June 19, 2018
By Evan Lepler
Indeed, the 17th time was the charm for the Circle City’s pro ultimate team, as the Indianapolis AlleyCats snapped their unsweet 16-game losing streak against the Madison Radicals on Sunday evening, a skid of futility extending back to the very first meeting of the two franchises on June 16, 2013. Five years and a day later, after 16 setbacks by a combined 80 scores, the 'Cats edged the Rads for the first time, 21-20, sparking a euphoric celebration inside Indy’s new indoor home, Grand Park.
Travis Carpenter @TCarp37 ,a day one AlleyCat, brings in the pass from Keegan North and scores the winning goal against the Radicals as the AlleyCats become the first Midwest team to defeat @MadisonRadicals this season in the @theAUDL . pic.twitter.com/lUJvLlKnj5— Indy AlleyCats (@IndyAlleyCats) June 18, 2018
There’s a tricky irony to dissect in the aftermath of Week 12’s closest and most historic result. In the past 48 hours, the AlleyCats’ collective catharsis has been both warranted and amusing, a proud tribute to the achievement and a goofy acknowledgement toward the notion that this could, and perhaps should, have already happened in the previous five years. Their complicated mixture of utter joy and exasperated relief manifested itself in a happy delirium, especially on social media, where the always-active AlleyCats have consistently sought to make their case, one celebrity or feline gif at a time.
Let me just say this: I love how much the AlleyCats care. Their players are unquestionably among the most dedicated in the AUDL, as evidenced by the sheer number of games in which their core has competed. Their passion for their ultimate city, always an underdog in a regional or national conversation, is pretty special. Consequently, I genuinely am happy for them.
They absolutely should feel amazing about their dramatic triumph, keyed by an inspiring defensive effort that ultimately secured the result in the final seconds of regulation. Offensively, they delivered calm, clutch conversions throughout the fourth quarter, showcasing a poise and patience that they have lacked in the past. Accordingly, after missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, they only need a home win over winless Detroit to clinch their first postseason berth since 2014.
That, combined with the thrilling win over the perennial kings of the Midwest Division, has the AlleyCats puffing their chests with unprecedented pride, and why not? Sports are meant to be fun, and the quest to reach new heights is the fuel behind nearly every athletic endeavor. Every day is an opportunity to get better, some days are better than others, and it’s wise to enjoy and cherish the journey.
At the same time, I contemplated starting today’s column with this three-word phrase, meant to be said with a friendly smile: “Settle down, Indy.” As much fun as the AlleyCats are having and should be having, it would be insane to think this makes them the team to beat.
All the AlleyCats have done is held serve at home against a team that already won on their field once this year, a solid seven-goal beatdown back on April 7. On Sunday, the AlleyCats barely surpassed a Radicals squad that was playing its second road game in as many days and missing at least eight of its typical top 20 players.
Furthermore, in contrast to Indy’s twitter account announcing that the AlleyCats have claimed first place, the 9-2 Radicals remain a half-game ahead of the 8-2 AlleyCats. In order to actually seize the top spot in the Midwest, Indy will need to win at Breese Stevens Field on June 30, something no divisional visitor has done in the last 40 tries. That streak dates back to May 12, 2013, a good five weeks before the AlleyCats and Radicals had ever met.
As shaky as Madison has looked over the past month—getting blasted by the Raleigh Flyers, narrowly escaping the Minnesota Wind Chill at home, and then again on the road the very next night against the Chicago Wildfire. And then again this past Saturday against the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, before stumbling Sunday against Indy—the Radicals are still headed home for their final three games, holding a scintillating 41-1 all-time record at Breese against Midwest opponents. While Madison has received plenty of deserved criticism lately, it would still be unwise to draft the Radicals’ 2018 eulogy just yet.
The hammer may have missed the nail and fallen out of the workman’s hand, making a loud clang as it hit the floor. But the hammer did not break. And the Radicals have the next two weeks to recharge, refocus, and rediscover the divisional dominance they have played with for six seasons.
So here’s to the AlleyCats enjoying their marquee Week 12 win but keeping it in perspective. In fact, that’s exactly what their Coach, Eric Leonard, wanted from his team after the game.
“There were a few moments of celebration as the clock hit zero; then, my mind went straight to next week against Detroit,” said Leonard. “We can’t afford to get complacent after a big win like this.”
The Full-Field Layout
As for the details of Sunday evening’s excitement, the AlleyCats and Radicals were within two scores the entire game. Indy led 7-5 and then fell behind 10-8. Madison took an 11-10 advantage into the half, coughed it up in the third when the Cats went ahead 14-13, only to regain it at 16-15 heading into the fourth. Over the last 12 minutes, the teams were tied at every integer from 16 to 20, an illustration of just how close it was.
“The game itself was simply incredible, and the atmosphere was electric,” commented Leonard. “The story of the game for me was our defensive pressure, supported by an absolutely clutch O-line. From the opening pull, we put pretty good man-to-man pressure on Madison, and we were confident that if we could grind on them for four quarters we would be close down the stretch. Guys like [Donovan] Triplett, [Spencer] Loscar, and [Kip] Curtis, who fly under the radar on this team, played simply fantastic defense all game long.”
With about four minutes left and the score even at 19, the AlleyCats received the pull and played the game’s defining point, using 56 throws over nearly three minutes to deliver the go-ahead score, a perfect Travis Carpenter hammer to Levi Jacobs.
“I looked at our line before receiving and basically said, ‘if it takes four minutes to score, so be it,” explained Indy veteran Keenan Plew. “After we hit two minutes left, I think Travis, Sam [Sohn], Keegan [North] and myself all kinda knew we were trying to burn up clock. However, [Travis] found a big gap in the back of the end zone that we couldn’t let pass up.”
On Madison’s ensuing possession, the Radicals answered swiftly. Benjy Keren centered to Andrew Brown, who dished a short under to the initiating Peter Graffy, who launched a beautiful huck that floated into the sprinting grasp of Colin Camp. Three throws over 14 seconds, a dramatic contrast to Indy’s previous point, evened the score at 20 with 54 seconds remaining.
Standing on the line again with the game hanging in the balance, the AlleyCats remained calm, requiring just 10 throws this time to surge ahead by one at 21-20 with 11 seconds left. The ninth throw of the point hovered a little too long for comfort, but North made a huge leaping catch to maintain possession, then promptly dished up the line for Carpenter, who jumped into the end zone as he made the grab.
Madison had one final chance for an equalizer, but Dave Wiseman’s backhand prayer went unanswered, as Indy’s Rick Gross attacked the disc as it tried to curl back in bounds. Ushered by Gross, it never came back into the field of play, and the final seconds ticked away to give the AlleyCats their first win over the Radicals in franchise history
“When [the disc] went up, I saw where Rick was at, and I knew there was no way anyone was getting that disc other than him,” said Indy’s Cameron Brock.
It was an appropriate way for the game to end, as the AlleyCats D-line never stopped battling and bothering the Radicals throughout the 48-minute fight.
“Out O-line did not do its job, in my opinion,” acknowledged Brock. “We had a good first quarter and finished strong in the fourth, but we left a lot to be desired in the second and fourth quarters. Our D-line just had an amazing second half, though. Madison was really struggling to consistently move the disc down the field. I think we had four breaks in the second half, and it was due to a lot of defensive pressure. Kip Curtis was the MVP. He was hustling all over the field, and maybe the play of the game was what he did at the end of the third quarter, when he ran down on a pull with just a few seconds left and completely cut off the up-field throw for a potential last second huck. He was credited with two [Ds], but he was responsible for a lot more turnovers than that.”
Jacobs led the AlleyCats O-line with six goals and four assists, while North added five assists. Victor Luo had another strong game for the Radicals, with four assists and two goals while primarily playing on the D-line, but Madison uncharacteristically fell just short in the end.
“Indianapolis played just a touch better than we did on Sunday, and that was reflected in the final score,” admitted Radicals vet Andrew Meshnick. “We had opportunities throughout the game that unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on.”
Understandably, the AlleyCats emotions were running high right after the game, especially for the core players who have been with the team since 2012 and 2013.
“When the clock hit zero and Rick secured the win with his sideline D in the end zone, I just wanted to grab each guy that had been through all the losses and hug them,” exclaimed Plew. “And I’m not a hugger! We can all agree that it was great to win this game, but it’s never been a goal to just beat Madison. We, in the long run, still haven’t accomplished our goal which is making the playoffs.”
Leonard echoed Plew’s sentiments. “I’m simply ecstatic that we finally got over the hump,” he stated. “[Our guys] have worked very hard for a long time, but haven’t really seen the results follow until this season. It’s been tough to see us come so close, only to have that ‘big win’ slip through our grasp. So to finally get the monkey off our back against a team that has beaten us 16 times in a row is not only gratifying, but a validation of sorts for the work put in. I couldn’t be happier for those guys who have suffered through each of those 16 losses. It’s about freaking time because this was a long time coming…It’s great to get this one against Madison, because now we can make a push for the divisional crown and home field advantage in the playoffs. But there’s a mountain of work to do to make that happen, and for me it’s right back to business.”
While first place in the Midwest remains very much up for grabs, the top teams in every other division continued their impressive winning ways, with the Toronto Rush sweeping a pair at home, and the Dallas Roughnecks taking two on the road, and the Los Angeles Aviators dominating in a wire-to-wire win over the Seattle Cascades.
Of the first-place trio, the Rush are the only team that has already locked up the top seed in their division, a byproduct of their 10-1 record following two comfortable victories over the weekend. In both games, Toronto trailed 10-9 late in the first half, relying on depth and defense to dominate the second halves against the Ottawa Outlaws and New York Empire.
On Saturday vs. the Outlaws, it was a 6-0 run to break it open and an 18-7 burst to close the game in their 27-17 victory. On Sunday vs. the Empire, the Rush used a 7-2 spurt to take the lead for good, closing the game on a 16-8 rally to leave no doubt.
“It felt very nice to get two wins, and also to win by larger margins and feel secure down the stretch in both games was great,” declared Rush Captain Thomson McKnight. “As for the games being close early on, we are ok with that. We know that our depth of talent and team conditioning will come through eventually and we will wear teams down to the point where we get those big runs that give us the lead for good.”
In both games, 15 different members of the Rush recorded at least one block. On Saturday, four Rush defenders finished with three blocks apiece as the team racked up 25 for the game, while Toronto accumulated 18 more Ds as a team on Sunday.
“Our depth was the real key this weekend,” said McKnight. “It meant we were able to rest Cam [Harris] and [Ben] Burelle Saturday so they would both be fresh on Sunday. Brett [Tan] and [Jason Huynh] had huge weekends. Brett blocked or tipped about six discs on the mark vs. Ottawa; some were still caught, but have to imagine that it got in their heads a little bit. One guy that stepped in and had his best game of the season was Ben Pries; he looked fresh and fast on Sunday, scoring a couple of key goals playing great D.”
While the Rush have secured the top spot in the East, they still can likely seize the number one seed throughout the entire league by winning their final three games, vs. DC, vs Montreal, and at Ottawa.
In the South, Dallas remained a couple games ahead of surging Raleigh and in the mix for the league’s #1 overall seed thanks to steady and unsurprising two-game swing through Atlanta and Tampa. At 10-1 with a +33 point differential, the Roughnecks will likely need a Rush loss to surpass Toronto, who sits at 10-1 with a +58 point diff.
On Saturday in Atlanta, lightning delayed the start of the game and threatened further stoppages throughout the night, but the Roughnecks made their normal share of big plays in key moments to outlast the elements and the Hustle 24-20.
“The biggest turning points in the game were Atlanta calling four timeouts after our offense turned it to sub in their offense,” explained Dallas’ Chris LaRocque. “Every single time, our defense got it back and scored to save the hold. That’s a back-breaker for any team, and the fact that we did it on all of their timeouts was pretty ridiculous and it is reflected in the final score; we won by four.”
A day later in Tampa, the Roughnecks put up 19 goals in the first half against the Cannons, gradually building a seven-goal lead by the break. The gap swelled to 10 in the third quarter, with Dallas ahead 26-16. Although the Cannons closed the game with a 9-2 run to make the 28-25 final score look respectable, there was never much question late in the game as to who would prevail.
“The goal was to get to 40 as we had 19 at halftime, but Florida made some adjustments and our legs began to fade in the heat,” said Brandon Malecek, who had nine assists and 121 completions on the weekend. “The team was pretty sleep deprived when we arrived in Tampa and the heat index was over 100, but at least we were playing on grass. The defense hit their stride immediately and got better as a unit as the weekend progressed.”
Jay Froude and Dillon Larberg each enjoyed big weekends statistically for Dallas, as Froude produced eight goals and six assists while Larberg dished 11 assists and collected four Ds, completing 64 of his 65 passes. LaRocque went an amazing 116-for-116 in the two games, while Sam Ward and Kevin Richardson each enjoyed their own seven-goal game, Ward on Saturday and Richardson on Sunday.
“I was most pleased by how the team responded to some adversity on the weekend,” said LaRocque. “Delays, travel, and no coach on the weekend, and we were still able to succeed and improve. I think that speaks a lot to what this team is and what our mindset is.”
Dallas can clinch the top spot in the South with wins in two of their final three games, all of which are at home. The Roughnecks host Nashville this Sunday, Austin the following Saturday, and Tampa Bay on July 7.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Aviators, whose only losses of the year occurred against Austin and Dallas back in April, improved to 8-2 and remained perfect against the West Division with a 26-17 victory at home over Seattle. The Aviators began the game with three straight breaks and scored eight of the first 10 goals to set the tone.
“I think the big things about Saturday was our overall defensive pressure and how tight we were on the marks,” explained LA’s Sean McDougall, who now leads the league with 43 goals after scoring seven times against Seattle. “The beginning of the game started off a little wonky; there was an odd wind that made the disc do really peculiar things in the first half, and Seattle’s offense was struggling to find rhythm because of that. I think the first point took five minutes. Thankfully, our D-line took that point, and that kinda set the stage for the rest of the game, where we would run them continuously.”
Sam Plasman enjoyed his biggest game of the season, registering six goals and three blocks. In his previous six games this season, he had recorded just four goals and two blocks.
“Plasman had a great game, with multiple bookends, one entailing a trailing grab,” remarked McDougall. “Tyler Bacon had a phenomenal block early on, really forcing Seattle to re-think their throws. Offensively, Jesse Cohen really started to excel as our primary initiating cutter and opened up a ton of options for the rest of our offense, whether he was getting the disc or busting deep.”
Riding a seven-game winning streak, the Aviators head to the Bay Area this weekend for arguably their biggest games of the season. Regardless of the outcome against San Jose on Saturday, the Aviators can clinch the division with a victory over San Francisco on Sunday. Of course, Saturday vs. the Spiders still carries significant meaning, considering that a split in the two games would be a valuable outcome for LA.
As for those two Bay Area franchises, the FlameThrowers will enter Week 13 in second place in West after knocking off the Spiders 21-17 in a low-scoring struggle. The win lifted San Francisco to 5-5 and dropped San Jose to 5-6, and perhaps more importantly, ensured the FlameThrowers the potential tiebreaker over the Spiders after taking three of the four regular season meetings.
“The game was pretty windy and both sides generated turns, but had trouble punching in breaks upwind,” explained San Francisco’s Lior Givol, who contributed a game-best six goals. “Throughout the game we were generating turnovers which created a handful of hell points for their offense. Even though the Spiders ended up scoring a lot of those, that kind of defensive pressure comes back to bite an O-line later in the game.”
Through the first three quarters, neither team ever led by more than one. Early in the fourth, however, the FlameThrowers used a 3-0 rally to take a 17-14 lead, and the Spiders could not recover.
“They just got a few big breaks to start the fourth when our offense was a bit loose with the disc, and that was the game,” remarked San Jose’s Steven Chang, who led the Spiders with 53 completions. “Our defense had many chances to score, but we really struggled to move the disc once we had possession. San Francisco played great defense on the turn, and most of the time, we were going upwind so it was difficult to open up the game.”
At 5-6 with three games left, the Spiders could still make the playoffs, but they need the FlameThrowers to lose at least twice in their final four games. While that is certainly possible, San Francisco heads into its home stretch having won four of five following a 1-4 start.
“Coming into the season with almost a completely new roster, it took a while to figure out roles,” said Givol. “At this point, we have a good idea of who we like where. A lot of the younger players, or those new to AUDL, have moved past their pro debut jitters. We’ve definitely been feeling a lot more confident these past five games compared to the first five games. As a team, all we are thinking about is the game ahead of us—we’ll take the rest as it comes.”
Perhaps the biggest upset of College Nationals over Memorial Day weekend featured Pittsburgh surpassing Carleton in the men’s semifinal, a performance keyed by a tall junior from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Noah Robinson, who had been limited by injuries for much of the spring, erupted for four goals and the game-winning assist in the second half against the number one seed on May 27 to help carry Pitt back to the finals.
Three weeks later, in his AUDL debut on Saturday against Madison, Robinson could not quite get the Thunderbirds over the hump against the heavy favorite, however his strong performance in his first pro game gave his team a much-needed boost.
“Noah filled the role that [Ethan] Beardsley usually does,” explained Pittsburgh’s Mark Fedorenko. “Somehow, teams seem to forget about the two of them and they can just sit in open space. He did have several huge catches on not-perfect throws, and I hope we can expect more of that from him for the rest of the season.”
Robinson led the Thunderbirds with seven goals against the Radicals, and Pittsburgh remained even with Madison until midway through the fourth.
“It felt really cool playing with the Thunderbirds,” said Robinson, who starting playing ultimate as a high school freshman in Maine. “The bigger field and shorter stall count made everything move much faster. Defense was harder to play compared to college, but offense was very fun since there was more space to develop cuts. One of the highlights was playing for a home crowd and having a [public address] announcer. It was a change to have a whole crowd cheer whenever something good would happen and an announcer to scream my name whenever I scored.”
The game was even at 19 before a late 6-2 burst ended Pitt’s upset bid, as Madison prevailed 25-21. Still, Robinson’s impact was massive.
“Robinson played really well for the Thunderbirds,” said Madison’s Meshnick. “He gives their offense a different dynamic and was consistently making plays on both sides of the disc.”
At 1-10, the Thunderbirds are guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. However, adding a piece like Robinson late in the year suggests the talent pipeline is still rich. With one game remaining at Minnesota and two left vs. Detroit, the Thunderbirds will look to build some positive vibes down the stretch heading into 2019.
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
We shall see if Indy’s top players become faster without having to carry the weight of the long losing streak against Madison.
The AlleyCats should have no trouble with the Mechanix this weekend, but their three-game stretch—at Madison, at Chicago, and vs. Minnesota—to close the season is far from easy. They only need one more win in any of their final four to assure themselves a playoff berth, but sitting at 8-2, they have much bigger ambitions than simply securing the third spot in the division.
When you travel every weekend, you’re bound to be infuriated eventually. That was my emotional state on Sunday evening, when a confluence of uncontrollable circumstances and airline incompetence transformed six hours of travel into nearly 24.
I will refrain from rehashing all of the agonizing details, for everyone experiences this sort of frustration at some point. In fact, Madison’s Pat Shriwise dealt with a similar and much more significant travel delay, as his trip to Indy was abruptly cancelled, leaving the Radicals without one of their O-line mainstays against the AlleyCats.
For me, it was truly a first-world problem, as I enjoyed watching the final round of the U.S. Open and the second half of the Radicals-AlleyCats on my phone as I stewed in the Philly airport, waiting for a flight that would never depart. It cost me a coveted night at home, but thankfully I made it back by mid-morning Monday.
Only three more days until I’m back in the sky, soaring cross-country to San Jose for the Aviators-Spiders clash on Saturday night. After two straight Sundays where things did not go my way, hopefully the travel Gods lighten up this weekend.
Seven On The Line
- Of course, travel was not all bad because I got to spend 36 hours in Montreal, one of the cities you could ever visit. And on Saturday night, the Royal delivered a clinical offensive performance worthy of their passionate crowd to pick up a massively important 26-22 victory over New York.
Montreal opened the game with three breaks in the first five points, building a 4-1 lead that would never be relinquished, as the Empire struggled to generate any break chances throughout the night. “The O-line had a super game,” a smiling Caroline Cadotte, head coach of the Royal, said afterwards. “I was pretty proud of them. When we start the game with a couple breaks, it’s so much easier for them to play relaxed. I don’t think that New York had their best game too.” Quentin Bonnaud did whatever he wanted against the Empire defense, with seven goals, four assists, and no turnovers in 21 throws. Fellow Frenchmen Nasser Mbae Vogel (four goals, three assists) and Stève Bonneau (three goals, two assists) also enjoyed standout days, while Kevin Quinlan constantly put pressure on the New York defense and finished with a game-high eight assists. The victory elevated the Royal from fourth place into second place, though their playoff positioning will be at stake again this coming weekend when they visit New York on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday.
- While the Rush are certain of the East’s top seed, spots 2-5 are totally up for grabs. After Montreal’s impressive win over New York, the Royal are 5-4, narrowly ahead of the 5-4-1 DC Breeze. The Empire are in fourth at 4-4, while the Phoenix are fifth at 4-5. Only two of these four teams will make the playoffs, and as much as any team, the performance of the Empire will determine the fate of the pack. Easily in second place for most of the season, New York struggled mightily on the road this past weekend, dipping to 0-3 on the road in 2018. They may have the biggest stars of any of the four teams in the log-jam, but they also have four tough road games remaining, back-to-backs against Ottawa and Montreal on June 30-July 1 and at DC and Philly on July 14-15. It’s impossible to know if their top players will be healthy, as Beau Kittredge illustrated with a Facebook post on Monday night. “Found out playing two games on hurt calf after not running for three weeks does not make it better,” Kittredge wrote. “Also turns out getting your ass kicked in those games brings humility and a large dose of determination.” Kittredge, the four-time AUDL champ who entered the weekend with 145 goals and 94 assists in 44 career regular season games, mustered just two goals and no assists in the Empire’s two losses in Canada.
- The Seattle Cascades merited kudos for their solid Sunday success in San Diego. After a nine-goal loss in Los Angeles on Saturday that dropped the Cascades to 2-7 on the season, they played with energy and pride to knock off the Growlers 27-25 to earn the split of their two-game trip.
Concurrently, San Diego suffered a fifth straight setback, all of which have been by close. In fact, the Growlers’ last four losses have come by a grand total of six goals. “We did not do a good job of executing in the upwind direction,” said San Diego’s Steven Milardovich, lamenting his team’s struggles with the upwind/downwind dynamic of the game. “Especially on our break opportunities, it just felt like we could never get the disc in advantageous positions and our cutters were stagnant. On their side, Brad Houser and Shane Worthington had nice games, but it was never a feeling of ‘this guy is killing us,’ it was more of a team effort on their part. There were multiple end of quarter situations where we had a chance to tack on one more goal but did not really get good shots off. Those moments hurt, and end of quarter situations have hurt us many times during this losing streak.” The 4-7 Growlers and 3-7 Cascades are both still alive for the West Division’s second and final playoff spot, but both would need to run the table and get some help to have any chance of surpassing San Francisco or San Jose.
- The Raleigh Flyers continued their second-half rampage by covering the 9.5 point-spread in their 27-15 victory over Nashville.
Raleigh began the game with five consecutive breaks and led wire-to-wire against a team that they had only defeated 31-26 in Tennessee back on April 21. Since falling to 5-3 with a one-goal loss at DC on May 12, the Flyers have been an absolute buzzsaw, outscoring Madison, Austin, and Nashville 83-45 in their last three games. On Saturday against the NightWatch, Terrence Mitchell and Mischa Freystaetter were the offensive standouts. Mitchell paced the squad with five goals and finished +8 with an assist and two Ds, while Freystaetter collected six assists along with a pair of goals and one D. Playing without Jonathan Nethercutt, the Flyers counted on Bob Liu and Dave Snoke to anchor the handling for the O-line; they combined to complete 84-of-85 passes. Noah Saul added four assists piloting the D-line, completing every one of his 29 throws. The Flyers clinched a playoff berth with the win and can lock up at worst the number two seed in the South by beating Atlanta this Saturday.
- The two most lopsided games of the weekend both involved Detroit, and neither went well for the still-winless Mechanix, who have now been outscored by an incredible 141 goals in their 10 losses this year. On Saturday, Minnesota pounded Detroit by 19, a 37-18 result in which 11 different Wind Chill players registered multiple goals and all 20 active Chill finished with a positive plus/minus. On Sunday, the Mechanix were even less competitive, falling 34-12 against a Wildfire team they had played within seven in their previous meeting. Since falling to Pittsburgh by one on April 7, Detroit’s last eight losses have come by an unfathomable average of 16 goals per game.
- Beyond simply beating Madison for the first time, Indy also enjoyed celebrating the individual glory of Rick Gross, who became the fourth player in the history of the league to accumulate at least 100 goals, 100 assists, and 100 Ds in his career. The 23-year-old Gross joined teammate Travis Carpenter, Madison’s Andrew Meshnick, and Raleigh’s Jonathan “Goose” Helton in this lofty club, a tribute to both longevity and steady, versatile production. Gross entered Saturday’s well past the century mark in goals and Ds, but collected his 20th and 21st assists of the season to cross over 100 in his career. Ever since he joined the AlleyCats in 2014, his teammates always considered him a dominant athlete with limitless potential, but his throwing skills were lacking confidence and precision. He only had 15 assists in his first 28 games in 2013 and 2014, but threw 65 scores in 26 games over the past two years. In 2018, Gross leads the league in Ds and sits third in goals and plus/minus heading into Week 13.
- Before this past weekend, the AlleyCats were the only team in the league without a single game decided by one or two goals. After their 21-20 victory, all 23 teams have now had at least one-goal game. Atlanta leads the league with five one-goal games, going 3-2 in those contests, while DC, San Diego, and San Jose have all played four one-goal games. Austin leads the league with seven games decided by two or fewer, while Tampa Bay is tops in the number of games decided by three or fewer. Amazingly, and ignominiously, the Cannons are now 0-8 in games decided by three or less following their 28-25 setback to Dallas on Sunday.
Four weeks and 45 games remain on the regular season schedule, which is slightly more than a quarter of the season left. The upcoming Week 13 will feature 13 games, all of which have some playoff implications.
The biggest developments of Week 13 will unfold between Raleigh and Atlanta and on the two-game trips that DC, Los Angeles and Montreal are all embarking upon.
The Flyers (8-3) and Hustle (5-5) are meeting for the first time all year, with Atlanta currently sitting a half-game ahead of Austin (5-6) for the final playoff spot in the South. Raleigh’s also within striking distance of first-place Dallas (10-1), but the Roughnecks remaining schedule with three games at home makes a Flyer surge into first an unlikely proposition.
DC’s still searching for its first ever win in Toronto, though the Breeze probably realize that a split of their Toronto/Ottawa trip will put them in a very respectable position with two home games remaining. The Breeze’s primary competitors will also endure a couple losses this weekend, as the Royal visit the Empire on Saturday and Phoenix on Sunday. Because they’re already playing from behind, Philly is likely the team who feels the most pressure to win this weekend, considering they’ll be getting a Montreal team at home on the second day of a back-to-back, and the Phoenix will be on the road at DC and New York in their next two games.
Out West, the race for first will become much more interesting if San Francisco can knock off Los Angeles, while the battle for second will remain tremendously relevant if the FlameThrowers fall to the Aviators. Either way, the West Division should be compelling to the end.
We’re 55 days away from crowning an AUDL champ in Madison on August 12, and every weekend between now and then will help eliminate the possible participants in that climactic game. As the build-up continues, we await more historic outcomes, thrilling victories, and heartbreaking defeats. There are more good teams than there are playoff spots and Final Four berths, so disappointment is inevitable.
And that, aside from the high-flying skies and horizontal layouts, is what makes this journey so tantalizing every single week.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the coast-to-coast competition this weekend.
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