August 15, 2017 by Charlie Eisenhood in Analysis with 2 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.
Roughnecks Come Out On Top Again
It’s been an up and down season for Dallas in 2017, but the Southern Division Championship game was a decisive demonstration of what to expect from Dallas on Championship Weekend. After routing Jacksonville at home in Dallas, the Roughnecks put on a confident performance against Raleigh in the humid midday heat.
“We didn’t have a complete team until our playoff game against Jacksonville,” said Roughnecks owner Jim Gerencser. “The contrast between [the regular season] and now is night and day. We were fortunate to win as many games as we did.”
Raleigh’s failure to convert on two key break opportunities early in the first quarter opened the door for Dallas to get the first breaks of the game. For the first time in 2017, Raleigh’s errors came largely from execution, rather than decision making. While Jon Nethercutt still put up an impressive 10 assist game, the contributions of the Flyers’ deep receivers, in particular, left much to be desired. Jacob Fairfax and Jack Williams, players you’d normally expect to see put up big numbers in a game like this, were limited to three and two goals, respectively. Instead, it was Nethercutt who ultimately put up the most goals against Dallas. That’s not what you want to see on the offensive end from a team with so many athletes downfield. Dallas employed matchups and defensive looks that forced Raleigh to the sideline and clamped down on upline strikes, often taking away open angles for the Raleigh thrower core to hit their receivers.
“We gave ourselves good defensive opportunities. Once we gave up those early conversions we knew it was a matter of time before Dallas got the first break of the game,” said David Allison postgame.
The mental edge may also have been a contributor, though the Flyers consistently had high energy coming from their sidelines and home crowd.
“[Dallas] has so many great players who’ve been in games like this one,” said Brett Matzuka after the game. “By comparison, we’re still relatively inexperienced.”
Dallas, on the other hand, displayed poise and confidence representative of the talented veterans on their roster. With the return of Kurt Gibson, Dallas has the team they’ve longed to have all season long. That’s a terrifying prospect for other squads heading into Championship Weekend.
“Being back on the field…it means a lot,” said Gibson on his return to play. “We have so many talented players who can fill any role. Having missed the World Games and the regular season, it’s special to play on a team like that.”
“It’s always hard to bring all stars together,” said Jim Gerenceser at the end of his post game interview. “We still have guys — Thomas Slack, Ben Lohre, and Kurt — who’ve never lost a game while playing for the Roughnecks.”
Here Let Me Help You With That
Youth Movement Sends Rush Back To Championship Weekend
For the fifth straight season, the Toronto Rush will represent the Eastern Division at the Championship Weekend. Even as the Division has grown steadily stronger around them, the Rush haven’t blinked, continuing to claim home field advantage and take down the East crown.
At the core of the Rush is a group of veterans, led by Mark Lloyd and Andrew Carroll, that have done a lot of winning together over the years. The offensive line still features many of those vets, but they aren’t the reason why the Rush will be in Montreal in two weeks.
It’s “shoulder season” in Toronto ultimate — the new kids on the block are beginning to emerge as the key playmakers. Look at this weekend’s game against the Breeze. Mike MacKenzie and Jason Huynh each had two key blocks. MacKenzie was a goal scoring machine, too: he led the team with five scores. Ben Burelle had three goals and two assists. Bretton Tan had a pair of goals and a block.
Make no mistake: if the Rush are going to avenge their 2016 semis loss to the Dallas Roughnecks on August 26th, they are going to need a heavy dose of Lloyd, Carroll, Isaiah Masek-Kelly, and Jeremy Norden. But they probably wouldn’t even be in that game without the contributions they got from their young guns. We’ll see if they can keep blazing against the defending AUDL champs.
The AUDL Lil Penny?
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
In many ways, it was a crazy AUDL season. The no-name San Jose Spiders traded punches with the Revolver-heavy San Francisco FlameThrowers. The DC Breeze started their season by stomping the Toronto Rush and did it again later in the season. The reigning champion Dallas Roughnecks that had never lost a game entering the season dropped both of their games to Jacksonville and got blown out by Raleigh. Madison, the presumed king of the Midwest, lost their first game to Minnesota and had trouble putting away teams like Chicago and Indianapolis. Chaos reigned.
That all seems like a distant memory now with the divisional playoff games completed. The clear favorites to make the final four entering the year were Dallas, Toronto, Madison, and San Francisco. Those are the four teams that qualified. Three of them played at Championship Weekend last year. The only new team is San Francisco, who had an easier path with the Seattle Cascades weakened by the departure of many of their best players.
Toronto and Dallas face off in the semifinals this year, just as they did in 2016. Madison will see San Francisco in the other semifinal, the team that features many of the same players the Radicals lost to in 2014 and 2015 when they suited up for the San Jose Spiders. Dallas won the South for the second year in a row. Toronto and Madison have won their divisions each of the last five years. A Revolver-heavy Bay Area team won the west for the third time in the last four years.
If College Nationals is the MLB playoffs of ultimate where almost any team can make a run, the AUDL is the NBA playoffs. We see the same teams every year. Does it matter, though? There’s still the potential for excitement. Last year’s Madison-Seattle semifinal was an all-time great game.
This week’s playoff games may have disappointed in the excitement department, but now we’re to the final four. San Francisco and Madison have the potential to play in a classic. The FlameThrowers seem like the kind of team that could take down the Roughnecks if they play up to their potential. The season has lasted four and a half months. We’ve ended up right where almost everyone predicted we would. But it’s ok to get excited, because now we’re to the good part.