually fought their way back. Greg Cohen hit a laying out Lior Givol with 6:40 left to inch within two, and Cohen and Givol each registered excellent Ds during a marathon point that culminated with Eli Kerns launching a 65-yard flick bomb to Alex Grande with 3:51 to go. Just 20 seconds later, though, the Spiders answered on Zaccaro’s eighth assist of the night, as Mark Lin caught his fourth goal to put San Jose up 21-19 with three and a half remaining.
As San Francisco’s leader scorer Antoine Davis fought through a late-game cramp on the sideline, the FlameThrowers turned it over, giving the Spiders a chance to virtually ice the win. But San Fran rookie Elliot Chartock came up with a huge D in the end zone to deny a San Jose score. Then, Kerns rose up with a massive skying grab near the other goal line, setting up two throws later, when the FlameThrowers were back within one, trailing 21-20 with 1:46 on the clock, leading to the dramatic conclusion.
“The final point was mystifying,” said San Jose’s Jackson Stearns. “We felt in control on the line. We had answered back every time San Francisco scored, and we were confident we’d march down and do our job. The point started with almost two minutes to play, so I don’t think anyone thought it would be the final point of the game.”
The Spiders calmly moved the disc around and took more than a minute off the clock before taking a timeout with 40 seconds left, a decision Spiders Coach Tyler Grant almost immediately regretted.
“I should have left our offense alone, but I was concerned about a higher stall and fatigue, especially after a few previous offensive points,” shared Grant. “It turned out that the timeout allowed a full D-line sub, and that would have cost us without Sonny’s block.”
Back from his sideline stretching, Davis helped the FlameThrowers get one final chance by disrupting an underneath throw that Justin Norden attempted to get to Stearns. With less than 15 seconds to play and no timeouts, San Francisco got the disc to Kerns, who fired a floaty but catchable 50/50 to the end zone, looking for the equalizer to potentially force overtime. Cohen, known league-wide as an excellent buzzer-beater receiver, was the closest FlameThrower in the area. But Zaccaro had the better angle, used his body, and elevated to reach the disc first, spiking it to the ground as the final dramatic seconds expired.
“Sonny had position on me right away,” Cohen said afterwards. “If I could have done it again, I would have created more space and timed my jump better. Great block by Sonny—he typically gets around 14 rebounds a game when we play pick-up [basketball], so I was not surprised by the block.”
Added Stearns, “I’ve played basketball with Sonny too—dude is strong and knows how to box out. But Greg is Greg; he loves the jump ball. This was a picture-perfect 50/50.”
If asked before the game, the FlameThrowers probably would have liked their odds on a 50/50 in the end zone involving Cohen with everything on the line. But it was Zaccaro’s day, as the fourth-year Spider (and two-time AUDL champ) registered a team-high +10, pacing his team with eight assists and 39 completions with only one throwaway.
In Seattle, the Cascades and Wind Chill waged the most electric offensive game of the young AUDL season, and like the San Jose-San Francisco showdown, it all hung in the balance on one throw soaring toward the end zone as the buzzer sounded. Neither team had ever led by more than two during the entire 48-minute fight, and since the Wind Chill’s hold to start the second half had tied the game at 16-all, the teams remained even at every integer from 16 to 28. Both offenses were lighting it up.
“It was a crazy last couple of minutes,” remembered Minnesota O-line handler Josh Klane. “Our D-line got a D, tied 28-28, and worked it to the goal line, but couldn’t punch it in. After two 10-yard penalties, we called timeout and subbed in O. I had the disc in my hand facing a double team. We had a nice play set up to hit a hammer in the opposite corner, but [Seattle’s Mark] Burton read me like a book and got the hammer block.”
After denying the Wind Chill their go-ahead goal, Seattle marched the other way, with Reed Hendrickson hucking to Mark Burton for the magnificent bookends, giving the Cascades a 29-28 edge with a little over a minute left.
Seattle would need three more Ds to close out the game on the final point. Blocks from Burton and John Doherty weren’t enough, as Nick Roberts fumbled away Alex Duffel’s throw with about 10 seconds to go.
Just before the clock expired, Minnesota’s Jimmy Kittleson lofted a curling backhand, toward the back corner of the end zone. But Hendrickson attacked the disc first, securing Seattle’s opening day success. Hendrickson and Duffel immediately rejoiced, along with the rest of the victorious Cascades. It was extra sweet considering the new youthful make-up of the majority of their team.
“I do know that leadership had doubts going into the game,” admitted Duffel, the 30-year-old in his third year with the Cascades. “All we could do was prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We have so much youth that has never had club nor pro experience, so expectations were a bit low; I won’t lie. However, some young bloods really stepped up to shine when they need to do so, like ‘Shuga’ Shane Worthington and Nick ‘Salmon’ Mahan. The fact that we came out with a home opening win was incredible. You saw genuine joy from us in that final moment.”
While the new additions may have impressed in their debuts, the Cascade veterans still did the heavy lifting. Burton delivered a massive +16, with 10 assists, six goals, and three blocks to counter his three throwaways. Hendrickson added six goals and four assists, making a slew of spectacular plays including a SportsCenter Top 10-worthy layout after a 70-yard sprint.
“We just couldn’t slow down Burton, Hendrickson, and [Brad] Houser,” Klane regretted. “They killed us all game long. When we did get turns, our D-line couldn’t find any flow or rhythm, and we couldn’t punch in the breaks that were needed to win a tight game like that.”
Looking ahead, Minnesota and Seattle have differing paths looming in the coming weeks. Whereas the 2017 Wind Chill started 7-0 and did not lose a game in regulation until July, the 2018 version finds itself in danger of an 0-2 start as they head to Madison this Saturday. Contrarily, the Cascades have a home-and-home against San Diego lined up for the next two Saturdays, in Seattle this weekend and in SoCal on April 21. While Madison’s dominant win over Indy does not guarantee a Wind Chill loss and San Diego’s struggles at Los Angeles provide no certainties for Seattle, the upcoming challenges and opportunities are apparent for both squads, who will each play the remainder of the regular season against their own divisional foes after opening the season with the interdivisional fight.
On the other side of the country, Pittsburgh and Montreal also emerged from their season openers with victories that were not fortified until the final seconds.
The Thunderbirds spent much of the night playing from behind against Detroit, trailing 10-9 at the half and 15-14 midway through the fourth. But a pivotal 3-0 rally allowed Pittsburgh to avoid an embarrassing home loss. Up 17-15 with just over a minute to play, the Mechanix could not score quickly enough to generate a game-tying chance. With 10 seconds remaining, Detroit rolled the pull out of bounds and forced Pittsburgh to scramble from the sideline, but the Thunderbirds completed two tosses to close out the 17-16 victory.
“We had contributions from all 20 guys all night long, but when it came to crunch time, we looked to our leaders to take us over the line,” said Pittsburgh Coach Pat Hammonds. “Our O-line improved through the night as they became more familiar with each other and began to build chemistry. They punched in an important hold to tie the game late in the fourth quarter with a lefty bender from Sam VanDusen to Ethan Beardsley, who caught the goal sliding to the front cone. VanDusen then followed up his assist with an impressive layout D on the very next point, and we were able to quick-strike for the break."
"Max Sheppard also played both ways and had an impact defensively late in the game, snatching an errant pass out of the air and ultimately catching the goal for our second big break," Hammonds said. "Ultimately, it was a night where we leaned on the depth of our roster to deliver body blows before unleashing guys to finish it for us playing both sides of the disc. Trust me, we don’t want to constantly find ourselves with little margins for error, but it felt great to know—even in a tight game—that we were going to find a way to get it done.”
For Detroit, it was a vast improvement from their double-digit defeat at home the previous week, even if the Mechanix were also disappointed they could not prevail.
“It was encouraging and overall a fun game to play with a good crowd, but we’re very upset we didn’t pull that one out in our favor,” said Detroit’s Karl Fauerbach, who completed 64-of-67 passes with three assists. Noah Fisher (89-for-91) and Joe Besser (73-for-74) joined Fauerbach to combine for 226 completions and 12 assists with only six throwaways, but despite the Mechanix’s substantial growth from Week 1 to Week 2, they remained winless all-time against Pittsburgh.
While Pittsburgh’s streak over Detroit continued, D.C.’s 14-game home winning streak was snapped against Montreal, as the Royal appeared ready to possibly take the next step in the East. Amidst frigid temperatures and pregame flurries, Montreal authored a sizzling start, surging to leads of 4-1 and 7-2 before the Breeze could stabilize their offense.
“We came out with so much energy and fire,” said Montreal’s newest D-line import, Morgan Hibbert. “It was an amazing feeling. We dressed seven AUDL rookies, and if you include me, eight people playing their first-ever Royal game. I hadn’t even practiced with the team yet and met several of my teammates for the very first time in the locker room! Despite all that, we somehow had really great chemistry out there! I was so impressed by the rookies. They played with such poise and confidence and just a real passionate energy.”
After jumping ahead 7-2, the Royal basically maintained a lead of between four and six goals until the fourth quarter. Trailing 27-22, the Breeze clawed their way back, closing within two at 23-21 and 24-22. But D.C. could not get any closer, missing opportunities to inch within one in the final minutes. Breeze standout Rowan McDonnell played 34 points—eight more than anyone on his team and 11 more than anyone on Montreal—and collected four goals, five assists, and four Ds. Afterward, he tried to focus on his team’s positives.
“We definitely went through some growing pains early, particularly the first quarter. Which was great, nobody wants to peak in April,” McDonnell said glibly. “We were able to identify some areas our O-line wants to improve on, and after some adjustments from [Coach] Darryl [Stanley], we were able to cruise throughout the rest of the game. Obviously, we’d rather not have started off down 7-2, but we did and we grew from it. Montreal came out very confident. They were making big, difficult throws consistently. We started to challenge their deep game as the game went on, but for a while they looked like they were in midseason form.”
Like McDonnell, D.C.’s Delrico Johnson contributed four blocks, several of which came as the Breeze rallied late in the game. But time expired before they could complete the comeback, giving the Royal a narrow road win to open their season for the second consecutive year.
For Hibbert, who endured through a 1-13 season as a member of the Vancouver Riptide in 2017, the triumph with his new team was something he immediately treasured for a bunch of reasons. “It was a really special first experience for me,” he said. “They predominantly speak French—and I do not—but during all the talks one of the players would come sit next to me and whisper the English translation, which was super adorable. They are so welcoming and yet have no problem giving me a hard time. Many of them were congratulating me on already equaling my win total from last year.
“I could tell this was a big victory for them. A revenge game for last year’s playoffs. They celebrated on Saturday night. And now it is back to work and focusing on our next match.”
Since Montreal’s Sunday game at Philadelphia was postponed, the Royal have a lengthy break before retaking the field on April 28 at Ottawa.
Although Kelvin Wiliams is in his third season in the AUDL, Atlanta Coach Miranda Roth Knowles believes Williams is set for a breakout year.
“He had a great defensive game [vs. Tampa], he’s catching goals, and he can throw now, which is really nice,” said a chucking Knowles. “He’s no longer a liability with the disc, which is really awesome cause he’s such a strength in other places. He’s realizing his potential now, which is super exciting. He just spent so much time in the offseason practicing his throws and doing his workouts. He’s an upper-level athlete playing this sport.”
With the game tied in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Williams was playing the point position in the Hustle’s zone, meaning he was responsible for marking the disc in the middle of the field. He had served as the deep-deep in the zone for most of the game, but the late switch paid dividends when he snuck behind the handler in a high-stall situation and registered the hand-block on a reset attempt.
Seconds later, he was streaking deep, and Player Pierce picked up the disc, launched upwind, and hit Williams for the gigantic upwind go-ahead score. It was an exhilarating sequence for the Hustle, and for Williams, who again illustrated his value in the critical moment.
With a basketball background before discovering ultimate, Williams has always had plenty of natural athleticism, but it has taken a while for the disc skills to develop.
“Cutting, timed jumping, and defensive philosophies were all familiar to me, but obviously, disc skills were completely new,” Williams explained. “I’m a very competitive person, especially with myself, so working on my disc skills has been a challenge that I’ve really wanted to overcome, and it has been fun seeing the improvement from year to year. Being around and playing with and against so many experienced and high level players over the last few years has definitely kept me motivated to keep improving. Also, having a coach like Miranda for the past three seasons has been the most beneficial. From the beginning, she’s always been great about explaining the game and different techniques in ways that make it seem easy for me to implement and practice.”
While some players might get nervous if they are pulled aside by their head coach, Williams has cherished any of those chances.
“I’m always excited to get individual feedback from her,” he said. “Whenever she pulls me aside for some coaching, it means that I’m about to get better.”
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
Self-deprecation is a vital tool for surviving life, and when done well, one can earn big gobs of respect. Five days ago, the AUDL twitter account pushed the footage of Raleigh’s Jack Williams making Tampa Bay’s Josh McKisic look silly on a cut in the end zone, and McKisic’s reply was the greatest.
Thanks for all of the “get well soon” cards. The doctors were able to reattach my ankles after 5 hours of grueling surgery.— Josh McKisic (@McKisic28) April 5, 2018
Last Wednesday, around 11:45 AM, while I was at my computer preparing for Montreal and D.C., the phone rang. Shortly thereafter, I reopened my Raleigh file from the week before.
My short flight to D.C. became another drive to Raleigh as a result of the wacky April weather across the northeast. From Wednesday’s outlook, it was unclear whether the Breeze would be able to play, with snow forecasted for D.C. and other precipitation possibly making Montreal’s journey southward treacherous. Though it turned out ok for the Royal to both arrive and escape the District with a victory, the uncertainty earlier in the week made the change imperative, and thankfully there was another incredibly compelling matchup not too far away.
If you were not aware, two members of Fulcrum’s production crew, Eddie Chan and Sarah Edwards, are responsible for driving a van with all of the equipment from city to city throughout the season. They took a few additional days in North Carolina after the March 31 and were an hour or so into their drive to D.C. when the official word broke about the location changing. An abrupt U-turn later, all the gear closed in on Raleigh again.
As you read this Toss, Chan and Edwards are probably cruising toward Texas, and next week they will be rolling all the way to San Francisco. They are, unquestionably, the two unsung heroes of the AUDL, as they will drive across the continent and back again several times between now and August.
Seven On The Line
- Almost everything went right for the Los Angeles Aviators in their 2018 debut against San Diego, as a 16-10 halftime lead quickly swelled to double digits during a dominant string of breaks in the third quarter. “Our offense was unchallenged,” said LA’s Eric Lissner.
“Apart from a sloppy first few O-points, we had no problem scoring. That being said, our D-line might have had a higher conversion percentage than the offense. The D certainly scored more points than the O [throughout the game].” Former Roughneck Chris Mazur shined in his Aviators debut, racking up seven assists despite playing defense almost exclusively. Mazur was also one of 10 Aviators with multiple goals. Brent George led the way with five, while Lissner had four. From the Growlers perspective, the problems were plentiful. “There isn’t one specific thing that went wrong on Saturday,” said San Diego’s Dom Leggio. “We flat out got our butt kicked.”
- After an ACL tear prematurely ended Mark Elbogen’s 2017 season, the Aviators have planned to integrate him back into the lineup slowly. Leading up to the game, it was unclear whether Elbogen would be active for the opener. But when he warmed up and felt good, Los Angeles decided to give him the chance to return. “It felt great to be back on the field and run with the boys,” Elbogen said, after scoring one goal and completing all seven of his throws in 12 O-points played. “I took a conservative approach to coming back and I thought it went quite well. The knee felt great. In addition, our D-line spent a majority of the game on the field, so I wasn’t forced to play many O-points too. I am still getting my full explosiveness back, but that is improving every day.” The 2016 All-AUDL performer is planning to skip LA’s back-to-back grind through Texas this weekend, but hopes to be closer to 100% for the squad’s Week 4 showdown with San Jose. Following from afar this weekend, he will be thinking about the goal he scored against San Diego, a moment he had been pining for since the injury occurred. “I put in a lot of work over the offseason to get to this point, and that moment kind of validated that I am back to a level where I can score a goal in a professional game setting, which has been an ‘unknown until proven possible’ question in my mind since he surgery,” said Elbogen. “I still have a long way to go to get back to my peak self, but that was a great first step, and I know I’ll get stronger every game this season.”
- The greatest streaks in sports are iconic. Joe Dimaggio hit in 56 straight games in 1941. The Clemson Tigers men’s basketball team is 0-59 all-time in Chapel Hill. On Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs qualified for the playoffs for the 21st consecutive season. And then there’s the Madison Radicals, who won their 16th game in a row against the Indianapolis AlleyCats on Saturday. The latter streak, having unfolded since 2013, is not in the same ballpark as the others, but as far as one-sided AUDL streaks go, it is number (alongside Toronto’s repeated beatdowns of New York). On Saturday, the Radicals improved to 16-0 all-time vs. the AlleyCats with a convincing 20-13 triumph on Indy’s home field. “We played with the energy we had in 2016,” said Radicals Coach Tim DeByl, referencing how last year his team struggled to overcome the hangover of it’s heartbreaking semifinals loss from the previous season.
“Tarik Akyuz was really good. He’s a workhorse, a hard cutter with great field sense, and he made plays all over. Andrew Meshnick had a coupe of hand blocks. Kevin Pettit-Scantling had some great plays. Pretty much everyone on the man D-line had a great game.” It was an important early-season statement from the Radicals, who return to Breese Stevens Field this weekend to host Minnesota. “It does feel like our team is more dialed in this year than in year’s past,” acknowledged Meshnick, who recorded three Ds in 21 points played, both team-highs. “Everyone is more excited about the season, and we’re all buying into working hard and working together as a team. In past seasons, it has felt like the team was out to prove our identity to the rest of the league, and so far this season it feels like the team is already starting to form our identity from within, and we don’t really care what the rest of the league thinks about us. We’re just going out on the field together focusing on the task at hand, playing confidently, playing loose, and enjoying ourselves. I think it’s going to be a good recipe for success for us the rest of the year.”
- From the AlleyCats’ perspective, team leaders were harping on a similar refrain after their 16th straight loss to the Radicals. As Cameron Brock explained, “Take away the second quarter, and it’s a one point game, proving once again that we need to put four quarters together instead of three when we play Madison.” The score was 5-all at the end of the first before the Radicals ran off a 10-3 run to take control. “We made a lot of dumb mistakes,” said Brock. “Throwing into poached lanes. Taking risky throws when easy ones were available. It was a very weak mental game from us as an offense. I would say the defense played pretty well, for the most part. I think I saw that they forced nine turnovers. Our D had some good opportunities to capitalize, but got a bit impatient at times. I think they went 2/9 on break conversions, which could be better, but the defense outplayed our offense for sure this game. In fact, I think the only point we scored in the second quarter was when the D-line went on to pay offense. Our O-line went about 14 or so minutes of game-time without scoring a point. Sad.”
- It was noteworthy that Madison and Dallas both registered big road wins this weekend while each playing without one of their most veteran throwers. Andrew Brown and Brandon Malecek, former teammates at the University of Wisconsin, joined forces again this past weekend to compete in the 2018 Amateur World Doubles Disc Golf Championships in Mt. Vernon, Texas. Together, Brown and Malecek finished in second place out of 26 entrants in the four-round competition. Here’s a look at the official results.
- The Hardy Boys are back! Well, kinda. Seattle’s Mark Burton and Alex Duffel have played together for a long time, and they’ve often had fun by giving themselves creative alter egos to embrace throughout the season. In 2017, ‘The Hardy Boys scored goals and solved crimes.’ Now, they have developed a new gimmick. “This year, we are Batman and Joker,” said Burton. “I work Batman socks with capes on them, and he went all out on face paint. Our slogan is, ‘he creates that chaos, and Batman has to help clean the street.’”
When Burton said that Duffel went all-out with on face paint, he was not kidding. Duffel surreptitiously had everything ready to surprise his teammates with a get-up that would have made the late Heath Ledger do a double-take. “Mark is pretty much the only person that knew I was going to do the face-paint,” Duffel said. “I did it after warmups to have it fresh for the game. The Titcombs had no idea I was planning this, so I was shooting for an ask for forgiveness rather than permission scenario, but I believe it polled well among the fans, which worked out.” Will the face-painting become Duffel’s game throughout the 2018 season? “The Joker comes out when he pleases,” he said, “so just stay tuned for more. Next game, I just may be handing out Joker cards.”
...wait a second @Duffoe pic.twitter.com/sprpn6JMXq— AUDL (@theAUDL) April 9, 2018
- During Atlanta’s comeback win in Tampa, Hustle veteran Matt Smith had a realization. For the first time since he had started playing against the Cannons, he didn’t feel like his team was super small. “It was weird to be bigger than the Cannons for once,” he said. “They still have Brad Seuntjens, who’s a big body, but they don’t have the familiar faces we’re used to seeing: [Travis] Catron, Mischa [Freystaetter], [Jakeem] Polk, etc. We’ve added several big bodies, and I think overall we won the battles in the air. [Nathan] Vickroy and Seuntjens each had a big sky or two, but we consistently won the piles. We’ve added Hunter Cutts and Karl Ekwurtzel, who are both pretty big in the air and made their presence felt alongside guys like Kelvin Williams, Josh ‘Thor’ Turner, and Josh Bush.”
There are seven AUDL teams still awaiting their 2018 debuts, and six of those squads will take the field for the first time this weekend. Perhaps most notably, the Toronto Rush will square off with the New York Empire, with four-time champ Beau Kittredge expected to make his first appearance for the Empire.
One of the things that has made Kittredge so successful has been his ability, alongside his many talented teammates, to get the better of Toronto. Since 2014, Kittredge has ended the Rush’s season every year at Championship Weekend, with the Rush falling twice in the finals and twice more in the semifinals. But while the Rush have never beaten Beau, they have always beaten New York, compiling an unblemished 15-0 ledger against the Empire. Something has to give this Saturday.
Another superstar that is looking to make a splash in his first game with a new team is the Chicago Wildfire’s Kurt Gibson, who is expected to suit up for the Wildfire’s opener on Saturday at Pittsburgh. Gibson, an AUDL champ in 2014 with San Jose and 2016 with Dallas, will look to bring his even-year magic to Chicago.
The Nashville NightWatch, Austin Sol, and Philadelphia Phoenix also make their 2018 debuts this weekend, while the Ottawa Outlaws will be the last squad to play game number one when they see action for the first time next weekend, when the Outlaws will play at New York on Saturday, April 21 and at Philadelphia on Sunday, April 22.
The overall Week 3 slate consists of 10 games, including two more interdivisional contests as Los Angeles visits Austin on Saturday (live on Stadium) and Dallas on Sunday. If you’re interested in picking these games, give it your best shot at audlpicks.com.
Good luck figuring out the formula. Six years and two weeks into the life of the American Ultimate Disc League, it feels like the outcomes each weekend are as unpredictable as ever.
The Tuesday Toss is published weekly on theAUDL.com during the season. Got a comment or question about the AUDL or the current state of ultimate? E-mail Evan Lepler at AUDLMailbag@gmail.com. Feedback can also be levied on twitter: @EvanLepler