AUDL Throwaround: All-Star Game, Midwest Wide Open, Tampa Still Alive

Double OT for the All-Star Game?!

Pittsburgh’s Max Sheppard took home All-Star Game MVP honors.

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.

Ahh, the All-Star Break. A chance for us to watch the brightest stars in the league and catch our breath before gearing up for the final push to the playoffs.

All-Star Game An All-Around Success

32 stars of the AUDL descended upon Madison for the inaugural AUDL All-Star Game this past weekend. After early signs of a lopsided affair, Team Rowan rallied down the stretch to force overtime, but ultimately fell short to Team KPS1 in a 28-27 double-overtime thriller.

In the lead up to the game, the league did well to capitalize on social media excitement. 31 players were selected by coaches and league officials to fill the player pool for the game. The final spot was left for fans to decide on Twitter. The league selected Raleigh’s Terrence Mitchell, Toronto’s Akifumi Muraoka, Indianapolis’ Cam Brock and eventual winner Los Angeles’ Joc Jimenez for a vote. It came down to the wire between Jimenez and Muraoka, two AUDL rookies. There is no denying how much this meant to Jimenez.

Jimenez Instagram

Next was the All-Star draft, featuring captains Rowan McDonnell and Kevin Petit-Scantling. It was a wildly successful venture, as the Facebook live stream has picked up just shy of 8,500 views in the past week. It added another level of intrigue to the game and provided some face time for fans with McDonnell and KPS. AUDL Vice President Tim DeByl has mentioned the possibility of a more geographic format to team selection next year (East and South vs. West and Midwest), but I really hope the league keeps this element of the game intact. It was a very fun prospect to discuss and dissect the selections each captain made and provided an opportunity to dream up fun pairings we would like to see on the field. It also seemed like an aspect the players genuinely enjoyed.

Fast forwarding to Saturday night before the game, the skills challenge felt a bit like an afterthought. It was nice to listen Evan Lepler interview a number of the competitors, but it moved too slowly. Considering the number of times the players stopped because they did not understand the goal of the drill, this clearly needs some refining.

But, wow, the actual game. This was one of the most fun games of ultimate I have ever watched, mostly because it was the first time we got to see these players taking the field as teammates. It was a dream come true for ultimate fans. We saw Madison’s Peter Graffy launching hammers to San Diego’s Travis Dunn. We got DC’s Rowan McDonnell boosting shots to Dallas’ Jay Froude. We witnessed Chicago’s Pawel Janas pairing up with New York’s Ben Jagt to wreak havoc on the opposing defense. This is the only time we might see these things outside of an international tournament.

It also set the stage for some less-heralded names to step up into the limelight. All-Star Game MVP Max Sheppard put on a clinic of efficient offense and turned in possibly the most entertaining individual performance. He was not a household name entering the contest, but his showing put him on the national radar. His final stat line of five assists, three goals, and two blocks, capped with a game-high +8 rating, does not cover how much fun it was watching him toss up hammers or bring down hucks.

To help further quantify the impact of players like Sheppard, the league rolled out some brand new stats for the game. This page was updated throughout the contest and expanded upon the usual AUDL statistics to include yards thrown and receiving yards, providing another element of analysis to the game.

Team KPS set the pace in the early going with some solid defense, a staple of all Madison-led teams. With things mostly even after the first quarter, Team KPS turned it on in the second. Janas led the offense, connecting with Los Angeles’ Sean McDougall often (that’s last year’s assist leader throwing to last year’s goal leader for all you stat junkies). At the break, Team KPS led big, 17-11, punctuated by a buzzer-beating flip to Raleigh’s Henry Fisher.

Based on how the half had ended, it certainly seemed like we were headed for a blowout. An early layout from Madison’s Kevin Brown did not bode well for Team Rowan either, but Seattle’s Khalif El-Salaam earned the disc back and Rowan’s squad began to chip away at the lead. A few breaks and an impromptu dance party later, Team Rowan only trailed by one at the end of the third quarter. The period ended with an extremely nonchalant grab from Cam Harris in the end zone as time expired to make it 20-19.

Cam Harris

Team Rowan took a 21-20 lead after trailing the entire contest to open the 4th quarter as Harris hammered to division foe Quentin Bonnaud of Montreal. A hold and back-to-back breaks in the hands of KPS and Sheppard restored the team’s lead. Team Rowan once again pulled level setting up the potential for a spectacular finish. A frenetic final point of the quarter led to both sides having chances to score but unable to reel in 50-50 throws, sending the game to overtime tied at 24.

Overtime did nothing more than build the drama. Team Rowan earned a break to take control of the period. Scoring with just 26 seconds remaining after a surprising foul call, Team Rowan took a 27-26 lead. The final point came down to Madison’s Kevin Brown firing a flick into the end zone which somehow ended up in the hands of San Jose’s Antoine Davis, barely keeping his feet behind the goal line for the tying goal.

The final point lacked the intensity most others had brought before it, as Team KPS received and worked it down the sideline to close out a wild game, but it capped a phenomenal game between two super talented teams. It was a wild spectacle that went about as well as the league possibly could have hoped for the first time. Now the wait to see how the game grows begins until these players take the field again in Washington DC for All-Star Weekend 2020.

-Chris McGlynn

The Wild Wild Midwest, All-Star Break Check-In

Fans have dubbed the Midwest Division “The Wild, Wild Midwest” this season and last week’s matchups lived up to that name. The Midwest Division is closer than ever with every team but Detroit looking to make their case for a playoff spot.

After starting the season 0-3, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds have rattled off four straight wins and currently hold the final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. Max Sheppard has expanded his role with the Thunderbirds and showed off his game in a major way in the All-Star Game, where he won the MVP award. In 2018, he finished the season with a +/- of 31, throwing 64 assists and catching 34 goals while having 69 throwaways in 14 games. 2019 has been a different story, Sheppard already has a +/- of 34 with 24 assists and 26 goals on only 11 throwaways. Adding Tyler DeGirolamo has certainly helped the Thunderbirds, but the entirety of the team looks stronger than 2018.

Indianapolis finally looks like the team many thought they could be after a slow start to the season. After a jarring loss to the Atlanta Hustle, the Alleycats have won two of their last three, with their only loss coming by one point to Chicago. The Alleycats sit atop the Midwest Division and the road to Championship Weekend could very easily go through Indianapolis as they look to grab a first-round bye and home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Alleycats have the luxury of already having played Detroit twice, but three of their last four games are at home. If Indianapolis can win their home games, they will likely be hosting a playoff game to get to Championship Weekend.

The Madison Radicals have taken a step back in 2019, but a step back for Madison is still a 4-3 record and second place in the Midwest with Indianapolis very nervously looking down on them from the top. Is Madison slowly ramping up for a repeat of 2018 or are they just a different team this year? You can never count out the Radicals, but after going up 7-2, they fell to the Alleycats 18-15 at home. This kind of loss was unthinkable for past Radicals teams. With a shakeup coming in the Madison club scene, it’s easy to see why Radicals may not be 100% bought in compared to previous years. Madison’s buy-in has always been their greatest strength. Are they satisfied after winning a title last season?

Minnesota lost a lot of talented club players in the offseason, but coach Ben Feldman has reloaded. While the Wind Chill still looks to be gaining their footing in the Midwest, the Wind Chill have shown sparks of a very intriguing team when they have the pieces they need. Josh Klane has been and will continue to be a Brett Favre-esque gunslinger in the purest form and Bryan Vohnoutka has taken a big step up with more opportunity to shine. The other pieces are what will make or break the Wind Chill. A cavalcade of Winnipeg’s best ultimate players have joined the Wind Chill including Canadien U-24 star Quinn Snider who scored a franchise record 10 goals against Chicago on Saturday. These players are the backbone of the Wind Chill, but their availability has been sporadic due to travel and National Team conflicts. When they’re all available, this team has proven they can compete with anyone in the division. Sprinkle in some Iowa State big game magic with the additions of Scott Hearne and Josh Poterack and the Wind Chill could be dangerous. Owning a .500 record, the Wind Chill will need to consistently play like they played in wins over Chicago and Madison if they want to play in a playoff game.

Chicago looks to be the most intriguing team in the division. They started the season hot but have quickly cooled off. They’re a much-improved team from 2018 but still sit just above Detroit in the division standings, a testament to the improvement of the Midwest Division in 2019. As Pawel Janas talked about on the Stall Seven podcast, the team is more dedicated and more talented, but they’ll need to show it on the field if they want to claim a playoff spot. With athletes and throwers all over the field, Chicago is likely the most exciting team to watch in the Midwest. They’ve played the fewest games in the Midwest and with a record of 3-3 and have three games remaining against Detroit, so they’ll have plenty of opportunities to make up ground and snag a playoff spot in the Midwest.

The Midwest Division is currently a logjam, with everybody but Detroit jockeying for a playoff spot. Every game matters because it’s highly likely we’ll see tiebreakers come into play with such a close playoff race. Eight wins looks to be the magic number for teams to feel comfortable about getting into the playoffs; any team with seven is going to be very uncomfortable on the last week of the season. With the AUDL season being shortened by two games, there’s more drama than ever heading into the second half.

-Tanner Jurek

San Diego Survives Aviators Test

In a battle of the top two teams in the West, the San Diego Growlers came back from a four point deficit to win 20-18 over the Los Angeles Aviators before the All-Star Break.

For the first half of the game, the Aviators defense looked improved and aggressive, forcing the Growlers into execution errors. The Aviators scored the first break of the game by converting a high pressure Travis Dunn drop into a score; despite having its most complete roster to date, San Diego’s offense looked the least comfortable it has all season. Los Angeles had a few lucky breaks turn its way as it built a first half lead. Joc Jimenez had a pair of high-difficulty catches, one on a tipped pass and another that he caught at the same time as his defender, as part of a 6 goal night.

Sean McDougall matched his teammate’s sense for theatrics, contributing to two buzzer beating plays as part of a four assist, three goal night. At the end of the first half, the Growlers had the disc looking to trim the LA lead to one. Tim Okita dropped the disc attempting to split a double team and the turnover game the Aviators another chance to score. Tim Beatty, who led the aviators on 57/59 passing for 4 assists, struggled to find an open look, and was forced to throw up a stall 6 prayer. Around a tangle of defenders, McDougall caught the disc just inside the end zone line for a crucial Aviators goal. At the end of the third quarter, McDougall found himself with the disc and the clock winding down. With the stall count rising, he threw a forehand blade to the corner which snuck over the defense and into the waiting arms of Tyler Bacon. Los Angeles took a one goal lead into the 4th quarter.

The Aviators had led 15-11 earlier, but the team faded down the stretch. A misread huck here, a dropped scoober there, and San Diego clawed its way back into the game. Hucks that had hung up long enough for the Aviators to swarm around and block suddenly were finding their targets. The Growlers offense awoke in the third quarter thanks to an impressive performance from Tim Okita. In addition to his four assists, his break throws near the end zone opened up numerous options for the San Diego attack and put the Aviators defense on its heals. San Diego scored the final three goals of the game as part of a 9-3 game ending run. Sean Ham added 5 more goals to his season tally, continuing to lead the team. All-Stars Travis Dunn and Goose Helton also contributed 4 assists each.

With the win, San Diego clinches a playoff spot and all but assures itself first place in the division and home field advantage in the West Championship Game. Los Angeles still has a two game lead over San Jose for the final playoff spot and has one more chance to face San Diego this season.

-Alex Rubin

Tampa Bay Still Alive In The South

Even as Raleigh and Dallas dominate their competition in the South, Tampa Bay got a big win over Austin before the All-Star Break to remain a credible playoff challenger at 4-3 on the season. The schedule certainly gets tougher from here on out — they have a pair of games against Dallas and a pair against Raleigh.

But that means that Tampa’s playoff hopes rest in their hands. If they can pull off home and away victories against either of those teams, they’ll pull level in the loss column and own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

But that will be easier said than done. Tampa is 0-2 against the division’s leaders, losing 28-21 to Dallas on the road in May and 24-19 to Raleigh at home in April.

Their road to a playoff spot starts tonight with a home game against Dallas in what can pretty comfortably be called a must-win. Then they travel for the Texas Two-Step next weekend, facing Dallas and Austin on Saturday and Sunday.

Bradley Seuntjens and Andrew Roney have been excellent for the Cannons, leading the team in goals and assists, respectively. Can they pull off a huge upset over the Roughnecks?

-Charlie Eisenhood

New York Survives Road Test

The lone remaining undefeated team in the AUDL nearly joined the rest of the league in the loss column, but the Empire pulled off a second half comeback to beat the Breeze 20-19.

New York got off to a sloppy start. The absence of the calming, veteran presence of Grant Lindsley was evident. The Lindsley-less offense looked to play a little sped up at times, leading to some rushed throws. DC wasted no time building its advantage with some stellar offense. As a result, the Breeze headed into halftime with a comfortable four-point lead, up 11-7.

Rowan McDonnell continued his MVP repeat campaign with four goals, four assists, and 42-44 throwing. While that was to be expected, the unexpected came in the form of Jacques Nissen. Making his AUDL debut, the Wilson high school product tossed four assists, completing all 28 of his passes.

Nissen was, alongside fellow Breeze players AJ Merriman and Ben Preiss, part the DC Foggy Bottom Boys that won a YCC title last year. Nissen just finished his senior season at Wilson, winning a state title in Virginia, and is now taking his talents to the pro scene before heading to Brown University in the fall. While there was a lot of emphasis on the offseason losses DC suffered this year, the young talent it has added to the roster creates a very bright future for the squad.

DC didn’t let up entering the second half, expanding its lead to six by the middle of the third quarter. The New York offensive unit looked vulnerable, giving up a few breaks. Joe Richards played a large role in that, racking up three blocks in the contest.

Much like the Breeze, the Empire got an MVP-level performance from Ben Jagt while also featuring a surprise standout. Jagt turned in eight assists, two goals, and two blocks, while Conor Kline went off for a franchise-record-tying nine goals. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise the former UMass standout was capable of this, as he is one of the people who previously held the team-record. However, Kline had only scored three goals so far this season playing on the D-line, so this was certainly a breakout game for him on the year.

The former Sub Zero teammates led a massive second half turn around for New York, finally taking an 18-17 lead. The Empire made it 20-18 before the Breeze added a late closer, but not with enough time remaining to tie the game.

Given how much DC led by throughout the middle of the game, it should have coasted to an easy win. New York displayed a lot of grit to work its way back into the lead and maintain it through the final buzzer. The crucial difference was playing with urgency while maintaining control. New York struck quickly on a number of occasions down the stretch, but kept the tempo of their attack intact.

The questions surrounding the Empire’s ability to go undefeated are slowly fading. This team continues to pass each test by whatever means are required. Whether it be a grind it out game in DC or a thrashing at home against Toronto, New York is far from untouchable, but they are battled-tested.

Rowan v. Beau

Rowan v. Beau

Montreal Splits Canadian Double

In a battle of the East Division cellar dwellers, the Royal earned an easy win against the Outlaws before getting blown out by the Rush to close their weekend.

After a bit of a rocky start to the season, Montreal looked to be in total control against Ottawa. Both teams ran a lot of junky zones in the first quarter to slow the offensive movement. Quentin Bonnaud continues to have an MVP-type season, and he is certainly a dark horse candidate to win the award. He posted another stellar showing with nine goals against the Outlaws. His performance was even more necessary with the absence of Steve Bonneau.

Kevin Quinlan also stepped up with a five assist, two goal outing and Montreal got some major contributions from their French national team imports. Quentin Roger had six assists, a season high, and Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky punched in five goals to go with his four assists. This offensive explosion early on led to a sizable advantage for the Royal at halftime, as it led 11-7.

The third quarter featured a lot trading back and forth. Ottawa earned a late break and suddenly it was a three-point game heading into the final period of play. The Outlaws managed to pull one more back in the final two minutes of the game, but it was too little too late. Ottawa made the scoreline look respectable climbing back into it late. Even with the gap closing, the Royal always seemed in control.

Despite the losing effort from the Outlaws, Nick Boucher put on a show with five assists, three goals, one block and completing all 47 of his throws.

Much like the rest of the country during the NBA Finals, Montreal turned its attention to Toronto. Unfortunately for the Royal, the Rush were not caught up in basketball fever. Toronto held Montreal to a season low for scoring in a 19-13 win.

Montreal opened the game game on a high, earning a break to take a 2-0 lead. The Royal crumbled after that and never came close to competing again. The Rush went on a 6-0 run and never looked back. Toronto stretched the lead all the way out to nine at one point in the second half. Trailing 16-7, Montreal finally claw its way back into the game, but the damage was already done.

Jacky Hau deserves a game ball (disc?) for his performance. He tossed three assists, but more impressively posted four blocks. On the whole, it was a complete team showing from the Rush. No player had more than three assists or three goals, and eight players came up with a block.

For Montreal, this was a total let down after a solid win against Ottawa. Sitting at 2-5, they wasted another crazy game from Quentin Bonnaud. He didn’t score quite as many goals, but he accounted for more than half his team’s scoring with seven goals, an assist and a block. Bonnaud seems to have Toronto’s number scoring 15 goals against the Rush in their two meetings so far this year.

Toronto is comfortably in control of the second spot in the East playoff race, 1.5 games ahead of DC. The Rush will visit the Breeze for their next game following the All-Star break.

San Jose Stays in the Playoff Mix

Looking to stay in the playoff hunt, San Jose travelled to Seattle and came away with a 25-22 win. Seattle started the game with flawless offense, as the Cascades did well to move the disc quickly in small spaces before Mark Burton found Sam Cook streaking to the end zone. While most of the team is content to dink and dunk up the field, Cook seemed to be looking for the big play from the get-go, starting deep cuts from all over the field and showing a willingness to lay out for anything remotely close. The teams traded holds before Seattle notched the first break of the game, swarming a floaty huck for the block then hitting Khalif El-Salaam on a long upline which he toe tapped in bounds. San Jose got its break back a few points later when Brandon Fein laid out to block a swing pass in the reset space. One fast break score later, the Seattle lead was just 7-6 after the first quarter.

The Spiders used a deliberately short pull to get a break back early in the second quarter. Pulling the disc just a few yards downfield, the Spiders set a trapping double team on the sideline and converted the ensuing turnover to break. Five holds later, the Spiders sent out a more traditional zone to earn a break. While earlier in the game, Seattle had been more patient on offense, this time they threw an unforced turnover and San Jose’s lead ballooned to two, which they kept in to halftime.

Each team had 12 blocks during the game but Seattle threw 25 unforced turnovers compared to just 16 for San Jose. When Seattle was able to work around the San Jose defense with swings and quick movement, they tended to succeed, but when they tried blades or over the top throws, the Spiders were able to react quickly and get the block. San Jose rode its zone to a four goal 3rd quarter lead. In the 4th quarter, San Jose kept attacking, moving the disc quickly around a desperate Seattle defense that always seemed just a step behind. The Cascades could only notch one break in the final frame to trim the deficit to three. San Jose’s offense was more consistent over the course of the game and their new defensive wrinkles surprised the Cascades and forced them into many mistakes, which cost them in this game.

Despite the back and forth nature of the game, this was one of the most spirited AUDL games this season, as the teams combined for at least four integrity fouls, including three that directly impacted goals.

Ethan Falat had a breakout game for the Spiders, scoring five goals to lead team and finishing +8. Rookie Jack Brown scored his first two goals of the season for Seattle, to the audible delight of the local crowd. Brad Houser (4 assists) and Peter Geertz-Larson (an efficient 4 goals on only 9 catches) took control for the Cascades offense, though their efforts were not enough to earn the win. The Cascades fall to 1-6 on the season, though you would not know it based on how close this game was.

The win puts the Spiders at 3-6 and within striking distance of a playoff berth should Los Angeles, just two games ahead, falter down the stretch.

-Alex Rubin

Cascades Women Cap Off Undefeated Season with Win over Portland

The Seattle Cascades beat the Portland Swifts 23-13 in an AUDL exhibition game. Both teams utilized the wide open space of the AUDL field to run a fast-paced, exciting game. Ultimately, Seattle’s more polished sets and overall experience prevailed.

The Cascades’ opening throw was an upline to Qxhna Titcomb, setting the tone for the game; Seattle was going to move up the field with quick movement and a good sense of spacing. Using primarily a horizontal stack, Seattle was able to hit cutters in the middle of the field for big gainers and continue up the sidelines after swinging the disc. That opening point ended with a goal to Lili Gu, and the Cascades never relinquished the lead. After a Swifts hold, Seattle went on a 7-0 run to take control. Portland hadn’t quite calibrated their hucks yet, and a few overthrown discs and some untimely drops were all Seattle needed to march the other way up the field time and time again. Portland held once more to end the quarter facing an 8-2 deficit. While the Swifts were able to compete athletically, the Cascades looked more comfortable playing as a team. The Cascades experience was emphasized as Portland held on to the disc through the first quarter buzzer, rather than trying to set up a buzzer beating huck.

Despite the lopsided score line, Portland came into the second quarter with renewed intensity, working the entire width of the field to hold on the first point before making two goal line stands on the second point. Though they eventually conceded the point, Alexa Romersa had a stunning block on a break side pass that looked to be a sure goal. Portland made it known that they would not settle to lose every point easily. Later in the quarter, Portland scored its first break of the game on a huck from Shea Brennan to Romersa. Brennan and Emily Flanders ran the Portland offense, offering calm throws and open resets to their teammates.

With short rosters, both teams resorted at times to junk defense to slow down their opponents. Seattle displayed excellent patience in figuring out the Swifts zone, matchup defense on the handlers and a diamond look downfield, and holding throughout the rest of the quarter to take a 15-6 lead into the half.

Seattle’s defensive intensity stood out in the first half, as their marks trapped Portland throwers to the open side. When the Swifts had success on offense, it was because they were able to successfully move the disc laterally. Portland came out in the third quarter ready to play. Emily Flanders emphatically footblocked Titcomb sparking a Swifts fast break, but an underthrown huck was blocked by Seattle. This seemed to be the story of the game for Portland; the Swifts had flashes of brilliance, but lacked the top tier execution to convert their scoring opportunities. Portland was able to last the quarter without giving up a break, but also could not score even a single one of their own, and found themselves trailing 18-9 entering the final frame.

The Swifts seemed to figure out how to score on offense a bit too late. Early in the fourth quarter, Ashley Brown, who finished the game with two goals and three assists,launched two hucks for scores as the Portland cutters navigated the deep space with relative ease. While they were able to get into the end zone, the Swifts could not stop Seattle from moving the disc wherever they wanted to. Seattle used cuts to the break side, the deep space, and timely resets to play a near perfect game, only surrendering one break the entire game, and claiming a dominating ten point win.

Steph Lim (team leading 7 assists) and Sam Rodenberg (5 assists and 3 goals) were the stars for Seattle, continuing to get open in the handler space and downfield respectively. Lexi Garrity led the team with 5 goals, and Charlie Mercer put on a clinic on the d-line, notching a well rounded 3 goals and 3 assists of her own. Putting the win the shoulders of just these players would be a disservice to the Cascades as a team, though; sixteen different ‘Scades recorded at least one goal or assist. For the Swifts, Christine Beaulie led the way with 3 assists and Valerie Peacock’s 3 goals were a team high.

This game concludes a 5-0 season for the Cascades womens roster. Many of their players will continue playing on the Open and Mixed rosters which have games scheduled throughout the rest of the summer. Portland concludes their season with two losses to the Cascades, and will build towards a more successful season next year.

-Alex Rubin

  1. Kevin Pettit-Scantling 

  1. Ultiworld

    Ultiworld is the premier news media site dedicated to the sport of ultimate. This article includes the work of a number of our staff or contributors that have been identified within the piece.

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