AUDL Divisional Finals Recap

A look back at last weekend's Divisional Finals.

Toronto Rush's Mark Lloyd.
Toronto Rush’s Mark Lloyd.

Last weekend three more teams punched their ticket to Madison for Championship Weekend on August 6-7. And though each game held its own surprises, the home teams ended up going 3-0 on Saturday.

Toronto Rush 23-21 DC Breeze (OT)

The Breeze traveled to Toronto with some momentum. DC had won their most recent game against the Rush by five points and was coming off its largest win over New York yet this year. The Breeze had continually improved throughout the season, and was playing better ultimate than they had all season. DC had its hands full in this game, though, and it often looked like their offense had regressed to old habits from earlier in the season.

The first half was back and forth, with neither team establishing a significant lead or much rhythm on offense. Both teams were relying on tough man defense, and the points didn’t come quickly for either side. Unfortunately, one of the game changing moments of the first half came when a Nicky Spiva huck went up to Markham Shofner in the second quarter, and a bad bid from Geoff Powell resulted in Shofner getting injured. Up until that point, Shofner had played on every offensive point. After the collision, his playing time was limited; he would eventually have to leave the game altogether.

Toronto led by one to start the second half, but expanded the lead to three by the end of the third quarter. In their earlier games against Toronto, the Breeze had been successful by attacking deep, and they did so early and often in this game. It had worked to a point in the first half but by the third quarter those looks started falling incomplete too often.

The somewhat sloppy play continued into the fourth quarter, though DC was able to close the gap, receiving the disc down 17-19 to go with just 31 seconds left in the game. A quick huck to the end zone from Nicky Spiva to Tom Doi worked for the Breeze, taking just eleven seconds off the clock. It was one of seven goals in the game for Doi.

With only twenty seconds remaining in the game, DC opted to “pull” the disc to Toronto on the sideline next to their own end zone. Toronto didn’t need to score, only to maintain possession for a few passes to win the game. The Rush quickly moved the disc off the sideline to Jeff Lindquist, who dumped the disc back to Adrian Yearwood. The Rush had been pushed back twenty yards, and were once again trapped against the sideline. With the double team set, Adrian Yearwood attempted a scoober, but it didn’t reach its target. DC called a timeout and Jonathan Helton was able to rip a hail mary backhand to the end zone that the Breeze came down with in a pile.

The Rush received to start the first overtime, and after a series of throws scored on a huck that initially looked like an overthrow that Toronto was able to catch up with. A drop by DC on their next possession gave Toronto a short field, and the Rush quickly scored to take a two point lead. The Rush O-line wouldn’t turn the disc for the whole overtime period, and DC was never able to close the gap. Toronto won 23-21.

Dallas Roughnecks 28-21 Atlanta Hustle

The last time Atlanta played the Roughnecks, the Hustle found themselves down 7-0 early, the game essentially over just barely after it had begun. This game was different. Atlanta scored on the opening possession to take a lead, then the star studded Dallas O-line took the field. The Roughnecks turned the disc four times on that first possession, and Atlanta finally converted the break on their fourth attempt.

In the first quarter, Dallas did not look like the same team that went undefeated during the regular season. Bizarre throwaways and questionable decisions were common for the Roughnecks. Despite that, Dallas only trailed 4-3 by the start of the second quarter. Once again, though, the Roughnecks ran into trouble. A Cassidy Rasmussen throwaway led to a quick strike to the end zone from Robert Runner, and Atlanta went ahead 6-4.

However, a series of mistakes by the Hustle handed the lead back to Dallas. Trenton Spinks dropped the disc in the end zone, leading to a Dallas break and a tie game at 6-6. The next point the Hustle turned the disc after getting stalled. The Hustle looked like they were going to tie the game back at 7 with a good look at the end zone, which was dropped by Austin Taylor. A 6-4 lead for the Hustle turned into a 9-6 deficit.

In the third quarter, the Hustle were able to refocus on offense, and put the Dallas offense back on the field. Atlanta’s defense continued to clog the throwing lanes, resulting in a few turnovers that Atlanta was able to convert. Entering the fourth quarter, Dallas only led by one, 17-16. Atlanta had won the first and third quarters, but the final quarter would not be as kind.

After a Dallas hold to start the fourth, the Hustle had yet another drop in the end zone, allowing Dallas to reestablish a three point lead at 19-16. From there the Dallas D-line took over. Dylan Freechild had one of his best games of the season, leading the D-line with three assists. It wasn’t until five minutes into the quarter that the Hustle would get a point on the board, and by that time the Hustle trailed by four.

The Dallas lead would only grow from there, with Atlanta looking more fatigued and starting to take the kind of chances that they’d avoided in the first quarter. Dallas ended up winning 28-21, though Dallas looked more vulnerable in parts of this game than they had all season.

Madison Radicals 20-16 Pittsburgh Thunderbirds

After extended weather delays, the Midwest Final did take place on Saturday night, with Madison getting off to a hot start against Pittsburgh. In rainy conditions, the Radicals took a 4-1 lead. In their last game the Thunderbirds had some success playing under against Madison, forcing their cutters deep. Early on, they did again, with Andrew Meshnick, in particular, showing little restraint in sending the disc deep.

Pittsburgh’s defense has improved this season, though, and once again Anson Reppermund played a big part leading the Thunderbirds with 3 blocks in the game. Pittsburgh’s offense was even more reliant on its handlers, often working the disc between Alex Thorne and Tyler Kunsa for yards before looking to their cutters. Once again the Thunderbirds were not going up against the Radicals zone they saw so often last year. Instead Pittsburgh faced a staunch man defense that was very smart with its switches. Madison also threw double teams when Pittsburgh cutters found themselves with the disc on the sideline.

By halftime the rain had ceased, and the Pittsburgh D-line got its first break of the game to start the second half, shrinking the Madison lead to one. Pittsburgh followed it up with another break to tie the game at nine, marking the first time the game was tied since 1-1.  Though Madison would get another break before the end of the quarter, Pittsburgh would score the final point of the quarter, and only trailed by one entering the fourth.

Pittsburgh received to start the quarter with the chance to tie. After multiple turns from both sides, Madison earned the break to take a two point lead. After turning the disc again, Pittsburgh found itself trying to prevent a Madison drive that would give the Radicals a three point lead. Twice they appeared to earn the disc back, with referees signaling turnovers. Both times the Thunderbirds would invoke the integrity rule, though, waving off the foul calls and giving the disc back to Madison. The Radicals scored on that possession, and never looked back. That 16-13 lead eventually yielded a 20-16 Madison victory.

  1. Nathan Jesson
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    Nathan Jesson is Ultiworld's lead AUDL reporter. He has been covering the league since 2013. You can reach him on Twitter @semiproultimate.

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