A wet and windy weekend.
July 27, 2018 by Charlie Eisenhood, Tanner Jurek, Chris McGlynn and Alex Rubin in News, Recap 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.
The playoffs are now underway and one team — Los Angeles — has already claimed a spot in the Final Four. Here’s a look back on the start of the first round action in the AUDL playoffs with the rest of the Divisional playoff games set for this weekend, starting with Raleigh @ Austin on Friday night.
Indianapolis 20-19 Minneapolis
Los Angeles 26-22 San Diego
New York 19-15 DC
Los Angeles The First Team To Secure A Spot At Championship Weekend
The Los Angeles Aviators punched their ticket to Championship Weekend with a 26-22 victory over the San Diego Growlers. Mark Elbogen picked the perfect time for his breakout game, leading the team in highlights (many) and goals (5). Chris Mazur paced the O-line with six assists, and Zach Theodore led an active D-line with four blocks. After blitzing through the regular season, the Aviators will face the South Division winner in Madison on August 11 (see the full playoff bracket here). The Aviators lost their games in April against Austin and Dallas, two of the three teams (along with Raleigh) who will be vying for the South’s spot in the final four. However, they have won every meaningful contest since and have developed a depth of talent that the team did not display in the beginning of the season.
In their playoff game, Los Angeles found success throwing through the San Diego zone, often ending possessions with wide open hucks, even against person defense looks. The Growlers could not match that efficiency despite an impressive game from Travis Dunn and San Diego’s young handler core. While they did not advance to Championship Weekend, San Diego should be proud of their accomplishments this season. The Growlers made the playoffs for the first time ever and beat every other team in the division at least once. After a five game losing streak mid-season, they stormed back to win their final three regular season games, and they can build on that momentum into next season.
Empire Advance in Rain-Soaked Affair
Just a week after a resounding double-digit defeat in D.C., New York returned to the nation’s capital for a first-round playoff matchup. It was a historic, bizarre, and sopping wet game in which the Empire did enough to beat the Breeze 19-15.
Much of the rain that affected the World Ultimate Club Championships found its way to the East Coast in time to waterlog both teams. In the early going, it didn’t seem like either team was impacted by the elements. The scoring came quick and easy as the first quarter ended 8-7 in favor of D.C. Ben Katz asserted himself early on for New York, running the offense off stopped discs. He set a season high with seven assists as well. In a game where the wind and rain made offense difficult, Katz stood out for his ability with the disc. Whether by design or not, it seemed clear that New York wanted to run through the first-year Empire player.
Still, New York trailed at the end of one. Rowan McDonnell paced the offense once again, this time getting the chance to play with traditional defensive player Delrico Johnson. Breeze coach Daryl Stanley switched Johnson over in large part due to the style of the game. Both teams started struggling to retain possession. Nate Prior alone had eight throwaways. It quickly became a lot of hucking back and forth. Johnson’s defense on the O-line became a critical asset in the situation. However, Beau Kittredge reminded everyone that he has never lost in the playoffs. You wouldn’t know it looking at the stat sheet, but the longtime Revolver player made his presence felt with consistent play throughout the game, something both teams struggled to find. The Empire edged the Breeze in the second quarter and tied the game at half.
In the second half, the wheels fell off for the D.C. offense. The Breeze would only manage two goals after intermission in what devolved into a messy exchange of errors. Jeff Babbitt and Ben Jagt made the difference for New York. The two showed confidence taking shots into the wind, setting up several upwind breaks for the Empire throughout the game. Those upwind breaks led to downwind ones. Babbitt took advantage of the tough weather and turned it into a six-block performance. Some were rather routine; others required some inspiring effort.
New York stretched the lead out to four by the end of the quarter and looked comfortable entering the final period up 19-15.
And then, it all stopped. The offenses both shut down and we witnessed history. The fourth quarter of the game was the first in AUDL history that went scoreless. It was ugly yet somehow impressive. At first, it seemed like any other long point. D.C. and New York both had clear cut chances to score botched by rushed throws, lack of concentration, or excellent effort on defense. The point started to drag on, and the Empire began to milk the clock as much as possible. For those watching the game, the focus slowly shifted from the Breeze’s ability to mount a comeback to the possibility that neither team would manage a single goal. It was an odd bit of history in an odd game.
At the end of the day, New York is moving on to face Toronto. It seemed unlikely after the dismal performance the team put on against D.C. the week prior, but Empire coach Eileen Murray rallied the troops to a crucial victory. It was anything but pretty, but it worked.
New York has looked lost at times this season and managed to find ways to win ugly. It is easy to point to the weather as the reason the Breeze lost, but both teams had to play in it. New York adjusted and found a way to grind out a playoff win, their first since 2015.
The Empire now head north of the border with a spot in the final four on the line. They will have to take on the kings of the East in Toronto, who will be heavy favorites playing at home.
Alleycats Squeak By Wind Chill To Reach Midwest Final
Storms were brewing all day in Indianapolis for a game that would be one of Indy’s only home games of the season played outdoors. With players, coaches, and fans nervously hoping the weather would clear up, both teams got ready to take the field and, just like that, the sky cleared up, the sun shone, and both teams were ready to play. The only problem was the wind. It was evident after the first pull that the wind would be a factor. Whoever was able to adjust the best would succeed. It was a swirly, unpredictable wind — both teams would need to be conscious of it on every throw and catch.
With two of Indy’s top players — Keenan Plew and Rick Gross — surprisingly out of the lineup, the Alleycats needed role players to step up. The offense that traditionally focused on its stars would need some help to succeed. That’s exactly what it got.
The game started with a several wind-induced errors, and the Alleycats went up 2-0. The Wind Chill made some adjustments and got a quick score, played good defense and tied it right back up at 3-3.
The game stayed tight and the first quarter ended 5-5. The conditions ratcheted up stress levels for players and fans alike. At points, it seemed like every throw was a 50/50 ball and Indy was beating Minnesota more often than not to stay in control of the game.
Both teams traded points until midway through the second quarter when Minnesota was able to go up a break to make the score 8-7 with a score from Wyatt Mekler to Greg Cousins. But Indy bounced right back, pounced on a few Minnesota mistakes and made the score 9-8 in favor of the Alleycats. The Alleycats entered halftime with an 11-10 lead.
At that point, it was obvious versatility was going to be the theme of the game. Both offenses were turning the disc over on every point, and both defenses were giving it right back. While both teams shied away from switching up lines too much, it was clear that both O-lines were going to need to play a lot of defense (and vice versa).
Going into the third quarter, the relentless randomness of the wind continued to push the disc away from open receivers and make the easiest of throws look hard. Once in a while, the wind let up or players ran out of options, and we’d see a long pass from Josh Klane or Cameron Brock, but more often than not we were seeing painful drives up and down the field. Those who say that offense in the AUDL is too easy should watch this game.
Indy led 15-13 going into the fourth quarter. Would the Alleycats keep their magical run alive or would the Wind Chill put their foot down and remind them why they’ve beaten the Alleycats so many times in recent seasons?
A Levi Jacobs goal put the Alleycats up 17-15 in the fourth quarter, and that’s when the wheels started to fall off for the Wind Chill. A Minnesota second throw overthrow put the Alleycats in position to almost put the dagger in the Wind Chill with over nine minutes remaining in the game. There was a lot of time left, but the way the game had been going, a three goal lead was going to be difficult to overcome. Right as the Alleycats were considering a timeout to put the offensive line in, the ‘Cats turned the disc over, giving Minnesota a second chance. That new life was short lived, though, as an Alleycats hand block gave them the disc back near midfield. The Alleycats called a timeout this time and got the offense back on the field. Jacobs found Spencer Loscar to put the Alleycats up three with just under eight minutes remaining.
After the Alleycats threw a time consuming zone, another overthrow gave the Alleycats the disc back and the chance to put the game away for good. Heath Kalaba came down with a long huck and dished the disc on the goal line to Conner Henderson. The Alleycats just had to hold on for a few more minutes and would advance to play Madison in the Division Championship.
The Wind Chill weren’t done quite yet. Maybe the Alleycats had taken their foot off the gas pedal or maybe the wind had calmed. But suddenly it was a 20-19 game with slightly under two minutes left. This was make or break time for the Wind Chill. They had given the game away just a few minutes earlier, but they clawed back just in time to have a final crack at the win or at least forcing overtime. They needed an Alleycats turnover, and that’s exactly what they got.
The Wind Chill got the disc back at midfield with 1:30 left with a chance to tie and just couldn’t do it. The Wind Chill swung the disc to the right side of the field and hucked it with the chance to end the game in spectacular fashion. However, Travis Carpenter was having none of it as he got the block.
Another overthrow from the Alleycats thanks to great defense from Charlie McCutcheon gave the Wind Chill the disc again with a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. But once again, they couldn’t find the endzone after another deep shot went too far. The Alleycats won the game and will be headed to Madison to play the Radicals this weekend in the Midwest Final.
I had the chance to watch the game at Copperwing Distillery on the big screen at a Minnesota Wind Chill watch party. This was a cool experience and a fun initiative from the Wind Chill.
Home team in bold. ↩