July 6, 2018 by Charlie Eisenhood in News, Opinion with 0 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.
Thought things were going to get simpler this week? Nope. The playoff races are only getting hotter.
Pittsburgh 20-19 Detroit
Minnesota 25-23 Chicago
New York 29-23 Ottawa
Madison 26-17 Indianapolis
San Diego 27-22 San Francisco
DC 25-15 Philadelphia
Dallas 29-25 Austin
Tampa Bay 19-16 Atlanta
Raleigh 33-20 Nashville
New York 26-18 Montreal
Seattle 25-24 San Jose
Los Angeles 28-21 San Francisco
Madison 35-24 Minnesota
San Francisco Falls Out of Playoff Spot in SoCal
The San Francisco Flamethrowers lost both games in a SoCal doubleheader this past weekend, falling to the San Diego Growlers 27-22 and the Los Angeles Aviators 28-21 to drop to third place in the West.
On Saturday in San Diego, the Growlers started the game on a 3-0 run, forcing multi-turn points with a stingy double-teaming zone. San Francisco tried to counter by throwing quick hucks after getting a block, but they were utterly unsuccessful and soon abandoned the strategy. The Growlers zone was able to take the Flamethrowers out of their preferred isolation-heavy offense and built a lead that San Diego would never relinquish. San Francisco looked out of sorts, never quite settling in until early in the fourth quarter. Exemplifying their atypical play, the Flamethrowers brought Antoine Davis back as a handler for much of the game, despite his reputation and skill as a downfield threat.
Dom Leggio centered the Growlers offense with five assists on 61/62 passing, but the story of this game was the Growlers depth outpacing the Flamethrowers stars. While the Growlers got notably big contributions from Steven Milardovich (3A/2G/6D) and Travis Dunn (6A/4G and three highlight catches), they had 11 different players throw assists, 15 different players score goals, and they seemed more cohesive as a unit, especially on defense, than their opponents. The Flamethrowers, meanwhile, relied on Eli Kerns, Elliott Chartock, and Lior Givol for 77% of their team’s assists, and the Revolver quintet of Kerns, Chartock, Givol, Davis, and Marcelo Sanchez scored just over half of the team’s goals.
San Francisco is used to playing without their entire roster available, but their reliance on top talent was especially pronounced this week. On paper, the Flamethrowers might have had the more talented starting line-up, but the depth of San Diego was able to effectively shut out the Flamethrowers second-tier cast until a run in the fourth quarter. The Flamethrowers top players looked fatigued in the second half (Eli Kerns had 6 of his 7 assists in the first half). The Growlers were able to run away with the game that never looked out of hand.
The Flamethrowers next went north to face the Aviators in a rematch of last week’s tight affair. After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Aviators pulled away, only getting broken twice the entire game. Sean McDougall led the team in goals and assists with five each, and, like the Growlers the day before, the Aviators spread the statistical load with 14 different players each scoring goals and throwing assists.
Both SoCal teams were able to take similar wins over the Flamethrowers using their depth, setting up an intriguing matchup between the two to end the season. Just a few weeks ago, San Diego looked like they were wasting their strong start and giving up their playoff position to a Bay Area team. Nevertheless, the Growlers have rallied and rattled off two consecutive wins to put themselves in a great position to claim the last playoff berth in the West, thus setting up a potential playoff preview at home in two weeks against Los Angeles to close out the regular season.
West Playoff Scenarios
Because the West has just five teams, only two teams make the playoffs. The Aviators have locked up the #1 seed, but San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose are still alive for the final spot. Here’s a look at how it could go down.
First, an easy scenario: if San Diego wins against LA, it’s over. The Growlers will clinch the 2nd spot.
If San Diego loses, however, then things get tricky.
Both San Jose and San Francisco need a win against Seattle (who’s coming to the Bay for a two-game road trip) to have a shot.
If SJ wins but SF loses…then San Jose will go to the playoffs because they own the season series over San Diego.
If SF loses but SJ wins…then San Diego will qualify because they own the season series over San Francisco.
If both SJ and SF win…there will be a three way tie at 6-8. SF has the head-to-head over SJ. SJ has the head-to-head over SD. SD has the head-to-head over SF. So it would go to the three-way head-to-head record. San Francisco has the edge there, with a 4-3 record vs. the Spiders and Growlers. San Diego is 3-3, and San Jose is 3-4. So San Francisco would advance to the playoffs.2
If Seattle wins both games…Seattle would tie San Diego at 6-8, but San Diego owns the head-to-head. (So Seattle is already eliminated).
New York Earns First Two Road Wins, Reclaims Playoff Spot
In last week’s Throwaround, things seemed pretty bleak for the Empire. New York suffered a crushing loss to Montreal to drop below .500 for the first time all year. Without a road win on the season, the path to the playoffs seemed awfully tough for the Empire.
Facing potential elimination from playoff contention, New York took its final road trip to Canada this past weekend for matchups with Ottawa and Montreal, marking the third straight weekend that the Empire and the Royal faced off.
Before its last game against Montreal, the Empire implemented a new offensive system to better utilize its downfield cutters. It seemed to click against Ottawa as New York scored a season-high 29 goals in a six point victory. Harper Garvey has run this Empire offense for most of the year and continued to be the man to take the decisive shot. He piled up six assists against the Outlaws, his most since he had six against D.C. back in May. Garvey had a lot of help this week, though. Josh Alorro put on a clinical performance with five goals, two assists, and a block, all while completing 51 of 52 throws.
New York got off to a hot start, jumping ahead 5-2 to open the game. While Ben Katz did a good chunk of the scoring for the Empire, finishing with six goals, the Empire spread the disc around on offense. Seven different players scored at least two goals in the contest.
It has been tough to be an Outlaws fan this season, but there are certainly signs of a bright future. The team is just 2-10 this season, but they have been in a number of close games. Six of their losses have come by three goals or fewer, including three by just one point. Ottawa showed plenty of signs this would be another close contest early on against New York. The Outlaws trailed 19-18 with every indication they were ready to fight it out until the end.
That was when New York entered close-out mode. After blowing a late lead to the Royal the previous week, it was clear the Empire was determined to put the game to bed. They went on a 7-1 run to effectively end the game. Ottawa scored a string of goals in the final minutes as New York finally let off the gas, but the damage had been done and the Outlaws did not have enough time left to make a legitimate comeback.
Coming off a commanding win, New York had a tough test heading to Montreal for the second game of a back-to-back in brutal, humid heat. The Empire made a statement with a 26-18 win, becoming just the seventh team this season to win a pair of games in one weekend. Indianapolis, Minnesota, Toronto, Los Angeles, Madison and Dallas are the only other teams to do so, putting New York in some good company.
Much like the last time these two teams met, New York jumped out to an early lead, finishing the first quarter ahead 9-6. Ben Katz changed roles from the one scoring the goals to the one setting them up. He tossed five assists, scored two more, and added a block in the victory. Montreal hung around in the second quarter, trailing 13-9 at halftime.
Montreal’s defense was nowhere to be found in this contest. The Royal, as a team, only had four blocks, and New York settled into a groove in the second half. The Empire held a 14-11 lead before going on a 4-1 run to close the quarter. Unlike in their previous meeting, there was no fourth quarter comeback from Montreal, or anything that even came close. The Royal offense was shaky throughout. New York finished with 13 blocks, and Montreal posted 20 turnovers for the game, including some howling drops. It is hard to win games when you commit five times as many turnovers as you force.
New York cruised through the fourth quarter to complete an impressive weekend. 10 different players scored 2+ goals in the win and pushed the Empire all the way up to second in the division.
Bill Nye, The Ultimate Guy
The famous children’s television star/scientist and former Cornell University ultimate player took in the Aviators-Flamethrowers game on Sunday. And here are 12 things you didn’t know about Bill Nye’s ultimate career.
Tampa Plays Spoiler?
The Tampa Bay Cannons played host this weekend to the Atlanta Hustle, who were coming off a win over the Raleigh Flyers and eyeing a postseason berth. But Tampa Bay wasn’t going to roll over, despite being long eliminated from contention.
They beat the Hustle 19-16, keeping Austin alive despite their loss to the Roughnecks.
“To play spoiler to someone’s season was a huge motivation factor going into this game,” Tampa coach Andrew Roca told Evan Lepler. “More than that, it was deeply meaningful for us to win against Atlanta at home for our final matchup of the year against them. Any game we’ve played thus far against them could have gone either way, but this game was different and it felt that way from the first point when [Andrew] Roney secured the team’s first layout D on the second pass of the game which led to the first break. The fourth quarter was different from others in many ways, but what stood out to me was the composure of which this team carried itself during the toughest points. Especially when a couple drops cost us the lead. Whether it was the idea of ending someone’s playoff hopes, or the fact it was Atlanta or just the need to win, this was a different team that balled out on Saturday night. One I have never been more proud to coach.”
Tampa Bay will have another chance to ruin a team’s night when they play Austin this weekend in Texas. Austin holds the season series over Atlanta, so if both teams finish with the same record, Austin would advance to the playoffs. A loss to Tampa would hurt their chances of reaching that scenario.
As it stands, Atlanta is 6-6 with games left against Raleigh and Nashville. Austin is 6-7 with the game against Tampa. Atlanta controls their destiny: if they win out, they will advance. They have to finish a full game ahead of Austin to make the playoffs.
Wind Chill Bounce Back Against Chicago
A star-studded Chicago Wildfire team couldn’t get the win they needed against the Wind Chill on Saturday night in Minnesota. Without star handler Josh Klane, Minnesota bounced back after a tough loss at home against Pittsburgh. The team returned some valuable pieces, including Jason Tschida, Bryan Vohnoutka and Wyatt Mekler, who all returned to the Wind Chill after a string of absences. Codi Wood also debuted after an injury hampered him after the college season.
Kurt Gibson did everything in his power to will the Wildfire to victory. The Windchill had no answer for him. Charlie McCutcheon, who is usually matched up against the other team’s best offensive player, played smart, physical defense the entire game, but Gibson still racked up a game high +10 overall. The Wildfire are significantly taller than the Wind Chill; often times the Wildfire would have several offensive players taller than the tallest Wind Chill player on the field.
Despite that, the Wind Chill controlled the pace in the first half. The offense was getting holds and the defense was taking advantage when possible. The Wind Chill were up 14-12 at halftime after some nice end-of-half defense prevented a Gibson score.
The Wildfire scored out of halftime to make the score 14-13 before the Wind Chill went on a small run to open up a three point lead, 18-15. Just as quickly, the Wildfire went on a 3-0 run and tied the game at 18. At 20-20, the Wind Chill turned the disc over near the end zone with just a few seconds left in the quarter. Chicago called timeout and set up a play. The disc was positioned near the middle of the field, about 20 yards out from the end zone. Gibson set up in the secondary handler position and beat his man with a strike cut but didn’t quite make it to the end zone with just a second left. He looked left and threw a big cross field hammer to beat the buzzer to give the Wildfire their first lead of the game. Was this going to be another Minnesota second half collapse?
After a pair of holds, the Wind Chill D-line came out onto the field and forced a turnover. As many in the crowd begged for a timeout to get the offensive line on the field, they turned it over and gave the disc back to Chicago’s potent O-line. But the Wind Chill got another turnover, called a timeout, and Tony Poletto connected with Sam Bumsted to put the team back up by one.
In the blink of an eye, the Wildfire went deep and tied the game again.
Chicago came down the field in a junk zone look on what could be looked back as a critical point in determining the Midwest playoffs. The big bodies of Chicago’s defense didn’t give much of an opening for Minnesota. The Wildfire were content to let the Wind Chill swing the disc back and forth before trapping and forcing the disc backwards several yards. The point was the longest single possession of the night, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it was the longest single possession of the year.
Foot by foot, minute by minute, the Wind Chill walked the disc up the field, mainly using Jason Tschida, Bumsted, and Poletto, ending with 92 total throws on the point after Tschida found Charles Weinberg in the end zone. The score was 23-22.
Chicago’s offense answered to tie the game at 23, again scoring much more quickly than the Wind Chill and forcing the offense right back onto the field. This time, Vohnoutka found Ryan Osgar with a huge, early stall count hammer that flew over the stack in what was a shocking contrast to the previous point.
The score was 24-23, and that was seemingly the last fight the Wildfire had in them. The Wildfire couldn’t get anything going in what was a weird final few points of the game. The Wildfire threw a pair of turns, and the Wind Chill got the score easily on their second opportunity. At 25-23 with under a minute left, the Wind Chill forced another turnover and ran out the clock.
The Wildfire are a very solid team that needs to build depth. Gibson, Michael Pardo, Pawel Janas, and Ross Barker are elite AUDL players. They are tall and athletic and can give other teams fits on offense. But when matched against the Wind Chill who have a deep roster and a lot of chemistry, the Wildfire weren’t quite able to match up.
Still, the teams play once more in both of their final games of the season that could decide a playoff spot. The Wind Chill just needs to beat one of either Indianapolis or Chicago on their doubleheader road trip in just over a week to make the playoffs. The Wildfire need to win out over Indy, Madison, and Minnesota and have the Wind Chill lose to Indy.
Seattle Wins on a Buzzer Beater
Sam Cook came down with a buzzer-beating sky to steal a 25-24 win for the Seattle Cascades over the San Jose Spiders. Mark Burton had 10 assists to increase his league-leading number to 81 on the season and quietly close in on the all time record (Pittsburgh’s Tyler DeGirolamo, with 86 in 2015), which he should easily accomplish in the Cascades’ final two games.
These two teams have a rematch in two weeks, concluding San Jose’s regular season, while Seattle will face off against the Flamethrowers to finish the doubleheader weekend. Also, while it is a bit late in the season, it should be noted that the Cascades Gameday twitter is one of the most descriptive play-by-play accounts in ultimate; give it a look @CascadesLIVE.
D.C. Blows out Philly to Keep Control of a Playoff Spot
The DC Breeze played one of their best games of the season in a 25-15 victory over the Phoenix. D.C. committed just 12 turnovers the entire game, completing an absurd 97 percent of their passes.
This one was almost over before it ever got started. The Breeze lead 10-3 at the end of the first quarter. Georgetown alum Christian Boxley continued to impress for D.C. with six goals in the contest.
It was a quiet game from most of the Philadelphia offense. Sean Mott, Mike Arcata, and Ethan Peck combined for eight assists and 11 turnovers in a lackluster performance. The trio has exploded at times during the season but failed to have much of an impact against a D.C. team defending its home turf.
I spent a good chunk of the early season talking about Rowan McDonnell as a darkhorse MVP candidate. Although his production dipped from the incredible numbers he was putting up early in the season, Super Rowan returned this weekend to run the D.C. offense. He recorded six assists and finished with 48/49 throwing. He features heavily in the team’s highlights from this week.
Philly never came close and trailed 15-5 at halftime. Himalaya Mehta was the lone bright spot for the Phoenix, putting up five goals on the afternoon. They did go on a mini 3-0 run in the third quarter to make the score 17-7, but surrendered what little ground they had made up over the course of the fourth quarter before falling to a double digit loss.
D.C. technically sits behind New York in the standings even with the win because of the tie against Philly earlier in the season. At 7-5-1, though, the Breeze remain in a very solid position to make the playoffs. The Breeze has next weekend off before hosting the Empire to close out the season.
Raleigh Clinches #2 Seed
As expected, the Flyers locked up a playoff spot and the #2 overall seed in the South with an easy 33-20 win over Nashville at home.
Raleigh will now await the outcome of the race for the final playoff spot to see whether they will play at home (if Atlanta gets in) or on the road (if Austin gets in).
Madison Shows The Midwest Who’s Boss
After losing to Indianapolis for the first time in franchise history last week, Madison came out and obliterated both Indianapolis (26-17) and Minnesota (35-24) in Week 14. The Radicals clearly weren’t interested in hearing about Indy’s historic win any longer.
Having clinched the #1 seed, the Radicals have made it obvious that they are by far the best team in the Midwest and should easily qualify for Championship Weekend again this season.
Home team in bold. ↩
Earlier, we had the tiebreaker incorrect. We said that it went to total point differential, but it goes to total record between the tied teams. Apologies for the error. ↩