What a week!
June 15, 2021 by Alex Rubin, Chris McGlynn, Edward Stephens and Keith Raynor in Rankings, Recap with 0 comments
Our coverage of the 2021 AUDL season is presented by VII Apparel Co., who provides premium performance apparel for the active world, featuring their proprietary GreenLine fabric made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.
Has there even be a wilder week of games in the AUDL? Huge upsets rocked the league in Week 2, as multiple favorites fell to low-ranked foes. And after two weeks, preseason darlings Dallas Roughnecks and Raleigh Flyers are winless. The Atlanta Hustle and Austin Sol are undefeated.
Are we seeing real parity? Is this an early season mirage? Either way, with only 12 games on the schedule, wins and losses loom large. Some teams are already a quarter of the way through their season.
Let’s look at the action from Week 2.
Current League Standings
Down Goes Dallas
The Dallas Roughnecks are probably glad their Week 1 game was postponed due to weather. One week after they fell into an 0-2 hole at home against Austin, Dallas got stunned by the Sol in a full game, 24-23.
Sure, the Roughnecks could make excuses: head coach Jim Davis was out after undergoing an emergency appendectomy; the team was working in plenty of new faces (and new faces who the Sol are quite familiar with); and this was the first game for the team since their 2019 Championship loss. But there is simply no excuse for the apathy the team showed on defense and the general disinterest the team had for their first AUDL game in nearly two years.
Much of the narrative will focus on how Dallas lost the game, but Austin came to play. After an offseason of listening to everyone lament their mass exodus of talent while predicting a last place finish in the West, the Sol raced out to another two goal lead highlighted by their D-line’s efficiency with the disc. Austin scored 9 of its 13 break opportunities led by Matt Bennett, who went 22/24 with two assists. Elliott Moore took the reins on offense, leading the game with 6 assists on just 22 completions. Captain Evan Swiatek chipped in 4 goals and 3 assists while playing a whopping 30 points to help the D-line convert a boatload of breaks.
For Dallas, Kyle Henke churned out 349 yards receiving and Jay Froude tallied 5 goals. Playing primarily on the D-line, Brandon Malecek led the team with 4 assists. Dallas spread the disc around, as one might expect a team with their talent to do, but when it needed a crucial point, it was not clear who was supposed to step up and take control.
Dallas took an 8-7 lead early in the second quarter, but a quick Austin hold and break gave the Sol a lead they didn’t relinquish. The Roughnecks were able to tie the game at 12 at halftime and again at 19 to start the 4th quarter, but every time they were poised to take control of the game, Austin wowed the home crowd and reasserted themselves as the (probably temporary) kings of Texas.
This is just Austin’s second win all time against Dallas. Austin is a lot better than they got preseason credit for. They got big performances from Moore, Swiatek, Seattle transplant BJ Sefton, and University of Texas star Vinay Valsaraj. EDGE stats loved Jacob Sames’ performance: he led Austin in yardage and had 1G/3A/1B and no turnovers.
It was clear that Austin simply wanted to win this game a lot more than Dallas. While it still seems clear that the Roughnecks are the better and deeper team, they will have to prepare with a lot more focus to win games against the Sol — or any of the teams in the West.
Los Angeles Turns the West Upside Down
Los Angeles got revenge for its Week 1 loss to San Diego, taking down the Growlers 20-18 in another stunner on the road. Like last week, LA jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead to kick off a back-and-forth first quarter that ended with a tipped hail mary huck caught by Calvin Brown streaking from midfield. Using a junk defense and short pulls to trap San Diego on the sideline, the Aviators ended the first half on a 4-0 run and went into halftime up 13-8. While credit should be given to the different looks LA included to shake San Diego off their game, most of the turnovers in the first half were unforced errors, as low hucks and turfed throws stunted any momentum the Growlers were trying to gain early on. The third quarter saw entirely downwind holds as LA kept its advantage. The Growlers took advantage of some tired Aviators miscues in the 4th, winning the quarter 4-0 but not providing enough pressure to even the score. The Aviators ran out the clock for nearly three minutes up two on the last point.
Calvin Brown led the charge for LA, tossing 5 assists on 57 completions and chipping in 2 goals and a block. Sean McDougall and Danny Landesman led the game with 5 goals apiece. McDougall churned out over 450 yards of total offense. Sam Cook made a series of highlight plays. He finished with an assist and 2 goals, but that doesn’t count the various layouts to save possession and bailout cuts to keep the stall count alive he provided the LA offense.
For now, San Diego lacks the spark that took them to Championship Weekend in 2019. Off the first two games, their offense looks predictable and unsure of itself, especially with their deep shots, which have been lacking from the start. In the rematch against LA, players like Sean Ham or Jesse Cohen would have been very valuable to at least threaten deep shots, as LA never really respected San Diego’s throwers. Instead, the Aviators mucked up the middle with zone and double teams to stymie the San Diego attack. Johnathan “Goose” Helton operated mainly in the backfield, finishing with -39 receiving yards. Khalif El-Salaam made his Growlers debut, but was just 5/7 throwing with a goal while playing mostly D-line minutes.
The Growlers went just 4/15 on break opportunities. One came on the fourth point of the game and the other three were part of a furious 4th quarter comeback to end the game, meaning they went about 35 minutes of game time without notching a break. The most encouraging takeaways for the Growlers were the performances of Lior Givol and Tim Okita, both of whom notched a statline of 1A/4G/1D and were jointly responsible for close to half of all the points scored by the team.
San Diego may have escaped with a cagey Week 1 game, but if this setback showed anything, it’s that the Growlers will need to step up if they intend to make a repeat appearance at Championship Weekend.
Atlanta Comes from Behind to Take Down Boston
Under the Friday night lights for Boston’s first-ever AUDL home game, live on the DraftKings stream, the Atlanta Hustle spoiled the evening for the Glory, 21-19, behind a dominant defensive effort and a late fourth quarter surge. Boston had an early two goal lead and continued to look explosive, but Atlanta hung around and never let their deficit grow beyond three. Boston had its biggest lead at 18-15 with 2:15 left in the third quarter. By the time they scored again, Atlanta had scored six straight to take a three goal lead of their own.
Atlanta’s varying defensive looks stymied the Boston attack. While it is easy to point out that Boston has yet to face tricky zones in an AUDL context, all the credit needs to go to Miranda Roth Knowles and her coaching staff for sticking with their gameplan and disrupting the Boston offense every chance they got. The Glory has some clear top-end talent, but Atlanta benefits from having been in the league for longer and understanding how to allocate resources over the course of four quarters.
2016 AUDL MVP Dylan Tunnell, who lives in the Boston area, stole the show as he suited up for what might be his last Hustle game. His stats were fairly quiet (7/7 throwing with 2 assists), but Tunnell got a clutch block playing help defense in the end zone and fired a 45 yard assist to give Atlanta its first lead with just over four minutes left in the game. Brett Hulsmeyer was another key to the Hustle defense. While he is only credited with one block, his free safety play at the back of the zone deterred the Glory from trying to move the disc over the top of the formidable wall the Hustle were placing around Boston’s throwers.
Austin Taylor had a breakout game for Atlanta, throwing six assists and catching two goals with just a single turnover. Eli Jaime toasted whichever defender was unlucky enough to be assigned to him, notching seven goals. Michael Fairley’s stats don’t jump off the page (15/16, 2 assists), but his presence on the field was vital to Atlanta’s success. His contested catch with four minutes left in the game kept the Atlanta offense on the field as the Hustle marched towards the endzone to take their late lead, and his confidence on the field radiated to his teammates.
On the other side, Boston never quite found a rhythm, but Tanner Halkyard was a bright spot on the Glory offense. He scored four assists, two goals, and a block without a turnover and led the team in receiving yards and EDGE. Orion Cable continued his ascent up the rookie of the year leaderboard, catching four goals and proving once again to be a difficult cover for opposing defenses.
Boston travels to DC and Raleigh for Week 3 in a road trip that could define their season. Friday’s game against DC is live on DraftKings’ Twitch and YouTube and the Raleigh game is the Game of the Week. Sneaking a win against either team will keep Boston in the playoff picture; an 0-2 showing may leave them behind the main pack as we enter the middle part of the season.
Atlanta travels to Tampa Bay where they will try to stay undefeated against the Cannons.
Raleigh Remains Winless
After nearly upsetting the New York Empire in Week 1, the DC Breeze defeated the Raleigh Flyers on the road, 25-24. Raleigh held a slight advantage (hovering between 1 and 3 goals) for the early parts of the game and took a 13-10 lead into halftime. Midway through the third quarter, DC went on a 3-0 run to tie the game at 16 and notched another break just 90 seconds later to take a 18-17 lead. AJ Merriman’s buzzer beating catch to end the 3rd quarter and consecutive breaks to start the fourth quarter gave the Breeze all the cushion they would need, as the Raleigh defense was never able to catch up. DC held out to a narrow victory.
Jonny Malks ran the Breeze offense with aplomb. He finished 55/55 for 454 yards and 7 assists and led the league in EDGE in Week 2 — a superb 5.91 score. Like last week, Rowan McDonnell had a quiet game by his standards, but was 57/57 throwing with 3 assists and 6 hockey assists. Whenever the DC offense needed an opening to reset the stall count, Rowan could be counted on to find just enough space. Rookie of the Year candidate Joe Merrill led the team with 6 goals (including this highlight) in his breakout game
If you’re an Ultiworld fan, this kind of body control from Merrill is familiar…
Raleigh’s Eric Taylor notched 6 assists of his own on 33/34 throwing, rookie Matt Gouchoe-Hanas tallied 4 assists and 2 goals as a primary figure on the Raleigh O-line, and Trevor Lynch had one of the highlights of the night on this catch that sealed the Flyers’ last break of the game. But what matters for Raleigh is that when it needed a stop, it was not able to force a turnover from the DC offense. The Flyers need to figure out who it can turn to to close out tight games; otherwise, they might not make the playoffs in such a tough division.
DC, on the other hand, has looked very good through two weeks. They nearly upset the Empire, who needed multiple jump ball skies to beat them in Week 1, and now knocked off Raleigh, a popular pick to win the Atlantic before the season. They are very stingy with the disc on offense: the Breeze had just eight total offensive turnovers against the Flyers after having just six against New York.
Each of these teams plays host to Boston next week as the middle of the Atlantic division standings rounds into shape.
Tampa Bay Holds off Pittsburgh
First things first, I want to make sure we acknowledge the statistical wonder that is Andrew Roney. He had an amazing season debut: 64/71 throwing, 619 yards, 9 assists, 1 goal, and 2 blocks. He was #3 in EDGE this week. After missing the first two games of the season, Roney led the Cannons to their first win of the season, 18-15, in a messy home game over Pittsburgh. Wind was certainly a factor as the teams combined for a whopping 58 turnovers.
With Roney and fellow Cannons returnee Bobby Ley in the backfield, Tampa comfortably handled the variety of defensive looks the Thunderbirds threw at them. Ryan Chard led the team catching 6 goals and rookie Sean Plunkett impressed on the defensive side of the disc, pressuring the Thunderbirds all game long.
After a first quarter of mostly holds and one break apiece, the Cannons broke open the scoring to start the second quarter, notching three breaks that ate up nearly seven minutes of game clock before the Thunderbirds could muster a hold. The Cannons extended their advantage, cashing in two breaks to open the second half and building their lead to 10-6.
But Pittsburgh wasn’t finished. Taking advantage of two Cannons drops and a stellar run-through block from rookie Kevin O’Brien, Pittsburgh went on a 4-0 run to tie the game at 11 entering the 4th quarter. The teams traded a pair of hold each before Tampa Bay’s 3-0 scoring run–spurred by two Billy O’Bryan blocks, a massive Roney hammer, and a half field Stephen Poulos scoober–ran the lead up to 16-13 and iced the game. Two more holds each ate out the clock as Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t able to punch in the breaks it needed for a late comeback.
For Pittsburgh, Max Sheppard was just 33/40 with 5 assists, and Week 1 breakout player CJ Colicchio was held to just 2 goals and 144 yards receiving. Pittsburgh falls to 0-2 and has a tough Week 3 slate, hosting New York before traveling to Philadelphia as part of a home-road doubleheader. Tampa Bay won’t have long to relish their win. Undefeated Atlanta comes to town next.
San Jose Scores Six Straight to Sink Seattle
Don’t pity me for starting to write this midway through the third quarter. I really should know better. Here’s the introduction I originally wrote: For the second consecutive week, Seattle comfortably dispatched San Jose, this time as the road team. Shane Worthington and Jack Brown owned the skies and the Cascades defense again would not let the Spiders get into a comfortable rhythm on offense.
But here’s what actually happened.
Seattle took an early 4-0 lead, and held off a series of San Jose’s runs with strings of their own breaks. The Cascades lead ballooned to an 18-12 advantage just before the end of the third quarter. San Jose then went on a remarkable run scoring the next six goals to tie the game at 18. Seattle finally scored with 2:49 remaining in the 4th to stop the bleeding, but the Spiders answered right back. With 41 seconds remaining in the game, Zack Smith tossed a swing pass to the turf, expecting his reset to be closer than he was. The ensuing Spiders possession was tricky–San Jose took two separate time outs–but after a series of swings within inches of the goal line, Andrew Moore found Justin Norden slicing across the end zone with 3.4 seconds showing on the clock to take a 20-19 lead. Seattle’s last ditch hammer on the ensuing possession was blocked by Jordan Kerr, cementing another improbable win in a week full of them.
With the win, San Jose climbs out of the basement of the division and can reset its sights on challenging tougher foes. Jace Bruner was a key player in the Spiders’ run of breaks, tallying four goals and two blocks in the game. Playing mostly defense, Jake Thorne had an impressive pro debut, leading his team with four assists and snagging plenty of tough catches in traffic.
For Seattle, this will be a tough pill to swallow. Though there were bright spots (Mark Muñoz had 3 assists, 2 goals, and a block and every player on the roster earned at least 10 points played), this game won’t be looked back upon fondly in Seattle. The Cascades followed up an impressive home win with a more impressive three quarters on the road, but games don’t end after 36 minutes. Questions may start to seep in about the Cascades’ mental toughness. They’ll be able to test their mettle soon; the team hosts a San Diego Growlers team eager to get back on track next week.
Chicago Gains Control of Central
An early run of breaks that gave the Chicago Union a 3-0 lead set up the home team for a confident 23-18 victory over the Minnesota Wind Chill. Traveling with a handler-bereft roster, the Wind Chill struggled to build offensive rhythm against the Union defense. The hometown D-line often opened defensive possessions with poachy sets that put the onus on the inexperienced Minnesota handler unit and gummed up the works, forcing the Wind Chill into 121 more passes than Chicago attempted.
Meanwhile, Chicago’s offensive starters put together a strong game. Pat Shriwise led the way with three goals, three assists, and a balanced 381 total yards, making him second on the team in both the receiving and throwing columns. Ross Barker was a fantastic facilitator, adding two assists to his three goals and team-leading 267 receiving yards. Keegan North also had the same 2A and 3G stat line, and had one of the plays of the game with a sailing layout score in the first.
The Wind Chill’s handling duties fell to rookie Andrew Roy, who had ups and downs in his ultimately impressive debut last week, and fellow first-year William Brandt, who hasn’t even played official college ultimate yet for his club, St. Olaf, after graduating last year from famed Edina high school in Minneapolis. The duo attempted more than 37% of Minnesota’s throws, each amassing over 400 yards throwing and 100 receiving, but tangled with Roy’s five throwaways and Brandt’s one. With Josh Klane and Brett Matzuka both out with injuries and Tony Poletto also on the reserve list, there just wasn’t much depth for Minnesota to turn to.
Chicago held control of the game after their initial run. They had a 13-6 advantage at half, with North and D-liner Nate Goff equaling the Minnesota goal total by themselves.1 And they never let the lead get smaller than five. While the Wind Chill’s offense was more fluid in the second half, they failed to dig in defensively to get back into the game. The Chicago offense yielded just three breaks in the game, with two coming late in garbage time.
The win puts the Union in the driver’s seat in the Central, helped by the Wind Chill’s week one success in Madison. Like the Wind Chill, they had some key absences — namely Joe White and Von Alanguilan — but looked sharp for long stretches. Minnesota’s offense has struggled through two weeks, but could be bolstered by returning some of their backfield talent.
Indianapolis Easily Beats the Mechanix Again
The Indianapolis Alleycats defeated the Detroit Mechanix 28-16. The Alleycats never let any doubt creep in–they had an early 4-0 lead and milked a 9-3 advantage after the opening frame. A 7-0 run spanning the end of the second and beginning of the third quarter cemented their advantage. As legs got tired, Detroit actually won the 4th quarter 6-5, but it wasn’t even close to enough to comeback and earn the team’s first win since 2017.
Andrew Sjogren continues to impress for Detroit, leading the team with 4 goals and 542 receiving yards on 25/25 throwing. Xavier Payne led the way for Indy with 7 assists from 47/48 throwing. Corey Hardesty tallied 9 goals and 301 receiving yards for the ‘cats. Detroit faces an even tougher foe in Chicago next week, while Indianapolis travels to Madison for what is sure to be a closely contested game.
US-Based Power Rankings
|1||New York Empire||+1||2|
|6||San Diego Growlers||-2||4|
|10||Minnesota Wind Chill||-1||9|
|13||Los Angeles Aviators||+2||15|
|14||San Jose Spiders||-1||13|
|17||Tampa Bay Cannons||-||17|
Stall Seven/Deep Look Picks Contest
- Stall Seven: 0/3 on the week, 2/6 for the season
- Deep Look: 1/3 on the week, 4/6 for the season
Ugly picks for both podcasts this week, driven by Austin’s outright win (+5.5) and a late surge from Atlanta to win as a road dog (+2.5). Deep Look correctly picked Chicago (-3.5) to cover against Minnesota. Deep Look’s lead extends to two.
This week’s lines:
- Boston @ DC (-1.5)
- San Diego (-2.5) @ San Jose
- Madison @ Minnesota (-1.5)
Tune in for the picks!
Rough Week in the Subscriber Survivor Pool
With so many favorites losing in Week 2 and popular pick New York Empire not playing, only 23 people advance to Week 3. Nearly 70% of players have been knocked out after two weeks. Evan Lepler is out. Charlie Eisenhood is out. Everyone who originally picked the Empire was allowed to resubmit a new pick after their game against Philadelphia was postponed, but most of those players ended up getting knocked out with their new selections. Dallas and San Diego were both popular picks.
Of those who advanced, 22 picked the AlleyCats to beat the Mechanix. The lone remaining survivor backed the Union over Minnesota. Turns out that the only safe bet is picking favorites in the Central Division in the early stages of this AUDL season!
Both players scored all of their goals in the first half. ↩