The AUDL Midwest and West quarterfinals are set for this weekend. Can San Jose pull out what's sure to be a thriller in the Bay? Does Indy have a shot against the Midwest powerhouse Madison? Read the game previews.
July 18, 2014 by Steven Wartinbee in News, Preview with 6 comments
SAN JOSE SPIDERS v. SAN FRANCISCO FLAMETHROWERS (7:30pm PST 7/17)
The San Jose Spiders are looking to mark their inaugural season in the AUDL with a strong playoff showing. Coming out of the West with a 13-1 record, and only missing out as the overall #1 seed to the Toronto Rush on point differential by 5 goals, they are well poised to do just that.
Their opposition, the San Francisco Flamethrowers (#2 in the West, 11-3), just might have something to say about it.
The Flamethrowers are the the only team to have beaten the Spiders during the regular season. Their 22-21 victory came just before the season’s midpoint, and they demonstrated fantastic stamina and determination to overtake the Spiders late in the 4th quarter. They’ll need a similar performance to knock the Spiders out of the playoffs this time around.
Both sides have their share of elite players, but none commands more name recognition and respect than San Jose’s Beau Kittredge.
Widely regarded among the best players in the world, Kittredge has been the core of both lines for the Spiders this year, taking the other team’s big man on defense while frequently initiating the offense on the other side of the disc (36G, 32A, 31D). The Flamethrowers must be careful, however, as the Spiders are by no means a one man team, and any extra pressure on Kittredge means someone of Ashlin Joye or Kurt Gibson’s caliber is left wide open.
San Francisco will be without Alex Nord (long-term shoulder injury), Eli Janin, and Sam Kanner; on the other side of the field, the only player not suiting up for San Jose will be Devon Anderson.
Flamethrowers owner Michael Kinstlick believes that the result of the game is balanced on a knife’s edge. “These are two very good teams,” he said. “Conditions should be mild, so it could come down to one or two key plays. Mental preparation is as important as training and tactics, and both teams feature players who have played in ‘big games.'”
Player-coach Kevin Smith of the Spiders agrees that the game couldn’t be closer, as both teams are intimately aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. “We’ve played them 4 times and learned something new each time, whether it be reading an offensive set, noticing a key player in a new role, or figuring out a defense that works… and I’m sure they’ve done the same,” he said. “We may have a better record, but neither of us are defending a title, so expect some hard-fought, nothing-to-lose ultimate. If we were facing a team we hadn’t seen all year it might be worth worrying about the whole underdog/favorite mentality, but we know exactly how good this team is and what’s at stake.”
Smith also pointed out that many of the players vying for a spot in the semifinals will be teammates at Worlds — playing together for Revolver — in just a couple of weeks. The close knowledge of each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferred style of individual play should make for some fantastic ultimate Friday night.
Quite a few different sources believe this is the most likely “upset,” if one subscribes to the belief that this game has a favorite.
While the tweet itself is innocuous enough, it does reinforce the fact that these teams know each other inside and out, and the biggest factor may end up being who can best transform their knowledge of the opposition into more goals.
Prediction: Spiders win, 25-24.
MADISON RADICALS v. INDIANAPOLIS ALLEYCATS (7pm EST on ESPN3, 7/19)
The matchup between the Madison Radicals (#1 in the Midwest, 12-2) and probably the biggest surprise team in the quarterfinal round — the Indianapolis AlleyCats (#3 in the Midwest, 9-5) — may just promise to be more than it appears at first glance. On paper, this looks to be an open-and-shut game; in their three meetings this year, the Radicals are 3-0 against the AlleyCats, with the closest game coming in a 26-21 match in Indianapolis’ first match of the season. Madison was 4-0 against Indianapolis last season as well.
That being said, don’t write off the AlleyCats’ season as over just yet. They have been consistently defying expectations since predicted to finish second-to-last in the Midwest at the start of the season. Despite a goal differential of only +13 on the year, Indy grinds out wins when they count and managed to secure themselves a spot in the postseason. Team president and owner Thom Held spoke to Ultiworld, opining that it was very unfortunate that the AlleyCats played two of their worst games of the season against the Radicals during the regular season, but that flashes of brilliance in other games have given him confidence that they have what it takes to make it to Toronto.
Held admits that the AlleyCats are the obvious underdog, but believes that his players have the spirit to go out and make the Radicals really work hard for the win. “[Madison is] the favorite. Being the underdog suits us fine,” he said. “Nobody even believes that we continue to make the playoffs. We will play hard and not give up. The players won’t quit, or make it easy. The team has worked hard all year and already accomplished some of its goals. There are goals to still accomplish.”
Arguably one of the hardest-working teams in the AUDL, the AlleyCats have started a campaign on their social media sites with #BELIEVE as the rallying cry for their fan base. Their Facebook and Twitter pages have been actively promoting the fact that they are 0-7 against the Radicals, and that streaks are meant to be ended; lines such as “One game. One team. One word. #BELIEVE” can be seen all over their online profiles.
If the AlleyCats can come out firing on all cylinders and somehow take down the Radicals, it will be the biggest upset of the quarterfinal round. Any chance of the victory will rest significant responsibility on the shoulders of Cameron Brock, the AUDL’s leading goalscorer this season by a wide margin. He will need to continue to find deep space, as he has double the goals of the AlleyCats’ next top scorer, Keenan Plew. If the Radicals can shut down either Brock or his suppliers — they did a good job limiting the Indianapolis handlers last season in the playoffs — Madison should easily progress to the semifinals.
The biggest issue that has plagued the AlleyCats has been offensive consistency. The Radicals have been able to take advantage of mental mistakes and errors in execution with lethal precision so far in their matchups against Indianapolis. Not only that, but Madison boasts the best defender in the league in Peter Graffy, who has notched 49 blocks in 14 games for his side. The AlleyCats will need to conserve the disc more than they have so far this season, as Graffy, Andrew Meshnick, and others will be just waiting for a slightly errant throw to pounce and cement their advantage.
The AlleyCats will be missing Blake Vanderbrush, who has been out since the beginning of the season with an injury; Brian Ventura has stepped up in his absence as a primary Indianapolis handler. For the Radicals, Pat Shriwise injured his knee playing for his club team, Chicago Machine, at the Chesapeake Invite last weekend and will not be playing Saturday.
Held strongly defended the AlleyCats’ desire and grit heading into the biggest game of their program: “We don’t care if you disrespect us, do not believe in us, dog us, or generally overlook us. We will fight, scratch, and claw to the end. We already achieved more than people thought we would.”
Tim DeByl, coach/owner of the Radicals, agrees that the AlleyCats are not a team to be taken lightly, despite Madison’s untarnished record against them thus far. “I think the AlleyCats are one of the hardest working teams in the league, so I expect them to be peaking right now,” he said. “Overall, I expect them to come in very hungry for a win. We will see a lot of AlleyCat layouts in the first quarter.”
DeByl also believes that the Radicals will need to come into the game with a calm, composed, and careful offensive line, as the defensive intensity of the AlleyCats is the biggest worry for Madison.
Prediction: Radicals win, 24-17.