The San Jose Spiders dominated the Toronto Rush in the AUDL final, 28-18, over the weekend. Beau Kittredge and the Spiders' deep roster overwhelmed the hometown favorite Rush.
July 30, 2014 by Steven Wartinbee in Analysis, News, Recap with 3 comments
The wait is over. The San Jose Spiders have been crowned 2014 AUDL champions with a thumping 28-18 victory over the defending champs and hosts, the Toronto Rush.
Going into the game, a big question was whether the Spiders had the full-roster depth that Toronto had demonstrated in their signature blowout wins over the Breeze and Empire in the earlier playoff rounds. San Jose answered in convincing fashion.
Tyler Bacon, Mark Elbogen, Jeff Silverman, Marcelo Sanchez, and Greg Cohen were all critical for the Spiders, and every single player on the Spiders 20-man roster helped to shut down the Rush on defense and convert almost every offensive point. In fact, the San Jose O-line only turned the disc over 11 times. The Rush would have had to have an unreal conversion rate on break opportunities to even have a chance in the game, given the number of times their O-line was broken.
Wind was certainly a factor in the final, but not in the way Toronto would have wanted it to be going into the game. The entire Spiders roster combined for only 17 throwaways throughout the game. Add to that the Spiders’ aerial strength, and not only did they have a slight margin for error, but anything that wasn’t perfectly placed by the Rush was going to be eaten up by the San Jose defense. While both sides had their share of wind-induced turns, the Spiders were able to earn the disc back with hard, physical defense and punch in goals. The Rush are usually the team to take advantage of opponents’ miscues and score breaks on first possessions, but that role belonged to San Jose on Sunday. Even most 50/50 shots seemed to fall the way of the visitors, although much of that can be attributed to the superior athleticism or positioning of the Spiders.
Allowing the Spiders to jump out to an early 4-1 lead did nothing to improve the Rush’s odds, as San Jose is not a team to relinquish a lead easily. Similar to Colorado in the collegiate national final, the early breaks were sufficient to see the Spiders to the title, although they certainly padded their lead as the game progressed and Toronto’s errors began piling up.
Toronto had more unforced errors in this game than any of their other playoff performances. Some were simply execution, some were stalls, and some were poor decisions and silly mistakes (a thrower travel was even called at one point). Floaty hucks into coverage, deep shots that flew too low and were D’d by the stack, point blocks…this was not the Toronto that most fans had expected to see.
Another question raised was whether San Jose’s much closer semifinal and less time to rest would be factors in terms of endurance. Surprisingly, it was the Rush that looked the more tired team, especially as the game progressed. Pull play cuts almost seemed lethargic, and the usually dominant Toronto cutters had difficulty generating separation downfield. Part of this was surely mental, as the Spiders only tightened their grip on the title with each extra break late in the game, but credit must be given to the Spiders for simply running their men into the ground. Normally renowned for their athletic depth and prowess, Toronto met more than their match in San Jose for arguably the first time this season.
The Rush defense was also unable to contain the Spiders’ stars, outside of a few limited instances. Kittredge, Joye, Gibson, Elbogen and Higgins were the heart of San Jose’s offense, and frequently their defense as well, tallying an impressive number of scores, assists, and blocks among them. Elbogen finished the game with the most goals (6); Joye had the most assists (7); Gibson, Kerns and Silverman each notched a pair of blocks. The Spiders only had 10 blocks throughout the game — the majority of their break opportunities came from unforced Toronto miscues. On offense, the isolated endzone dominator set of Kittredge, Gibson and Joye, arguably the most dangerous and feared attacking trio in the AUDL, was nigh unstoppable throughout the game. Lloyd did notch a pair of fantastic plays against Kittredge, however, getting both a deep sky block as well as a layout on an in-cut near the sideline.
Cohen also had two stellar reads on the disc at the end of quarters that gave the Spiders late boosts before the breaks. Toronto had seemed to seal the first half scoring after a crowd-pleasing monster hammer from Lloyd narrowed the gap to 3 with only 4 seconds remaining. Joye received the following pull, and immediately unleashed a full-field backhand that Cohen was perfectly positioned to attack for the goal, and in the process, steal Toronto’s momentum; San Jose took a 12-8 lead into the half.
When they were receiving, quick disc movement and excellently spaced cutting and timing allowed them to rapidly gain yards and score quickly. One of the important things pointed out before the game was the need to slow down the Spiders’ offense in order to have a chance of getting blocks. Despite poaches and double-teams on Joye and Gibson especially, Toronto was more often than not unable to cause the stagnation necessary to create low-percentage looks from San Jose.
Along the lines of San Francisco Flamethrowers’ owner Michael Kinstlick’s pre-game analysis, the Spiders were also rarely caught out poaching. Only one notable instance of this occurred, when a Spider left his man to miss a layout block by inches; his man was able to streak to the endzone in acres of space for the easy goal. However, the Spiders will be more than happy to have allowed that, given the extra pressure most of their intelligent poaching was able to create, especially in deep space when hucks hung in the wind.
It was a dominant performance from the San Jose Spiders, who lived up to the preseason hype to take home their first AUDL title in their inaugural season.