AUDL Throwaround: Historic Win For DC, Chicago Keeps Rolling, Pittsburgh Claims Commonwealth Cup

The New York Empire lose for the first time in nearly three years.

Gus Norrbom helped the DC Breeze to another impressive victory in Week 5 over the previously undefeated New York Empire. Photo: Sammie Maygers -- AUDL
Gus Norrbom helped the DC Breeze to another impressive victory in Week 5 over the previously undefeated New York Empire. Photo: Sammie Maygers — AUDL

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.

Week 5 was light on games, but they carried a great deal of significance. For the first time since 2018, the New York Empire lost a game, giving the DC Breeze a night to remember. Pittsburgh finally got its first win of the season, avenging their Commonwealth Cup loss to Philadelphia. That result begs the question: now that each team won a game, who gets to keep the cup?

Let’s run through all the action from Week 5.

Current League Standings

DC Hands New York First Loss Since 2018

At long last, the streak is over. The DC Breeze handed the New York Empire its first loss since the 2018 Championship Weekend semifinal in a convincing 20-17 victory on Friday night in Washington.

The Breeze opened the game in great form. A hold and two breaks spotted DC a quick 3-0 lead. It was clear the Breeze were more aggressive in attacking the disc in the early going, even when New York was in possession. There were a few times where it seemed New York’s downfield players were a bit lax coming out of their cuts.

New York was missing a few key players and their absences shone through. With Elliott Chartock out, Ben Katz crossed over to the offense and took on the role of center handler. It was not a seamless transition. Katz finished the game with eight turnovers as the Empire offense struggled to get into any sort of rhythm. Jack Williams also missing out was too much for the offense to overcome.

Defensively, New York was without Marques Brownlee and Josue Alorro, limiting their ability to slow down DC’s hyper-efficient offense. Gus Norrbom led the team with five assists while his brother, Zach, had three goals and three assists of our own. Joe Merrill put together another impressive performance with five goals to continue his sterling rookie season.

DC maintained its three-goal lead for much of the first half. The Breeze only surrendered two breaks in the contest and looked much sharper on offense than the Empire. One of those breaks made it 7-5 in favor of the Breeze, but DC earned back its break to extend the lead to 10-6.

New York, playing from behind for the first time in a while, consistently hunted for break chances by crossing over their top players, including some interesting decisions. Ben Jagt, Jeff Babbitt, Ryan Osgar, Solomon Rueschmeyer-Bailey, and Katz all played at least 26 points in the contest. No one on DC played more than 20. The strategy did not pay too many dividends, as the Empire finished 2-for-8 on break opportunities.

New York is typically a team that slows the pace of play, which did not lend itself well to making a comeback. The sides traded the entire fourth quarter, which neither finding a way to shift the balance. Time became a factor for the Empire as they got more aggressive with their deep looks down the stretch, but poor execution prevented a rally. Both timeout calls to sub in the O-line proved fruitless as the Empire immediately turned it back over and the Breeze used their own timeout calls to get their offense back on the field.

It was clear that New York was not at full strength, but DC was also the better side. The Breeze looked far more disciplined and focused. It puts DC firmly in the conversation of a championship contender. Suddenly, the Breeze have a target on their backs going forward.

Commonwealth Cup Moves West

The Pittsburgh Thunderbirds held off their in-state rival the Philadelphia Phoenix at home 23-20 for their first win of the season and their turn for Pennsylvania supremacy with the Commonwealth Cup.

Each team held through a cagey opening few points with Philadelphia more comfortable airing it out and Pittsburgh taking more throws to work the disc patiently up the field. With the score tied at 3-3, Philadelphia’s Max Charles caught a massive Sam VanDusen pull with his toes nearly on the back of the end zone line. After a centering pass with nowhere to go but forward, a Phoenix receiver dropped the next pass setting up a short field for the Thunderbirds to punch in the first break of the game. Pittsburgh did not turn the disc over in the first quarter and led 6-5 after the initial period.

Philadelphia notched a break on their first opportunity of the game to tie the score at seven apiece, but a few points later an Owen Watt block gave the Thunderbirds another chance to score a break. Watt switched roles to put up a huck and VanDusen came down with a monster sky over Mike Arcata to restore Pittsburgh’s lead. Philadelphia was able to hold on their ensuing offensive point and beat back a frantic last-minute Thunderbirds drive to keep the score close; at halftime, Pittsburgh led 11-10.

Out of halftime, the teams traded points to fourteen all. With 4:45 left in the third quarter, CJ Colicchio put a huck just a few inches past Jimmy Towle’s reach and Philadelphia was able to break on a low Matt Esser huck to open a fast break, allowing the Phoenix to take their first lead since early in the first quarter. The Pittsburgh defense wasn’t going away that easily though. A crew of D-line players held for the Thunderbirds on the ensuing offensive point and immediately broke back after an unfortunate Charles turfed throw to retake a lead they would not relinquish.

Philly tied the game with heads-up offense after an uncharacteristic drop from Thomas Edmonds in the end zone. Eric Witmer punctuated the fast break with a massive sky before he threw the assist to tie the game at 16 with just :04 showing on the third-quarter clock. To start the fourth, Pittsburgh secured a long huck to Max Sheppard and played tight pressure defense on the ensuing possession, making Philadelphia work for every yard before Myles Cooper registered a key layout block. Anson Reppermund corralled the fast break huck to notch the first in a series of breaks. Pittsburgh kept the break train rolling, scoring five of the first six points in the fourth quarter to take a commanding 23-18 lead. Philly scored the last two points of the game to make the score more respectable, but it was too little too late for a Phoenix team that has gone tumbling down the standings with three consecutive losses after starting the season 2-0.

Pittsburgh had highlights up and down the roster. First must be the work of the offense, only surrendering four break chances the entire game. Towle led the team with four assists and three goals. Sheppard tallied four goals and two assists with a number of contested catches sure to see a highlight reel near you. In his first game of the season, Jon Mast looked comfortable in the center handler role completing 40/41 throws and tossing two assists.

Philadelphia’s Alex Thorne in his first game against Pittsburgh, the team he last played for, had three assists and a goal, but was overshadowed by Matt Hanna’s four goals and one assist without a turnover. Hanna’s cutting opened up the deep space that was so vital to Philadelphia’s early success, though the team also fell victim to some deep turnovers, allowing Pittsburgh three times as many break opportunities as the Phoenix earned themselves. That kind of sloppy play simply couldn’t cut it against the Thunderbirds near-perfect offense.

The Phoenix don’t have too much time to ruminate on this loss — the team travels to New York and Boston next week in what is sure to be a challenging doubleheader. Pittsburgh has a week to enjoy its win before hosting Raleigh in Week 7.

A Midwest Changing of the Guard

If there were any holdouts still thinking that Madison was the team to beat in the Midwest, that reign is now officially over. After an even, albeit slow-moving first half, the Chicago Union fought for separation in the second, eventually winning 18-15. Chicago stays perfect at 5-0 while the Radicals now sit at 4-3, two games behind Minnesota in the loss column for the second Midwest playoff spot.

Early on, both teams employed zoney defensive looks to govern the pace of the game. The Union used mainly a 2-3-2 zone that looked very similar to the one Machine liked to run in 2019. Madison’s zone ran more like their standard 4-2-1, with a flexing cup or wall around the disc.

The first turn of the game didn’t come until the seventh point, when Chicago’s zone produced a turn, though they quickly gave the disc back on an ill-fated huck for Kurt Gibson, got it back a throw later, and then punched in the game’s first break. The very next point, a deep pull forced Madison’s O-line to start at the back of their own end zone; cue Drew Swanson bookends for break number two. Madison scored with a second left in the first quarter, forcing Chicago to attempt a buzzer-beater that didn’t make it to the end zone.

Down one and pulling to start the second, Madison earned a break back in the second period to tie the game at nine going into the half.

It was in the second half that the Union proved their superiority. They calmly built a two-goal lead in the third quarter and stole another break in the fourth to earn their three-goal margin of victory. Chicago ensured the pace of the game remained deliberate throughout the second half, preventing Madison from making any real push to claw their way back with a late run.

In what was an extremely clean game for Chicago, the Union only yielded seven total turns, and four break chances. They went four of four from range and a perfect 14 of 14 in the red zone. Ross Barker put up three goals and a couple assists while playing turnover-free ultimate. Pawel Janas also factored into five scores, with nearly 700 yards of offense — leading his team in both throwing and receiving. Just as impressively, the center handler had 51 completions without a throwaway against Madison’s zone. Swanson, Von Alanguilan, and Peter Graffy had a couple of blocks each as Chicago’s D-line walked in six of nine break chances.

If Madison is hunting for bright spots in the loss, they may have found a hero in Rami Paust. The former Hodag opened his account early with the first assist of the game, going on to collect 612 yards on seven assists, two goals, and three hockey assists. All told, he factored into 11 of Madison’s 15 scores. However, his stat sheet was marred by five throwaways, over a third of all Radical turnovers.

Madison should also be troubled by a few reckless fouls called against them this game. Sterling Knoche was ejected late in the fourth quarter for an off-camera incident, but earlier in the game backpacked a Union receiver on a high swing pass after being caught out of position. While Madison is known as a defensive team, its intensity at times seemed to endanger the Chicago players.

As Evan Lepler talked about on the broadcast, the narrative for these two teams is different at this point in the season. Much of the Madison core of yore has turned over, and their current roster is a lot of younger, more untested players with different talents and different goals. Meanwhile, Chicago has built a roster that they want production from now, and have even taken in some Madison mainstays in the process.

The Union and Atlanta Hustle are now the only teams without a loss yet this year. Madison and Chicago meet again next weekend at Breese Stevens.

Madison bounced back from their trip to Chicago with a comfortable win over Indianapolis. Despite the return of team legend and AUDL all-time leading goal scorer Cam Brock, the AlleyCats fell on their home field 26-22.

Each side recorded a clean hold to open things up. The first turnover of the game came on a Rick Gross drop in the reset space. Kevin Petit-Scantling punched in the goal and the Radicals never trailed again.

After a fairly even first quarter, Madison settled in and built a more sizable lead. Three more breaks in the second quarter showed the Radicals’ clear advantage on defense. KPS put on a show with four blocks and three goals while drawing the Brock matchup for much of the game. Brock — who had announced his retirement from the league last September — won his fair share of battles, with four goals and three assists in his return to AUDL action.

For much of the game, Madison was in cruise control. Victor Luo was ripping the disc downfield consistently, racking up nearly 600 yards of offense in the contest. The Radicals valued the disc and benefited from playing indoors with just 10 turnovers in the game. Indianapolis had just five break chances in the whole game. The AlleyCats took advantage, punching in four of them, but the last three came in the late stages of the game after it was already out of reach.

Madison deserves a ton of credit for coming in to face a fresh Indy team while it was on the second day of a back-to-back and took care of business. The Radicals led by eight in the fourth quarter before the AlleyCats went on the run to make the scoreline look respectable.

While his team lost, it was another great performance from Indianapolis’s Levi Jacobs, who finished with six goals and four assists and racked up a staggering 780 yards of offense. As strong as Madison was in the contest, it had no answer for Jacobs.

With another win over the AlleyCats, the Radicals have turned the Central division into a three-team race. Madison sits at 4-3 with a lot of work to do to reach the postseason, but Indy is in rough shape. At 2-4, the playoffs are now a pipedream for the AlleyCats. Their only two wins have come over the hapless Mechanix. They host the Minnesota Wind Chill in Week 6 needing a win to even keep themselves in the conversation.

Raleigh Dominates in Bad Weather Again

The Raleigh Flyers are no strangers to playing in the wind in the rain. One week after dismantling Philadelphia in less than ideal conditions, Raleigh stomped Tampa Bay 29-15 on a wet field in Florida.

The Cannons were at a disadvantage from the start, missing All-Star handler Andrew Roney. Billy O’Bryan and Bobby Ley were asked to shoulder the load, which did not bode well for Tampa’s offense. O’Bryan managed a respectable four goals and two assists to counter his three turnovers as the team’s initiating cutting. Ley once again struggled. Six assists is impressive, but for the second time in as many weeks, he committed 10 turnovers in a single contest.

Tampa Bay’s offensive struggles should not take away from the impressive showing once again by Raleigh’s defense. Alex Davis led the way with four blocks, showcasing his incredible speed on a number of run-through defensive plays. Seth Weaver had another impressive week running the D-line offense after the turn. His four goals and two assists contributed to his game-high +7 rating.

On the whole, Tampa looked a step slower, despite being the home team. Raleigh executed their offense to near perfection, not allowing a break in the game. While this was always a game the Flyers were expected to win, it says a lot about the team’s mental fortitude to ignore the conditions and record a second consecutive blowout win.

Seattle Can’t Handle Texas Heat

The Seattle Cascades took their first-ever trip to Texas, but dropped both games by nearly identical scores losing to Austin on Friday 23-16 and Dallas on Saturday 24-16.

Austin Sol got off to an auspicious start, holding and breaking for an early two-point lead. Seattle scored five of the next seven though, to get the game back to serve. On a grinding point with the score in the balance at 5-4, Seattle had three possessions to break, but couldn’t punch it in. After a timeout, the offensive starters were substituted in. Picking up the disc on his own goal line, Manny Eckert threw a looping swing across the field. Jake Worthington swooped in for the callahan — on his first professional touch no less! — which gave Austin the lift it needed. The Sol scored the next five goals, holding the Cascades scoreless for nearly nine minutes of game time.

Austin made a habit out of starting quarters off strong. Just like the first and second, they started the third quarter on the front foot, scoring five of the first six goals to stretch an 11-8 halftime lead to a 16-9 lead that would provide the final margin.

The Sol got contributions up and down their roster, with all but one player recording at least an assist, goal, or block and everybody playing at least ten points. Vinay Valsaraj carved up the middle of the field tallying three goals and three assists. Eric Brodbeck led the team with four assists, adding in two goals for good measure, and leading the team with 331 total yards. Captain Evan Swiatek scored five goals to lead the game, and Worthington led the way with three blocks.

Seattle had a fairly quiet game offensively as a team. Shane Worthington had three goals and one assist to go with his two blocks, but Eckert and Mark Burton, usually the centerpieces of this offense, combined for just four assists and a goal with seven turnovers.

The Cascades turned around to face Dallas, but the Roughnecks took a page out of Austin’s playbook by jumping out to a 4-1 lead and never looked back.

Dallas’s pressure defense was on full display as the team registered twelve blocks, many of them layouts on in cuts that showed Seattle’s tired legs. On offense, the Roughnecks were noticeably patient, trading hucks for possession and winning the turnover differential plus nine. Dallas was also stingy after a turn; Seattle went just 2/8 on break chances.

Kaplan Maurer had one of the best games of any AUDL player this season, putting up six assists, five goals, and 454 total yards on 39/39 throwing. Gabe Hernandez piloted the roughnecks D-line, tossing three assists and scoring a goal on 25/26 throwing.

Seattle had a slightly better game offensively compared to their Friday night effort, holding on nearly 10% more of their possessions than they did against Austin — though we’re comparing 35% to 43%, so neither is particularly convincing. Marc Munoz led the way for the Cascades with four assists and a goal without a turnover. Tarik Akyuz reversed those stats, scoring four goals with an assist and a block, and catching the Roughnecks defense off guard with spry deep cutting.

Austin and Dallas are now tied for second in the West with identical 3-2 records. They play each other twice in a Week 6 doubleheader. This is a highly anticipated rematch of Austin’s Week 2 upset, and contains the rescheduled Week 1 contest that was affected by inclement weather. Seattle drops to 2-4, just a half-game above last place in the West. After a bye week, the Cascades are in for a rematch against Dallas in Week 7.

Power Rankings

AUDL Survivor Pool Update

After two weeks where no one got a pick wrong, Week 5 saw five contestants eliminated. All of them backed the Phoenix to knock off the Thunderbirds. Those who advanced to next week went very heavy on the Flyers and Roughnecks, who both won comfortably at home. Shout out to the one entry who picked the Breeze to snap the Empire’s streak and got it right!

We are down to 16 entries as the pool rolls into Week 6.

Deep Look/Stall Seven Picks Contest

For the first time all season, the dueling podcasts did not pick the same result in a single game. Stall Seven probably wished it had, as Deep Look swept this week’s picks.

  • Stall Seven:0/3 on the week, 5/15 for the season
  • Deep Look: 3/3 on the week, 9/15 for the season

This week’s lines:

  • Austin @ Dallas (-3.5) – GAME 1 (Friday)
  • DC @ Atlanta (PK)
  • Chicago (-2.5) @ Madison
  1. Chris McGlynn

    Chris has been playing ultimate for close to a decade starting in Westfield, NJ. He played throughout college with Syracuse Scooby Doom before graduating in 2018. In his free time, Chris runs The Ultimate Podcast, interviewing athletes about their experiences with ultimate. You can reach him by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@theultimatecast).

  2. Alex Rubin
    Alex Rubin

    Alex Rubin started writing for Ultiworld in 2018. He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he played for four years. After a stint in Los Angeles coaching high school and college teams, they moved to Chicago to experience real seasons and eat deep dish pizza. You can reach Alex through e-mail ([email protected]) or Twitter (@arubes14).

  3. Luca Serio
    Luca Serio

    Luca played ultimate in Maine before attending and playing at Syracuse University, where he graduated in 2021. He's a member of Ultiworld's video and social media, and runs Ultiworld's TikTok account. He's currently working as a television news producer in Maine. He can be best reached on twitter (at)lucaserio_.

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