July 18, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
Parenthetical numbers indicate team's ranking in previous list.
21. Detroit Mechanix (21)
Tough way to end a fiesty season for Detroit, as they took a 33-9 shellacking in Madison, the Mechanix's largest loss of the season. It's the Mechanix's second straight winless season, and their fourth as a franchise since 2012. Joe Cubitt's 37 assists are the third most for a single season in Mechanix history, and the most for a Detroit player since the 2015 season. Yet in spite of the appearance of offensive flow, the Mechanix finished dead last in the league in scoring for the third straight season, and fourth time in five years.
20. Seattle Cascades (20)
Since their 2016 AUDL Championship Game loss to Dallas, the Cascades have failed to make the playoffs in each of the following three seasons. And with the likely retirement of Seattle legend Mark Burton and franchise leader in assists imminent, it will be an entirely new era for the Cascades heading into 2020. Luckily, they spent a lot of 2019 integrating their young roster into increasingly larger roles, and the Seattle talent pipeline is never dry.
19. San Jose Spiders (19)
Inconsistency pulled most the legs off the Spiders in 2019, both on macro and micro levels. The team struggled to put together two solid quarters at a time, much less a full game, and all three of their wins were against the Cascades, two of them beeing come-from-behind endeavors. The stat that most accurately reflects their struggles may be games played, as rookie Gabe Taylor was the only San Jose player to take the field in all 12 games. And only seven total Spiders suited up for 10 or more contests in 2019.
18. Austin Sol (18)
Similar to the team above them in these rankings, the Sol squandered their talent due to frequent lineup changes and an inability to keep a consistent rotation. Robert Lewis is the sole Austin player to play in every game this season, and just five total Sol members played in 10 or more games. Losing cornerstone players Mick Walter and Chase Cunningham to season-ending injuries were major blows that led to the Sol's seven game midseason losing streak. But Austin did finish 2-1 over their final three games, their lone defeat coming by one goal to Atlanta.
17. Ottawa Outlaws (17)
Nothing comes easy for the Outlaws, as all three of their wins in 2019 came by a single goal, including last Saturday's home finale against Philly. Alec Arsenault closed out another superb season with a six-assist, four-goal performance to give him his third straight 40+ goal campaign; he is one of three players in the AUDL to have an active 40+ goal streak of three seasons or more, joining Rick Gross and Sean Ham. The key to improving for the Outlaws going forward, though, will be in improving their defensive counterattack. Ottawa finished eighth in takeaways this season, but struggled to convert those opportunities into scores, finishing fourth worst in the league in defensive efficiency.
16. Montreal Royal (15)
Yes, closing out the season with a home loss in double overtime was a numbing way to conclude a Royal year that started off with high hopes; 2019 is the franchise's fourth losing season in six years. But Quentin Bonnaud put on a show once again, racking up 10 goals and setting a new AUDL single season goals-per-game mark at a ridiculous 6.9 per game. His league leading 83 goals on the season is 24 more than second place, putting him in a receiving class all of his own. And at just 23 years old, he is still (seemingly) a ways off of his peak form.
15. Minnesota Wind Chill (13)
2019 was a lopsided year for the Wind Chill as they miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season after dropping two of their final three games. Jimmy Kittlesen led the league in blocks for the second time in his career, Josh Klane finished third in assists, and Bryan Vohnoutka registered eighth in goals scored. But Minnesota's individual talent still somehow led to mixed results on the field. The trick to success for this franchise seems to be the 20-goal threshhold: The Wind Chill were 0-4 in 2019 in games in which they failed to score 20 or more.
14. Philadelphia Phoenix (14)
The Phoenix once again finished in the bottom half of the East Division for the sixth straight season, but Sunday's sudden death victory in Montreal was cathartic for one of the youngest rosters in the AUDL. Sean Mott and Himalaya Mehta were all kinds of clutch for the Philly offense, but it's the "next man up" approach of the Phoenix defense that might carry this team into far in the future. Philadelphia queitly finished ninth in takeaways this season despite having just two players play 100+ points on defense. Even with a high roster turnover on a week-to-week basis, the Phoenix showed true team chemistry in relying on a system that is producing results.
13. Tampa Bay Cannons (16)
Moving up three spots despite five straight losses to close their season is a bit bizarre, I will be the first to admit. But the Cannons are a punchy bunch despite lacking size in a towering South Division, and they showed once again in Raleigh that they often play their best games against good opponents. When Tampa Bay is clicking, they have a great flow offense running through Andrew Roney and Billy O'Bryan that makes weapons out of virtually all their downfield receivers. Another exceedingly young roster, if the Cannons can keep their core intact heading into 2020, they will be a team on the rise.
12. Madison Radicals (12)
After a season plagued by offensive sluggishness, the Radicals turned the dial to 11 and broke the knob off in their 33-9 dismantling of Detroit, setting the 2019 AUDL regular season high for goals in a single game. The Madison defense was once again lights out, generating 22 blocks on the game and smothering the Mechanix in both backfield and downfield spaces. And for as much as I want to write about the potential of this team heading into 2020, the rest of this space is dedicated to one of the more unheralded stars this league has ever seen in Pat Shriwise, as he retires after seven seasons and a championship all played in Radicals navy-and-chartreuse. There may not be a more respected player by teammates and opponents alike than Shriwise, and he truly embodies what it means to be a professional ultimate player, on and off the field. Cliches can be trite in writing, but not in practice, and Shriwise has been an inspiration for what pro ultimate can look like for almost a decade in the Capital City Of Ultimate.
11. Atlanta Hustle (11)
One thing that makes the Hustle defense uniquely good is its schemes, and ability to interchange players and roles seamlessly. But if there's one player that deserves a special nod, it's Kelvin Williams, who will exit 2019 as the team leader in blocks for the fourth consecutive season. As Atlanta's nominee for the AUDL Integrity Award, Williams' talent is narrowly exceeded by his passion, as he is the type of player that teammates clearly rally around when he makes impactful plays. He's often tasked with guarding opponents' most dangerous receiver, but that hasn't slowed down his production: Williams has four straight seasons with 13+ blocks.
10. Chicago Wildfire (9)
Needing a win at home to lock up the number two seed in the Midwest Division and a home playoff game, the Chicago Wildfire submitted their worst performance of the season—and largest margin of defeat in franchise history—in a 29-16 rout by Pittsburgh. The Wildfire were without some of their top players, and in a preview of their first round playoff matchup, it was the kind of loss the Wildfire would be better off moving on from entirely, rather than trying to sift through the debris for answers. Chicago is now 0-2 versus Pittsburgh this year, and have struggled in their individual matchups with a gritty Thunderbirds lineup. But both Wildfire losses came without big men Nate Goff and Matt Rehder, who will be significant factors in this Saturday's rematch.
9. Los Angeles Aviators (8)
The Los Angeles Aviators are just 1-3 against San Diego in 2019, as they get set to face their SoCal rivals for the second straight year in the West Division Championship Game. But while the Aviators have struggled in their record against the Growlers, the discrepancy between the two teams is very minimal as San Diego has outscored LA just 84-75; other than a six-goal loss on May 11, every other game has been decided by two goals or fewer. Sean McDougall, Joc Jimenez, and Danny Landesman all figure to contribute heavily, as each enters Saturday's showcase with 10 or more goals scored against the Growlers this season. It's the Los Angeles defense, though, that may ultimately determine if this franchse returns to Championship Weekend for the second straight season. The Aviators are fourth in takeaways, with nine different players registering eight or more blocks.
8. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (10)
Something special has been going on with this particular Pittsburgh Thunderbirds team, as they've won eight of nine going back to the beginning of May, with at least one win against each divisional opponent. And while much of the credit for the success can be attributed to MVP candidate Max Sheppard's brilliant offensive play—Sheppard became just the fifth player in league history to notch a 50-assist, 50-goal season—it's the Thunderbirds coverage defense that has been sneaky great over the last half of the season. Pittsburgh is second overall in goals allowed per game (18.92) in 2019, and have the league's third leading block getter in Anson Reppermund. The 'Birds do a great job denying opponents at the point of attack, hounding handlers in the backfield and rotating through a deep bench to keep fresh legs on the field.
7. DC Breeze (7)
The DC Breeze have revenge on their mind after allowing a Week 14 lead to vanish against the Rush on the road, and with it, a home playoff game. Rowan McDonnell has posted better stats this season after his MVP campaign in 2018, registering second overall in goals (59) and 11th in assists (47) while leading DC to their fourth straight postseason. But the Breeze's season will likely come down to the play of their streaky defensive unit: DC has allowed fewer than 20 goals on six separate occasions in 2019, and is 6-0 in those games. They have also allowed 22+ four times (1-3 record), including allowing 26 goals in their regular season finale. DC is number seven in takeaways, but only average at converting them, meaning someone will have to step up and lead the Breeze counterattack on Saturday.
6. Toronto Rush (6)
The Toronto Rush just made it through their worst regular season in franchise history, yet still made the playoffs for the seventh straight year and could be a darkhorse championship contender depending on how they fare this weekend in New York. And after a midseason lull, the Rush offense is firing on all cylinders again, averaging 23.2 goals per game in their last five matchups entering the postseason. Cam Harris has been on fire during that stretch, throwing 22 assists on 98-of-103 throws to go along with 13 goals, and the cutting unit of Powell-Muraoka-Carroll-Hirst has been speedy and in rhythm over the last month. But the backbone for this Rush team, as has been true since day one of the franchise, has been veteran handlers Thomson McKnight and Adrian Yearwood calmly initiating Toronto drives with sturdy vision. McKnight is first all-time in league history in completions, while Yearwood is 22nd, giving Toronto the steadiest offensive backfield in the division.
5. Indianapolis AlleyCats (4)
Sunday's loss at home to Pittsburgh snapped a four-game winning streak for the Indianapolis AlleyCats, but does little in the way of affecting this team's momentum as Indy rested a majority of its starters on the final weekend of the regular season having already locked up the number one seed and a place in the Midwest Division Championship Game. One AlleyCat who didn't sit, though, was Travis Carpenter, who played in all 12 regular season games and finished with a career-best 54 assists on 470 completions; his 95.30 percent completion rating is also a career high; he ranks sixth in the league in assists this season, and fifth in points played at 318. For being a kid who began his pro career seven years ago as a defensive coverage specialist with little in the way of throws, Carpenter closes 2019 eigth all-time in assists and 13th in completions.
4. San Diego Growlers (5)
Speaking of all-time greats, Sean Ham just wrapped up his fifth straight season with 40+ goals, making him the only the second player to do so in AUDL history and cementing him as one of the most consistent endzone targets in a league full of talent. How consistent? In 58 regular season appearances, Ham has failed to score 2+ goals just nine times; it happened once this season, conspicuously in the Growlers only loss to the Aviators on June 15. And Ham continues his pace in the playoffs, too: He led the 2015 Spiders championship team in goals, and has averaged four scores (assists + goals) per game in four career playoff appearances.
3. Dallas Roughnecks (3)
Last week, I mentioned Dalton Smith as a missing piece of the Dallas Roughnecks offensive puzzle. But there is one other player who deserves recognition as a vital cog in their team system: Thomas Slack. Even as a practice player walk-on in 2016, Slack has been a small-yet-mighty force for this Roughnecks team since its inception, putting up 61 assists and 102 goals in 39 career regular season games. He has an intuitive sense of spacing and timing with his cuts, and his speed allows him to dictate action in a way few players can on the big field. And while he has not played particularly great against the Flyers this season, he's been a talisman for this Dallas team's successes in each of the past three divisional championship games.
2. Raleigh Flyers (2)
Since losing their season opener to Dallas on April 5, the only other blemish on the Raleigh Flyers 2019 regular season was a double overtime loss to the undefeated Empire. The Flyers enter their fifth straight postseason with arguably the best momentum in franchise history, with the number three scoring offense and the fifth stingiest defense in the AUDL. And though their defense has struggled at times to produce turnovers—they were middle of the pack in takeaways during the 2019 regular season—there's no question they have the athletic personnel shut down opposing offenses; Dallas has scored just 33 goals total in their last two meetings. A fun wrinkle for this team is that they've utilized Mischa Freystaetter and his 6'7" frame as a supremely efficient distributor. Freystaetter has 18 assists on 138-of-140 throws, and has been a redzone nightmare for opponents while they try to corral the rest of Raleigh's talent.
1. New York Empire (1)
One final victory lap for the regular season league champs, as the New York Empire prepare for the true test they've been waiting for since they assembled this Monstar-esque lineup: the postseason. Ben Jagt is the presumptive MVP favorite, owing to his NASA-grade stats and "best player on the best team" label, and he's found a rejevunated energy in the second half of the season with longtime friend Conor Kline shifting back into his natural receiving role; Kline spent the first half of the season tinkering on defensive lineups, scoring just three goals in his first six games; he has 34 goals in his last six appearances. But for all their talent and depth, this team's championship hopes might come down to role-player-turned-all-star Ben Katz and his health. Katz left midway through the team's June 29 game against Montreal, and New York relies heavily on his two-way playmaking for both offensive and defensive lineups.