AUDL Throwaround: Minnesota Rising, Norden MVP?, Snoke’s 8 Assist Masterpiece

Justin Norden is playing at an MVP level for the San Jose Spiders. Photo: AUDL.

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.

Madison On the Way Down?

With their win Saturday night over the Madison Radicals, the Minnesota Wind Chill clearly look like they’ve opened the window to win the Midwest. And while the Radicals still have to be considered the favorite to win the Division, the game felt somewhat like the championship window closing for Madison.

If the AUDL was a professional league in the vein of the “big four,” the core that has composed this Radicals team for its now fifth season wouldn’t be together anymore. Outside of the four falls of the Buffalo Bills, you don’t see teams that lose in big moments four years in a row come back unchanged the way that Madison has every year.

In 2013, the Radicals lost by two points to Toronto in the Championship. In 2014, they lost in the semifinals to the San Jose Spiders after giving away an early lead. The next year they lost to the Spiders again, this time in the Championship, by just two points. And last year playing in front of 3,000 hometown fans, Madison blew a seven-point lead in the second half to lose by one to Seattle. Few teams in ultimate have lost in such heartbreaking fashion year after year on the biggest stage. One has to wonder about the effect it has on the team.

If the AUDL were more like its professional counterparts, the Radicals would have traded off younger players like Jay Froude, Abe Coffin, and Kevin Brown to bring in someone like Kurt Gibson by now to put them over the hump. But that’s not the way the AUDL works. And those young players, Froude and Coffin? They play for Dallas now.

From 2013-2016, regardless of the final outcome, Madison became a better team every year. The team that took that seven goal lead on the Seattle Cascades certainly looked like a championship contender, the team with the best chance to block a Dallas coronation. The 2017 season is young, but this Radicals team both feels and looks weaker than its 2016 incarnation.

Not only did they lose to Minnesota, the Radicals looked vulnerable playing in Indianapolis against the AlleyCats in their opener, a team they have never lost to. While Madison will add some college talent soon, the departures of Froude and Coffin more than outweigh them.

This season just feels different for the Radicals. They didn’t open the season playing with urgency the way they often have in years past. They suffered the kind of defeat in the semifinals that no AUDL team ever has before. Who knows though, maybe it’s good that this season feels different for Madison. Maybe they shouldn’t treat the regular season with such urgency. They could use a real challenger to the Midwest throne. What does it really matter if they have the number one seed going into Championship weekend? With so little crossover play, the seeding for the semifinals hardly matters.

But when the causes for optimism are that the season feels different because the team is less dominant, and that the path to championship weekend is more harrowing, still referring to it as “optimism” seems, well, a tad optimistic. The Wind Chill have a coach in Phil Bowen that is new to the AUDL, but will likely adjust quickly. Minnesota is bringing in far more new players this year than Madison, combining the best players from two different club teams, Sub Zero and Drag’n Thrust. If there’s a team that should be figuring themselves out this early in the season, you’d think it would be Minnesota, not the four time Midwest division champion Radicals.

All this is not to pronounce the Madison Radicals dead. After having played 66 AUDL regular season and playoff games, the most Madison has ever lost by in a single game is four points. That will probably remain true this year. The Radicals can’t die. They’re too good. And they’re still the favorites in the Midwest. Winning the Division and getting back to the final four would be considered a success in 2017, and that is no doubt attainable. But in past years, winning a championship was the bar we set for Madison’s success. And after Saturday night, it seemed further away than ever.

–Nathan Jesson

That’s Not Gonna Happen…

Annals Of Broadcasting

If you watch the above clip, you will hear me doing a pretty rough job of calling one of the most amazing catches that I’ve seen during a game. Minnesota’s Brian Schoenrock somehow catches up to an impossibly deep huck and makes the catch just inches (an inch?) off the ground. Even on replay, it was hard to tell whether the catch was up.

While certainly my shock and awe was in full effect during the call, I struggled to capture specifically what was happening. My hesitation after the catch was due to the endzone referee signaling a score, then immediately taking his hands down and appearing to waver on the call, then finally making the signal for a goal. But I couldn’t get the words out!

Then I called Schoenrock Dylan DeClerck, whose frame and game make him look a lot like Strings. Ouch! Luckily, the analyst working with me, Hector Valdivia, spotted Strings immediately and made the correction.

Broadcasting ultimate is tough — check out some interesting thoughts from Isaac Saul on the subject — and staying poised and accurate is not easy!

I am certainly a much better commentator than I was four years ago when I first started calling New York Empire games, but, in every game, there is a learning moment. Next time I see an unreal layout grab, I hope to nail the call.

I will be on the call with Greg Esser this weekend for the New York Empire @ DC Breeze game on Saturday night. Watch it live on AUDL.TV.

— Charlie Eisenhood

Justin Norden for MVP?

Before this weekend, the most aggressive part about Justin Norden’s start to the 2017 season was the three-quarters yellow racing stripe running up the side of his track pants on the field. Don’t get me wrong: Through five weeks of play, I believe Norden is the MVP so far this season. The San Jose Spiders are playing the best ultimate in the AUDL right now north of Texas, and it’s largely thanks to the unflappable throwing of their center O-line handler. But Norden’s game relies much more on its timing, precision, and ruthless efficiency as a thrower than showy plays downfield.

At least before this weekend it did. Entering Week 5, Norden had just three goals in three games on the season. On Friday night alone against the Seattle Cascades, he doubled that figure with six to go along with 5 assists, 69 completions, and only one turnover.

Norden Deep Cut

Here, Norden hammers the disc off the far sideline and immediately follows his throw into space for the easy goal. He sets it up the moment he releases the disc, attacking space quickly and with purpose.

Norden Sky

Check out Norden set up his cut at the near 40 yard line, again striking downfield with diligence before elevating between two Seattle defenders in the open field and dishing the assist. In the first few games of the season, Norden would anchor himself heavily around the disc, distributing with patience and often going every other on drives. As the season progresses and he becomes even more comfortable in the rhythm of the Spiders offense, Norden is taking more opportunities as a receiver with a lot of success.

But it all comes back to the throws with Norden, and he is cooking.

It was a wet one in Vancouver on Saturday night when the Spiders rolled into town for the second of their back-to-back road trip. But the adverse conditions did little to slow Norden’s roll.

In pouring rain, he’s hitting receivers perfectly in stride, arm pumping before the disc even reaches its target. He finished with eight assists, 53 completions, and just four throwaways. He’s now up to 32 assists and 298 completions through just five games in 2017, putting up 5+ assists and 50+ completions in every single contest.

We knew there would be one championship contender coming out of the West Division this year. But it’s time to start talking about the resurgence of an old champion in San Jose.

–Adam Ruffner

Snoke’s Still Got It

The Raleigh Flyers closed out five straight weeks of games with a win over the Austin Sol. And Dave Snoke set his personal career record for assists in a single game (8), including this beautiful between the legs dish to Matt Bode.

Snoke, a longtime North Carolina ultimate player, remains one of the most respected players in the game and has played his way into AUDL lore as a crafty and tenacious handler who can put a disc anywhere on the field. “I’ve always been a break the mark first guy,” said Snoke. “I settle into what I’m used to doing and with the bigger field that just gets easier.”

Snoke’s performance on Saturday came on the back of a concussion sustained by Jon Nethercutt in the first half. Aided by Noah Saul, Snoke’s eight assist performance kept the Flyers comfortably ahead of Austin for most of the game.

The Flyers have continued to assert themselves as the second best team in the AUDL South Division; Saturday’s game was another flurry of great execution by Raleigh. The Flyers will have the benefit of a bye week to rest and recover. Their next game against Dallas will be a true test — no excuses about a road trip or a back-to-back. So far, every matchup between the two teams has been marked by Dallas’ dominance.

Dallas demonstrated vulnerability against Atlanta on the road this weekend but managed to hang on and maintain their undefeated streak in the league. If the Flyers hope to score a win against the Roughnecks and put themselves in a favorable spot to have home field advantage throughout the South playoffs, they will need to maintain the level of execution they demonstrated in their wins over Austin and Jacksonville.

There is no question that Dallas remains the favorite until proven otherwise.

–Hugo Sowder

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