San Jose Spiders Repeat As AUDL Champions

Image: AUDL.
Image: AUDL.

SAN JOSE — For the second time in as many years, the San Jose Spiders have hoisted the AUDL Championship trophy.

Following their semifinal that was never really in question against the Toronto Rush, the Spiders came out against a Madison team with a chip on its shoulder. But another gritty performance from the Radicals was not enough to overcome the Spiders who closed out a 17-15 victory in San Jose.

Having seen off a tough and physical Raleigh squad the day prior, the Radicals came in with high hopes. Brian Hart, who sat out Saturday’s semifinal after having tweaked his ankle during warmups, cleated up for Sunday’s game, adding another threat to Madison’s offense.

With Beau Kittredge still not fully recovered from his rib injury and Christian Johnson not present, San Jose’s go-to offensive line consisted of Chuck Cao, Sean Ham, Simon Higgins, Ashlin Joye, Jordan Marcy, Cassidy Rasmussen, and Marcelo Sanchez. Higgins and Sanchez frequently initiated the offense, unless San Jose ran a set isolation play involving Joye to Rasmussen, or vice versa.

The Radicals started in their zone defense, but the Spiders were incredibly patient, far more so than Raleigh had been in the semifinal. Even with double-teams and wings pinching close to the disc, leaving more than one man open deep, San Jose didn’t look to over-the-tops, but swung, swung, and swung until they were able to easily punch in the short-range goal. 1-0.

Madison’s offense, on the other hand, was somewhat less clinical than we’ve seen from them this season. An early deep shot from Dave Wiseman to Colin Camp uncharacteristically bounced off the latter’s hands, but San Jose’s D-line offense was also less effective to start the game than it had been against Toronto, and Madison was able to earn possession back. The Radicals’ first hold took the better part of seven minutes, demonstrating San Jose’s early intensity.

The Spiders’ next goal was quick and deadly. Rasmussen sent a nicely placed huck to Higgins, who made the play of the quarter with this sky over a pair of Madison defenders before assisting a wide-open Sanchez.

Back and forth, each offense held, and the first quarter ended with the hosts up 5-4, still on serve. This was the only game of Championship Weekend that didn’t feature at least one break in the opening quarter.

The Radicals began the second quarter on offense, and started off with another overthrown huck, but a rushed San Jose pass allowed Hart to quickly assist Coolidge for the hold. Madison would then squander no fewer than three break opportunities on the next point, which would prove to be crucial missed chances. San Jose was able to score on their fourth attempt to go up 6-5.

On the ensuing defensive point, Kittredge played like a man possessed, and it was difficult to tell that he was carrying an injury. Despite several bid attempts from Beau on resets, Madison were just able to hold. But the pressure was beginning to show.

At 7-6, a high stall situation near the goal line forced the Radicals into a rushed throwaway. Recognizing the importance of the potential break, San Jose called a timeout with almost the full length of the field to go. The O-line was subbed in, and Madison sent on their D-line. A Joye huck to Higgins was easily read by the defense, and the throw was blocked in triple coverage. Whether due to nerves or just a rare execution error, Mike Swain turfed a simple forehand, and this time it was Sanchez who looked for Rasmussen deep. The huck was completed just outside the endzone, and it was a simple continuation that found Higgins in the endzone. After numerous wasted opportunities from both teams, the Spiders had the first break of the game.

Next point, another simple Radicals error on a dump set. Another San Jose timeout. The O-line was sent on again, and Madison put out their zone. Joye had another deep throwaway, but Higgins earned it back with a handblock on Madison’s first attempted throw to give the Spiders a short field. A floaty pass was then swatted twice by Kevin Brown, but Russell Wynne did well to catch the tipped disc for the goal just before it was about to hit the turf. San Jose was up 9-6 with less than a minute remaining in the half. After a well timed Radicals hold, Cohen came down with the end of quarter huck, but landed just outside the endzone; the halftime score was 9-7 Spiders.

San Jose started the second half strong. Rasmussen had a rare turnover, before Joye earned possession back with a nice block. After a few swings, Joye then found Higgins for the hold. The Radicals next O point was marked by frustration, as San Jose consistently stayed tight, forcing a number of swings until a tight throw to Hart was dropped. Cue San Jose’s third timeout of the game. Another O-line substitution led to another break and the Spiders had their largest lead of the game, 11-7.

The Radicals were finally able to score quickly and easily, before conceding a break opportunity and allowing San Jose to hold their next offensive possession. The teams would then trade until 15-11, at which point the Radicals made their run.

Wiseman had a massive sky for the offensive hold, before Kevin Brown found Kevin Petit-Scantling to make San Jose pay for a tough thrower travel call on Marcy. San Jose worked their following possession down to the front cone, before Sanchez just led his receiver too far on an upline that would have been a goal. Brian Hart then had one of the plays of the game when he made a terrific second-effort bid over his defender to bring the Radicals within one and revitalize the Madison sideline.

Their energy would be short-lived. Rasmussen found Beau in the endzone with a zippy inside flick, only for the usually rock-solid receiver to fumble the catch. Madison’s disc with the chance to tie. But Adam Drews sent the first throw straight back to Kittredge, who found Greg Cohen to reestablish the Spiders’ two goal lead.

San Jose then broke quickly to seal the game after Wiseman dropped a high swing pass from Andrew Brown. Zaccaro hit Cohen on a nice around flick, and the crowd erupted. While Madison would score the ensuing possession, it left them down 17-15 with 43 seconds remaining in the game.

A terrific pull from the Radicals trapped San Jose in the back of their endzone, but they were still able to possess the disc before turning it with only a few seconds remaining. Madison attempted to bring  the game within one, but Marcelo Sanchez intercepted the desperation pass as time expired, and the home team’s celebrations were underway.

For the champions, Jordan Marcy was an unsung hero all weekend, finishing both games with 88 completions and zero turnovers. Sean Ham was a force in the endzone, leading the Spiders with five goals against Madison. Higgins frequently stretched the zone, and came down with almost every disc that came his way, regardless of coverage. Joye and Rasmussen were at the heart of almost every successful offensive drive for San Jose, the former finishing Sunday with 9 assists, 7 more than the next highest Spider.

Greg Cohen continued where he left off at Championship Weekend in 2014, keeping up his penchant for making great catches at clutch moments (including a buzzer-beating sky for half), and playing truly elite defense to contain Madison’s stars. He was even mentioned as possibly being a leading candidate for 2015 Spiders MVP, a very impressive accomplishment when you consider the caliber of his teammates.

The Radicals, while putting up an impressive performance, will be disappointed after reaching Championship Weekend for the third year running but coming up short of a trophy. The chances were there for the taking: San Jose simply executed better on break opportunities and had the answer when Madison sought their breaks. The team tweeted this picture yesterday, clearly not satisfied with what would have been a terrific season for almost any other squad:

Madison Tweet

2014 AUDL MVP Beau Kittredge also took to social media to express his feelings about the win and weekend. “We did it,” he wrote. “A truly humbling experience. Forced by injury to be a role player. It was a new perspective to watch such great young players step up and play the game the right way at such a high level. Proud of the entire team’s positive mentality and the way everyone had each other’s backs. 8 legs 1 heart.”

  1. Steven Wartinbee

    Steven Wartinbee graduated Georgetown University in the class of 2015, where he captained the men's team, Catholic Justice. He currently lives and works in Arlington. You can contact him at [email protected], or find him on Twitter @swartinbee.

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