And then there were four.
August 23, 2022 by Alex Rubin in Preview with 0 comments
Our coverage of the 2022 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.
Last weekend’s winners advanced to face the first place finishers in each division, but found themselves unable to claim any road upsets. The pattern continued of the home team favorites claiming victory, although in some cases, late game heroics were required.
Chicago Breezes By Minnesota
In their most important game of the season (so far), the Chicago Union stars all came to play, came away with a resounding 21-16 win over the Minnesota Wind Chill, and booked their ticket for a return trip to Championship Weekend.
The conditions around the windy city made their impact on the first point, a Minnesota hold that lasted nearly two minutes. The game stayed on serve until there was less than a minute left in the first quarter. Charlie Furse tipped a hanging huck intended for Will Brandt and the Union called a time out as their counterattack offense stalled. Pawel Janas, who broke the league’s all time assist record later in the game, eventually found Jack Shanahan to give the Union their first lead at 6-5.
Though Minnesota came out with an aggressive, double-teaming defense, the Union better weathered the swirling winds and were able to keep their composure through what became a more turnover-heavy game than expected. The Wind Chill had a chance to retake the lead when Tristan Van de Moortele blocked a reset aimed at Janas, but Abe Coffin’s inside flick sailed just over the head of his intended receiver. Jeff Weis skied a pile to keep the Union offense moving and Chicago rode their momentum on a 4-1 run that helped turn a 6-6 game into a 10-7 lead. Joe White, Dalton Smith, and Tim Schoch – none of whom had played more than three games this season – were key additions to the Chicago D-line, taking control of the offense after a turn and helping the Union punch in their break chances.
Minnesota hung around and kept the game close before halftime. Jason Vallee went for an acrobatic block on a crossfield huck attempt to Quinn Snider, but White’s ensuing huck was blocked by Rami Paust. Minnesota head coach Ben Feldman was able to get the attention of the referees to call timeout just as Paust tossed a turnover and the referees granted the time out to give the Wind Chill another chance. Coffin boosted a backhand to the end zone and with Snider occupying a few defenders, Paul Krenik came down with it to bring Minnesota within two. Chicago was up at halftime 10-8.
Chicago ultimately blew the game open midway through the third quarter, blasting a 6-1 run to ice the game away. Minnesota had made their move first, with Brett Bergmeier reading a Ross Barker huck and blocking the line drive throw. Coffin launched a bending, rainbow-shaped backhand to Bryan Vohnoutka to bring the Wind Chill within one at 12-11. Three minutes later, Chicago was up 16-11. Jace Bruner started off the run with a heads-up help block that displayed impressive body control. Minnesota dropped a pull, left a reset open to basically walk in a red zone score, and started making execution errors of their own like overthrowing open swings. Chicago extended their lead to 17-12 to end the third quarter as Weis made another circus catch in traffic and flipped the buzzerbeater to Nate Goff.
In 2021, Chicago overcame a five-goal, fourth-quarter deficit to win the division. In 2022, Minnesota could not return the favor. The Union ensured such a feat could not happen, as Janas, Barker, Kyle Rutledge, and Paul Arters kept possession across the length of the field until Arters flipped a scoober to Barker to punch in another goal. Though the Wind Chill managed two breaks to bring the game closer, the final result never felt in doubt as Chicago secured their return trip to Championship Weekend.
“We won the game,” Janas said on the broadcast after the final buzzer sounded. “It was really frustrating in the first half. It was the stupidest game of ultimate I’ve ever played. But I’m glad we got the win.”
Janas and the Union hope to be sharper on Friday when they face his hometown team the Colorado Summit in the AUDL semifinal.
Carolina Powers Past Austin to Return to Championship Weekend
In front of a joyous home crowd, the Carolina Flyers took down the Austin Sol to return to Championship Weekend with a chance to defend their title. Carolina rolled through the regular season nearly unbeaten; their only blemish was a one-point loss to the Sol that came under controversy because of a last-second no call on a hand block when Carolina was a few yards from tying the game. The Flyers have been looking forward to this revenge game ever since.
In his first game since early May, Anders Juengst immediately left his mark. He skied two Austin defenders and dished a simple backhand for the game’s opening score. The Flyers never looked back. After trading a pair of holds, the Flyers went on a 4-1 run to close the first quarter, punctuated by a sliding Charlie McCutcheon reeling in a long huck (for bookends) with just a few seconds left on the clock.
Carolina extended its lead with an early break to start the second quarter before the teams fell into a pattern of short field holds. Both teams opted to start many points with short roller pulls, pressuring the opposing offenses while sacrificing yards. Both teams came equipped to handle the trickery, but the Flyers managed the clock to score last, entering halftime with a commanding 12-8 lead.
Austin came out firing on defense in the second half, forcing turnovers from the notoriously stingy Carolina offense on the Flyers’ first two possessions. Off of the pull, Joey Wylie peeled off of his assignment to block a huck intended for Juengst, and Mark Henke did the same on an upline a point later. The Sol were only able to convert one of those opportunities, but they managed to chip away at the Flyers’ lead.
Against the high pressure Carolina defense, Austin was willing and able to take over-the-top shots, whether they were Kyle Henke’s hammers or Jake Radack’s blades, the Sol were creative to keep their offense moving when the Flyers took away their easy options. Unfortunately for fans from the Lone Star State, Austin’s defense couldn’t match their offenses output and the Flyers kept their cushiony 22-18 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Kyle Henke tried to push his underdog team to a win, fighting for a block with just over one minute left in the game, but even with an additional goal on the board, the Sol did not have enough to complete the comeback and the Flyers walked away the victors in front of their home crowd by a 22-20 score.
Though they came up short in this game, the Sol exceeded expectations this season by making the playoffs and giving Carolina a competitive game. After a near miss last season, breaking through to a meaningful postseason game represents a step up for a team that had regularly been a south division punching bag just a few short years ago. Kyle Henke is a bonafide star and put together a five assist, two goal, three block, and zero turnover day. Team captain Evan Swiatek led the game with seven goals and also punched in two assists without a turnover. Most importantly, the cultural shift that started in 2020 has clearly been effective and should continue to propel Austin forward.
Carolina moves on to Championship Weekend with a repeat championship in sight. Juengst, perhaps trying to make up for his lost time earlier this season, was all over the scoresheet, putting in four assists and five goals without a turnover. “I love the fans. I love the team. It’s really the first time the team has been together in a while due to a bunch of the byes,” Juengst said after the game on the team’s Instagram account. “It’s great to be back with all the boys. I’m back on the field as well, that’s great, it feels great, and I’m excited for Championship Weekend.”
Sol Yanuck managed five assists and three goals to lead the offense. With Juengst taking his previous role on offense, Eric Taylor made his mark on defense, leading the team with two blocks and tossing three assists on the counterattack.
“It feels good to come out and get the dub,” Flyers cutter Terrance Mitchell said on the team’s Instagram account after the game. “We were looking forward to this. We were preparing even though we had club mixed in and all of that. Even with that we were preparing and making sure we got our reps and being ready to go for today.”
The Flyers are looking ahead to a rematch with the New York Empire at Championship Weekend. In 2021, they defeated New York to win the title. This year, they will meet one round earlier, but both teams will be ready for a title bout.
Colorado Continues Dominance to Win West
Over 2100 people descended on Denver to watch the expansion Colorado Summit clinch their first appearance at Championship Weekend.
Despite their status as a first year team, Colorado looked comfortable and experienced, calmly walking in the game’s first offensive point. Salt Lake, on the other hand, suffered a drop and Mathieu Agee found Nick Snuszka with an over the top blade to build an early 2-0 lead. Salt Lake finally got on the board, but their high-variance style of play led to a few overthrown hucks in the thin air of the Rocky Mountains. Halfway through the first quarter, the Summit climbed to a 4-1 lead. With the Shred offense looking out of sorts trying to inch the disc up the field with handler movement, Joe Anderson left his mark on the game, point blocking a dish before launching a cross field hammer to open up the Colorado D-line offense, sprinting to the end zone, and roofing the Salt Lake defender to catch Cody Spicer’s return hammer for another early break.
It seemed like Colorado could run away with the game from the get-go, but the Shred managed to claw their way back. Sean Connole’s buzzer-beating hammer found Joel Clutton in the back of the end zone and Salt Lake closed the first quarter on a high note, down just 6-3 despite an eight minute chunk of time during which the Shred did not score.
Salt Lake moved Clutton over to the offense to add some size against an imposing Summit defense, and an easy hold precluded an impressive quarter for the Shred. Salt Lake managed to hold all of its offensive points, and took advantage of a pair of Colorado mistakes to tie the game at 10-10. The teams went into halftime tied at 12-12.
Both offenses came out firing in the third quarter, but the game turned in Colorado’s favor when Spicer blocked Jacob Miller’s set play put to Kerr and Agee skied Jacob Miller the other way to set up a Colorado break. It appeared like the Summit would pull away like they did to open the first half, but Salt Lake was able to punch back this time. Ben Green knocked down a run through block and kept running to reel in a Martin huck over Nethercutt on the counterattack, and Salt Lake was back in business. Johnny Hoffman made an impressive, acrobatic block with the score tied at 17-17, but Matt Jackson answered the other way, blocking a Martin huck intended for Green. While Salt Lake had its chances to take what would be their first lead of the game, the teams entered the fourth quarter deadlocked.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Kerr’s crossfield shot intended for Miller drifted too far, giving Colorado the disc. Clutton could only tip his block into the hands of Snuzka to set up a Summit break. With the pressure mounting, Colorado was able to take advantage of Salt Lake’s mistakes. The Summit rallied off a 4-0 run to build a 22-18 lead. Salt Lake suffered four turnovers in their scoring end zone, with the Summit d line marching the full length of the field each time to build an insurmountable lead.
Colorado closed the game on a 70 yard huck from Alex Tatum to Seth Faris as the near-capacity crowd erupted with joy. Danny Landesman led the Summit offense on 42/42 throwing for 367 yards and four assists. He collected an additional 200 receiving yards and three goals as a cutter. Jackson managed three assists and three goals to go with his 500 total yards, and added a pair of blocks for good measure.
Looking ahead, Jackson is excited to return to Championship Weekend. “I know it’s so cliché, but we need to take care of our bodies,” he said on the broadcast after the game. “This team really pushed us to the brink – I’m feeling some swelling in my joints, my knees. We’re going to take care of ourselves, look forward to our matchup, and I feel good about our chances.”
Colorado will face the Chicago Union at Championship Weekend this coming weekend in Madison, Wisconsin.
Though the Shred will be disappointed to lose such a close match, they have plenty to build on looking to 2023. Kerr, who added seven assists to his league-leading regular season total, will almost certainly be a an MVP finalist. Connole had his breakout game, accounting for four assists, two goals, and 812 yards of offense on 50/54 throwing. Clutton managed two assists and four key goals in his sudden transition to an offensive centerpiece. With a full season playing together and learning the Shred system now under their belts, Salt Lake is already primed for a standout year next season.
DC Pushes New York to Brink, But Jagt Saves the Day (Again)
On FS2, DC Breeze showed that the four-goal cushion given to the New York Empire by DraftKings underestimated their fight. They gave New York all they could handle in the second half, but the league’s top squad survived on a Jack Williams jump ball that Ben Jagt yanked from the heavens at the buzzer for the 19-18 win. Jagt, who was also celebrating his birthday that day, flashed the clutch heroics, as he did in 2021 against the Hustle, with the game-winning grab. Had he and the Empire lost, his quiet night might have been at the forefront of criticism; instead, Jagt’s legend grows.
The game looked like it would play out as expected, with New York controlling the first half, padding out a 10-7 lead behind the more efficient D-line offense. But DC refused to fade, and opened the fourth quarter with a 3-1 run that spanned around 10 minutes to even the score at 16-16. There was not another turnover in the game after that, with five goals in two minutes closing out the game. Tyler Monroe, who was questionable prior to the contest, led the Breeze with nine scores and 450 yards of offense with just a single turnover. But the DC defense converted on just three of their nine chances in the loss.
Postseason Power Rankings
|1||New York Empire||-||1|
|7||Minnesota Wind Chill||-||7|
|8||Salt Lake Shred||-||8|
|11||San Diego Growlers||-||11|
|18||Los Angeles Aviators||-||18|
|24||Tampa Bay Cannons||-||24|
The title game rematch is set for semifinals, with Carolina taking on New York. We’ll get a new finalist on the other side from the matchup between Chicago and the first-year Colorado.