A wild week in the AUDL.
April 25, 2017 by Nathan Jesson in Opinion with 5 comments
Throughout this AUDL season, Ultiworld will be publishing a weekly Throwaround, a chance for you to catch up on the amazing, funny, and interesting moments that you might have missed from the weekend’s games.
Crazy Comeback In Raleigh
If there’s one thing teams coached by Mike DeNardis have in common, it’s belief. The Flyers 4th quarter rally from a five point deficit to force overtime was hardly something you’d put high odds on, especially considering how well the Breeze had been able to contain the Flyers’ offense for three quarters. Raleigh failed to find a true offensive rhythm in the first three quarters, and while the Flyers D-Line had been able to generate pressure and several impressive blocks, they had converted only two of six possible break opportunities. If there was going to be a rally, it would have to come in the 4th and it would have to happen quickly. Confidence and energy delivered the run.
The Flyers by no means played a perfect game in the final period of regulation. Their lines still failed to execute at times. The body language of the players demonstrated a certainty that, despite not playing their best, that they could still make a run. “We believed we could come back,” said defender David Richardson. “We had the crowd and we knew that it was do or die time.”
It was a familiar place for many of the veterans on the Flyers who had played on Ring of Fire in past years. The conviction that the Flyers defense would prevail against DC was apparent throughout the entirety of the 4th quarter as the Flyers chipped away at DC’s lead. The Flyers were able to tie the game at 19 with 1:33 left to play as Noah Saul snuck around the Breeze’s double team to reel in a simple high release backhand from Nethercutt.
Offensive holds by both the Breeze and Flyers forced overtime. DC’s initial hold in the extra period would be the final point scored by the Breeze in the game. The Flyers answered with a crafty goal fueled by throws from Nethercutt and Justin Allen. It would be Richardson, fueled by the energy of the crowd, who would give the Flyers their first lead of the game, 22-21, with a run through block bookended by a goal on a huck from Nethercutt.
DC had a chance to answer on the next offensive possession and managed to work the disc to the Flyers’ goal line. After a timeout, the Breeze were unable to connect on a cross field hanging flick to the end zone. The Flyers responded with a timeout of their own and Denardis was able to substitute in his O-line. The Flyers burned thirty seconds off the clock before Brian Casey hit Terrence Mitchell with a huck. The Flyers now had a critical two point cushion; two turnovers by DC on the ensuing downwind possession sealed the game for Raleigh.
Raleigh now sits at 4-1 in the South Division. While the Flyers have certainly attracted plenty of new talent, the win on Saturday night had all the imprints of many of the elite North Carolina programs all over it. Saturday was the first time the Flyers were down at home this season: their ability to rally to overtime and win was a validation of the growth the team has experienced thanks to the acquisition of former Charlotte Express talent.
It is worth noting that Raleigh was without Goose Helton this weekend, who was competing at Beach Westerns. As for DC, for three quarters they were able to dictate the game and disrupt Raleigh’s offense. While that may not have added up to a win on the road, it certainly came very close. Alan Kolick finished the game with seven assists. DC’s ability to pressure the point of attack will serve them very well as they move deeper into the season in the East Division.
AUDL Sudden Death Double OT: Dramatic or Anticlimactic?
Listen, there’s plenty to dislike about the sudden death double overtime rules in the AUDL. If a team gets an offensive hold, the game is over, like the double overtime barely even happened in the first place. While sudden death overtime rules may work well in sports like hockey, soccer, or football (well, it doesn’t really work well in football either), scoring is much easier in ultimate than in those sports.
I still think that getting rid of overtime and double overtime and just letting the team that gets the first break after the fourth quarter ends might be a better system from the purist point of view. But I’ll be damned if the sudden death overtime isn’t entertaining.
By the time this game had gotten to double OT, Philadelphia had already blown a 19-14 lead. And, frankly, by the time the game got to double OT, both teams looked exhausted. It wasn’t the prettiest or most fundamentally sound ultimate. Both teams had turnovers. But it was compelling. Big plays were made. Games like this are where teams and announcers draw clichés from for the rest of the season.
Is the sudden death double overtime rule weird? Yes. Is it the fairest way to resolve a game? No, almost definitely not. But it is more fun to watch than any other system I’ve seen suggested. So I’m not sure how much the rest of that stuff even matters.
A Moment Inside the Mind Of Nasser M’Bae Vogel
Sunday afternoon’s game between the New York Empire and the Montreal Royal was largely undramatic, as Montreal was clearly drained from their wild, double OT trip to Philly on Saturday night and they all but handed New York an easy 21-8 victory. Something that did stand out, though, was the performance of Jeff Babbitt and his five goal, four block stat line that came as the result of a physically dominant performance.
There’s a lot to appreciate in those highlights, particularly the run down block he gets on Malik Auger-Semmar in which he is a full ten yards behind his man when the disc goes up, before chasing down Auger-Semmar like he was moving in slow motion.
The best sequence, though, is on one possession early in the third quarter in which he makes three increasingly impressive bids, all against Nasser M’Bae Vogel, culminating in a crazy breakside layout block to save a goal. Here is what I imagine Vogel’s inner monologue was like during that sequence.
First Play (0:17)
“Alright Nasser, here we go. Marking up on Babbitt, but no need to be afraid of him. You know why? Because you’re the legendary Nasser M’Bae Vogel. That’s right. The crème de la Quebec. Wait, does anyone call you that? I don’t know, but they should. Okay, right, back to Babbitt. Man this guy is big. Like, not just tall or whatever but BIG. Maybe I should give him a little cushion under, make them work it upwind.”
Babbitt makes a sliding one handed grab to save possession.
Second Play (0:19)
“Damn! How did he catch that? He got down so quick for being, like, 600 pounds of muscle and vengeance. Okay, but the plan worked. The next one will be a turn. Make them work it under, make them work it under.”
“Alright, he’s just sort of chilling in the stack now. Should I poach a little? Should I give some extra protection deep? I don’t know what his plan is, he isn’t really moving. Wait. Why isn’t he moving? Is it weird that he’s just standing still here? Am I missing something? Okay now he is staring at me, something is definitely weird.”
“Chill, chill. This is what he wants, he wants you in your head. He wants you off your game. Because he doesn’t want any part of Nasser M’Bae! High stall situation, and he still hasn’t really moved at all yet. Oh shit! They threw it to him anyway! Even though he isn’t in motion and I’m all over him! They’re going to learn that the Crème de la Quebec doesn’t play that shit. Time to get this layout block!”
Babbitt matter-of-factly explodes to catch the in cut like a killer whale taking down a seal. Vogel looks like one of those fish that rides on the back of a whale hoping to pick up some scraps.
Third Play (0:23)
“Okay, that was crazy. I did NOT like that. At all. Felt like trying to hang onto a rocket ship as it leaves orbit.”
“Alright, alright, focus, focus. We got the turn and are back on O. Time to be the bigger man here and admit that I should probably just clear some space for my teammates. Yeah that’s right you big oaf, follow me around in circles and don’t get involved in the play while we march it downfield. In many ways, what I’m doing is actually pretty noble, sacrificing my touches so that the team can succeed. Being the decoy to draw the attention of the beast away from the rest of the team. I’m basically Gandalf. Alright, I’ll just mozy on over the breakside here and… wait, why is KQ looking at me. No Quinlan, don’t do it man. He’s right there, don’t even think about do…”
“He did it. Why. Why would he do that. Babbitt is RIGHT there. God damn it. Okay here we go, I’ve got some steps, I can do this. I can do this. Just need to layout and grab it, like you’ve done a million times before. You can do this Mike, you can do this…”
Babbitt makes up the ground to the break side and layout Ds Vogel into a million pieces.
A New Power in the Midwest?
During the first quarter of the Minnesota-Indianapolis game, the story was following a predictable script. Though on paper Minnesota looked like the stronger team, the AlleyCats were more comfortable playing with each other and claimed a 7-6 lead going into the second quarter. The last three games these teams played each other had been decided by just one point. This game looked like it might be heading in that direction.
Then the second quarter happened. The pressure Minnesota’s defense had been applying in the first quarter started resulting in more blocks and turnovers from the Indy offense. A Wind Chill D-line that has historically been casual with the disc was converting break opportunities on its first try. An Indianapolis offense that normally looks crisp and moves smoothly even against the likes of the Madison Radicals was clearly flustered. Minnesota took a 15-9 lead into halftime and the lead only grew from there, with the Wind Chill eventually winning 26-16.
If statement games are possible in the AUDL, this sure seemed like one. It was the fewest goals the AlleyCats had scored in a game since their last playoff appearance in 2014, when they lost 25-16 to Madison. New Minnesota players stepped up, with Ryan Osgar scoring five goals and throwing three assists, Josh Klane throwing over 40 completions to go with his five assists, and Jay Drescher registering four blocks.
But even more than that, Minnesota played a fundamentally sounder game of ultimate than it has in years, brought about by much greater depth. Players that were relied on last year to generate much of the team’s offense on their own can now settle into more comfortable roles. Minnesota’s D-line was less reliant on their handlers to just huck the disc to the end zone to have Brian Schoenrock or Dylan DeClerck sky their opponents. Their offense moved the disc quickly and used the width of the field. While these accomplishments may not sound groundbreaking, they were not easy for Minnesota to come by in past seasons.
Whether or not this even matters is a fair question. Madison has long been the class of the Midwest, and that didn’t change on Saturday night. And all of the normal caveats apply to the Minnesota win. It was just one game. Indy was on the road. Even if Minnesota is much improved, they still went 0-3 against Madison last year, losing those three games by a combined 44 goals.
But only looking at results from past years ignores that this is a fundamentally different Wind Chill team. There is no doubt Minnesota looked better in their ten point win over Indianapolis than Madison did in their five point win. The Radicals have been at the top of the Midwest for a long time, maybe just long enough to get complacent. Madison will still most likely represent the Midwest in Montreal come time for Championship Weekend. But that path doesn’t look quite as clear as it did last week.
It’s Hammer Time
Every hero worth a damn needs a good villain. And as I am an insufferable Madison Radicals fan, having an entire AUDL regular season without Pittsburgh’s Tyler Degirolamo last year in the Midwest was rough without the drama. I enjoy my team, but I abhor blowouts. And like watching a Batman movie if the caped crusader only used his arcane martial arts and technology’s finest non-lethal weaponry to continuously cave in the faces of small time thieves without once squaring off against the Joker—sorry Indy and Minnesota—2016 without Degirolamo lacked the tension I crave from sports. So I was all too geeked to tune in and witness his return to the field on Saturday in Pittsburgh against the Wildfire.
You see, nearly two years ago to the day, Degirolamo came into Breese Stevens and absolutely laid waste to Madison’s vaunted defense, and I loved every minute of it. His performance was the most impressive game of throwing and dictation I’ve seen in person from an individual, with Degirolamo’s hammer throws coming from every conceivable angle. He ran the Radicals’ best defender like a puppy around the field, tossed nine assists, and almost single-handedly beat Madison at home, something that just does not happen. It was such a deliciously sinister merking of my home team that, like Heath Ledger in a nurse’s outfit armed with a shotgun, I was gleefully along for the ride, even if it meant doom for the “good guys”.
Yeah, ok great, enough with the comic book analogies, guy. The important part is this: Degirolamo came back from a debilitating series of injuries and immediately started dropping hammers on fools.
He finished the night with five assists and four goals, but maybe most importantly, played the third most points of anyone on the Thunderbirds. I cannot wait to watch him wreak more havoc in 2017.
And yeah, Minnesota looked pretty good too on Saturday, I guess.