San Francisco FlameThrowers Hand San Jose Spiders Their First AUDL Loss

Photo courtesy of Natalie Bigman

In the second of four regular-season matchups between the two Western Division powerhouses, the San Francisco FlameThrowers came from behind to grab a much-needed victory at home over the San Jose Spiders. The FlameThrowers showed that they too should be considered title contenders, dethroning one of the two undefeated AUDL teams in the process.

At the season’s midway point, San Jose and San Francisco now sit at the top of their division, with identical 6-1 records. Even their point differentials are close, with the Spiders holding a slight advantage of +52 versus +49.

Overall Difference Maker? Play in the Wind

With San Jose’s smooth offense being disrupted by the wind, San Francisco was able pull away using a gutsy team effort on both sides of the disc.

The game was very windy from the start, with both a clear upwind/downwind effect and also sudden gusts that popped up many discs. Zones and double teams were used by both teams with a fair amount of success.

“It’s just really swirly out here,” said Sam Kanner in the halftime interview. “If it was just a little more consistent, that would give throwers a better idea of what kind of angle or snap to put on the throws.”

Going downwind, many players were able to flip simple high-release throws forward. In contrast, throwers had to get all of their strength behind any upwind throws — even to short under cuts. The Spiders took advantage of their upwind scores by following them up with massive pulls by Nate Bosscher, helping them pair their upwind scores with a downwind break at four separate points during the game.

First Half

San Jose got off to a fast start, getting 3 breaks – including a Callahan by Nathan White – to go up 6-3 at the end of the 1st quarter. The FlameThrowers looked flustered early on by the wind, with handler Eli Janin throwing four turnovers in the first quarter alone, including 2 handblocks by San Jose’s Matthew Natali.

San Jose would lead 8-3 at one point, but that would be their largest lead of the game.

The FlameThrowers adjusted in the 2nd quarter, becoming more consistent with their short passes and taking deep shots at the right moments. They scored 6 of 7 points at one point to tie the game 9-9. The teams then traded downwind offensive points to go into half tied at 11.

Second Half

The Spiders kicked off the third quarter with the first three points, going up 14-11.

But even then, they couldn’t shake off the FlameThrowers. San Francisco crawled its way back into the game, using an offense that wasn’t pretty but got the job done. Small cuts and even forced short throws proved sufficient to keep possession and score points in both directions.

There was a bit of controversy at the end of the quarter when San Francisco thought it had called a timeout on the goaline, with just a few seconds left in the quarter. But the time was ruled to have expired before the timeout call, erasing their scoring opportunity. The Spiders entered the 4th quarter with a 17-15 lead.

Starting the final period on offense going downwind, the FlameThrowers quickly worked downfield to pull within one. After an Ashlin Joye drop on San Jose’s ensuing possession, San Francisco broke with a slick huck from Zane Rankin to Andrew Hagen. Going upwind, San Jose was unable to make it far before turfing a throw. With 8 minutes remaining, San Francisco took its first lead of the game on a hammer from Eric Greenwood to Jake Coleman.

Photo courtesy of Natalie Bigman

The Spiders stopped the five-point run with a blade from Kevin Smith to Joye. The teams then traded sloppy downwind offensive points, with San Francisco taking its fourth one-point lead at 20-21 and a minute and a half remaining. San Jose tied it yet again with a huck from Tyler Bacon to a diving Mark Elbogen, who scored his 6th point of the game.

But the Spiders couldn’t get a block, as San Francisco calmly worked it down the field to take a 22-21 lead with 30 seconds remaining. On the final point of the game, Marcelo Sanchez was unable to reach an Eli Kerns huck. When the disc rolled into the endzone, San Francisco was able to run out the clock without even having to tap it in.

What’s Next

Both teams get a bye next weekend, before hosting the Vancouver Riptide. Vancouver has looked like the best of the rest so far, having beaten both Seattle and Salt Lake City already and sitting at 4-2 overall. They’ll play at San Jose in an ESPN3-streamed game on Saturday, May 31, and then at San Francisco on Sunday, June 1st.

But the pressure will be on Vancouver. If they are unable to pull out a win in either Bay Area game, they will likely find themselves out of the playoff picture in the AUDL West — where only the top two teams make it to the postseason. Those two teams then play for the right to play in the final four in Toronto, with the current standings suggesting we could see a fifth San Francisco-San Jose game to determine who will get that right to represent the West.

The ESPN3 broadcasting crew will head to the Midwest next weekend to stream a back-to-back of the Chicago Wildfire playing the Madison Radicals.

That will be followed by two consecutive weekends of Spiders games at Foothill College, including round three of Spiders-FlameThrowers, happening on June 7.

  1. Max Herrmannsfeldt
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    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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