Buzzer Beater: 2023 AUDL Awards

Jeff Babbitt’s MVP win is a fourth straight for the New York Empire

New York Empire’s Antoine Davis gets a skying D on Salt Lake Shred’s Jordan Kerr in the 2023 AUDL Championship game. Photo: Steve Kotvis – AUDL

After a fantastic Championship Weekend event and another title for the dynastic New York Empire, the AUDL shifts into offseason mode. While the league may be on the backburner for the next month or so as the USA Ultimate Club Series plays out, we’ll soon start to see some rumblings of player movement, coach signings (who will take the helm in DC?), and general league updates. To kick off the offseason, the league released player awards earlier this week. For the first time in my career I was asked to submit a ballot, an honor and task that I take very seriously. Now that the awards are out, let’s dive into who won and where my personal votes differed from the final tally.

AwardAUDL WinnersAlex’s Ballot
MVPJeff Babbitt (New York Empire)Jeff Babbitt (New York Empire)
Ryan Osgar (New York Empire)Jordan Kerr (Salt Lake Shred)
Jordan Kerr (Salt Lake Shred)Jack Williams (New York Empire)
Defensive Player of the yearAntoine Davis (New York Empire)Antoine Davis (New York Empire)
Lukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)Justin Burnett (Atlanta Hustle)
John Randolph (New York Empire)Lukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)
Rookie of the yearLukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)Walker Frankenberg (Oakland Spiders)
Walker Frankenberg (Oakland Spiders)Lukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)
McKay Yorgason (Salt Lake Shred)McKay Yorgason (Salt Lake Shred)
Most Improved PlayerJace Dunnenbeil (Salt Lake Shred)Mac Hecht (Oakland Spiders)
Duncan Fitzgerald (Austin Sol)Jace Dunnenbeil (Salt Lake Shred)
Garrett Martin (Seattle Cascades)Garrett Martin (Seattle Cascades)
Coach of the YearBryce Merrill (Salt Lake Shred)Steven Naji (Austin Sol)
Steven Naji (Austin Sol)Bryce Merrill (Salt Lake Shred)
Charlie Hoppes and Anthony Nunez (New York Empire) Tuba Benson-Jaja (Atlanta Hustle)
First Team All-AUDLJeff Babbitt (New York Empire)Ryan Osgar (New York Empire)
Brett Hulsmeyer (Atlanta Hustle)Pawel Janas (Los Angeles Aviators)
Ben Jagt (New York Empire)Jeff Babbitt (New York Empire)
Pawel Janas (Los Angeles Aviators)Ben Jagt (New York Empire)
Jordan Kerr (Salt Lake Shred)Jordan Kerr (Salt Lake Shred)
Sean McDougall (Los Angeles Aviators)Mac Hecht (Oakland Spiders)
Ryan Osgar (New York Empire)Christian Boxley (DC Breeze)
Second Team All-AUDLChristian Boxley (DC Breeze)Jonathan Nethercutt (Colorado Summitt)
Quinn Finer (Colorado Summit)Jack Williams (New York Empire)
Kyle Henke (Austin Sol)Evan Switatek (Austin Sol)
John Randolph (New York Empire)Ben Oort (DC Breeze)
Max Sheppard (Pittsburgh Thunderbirds)Xavier Payne (Indianapolis Alleycats)
Evan Swiatek (Austin Sol)John Randolph (New York Empire)
Jack Williams (New York Empire)Max Sheppard (Pittsburgh Thunderbirds)
Third Team All-AUDLAntoine Davis (New York Empire)Sean McDougall (Los Angeles Aviators)
Travis Dunn (San Diego Growlers)Antoine Davis (New York Empire)
Jacob Fairfax (Carolina Flyers)Quinn Finer (Colorado Summitt)
Mac Hecht (Oakland Spiders)Travis Dunn (San Diego Growlers)
Jonny Malks (DC Breeze)Kyle Henke (Austin Sol)
Garrett Martin (Seattle Cascades)Jonny Malks (DC Breeze)
Jacob Miller (Salt Lake Shred)Brett Hulsmeyerr (Atlanta Hustle)
First Team All-DefenseLukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)Antoine Davis (New York Empire)
Justin Burnett (Atlanta Hustle)Justin Burnett (Atlanta Hustle)
Antoine Davis (New York Empire)Lukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)
Ben Jagt (New York Empire)John Randolph (New York Empire)
John Randolph (New York Empire)Paul Owens (Philadelphia Phoenix)
Cody Spicer (Colorado Summit)AJ Merriman (DC Breeze)
Joey Wylie (Austin Sol)Brett Hulsmeyer (Atlanta Hustle)
Second Team All-DefenseDylan DeClerck (Minnesota Wind Chill)William Wettengel (Indianapolis Alleycats)
Ryan Drost (New York Empire)Joey Wylie (Austin Sol)
Brett Hulsmeyer (Atlanta Hustle)Jace Bruner (Chicago Union)
AJ Merriman (DC Breeze)Bretton Tan (New York Empire)
Paul Owens (Philadelphia Phoenix)Dylan DeClerck (Minnesota Wind Chill)
Kyle Weinberg (Salt Lake Shred)Kyle Weinberg (Salt Lake Shred)
William Wettengel (Indianapolis AlleyCats)Cody Spicer (Colorado Summitt) 
First Team All-RookieLukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)Walker Frankenberg (Oakland Spiders)
Sam Berglund (Minnesota Wind Chill)Lukas Ambrose (Los Angeles Aviators)
Simon Carapella (Boston Glory)McKay Yorgason (Salt Lake Shred)
Walker Frankenberg (Oakland Spiders)William Wettengel (Indianapolis Alleycats)
Liam Haberfield (Atlanta Hustle)Liam Haberfield (Atlanta Hustle)
William Wettengel (Indianapolis AlleyCats)Sam Berglund (Minnesota Wind Chill)
McKay Yorgason (Salt Lake Shred)Simon Carapella (Boston Glory)
Second Team All-RookieRaekwon Adkins (Oakland Spiders)Tobias Brooks (Carolina Flyers)
Tanner Barcus (Minnesota Wind Chill)Dexter Clyburn (Oakland Spiders)
Tobias Brooks (Carolina Flyers)Calvin Trisolini (Philadelphia Phoenix)
Dexter Clyburn (Oakland Spiders)Joe Leibforth (Madison Radicals)
Max Gibson (San Diego Growlers)Mikey O'Brien (Pittsburgh Thunderbirds)
Anthony Gutowsky (Madison Radicals)Anthony Gutowski (Madison Radicals)
Calvin Trisolini (Philadelphia Phoenix)Tanner Barcus (Minnesota Wind Chill)

So of course my first instinct is to look at where my votes aligned with the cumulative total and where they didn’t. Before we jump in, I do want to note that I submitted votes for who I think should have won, not as predictions for who would end up winning, so this exercise is not a precise comparison. Looking back on my votes a few weeks after submission and with all of the information available, I do not feel bad about or regret any of the votes I cast.

Where I Aligned

At the end of the voting, I voted for:

  • 2/3 finishers on the MVP and DPOTY podiums, including the winners
  • 2/3 finishers on the MIP and COTY podiums
  • All three finishers on the ROTY podium (though in the wrong order)
  • 7/7 players on the All-Rookie First Team!
  • 12/21 players on the correct All-AUDL team and 18/21 players on any of the All-AUDL teams

There were plenty of obvious picks, so I’m not patting myself on the back too hard here for voting “correctly,” but it is fun to see the comparison and I’d be interested to see a full voting breakdown if the league was willing to release it.

Where I Differed

With as many variables as there are to consider, it’s no surprise that my placement for some of the All-AUDL picks differed from their final placement. High flying receivers Sean McDougall and Brett Hulsmeyer were 1st team picks from the crowd, but third team picks on my ballot. Meanwhile high-volume throwers like Mac Hecht and Jonathan Nethercutt were higher on my ballot than the final list.

Overall, I tended to include players from less successful teams in higher places than the collective. Hecht is one example. Though the Spiders didn’t make the playoffs, I thought Hecht had a fantastic season and voted for him in an All-AUDL 1st team spot and as the league’s most improved player (his four assists in one game for the 2022 Detroit Mechanix blocked his Rookie of the Year candidacy). He ended up finishing on the All-AUDL 3rd team, which is impressive for a player essentially in his rookie season, but that finish feels like a snub to me. I wonder whether if the Spiders had edged out Los Angeles for the last West playoff spot, other voters might have voted differently. With similar logic, I found spots for Jace Bruner (All-Defense) and Xavier Payne (All-AUDL) while the collective voting block did not.

One thing that was tough was sorting out which players on very successful teams were deserving of honors. A starting line of New York Empire players were named across the various awards, while the DC Breeze were left with a paltry three winners (Christian Boxley and Jonny Malks on All-AUDL teams and AJ Merriman on the All-Defense 2nd team). I also voted for Ben Oort to find a spot on the All-AUDL teams and had AJ Merriman on the 1st rather than the 2nd All-Defense team. Again, I wonder if missing Championship Weekend had an effect on voters given the talent DC has all over its roster.

All things considered, I have but minor nit-picks to the final results and everyone who earned an honor deserved it. I am grateful to be part of the process and for the trust the league showed in me (and any other outside media they invited to cast a ballot) as a voter. Congratulations to all of the winners!

What do you think of the award winners? Of my ballot? Feel free to reach out on X/Twitter at @StallSeven or by email to [email protected] if you want to share your thoughts.

News and Notes

So far the offseason has been pretty quiet since the Empire were crowned 2023’s champions, but here are a few more thoughts as we head into the quiet months:

  • There is no announced plan yet for another All-Star game. 2022’s event was in November in Portland; the league is considering something similar for this year but has not yet revealed any plans.
  • I will continue to check in throughout the offseason as we see player movement, the announcement of 2024’s Championship Weekend location, and presumably a video game update.

Mailbag

Have a question about the AUDL? Send it in to [email protected] with AUDL Mailbag in the subject line. You can also message me on Twitter at @ StallSeven

Who would win between 2023 Empire vs. that 2016 superstar Dallas Roughnecks? -Theresa

This question has been thrown around a lot over the last month or so. I think this Empire team wins. Yes, the 2016 Roughnecks had a starting line of Team USA level players (Beau Kittredge, Kurt Gibson, Jimmy Mickle, Dylan Freechild, Cassidy Rasmussen, Ben Lohre, and Stanley Peterson), but they never practiced together. This Empire team is great because it combines all-world talents (Jack Williams, Ryan Osgar, Ben Jagt, Jeff Babbitt, John Randolph) with the chemistry and coordination of a club team–even though these players do not all play for the same club team! On paper, the Roughnecks team has more players who did more impressive things in their overall careers, but looking at their AUDL experiences, the Empire are more successful, more experienced, and better challenged.

Power Rankings

UFA Power Rankings:
Rank Team Change Prior
1 - 1
2 +3 5
3 -1 2
4 -1 3
5 -1 4
6 - 6
7 - 7
8 - 8
9 +2 11
10 -1 9
11 -1 10
12 - 12
13 - 13
14 - 14
15 - 15
16 - 16
17 - 17
18 - 18
19 - 19
20 - 20
21 - 21
22 - 22
23 - 23
24 - 24
  • DC moves up as its results against New York were closer than both Austin’s and Salt Lake’s. Though they have never been to Championship Weekend, the Breeze are clearly the second best team in the league.
  • Minnesota also moves up after their strong semifinal showing. They stay behind Colorado who own a similar record against Salt Lake and beat the Wind Chill head-to-head.
  1. 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).

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