The Tuesday Toss: The Playoff Push
June 13, 2017 — By Evan Lepler
The Tuesday Toss Archive
With the dust still settling on another eventful weekend of high stakes ultimate, let’s take stock of where the divisional races currently stand.
In three of the league’s four divisions, the top halves have created decent space between themselves and the bottom trio, offering some clarity in terms of who is in the driver’s seat to advance to the dance. Interestingly, the East, Midwest, and South all possess gaps of multiple games between third and fourth place.
While these are not insurmountable chasms, they are substantial separations. For fourth place teams like New York, Indianapolis, or Atlanta, a late-season run to the postseason will require something close to perfection. And even then, it may not be enough.
As this past weekend began, the West could have followed suit with this trend. Instead, the division became the tightest in the league, with five teams still very much in the mix. Consider that Seattle had started the weekend tied with San Francisco and San Jose at the top of the division with only two losses. But after a winless SoCal swing, the Cascades plummeted from (tied for) first to fifth.
At 7-2, San Francisco is in a solid position at the top of the pack, but San Jose (6-3), Los Angeles (5-4), San Diego (5-5), and Seattle (4-4) are all within a game and a half of one another. Over the next six weeks, the schedule will force all these teams to confront one another on the field.
After 11 weeks, only two of the AUDL’s 12 playoff berths have officially been clinched. Raleigh (9-1) and Dallas (8-2) have both locked up postseason bids, though their quest for homefield in the stacked South is still very much ongoing.
It’s somewhat telling that between the Flyers and Roughnecks—the top two in the league’s Power Rankings for the last month—only one will make it to Championship Weekend. And if Jacksonville has anything to say about it, the Montreal madness just might commence without either Raleigh or Dallas, a fact that makes the already wide open title chase seem that much more astonishing.
There are six weeks left in the regular season, and we are gradually gaining a better sense of which 12 teams will qualify for the playoffs. But unlike the past several seasons when Beau Kittredge’s San Jose Spiders or Dallas Roughnecks looked like sizeable favorites to win it all, the 2017 race for the crown is almost impossible to handicap.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will hoist the trophy on August 27. A lot can happen between now and then.
There were only nine games on the schedule in Week 11, but the magnitude of this particular weekend will ripple through the end of the regular season and beyond.
The Full Field Layout
A third of the games this weekend featured the top two teams in a division going head-to-head. All three of those games were meaningful, but only one was dramatic to the final buzzer.
Photo by Trent Erickson.
The Madison Radicals ventured to Minnesota with their regular season title hopes very much at stake. A loss would have left the Radicals three games out and staring at a much tougher road—pun intended—to Montreal. Instead, the Rads have paved a partial path to keep the Midwest postseason in Madison. It only took 53 minutes of game clock to do it.
Highlights between Madison and Minnesota from June 10.
Realizing the importance, Madison came out firing. Whereas the Radicals had fallen behind the Wind Chill 11-5 in their last trip to the Twin Cities, they bolted to an 11-4 advantage this time around.
“In the first half, things were really clicking for the defensive line,” said Madison’s Andrew Meshnick. “We were generating turnovers and converting breaks at an efficient rate.”
Madison broke Minnesota’s O-line seven times in its first 10 O-points to build the hefty lead, but the Wind Chill’s defense, ranked among the best in the league by any metric, would rally the home team back in it. After trailing by five at the half, Minnesota dominated the third quarter with a 6-1 run to create a 14-all draw heading into the fourth.
Whereas breaks were common through the first 36 minutes, the offenses finally executed with some consistency in the fourth quarter. Each team registered one defensive break, but the holds were plentiful as the pair of Midwest heavyweights traded punches. In fact, the score was tied seven different times over the final 12 minutes of regulation.
The final sequence of the fourth was particularly frantic, as the two teams combined for four goals in the final 60 seconds. First, with just over a minute left, Minnesota had the disc with a chance to take its very first lead since it was 1-0, but Madison’s Sterling Knoche came up with an amazingly clutch layout catch block to steal possession back. Two throws later, the Radicals were up one with a minute on the clock; the lead would be short-lived.
Twenty-six seconds and six completions later, the Wind Chill had a quick answer, culminating with Greg Cousins sixth goal of the game to tie the score at 20 with 34 seconds left.
A pair of efficient three-throw possessions over the next 24 seconds kept things deadlocked. First, Dave Wiseman unleashed a monstrous flick that Ross Barker hauled in for the go-ahead goal with 21 seconds remaining. Then, just 10 seconds after that, Eric Johnson’s crisp forehand was caught by a soaring Jimmy Kittlesen, who skied over Madison’s Kevin Pettit-Scantling for the equalizer. Tied at 21 apiece, the Radicals last chance in regulation soared over everyone, and overtime beckoned.
In the extra session, the scoring was not nearly as furious. With fewer than 30 seconds left and the game still tied at 22, Colin Camp elevated for a towering grab on the doorstep of the end zone. One throw later, the Radicals were back on top with 16 seconds to go. The Wind Chill launched a desperate bomb that had a chance as time expired, but the pack of Madison defenders won the battle, knocking the disc to the ground and commencing a celebration of a thrilling 23-22 overtime victory.
“That was one of the best AUDL games I have been a part of,” Madison Coach Tim DeByl said afterwards. “[It was] super intense.”
In handing the Wind Chill their first loss of the season—there are now no undefeated teams in the AUDL in 2017—the Radicals put themselves in position to control their fate down the stretch. Madison has a difficult road doubleheader at Pittsburgh and Detroit this weekend, then another home game vs. Detroit before hosting Minnesota on July 1 in the rubber match of the season series with the Wind Chill.
“I think this team still hasn’t full found its identity yet,” admitted Meshnick. “But I get the feeling that with each game we’re taking strides in our journey to discover who we are going to be this season. We’re still obviously not playing at quite the level we want to be, but there’s a lot of ultimate left to be played this summer.”
While not nearly as exciting in the final seconds, DC and San Francisco each registered victories over their top divisional rivals that were just as critical.
In the East, the Breeze and Rush continued their season-long trend of the home team dominating from the start. Back on April 9, DC led 3-0 en route to a 32-21 rout, kicking off its home slate with a convincing win. Five weeks later, on May 13, Toronto opened up a 9-5 lead in the Ontario-based rematch, cruising to a 26-20 victory.
On this most recent Sunday, the script was similar, as the Breeze stormed ahead 3-0 at the outset and led wire-to-wire in a 25-17 triumph to take the rubber match and rise back into first place. Both the Breeze and the Rush sit at 7-3 with four games remaining, but DC holds the tiebreaker thanks to Sunday’s victory.
Highlights between Toronto and DC from June 11.
“I think the biggest story of the game was how long [Toronto’s] offense was on the field,” said DC Captain Rowan McDonnell, who registered three Ds on the afternoon. “We used zone sets effectively and dragged out points. They never scored in 1-3 throws. Plus, our D-line’s offense wasn’t perfect, so many of those points turned into three, four, or five turn grinds. Then, our offense would go out and march the disc down the field, and in under a minute Toronto’s O-line was back on the field.
“It was incredibly warm, mid 90s and then factor in the turf. They had just played 50+ points the night before [in Philadelphia]. We did an amazing job all game long about not making it easy for them. We were laying out all over the place, covering pulls, and playing smart, efficient offense.”
The Rush deserve credit for battling and keeping the score within striking distance throughout the first half, but after trailing 5-4 at the end of the first and 10-7 at the break, the Breeze broke it open in the third. Just like the start of the game, DC began the third quarter with a 3-0 rally and won the period 8-3.
“It was oppressively hot, and both teams were playing sloppy,” said Toronto Captain Thomson McKnight. “To their credit, they capitalized and punished us more effectively.
Full game footage between Toronto and DC from June 11.
“We had a tough task this weekend. The heat, the doubleheader, the quick turnaround from evening game to afternoon game, and missing key guys. These could all be excuses, but we believe we had a roster that could win both games and we didn’t do the things we know we can, and thus we lost. However, we still have an identical record as DC, so if we take care of ourselves, a lot can still happen this season.”
Both the Rush and the Breeze now turn their attentions to very difficult Week 12 matchups. Toronto will host West Division leader San Francisco in the final game of the AUDL’s inaugural Cross Coast Challenge, while the Breeze have a daunting two-game trek north of the border to face Ottawa and Montreal, a trip that did not treat DC well in 2016.
“We were in this position last year,” said McDonnell. “This exact road trip cost us a shot at first in the division. Last year, we came up expecting to win two easy games and got beat soundly in both. Luckily, we have enough veterans on this team that can make sure we don’t go up with the same mindset.”
While the Rush will be returning home after a tough loss in DC, their Cross Coast opponent is riding a wave of momentum into Toronto. With one of their finest performances of the season, the San Francisco FlameThrowers took control of the West with a 27-19 victory over San Jose. It was San Francisco’s third straight win, all of which have come by at least six goals.
“It was a very windy game,” explained Cassidy Rasmussen, who registered six assists and three goals, “and a lot of the team showed up very early. This meant we had been throwing in the wind for a long time before the Spiders showed up, and I think that was a huge advantage. They came out a bit sluggish, and I’m sure if you asked any of them, they would tell you it wasn’t their best game. We were able to take advantage with some quick breaks and by avoiding execution mistakes ourselves.”
When the team’s had last met on April 8, the FlameThrowers D-line had only created one break in the second half, a game San Jose won 24-22. But in the first half alone on Saturday night, the Spiders O-line was broken eight times in the game’s first 13 points, as San Francisco roared out to an 11-2 lead.
“It’s really a story of how weird sports can be,” said FlameThrowers Coach Ryo Kawaoka. “The first couple of points really set the tone for the entire game. We faced the same issue when we played the Cascades at home, where we felt like nothing was right and in the end we just ran out of time. This was a similar story for the Spiders where everything was going wrong, and it’s hard to coach in real time against that tide.”
Highlights between San Jose and San Francisco from June 10.
Kevin Cocks anchored the FlameThrowers defensive effort with four blocks, while O-line handler Jordan Marcy also contributed four blocks of his own to San Francisco’s cause. Eli Kerns, who initially was not on the team’s roster in the preseason, played for the fifth time in six games and led the FlameThrowers at +8, with four goals, five assists, and one D.
The Spiders dropped their second straight game, falling to 6-3. Whereas they entered the day completing 94.8 percent of their passes on the season, San Jose turned it over 35 times and finished with an 86.1 percent completion rate against the FlameThrowers on Saturday.
It’s worth mentioning that the Spiders were without their star handler Justin Norden, but it’s not like the FlameThrowers were at full strength either. San Francisco was without Grant Lindsley, Joel Schlachet, and Beau Kittredge, just to name a few.
The margin of the defeat will make it especially hard for San Jose to surpass San Francisco in the standings. The two Bay Area powerhouses will meet again on June 24 at Laney College, but the FlameThrowers will own the tiebreaker over the Spiders unless San Jose can win that game at least 11 points. Considering the FlameThrowers two losses have come by a combined total of three points, which seems like an unlikely outcome.
Although in the 2017 AUDL, you never know.
Staying in the ‘anything can happen’ department, the Seattle Cascades held halftime leads in both of their road games this past weekend. On Friday night, Seattle dominated the opening half in San Diego, building a 13-7 advantage. On Saturday in LA, a 9-6 lead at the end of the first quarter was whittled to 12-11 at the break.
When Seattle returned home on Sunday morning, however, the Cascades had nothing but a pair of losses to show for their SoCal swing. After coughing up a seven-goal lead in San Diego, the Cascades simply ran out of gas against a strong Aviators squad that found its groove after halftime.
The Growlers aimed to enter Friday evening with a playoff mindset, but they struggled mightily in what Coach Kevin Stuart described as their worst half of the season. A bevy of cringe-worthy drops and incomplete hucks put San Diego in a substantial hole, one that could have been even larger if Seattle had not made about half as many errors. Even the Cascades were disappointed with their ugly first-half performance, despite a six-goal lead at the break.
Full "Game of the Week" footage of Seattle and San Diego from June 9.
When Khalif El-Salaam scored with 2:25 remaining in the third, Seattle’s lead was 17-10. But as the Cascades themselves illustrated last August in Madison, a seven-goal third quarter lead is far from insurmountable.
San Diego held on offense with 1:06 left in the third, and then the Growlers registered an important break by beating the buzzer as time expired. Jeff Silverman found Max Hume for just San Diego’s second break of the game, and suddenly it was 17-12, with San Diego set to receive in the fourth. When they scored again 42 seconds into the final quarter, suddenly it was a four-goal game with more than 11 minutes to go, and the Growlers started to believe.
From there, it was a combination of grinding Growlers and panicking Cascades, with San Diego’s intense pressure and momentum forcing Seattle into a fair share of off-kilter throws. Steven Milardovich also had two tremendous layouts Ds on Mark Burton, a pair of captain-on-captain crimes that dramatically altered the complexion of the final period.
Highlights between Seattle and San Diego from June 9.
“When I was guarding Burton down the stretch, I did sort of shift my mentality,” explained Milardovich. “He had been really killing us with his throws, dishing out lots of assists, so I decided that I needed to be more aggressive in not letting him get the disc underneath. He’s a tough cover, so I definitely needed all the legs that I had left to stay in position for those blocks.”
Burton, who had six assists in the first three quarters, was held without a dime in the fourth. Contrastingly, San Diego standout Hunter Corbett broke out down the stretch.
Playing through illness and minor injury, Corbett scored all four of his goals in the fourth quarter, including the one that tied the game at 20-all with 2:30 remaining. Then, after Nate Page recorded his third D of the game to regain possession, Hume found Nate Bridges for the go-ahead strike with 1:47 left.
Trailing for the first time in the game at 21-20, Seattle had a shot at the equalizer with plenty of time on the clock. Seattle worked it into the red zone, and Bryson Simon Fox lofted an around backhand over Burton’s head. A monstrous desperation bid by Burton near the back line proved dramatic, but the disc sailed past his outstretched reach and landed out of bounds. Five Growler completions later, the game was over, and San Diego had stunned Seattle with an 11-3 run over the final 14:25 of regulation.
“I am still not quite sure how we pulled off that win,” said Milardovich, a few days later.
His Co-Captain, Dom Leggio, offered, “We pulled that win out of thin air.”
The victory was San Diego’s fourth straight, moving the Growlers back to the .500 mark at 5-5 after starting the season 1-5. They also secured the tiebreaker against Seattle by beating the Cascades for the second time in less than a week.
Over their final four games, the Growlers will only play the two teams directly ahead of them in the standings, as they will host San Jose twice and play a home-and-home with Los Angeles
“I know I said last week was as much fun as I’ve had playing in the AUDL, but I think I’ve already topped it with this win,” remarked Milardovich. “I feel like we were on the wrong end of some comebacks last year, so it felt great to be on the winning side. However, as fun as this game was, I think I would prefer a nice comfortable wire-to-wire win.”
The Cascades were hurting on Friday night following their collapse, but in the words of several players, they felt ready to bring renewed energy and purpose on Saturday night in Los Angeles. And in the first half, they did exactly that.
Compared to the day before, it was a significantly cleaner first quarter for both sides, as they combined for 13 goals in the first seven and a half minutes. Seattle ran off seven straight offensive holds and Los Angeles almost matched the run. But late in the quarter, the Cascades delivered back-to-back breaks to take a 9-6 lead, culminating in Alex Duffel’s buzzer-beater to Daniel Montoya.
Full "Game of the Week" footage of Seattle and Los Angeles from June 10.
The second quarter featured one point that lasted more than seven minutes, but remained more of the same in terms of the offenses taking care of business. Adam Simon’s sixth assist of the half ended the marathon point with 2:51 left and Seattle up 11-8, but then the Aviators would finally break through. After a quick hold 26 seconds later, Los Angeles forced a turn and Matt Theologidy connected with Mitchell Steiner for the Aviators first break of the day with 1:50 left in the half. From there, it felt like the floodgates opened.
“In he first half of the game, [Adam] ‘Chicken’ [Simon] was on point, finding open receivers at will, and Tommy Li couldn’t help but find the endzone. We stuck some of our athletic and lanky defenders on Chicken—Andrew Padula and Sean McDougall—with the intention of tiring the old man out and make it hard to get off flat throws. Clearly, in the first half he racked up the assists. Overall, our defense really figured out their matchups by the third quarter, and I think that’s where we made our run.”
Highlights between Seattle and Los Angeles from June 10.
Indeed, after only securing one break in the first half, Los Angeles ran off six breaks in the third and eight for the second half overall, a 24-minute stretch which the Aviators won 14-8. The final was 25-20.
Friedman dished for five goals to lead LA, while Tom Doi and Brent George each caught four scores apiece. Zach Theodore recorded four Ds and scored twice for the Aviators, who could have fallen into fifth place with a loss and instead rose into third place with a win.
At 5-4, the Aviators still have games left against every team in the division except first-place San Francisco. After a bye week this weekend, they will travel to Vancouver and Seattle for a back-to-back. Then, they’ll have a home-and-home with the Growlers and a home finale against the Spiders.
Seattle, at 4-4, might have the toughest remaining road of any of the five teams in the West Division mix, largely because of two matchups with San Francisco. With that said, it must be remembered that the Cascades have already knocked off the FlameThrowers once. Seattle also has two games against Vancouver and one apiece against LA and San Jose.
The Outside In
Ten days ago, prior to Madison’s home game against Dallas, Radicals veteran Andrew Brown said something that stuck with me. Basically, he commented that in every preseason prognostication, the author—sometimes me, sometimes another AUDL scribe—would mention that the Radicals had lost standout defender Jay Froude to Dallas. And at the same time, no one touched on the fact that Madison had added Sterling Knoche, the recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin. By the end of the season, Brown said, everyone would be talking about Knoche’s abilities.
Although Knoche may not be a complete unknown in ultimate circles—he certainly made a name for himself as a Hodag—his play throughout the season for the Radicals has been both huge and clutch. He has registered nine Ds and nine goals in five games played, and so many of his highlights, like the layout catch block in the fourth quarter on Saturday, have come at critical times.
As Andrew Meshnick said after the overtime win over Minnesota, “Sterling Knoche’s huge layout block was a momentum swing that fueled us.”
While Froude continues to put up insane numbers in Dallas, Knoche’s contributions have helped soften the loss for a Madison team that still believes it can be the best in the Midwest.
Back on May 20, Knoche registered three goals, two assists, and three blocks against Pittsburgh. The Radicals travel to Pennsylvania to face the Thunderbirds this weekend, and certainly, the Pitt handlers will think twice before throwing at the Sterling matchup.
With road trips most every weekend, my AUDL season is hectic and fun, full of flights, hotels, and Tosses. This past weekend was arguably the most ambitious whirlwind yet; San Diego on Friday, Los Angeles on Saturday, and San Francisco (to attend Team USA World Games practice) on Sunday, all before a red-eye back to the east coast on Sunday night/Monday morning.
And in between all of the on-field drama and the off-field traffic jams—LA was excruciatingly, inexplicably brutal—I found the time to read the first 100 pages or so of David Gessner’s “Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth" I still have a ways to go, and that’s a good thing, because it is an immensely enjoyable page-turner.
Gessner is an accomplished writer who saw one of his works appear on the New York Times Bestseller list, so he certainly has the literary chops to tell a tale. After he discovered ultimate at Harvard in the early 80s, he became transfixed by the sport, and like many of us, he devoted a massive amount of his life to the sole endeavor of excelling at frisbee.
In his book—in the first 100 pages, at least—Gessner does a tremendous job of articulating the unique emotion, passion, and power that ultimate can provoke, along with the everyday skepticism and bewilderment that the most dedicated of ultimate lifers face on a regular basis.
He hits on a feeling that countless frisbee folk exude, yet is always tough to put into words. I’m not sure I’ve read a better piece of writing that contextualizes the experience of discovering the sport, committing to it unconditionally, and scoffing at everyone else who could never understand why one chooses to chase floating plastic for hours at a time.
While reading, I consistently found my memory drifting to some of my first frisbee memories. My first practice, my first party, my first tournament, my first Callahan, etc.; any ultimate player will identify with and appreciate Gessner’s story. Odds are, you’ll find yourself daydreaming about the good ol’ days too.
Furthermore, the writing possesses a polish and depth that makes me think that an ultimate muggle could read this and begin to better understand an ultimate player’s soul. Cause, let’s be honest, we can be hard to be understand.
The paperback is less than 10 bucks on Amazon. I think you will enjoy it.
The Greatest (Ultimate-Related Social Media Post of the Week)
The Pittsburgh Thunderbirds may have been off this past week, but T-Birds handler Jonathan Mast still contributed great value to the ultimate conversation. Consequently, I wanted to offer some kudos to Mast in this space.
On his own time, Mast put together a list of the top five leaders in the category of “hockey assists,” or the pass directly before the assist. It’s an impressive list.
— Jonathan Mast (@jon22_) June 12, 2017
As I wondered what the chart of overall assist leaders would look like if ‘hockey assists’ were included, Mast again delivered.
AUDL Hockey Assist + Assist Leaders
88 Jon Nethercutt
80 Justin Norden
78 Cole Sullivan
75 Cassidy Rasmussen
66 Mark Burton
— Jonathan Mast (@jon22_) June 13, 2017
We’re still in the early days of ultimate number crunching, but it seems like every week, a new and interesting perspective offers a fresh context into what we are seeing and studying on the field. Ultimate stats are still imperfect, but they are becoming more and more useful in providing a framework for a conversation. With many intelligent folks around the ultimate world crafting new charts and outlooks every day, we are learning new tools to break down the AUDL and its trends.
Thanks to Jonathan Mast for underlining these things in a public forum.
And a quick shout out to Dan Fiorino, a 17-year ultimate vet and ‘freelance spare-time data scientist,’ who has been posting some really interesting findings of his own at twitter.com/sotgstats.
— Stats Of The Game (@sotgstats) June 9, 2017
Seven on the Line
1. While the Jacksonville Cannons did not dominate, they still led Atlanta wire-to-wire in their 27-23 triumph over the Hustle on Saturday night, all but locking up a playoff spot in the scintillating South. While missing regulars like Cole Sullivan, Chris Gibson, Jakeem Polk, and Tyler Kunsa, the Cannons successfully continued their run of beating everybody except Raleigh. Jordan Huston’s eight goals and Andrew Roney’s eight assists paced the effort statistically, while Jeremy Langdon added seven goals and three assists. With 43 goals on the year, Langdon is #1 in the league. Overall, Jacksonville is 7-0 against everyone except the Flyers, but guess who they play next. After falling by seven, one, and one against Raleigh in the first three meetings, the two clubs will collide again a week from Saturday in North Carolina.
2. The Flyers improved to 9-1 by steamrolling Nashville 32-20 behind 12 more assists from Jonathan Nethercutt, who now leads the entire league with 59 dimes. In his last four games alone, Nethercutt has dished an absurd 36 assists, with 13 coming against the defending champs on May 13. Interestingly, Nethercutt’s pace theoretically puts him on track to surpass Cole Sullivan’s league-leading total of 82 from last year. At this point in 2016, Sullivan had 48 before recording 34 over his final four games. Pittsburgh’s Tyler DeGirolamo, who recorded 86 assists in just 12 games back in 2015, holds the AUDL single-season record. Nethercutt is on pace to challenge that mark, however he almost definitely will fall short. The Flyers have three games over the next two weekends, and considering that Nethercutt is on the USA Men’s team that will be competing for a World Championship on the beach in France from June 18 to June 25, he won’t be able to tally another AUDL assist until the Flyers’ season finale in Nashville on July 8.
3. Would you believe that the Montreal Royal are in position to possibly move into first place in the East this weekend? It is not an implausible notion whatsoever. All that would need to happen is a San Francisco win in Toronto and a Royal victory at home over DC. Montreal currently sits at 6-4 after four straight victories, including a 16-13 triumph over Ottawa this past Saturday. The Royal trailed 10-9 before a seizing control with a 5-0 run, and Quentin Bonnaud continued to make his All-AUDL case with an amazing all-around performance, leading the Royal in goals (3), assists (4), Ds (3), and plus/minus (+10). “Quentin has been playing really well these past few games,” said Montreal’s Kevin Groulx. “I think it’s because our O-line is now stable. Defenders from the other team don’t know him yet and his ability to get open is effortless, as are all of his highlights!” For the season, Bonnaud leads the Royal with 32 goals, is second on the squad with 12 Ds, and is third on the team with 17 assists.
4. The Aviators received some tough news last Thursday when Mark Elbogen was officially diagnosed with a torn ACL, an injury that had occurred 12 days prior against San Diego. A First Team All-AUDL performer in 2016, Elbogen will be out the rest of the season. Although he played in just five games before the injury, his numbers were stellar once again this season, with 22 goals, 13 assists, and five Ds. He’ll have surgery in July and will begin the same rehab process that his teammate and roommate Michael Kiyoi underwent two years ago. Without Elbogen, the Aviators did decide to move Tom Doi, who had primarily played on the D-line for much of the season, over to the offensive side.
5. Toronto’s Isaiah Masek-Kelly, who himself was a First Team All-AUDL performer in 2015, had a fairly quiet first couple of months of the season, by his standards at least. But after shifting his role and rediscovering a groove, Masek-Kelly enjoyed one of his best weekends in a while on the road through Philly and DC. In the two games, he accumulated five goals, 12 assists, and three Ds, good for a team-best +17. “Isaiah has been having a sneaky season,” said McKnight. “What I mean is that he is doing things a different way than might be expected. A couple years ago, when he had that dominant season, he was being physically dominant, which garnered him the nickname ‘freak-beast.’ However, this season, he is getting a bit more involved around the disc and punishing teams that try to force him under. He is a difficult player to guard for this reason because of his size downfield and his ability to throw the long ball to our speedy guys when you push him under.” The Rush will be counting on Masek-Kelly for another big performance against San Francisco this Saturday.
6. In the aftermath of San Diego’s comeback win against Seattle, several folks have asked about the largest margins ever overcome in the AUDL. Since box scores from the first couple seasons are not readily available, it is hard to say anything definitively. But some research has revealed that the Growlers’ turnaround, from seven down, is believed to be the largest regular season comeback that led to a win in AUDL history. Of course, the Cascades used a 13-5 run to overcome a seven-goal gap in the playoffs against Madison last year. Two years ago, the San Jose Spiders erased an eight-goal deficit against Seattle, using an 11-3 run to force overtime. But the Cascades prevailed in the extra session. (Note—If you have any knowledge or record about a 2012 or 2013 comeback in the AUDL that surpasses these standards, please let me know!)
7. A quick observation about overtime: Interestingly, in a season where there have been more close games and surprise results than ever before, the number of overtime games has actually dropped. This year, through 11 weeks, there have been six overtime games, two of which have gone to double OT. In 2016, through 11 weeks, there had been 11 overtime games, seven of which had ventured the distance to double OT universe point. I’m not sure what, if any, conclusion can be drawn from these numbers, but I found it interesting that by this time last year, we had more games go to double overtime than we’ve had single overtime this season. Perhaps it just means we’re in for a completely chaotic stretch run.
Of the six remaining regular season weekends, this upcoming Saturday and Sunday are the most jam-packed of them all. There are 13 contests on the calendar this weekend, including doubleheaders for DC, Madison, and Raleigh, three teams with Championship Weekend aspirations.
As the pennant races are heating up in every quadrant of the league, the next two weekends both have the potential to yield some odd results, as many players will be heading to France for the World Championships of Beach Ultimate (WCBU). The USA and Canadian teams are full of AUDL talent, and other American pros with dual citizenship or connections other countries will be suiting up in Royan as well. Seattle’s Mark Burton, for instance, will again be playing for the Ireland Mixed squad.
After having the amazing opportunity to broadcast Beach Worlds in Dubai two years ago, I am delighted to share that I am indeed heading to France for another rendition of this unique international event.
But first things first, and that means a trip to Toronto for the final night of the league’s fantastic Cross Coast Challenge, with the Rush hosting the San Francisco FlameThrowers at 5 PM (ET) on Saturday evening.
On Sunday, the ultimate journey continues with a couple long flights to France. Like this past weekend in California, it will be a wild whirlwind, and it’s a great privilege to have you along for the ride.
Thanks, as always, for reading. I’ll talk to you soon from Canada, France, or Twitter.
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