Spiders Pull Away Late In First AUDL ESPN3-Broadcast Game

The San Jose Spiders celebrate after a buzzer beating catch at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Photo courtesy of Amy Chang.

The San Jose Spiders pulled away from the San Francisco FlameThrowers in the fourth quarter of the American Ultimate Disc League’s first edition of the ESPN3 Game of the Week, taking a well-earned 20-16 victory to start their season off with a win. The FlameThrowers, who stayed close throughout, were within one heading into the final quarter, but San Jose was able to put up seven fourth quarter points to take the game. Overall, the game lived up to its billing as the West Coast showcase, with numerous hucks, layouts, and contested skies.

San Jose Stars Shine in Debut Professional Performances

Used primarily as a handler, star signee Ashlin Joye led the charge for the Spiders. Joye finished with a game-high five assists, utilizing effective breaks and huck throws to make the Spiders’ offense look easy. Kevin Smith and Tim Gilligan provided assistance in the backfield; Smith moved the disc well and was also able to get loose for three scores1, while Gilligan used quick throws and cuts to run the offense on several occasions.

The Spiders’ stars looked solid, with Beau Kittredge playing big and piling up stats. Although he didn’t come down with every disc, it sometimes took two or even three defenders to stop him. The FlameThrowers successfully managed to contain Kittredge deep for most of the night, but that meant that he and other cutters were able to get plenty of separation on their under cuts.

The final Spider star, Kurt Gibson, flashed his incredible speed — getting two impressive blocks despite seemingly not being in the best position to make the play. He scored one goal and almost ran down another in the corner of the endzone.

Outside of their big three, the Spiders displayed impressive depth. Greg Cohen splattered his name all over the stat sheet, with three assists, one goal, and three blocks. Jeff Silverman made one of several candidates for play of the game, coming out of nowhere to prevent a San Francisco goal in the fourth quarter.

Teams Traded As San Francisco Stayed Close

The Spiders opened the game on offense and immediately used a side stack to give their cutters substantial space to work with. They were able to quickly work their way down the field, where Joye threw a beautiful backhand break to Kittredge for the first score of the game.

After both teams scored on their next offensive point, San Jose grabbed the first break of the game when Michael Kiyoi got a layout block on Lucas Dallmann’s under cut, and then completed the bookends a few passes later by beating Adam Raty up the line. The Spiders would get another break soon after to go up 5-2.

However, San Francisco got the breaks back, and the teams traded points for most of the 2nd and 3rd quarters. After San Francisco broke to take its only lead of the game at 11-12, San Jose scored and made the most pivotal play of the game. With the score tied at 12, San Jose defended a FlameThrowers huck and called a timeout before the end of the third quarter. Coming out of the timeout with only five seconds remaining, the Spiders set up a quick 20 yard pass to Gilligan, who hucked a jump ball into the endzone. The six-foot-four Simon Higgins was able to pull it down over a pack of defenders, giving San Jose the break and a one-point lead heading into the final period.

With a decidedly (and perhaps surprisingly) pro-San Jose crowd going nuts, the Spiders were able to ride the momentum into the fourth quarter. Following that 12-11 San Francisco lead, San Jose was able to score eight of the next 10 points.

Although the FlameThrowers came up short in round one of the AUDL Bay Area rivalry, they showed that they too have a deep roster that can compete with the best. Eli Janin ran the offense for most of the night, eluding defenders to get the disc more often than most and pitching in three assists. Chris Kosednar showed his versatility out of the handler position; Cassidy Rasmussen also drew handling duties, and was a solid presence for San Francisco. With handler Ryo Kawaoka absent from this game for personal reasons, these roles could change in the future, but Janin, Kosednar, and Rasmussen showed today that they are more than capable of running an efficient attack for the FlameThrowers.

Unsurprisingly, Lucas Dallmann and Alex Nord were the FlameThrowers’ most impressive cutters. Dallmann got behind the defense for three scores, while Nord was available for the unders the entire match. Nord also showed off a variety of releases, taking advantage of his long frame to put throws wherever he wanted to. Adam Raty had two blocks, once beating Kittredge one-on-one to a deep shot from Joye.

Strategic Notes

Both teams mostly worked out of horizontal stacks, although at times they schemed to make even more space, despite already having 13 more yards of width than a typical ultimate field. Both offenses used a side stack off of the pull on a few occasions, isolating cutters downfield and making it very difficult for defenders in one-on-one situations. Slight variations on the horizontal stack were also implemented, such as keeping one or more cutters back for the first few throws, or using a deep stack to open up more space underneath. The expert creation of space by both teams’ cutters is not surprising considering the Revolver presence in this matchup.

The Spiders started off slowly in the huck department, completing only two of their first eight by the author’s unofficial tally. It sometimes seemed as though they were forcing throws out of difficult situations, resulting in overshoots of covered cutters. But as the game went on, the San Jose offense flowed more smoothly, and hucks came at more natural times. After the slow start, they completed seven of their last nine deep throws.

The FlameThrowers were able to force a few turnovers with well-timed double teams. The combination of a silent stall count and two aggressive marks caused some throwers to panic and rush throws.

Of note is that the San Francisco offensive and defensive lines both showed a lot of patience while working the disc up the field. They did a lot of dump-swings, flipping the field to find different attack angles. Although they were able to slowly move forward and keep possession, this also became somewhat of a hindrance when they were trying to come back late in the game.

A slower, possession-based offense will work great when the FlameThrowers have the lead, but when they’re behind and running out of time, it could prove costly. In such situations it could be beneficial take more risks, although with Beau Kittredge ready to pounce on any deep ball, that would have been understandably difficult.

On the ESPN3 Broadcast

This was the first-ever semipro game to be shown by ESPN3 (all previous ESPN3 games were USA Ultimate ones). The camera work was passable, although there is room for substantial improvement. When the game first started, the camera was zoomed too far out, rendering the players unrecognizable groups of pixels. The crew adjusted quickly, however, bringing the zoom to a level in between that of previous ESPN and Ultiworld broadcasts.

Previous ESPN broadcasts were zoomed in so far that the viewers could not see the cutters until they got the disc. Although this is fine if the viewer just wants to see the players’ faces, it doesn’t work well for people trying to actually see what’s happening. This game was a little better – generally, the viewer would be able to see any cutters that were not more than 20 to 25 yards downfield from the disc. Replay angles were helpful and viewer-friendly.

The commentators, Evan Lepler and Chuck Kindred, provided a fine commentary team. They gave some basic background info on some of the players and pointed out differences between club and pro ultimate as they came up. AUDL Commissioner Steve Gordon even popped into the booth briefly to answer some questions about the young season.

Certain people will always have their own nits to pick, but overall the first Game of the Week broadcast set a solid baseline that the producers will hopefully build upon.

Other Notes

  • The referees made it through the night without any major controversies. There was a bit of confusion during the sequence the end of the 3rd quarter coming out of the San Jose timeout – Smith originally threw a turnover, but it was called back for some type of violation. The clock operator also mistakenly started the clock on that play when the disc was checked in, instead of waiting until the first completion.
  • The only application of the “Integrity Rule” occurred late in the 4th quarter when Beau Kittredge was unable to come down with a huck among three defenders. A foul was called on San Francisco, but Kittredge chose to overturn the call, giving the disc back to the FlameThrowers.
  • The Spiders estimated that there were about 1,300 fans in attendance.
  • Game time temperature was 61 degrees, with no notable wind or precipitation.
  • Both teams will host the Salt Lake City Lions next week. The Lions play at San Francisco at 4pm ET on Saturday, and at San Jose at the same time on Sunday.
  • Next week’s AUDL Game of the Week features the defending champions, the Toronto Rush, traveling to Montreal to play against the expansion Royal on Saturday, April 19 at 2:30pm ET.

  1. All statistics cited in this article are unofficial. 

  1. Max Herrmannsfeldt

    Max Herrmannsfeldt studied Mechanical Engineering at Santa Clara University, where he also captained the ultimate team for two of his four years. He has been playing ultimate since middle school, since he grew up in Seattle and that's what they do there. He lives in either Seattle or Santa Clara, depending on when you ask him.

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