Buzzer Beater: It Finally Happened! [UFA Week 9, 2024]

Sound the alarms! The Detroit Mechanix won their first game since April 29, 2017.

Detroit Mechanix’s Carson Chamberlain makes the diving grab past the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds defender during the 2024 UFA regular season. Photo: Jeff Gamza – UFA

Central Success

Last week, I wrote about not overlooking the oft-overlooked Central Division. I wrote about Minnesota, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Madison. The Detroit Mechanix clearly felt left out, and took drastic measures to get more than a cursory mention in this newsletter. After 81 games across 2,611 days all ended in losses, the Detroit Mechanix won a game in the Ultimate Frisbee Association.

The magnitude of this moment is hard to parse. On one hand, Detroit rightfully should celebrate as if they won the championship–this win has eluded the franchise since the Nintendo Switch was released and the UK began the Brexit process. On the other hand, the now 1-7 Mechanix are far from a competitive outfit in a fairly competitive division and this is really a blip on the radar of what has been a truly wild season. That being said, for the first time in recent memory, the Mechanix took their moment.

Their opponent, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, sent far from their A-team roster. Players who have shined for the Tbirds this season like Will Hoffenkamp, Anson Reppermund, Conner Newell, Charlie Vukovic, and Anil Driehuys were absent. Max Sheppard and Jon Mast were there; it wasn’t as if Pittsburgh just sent out whoever they could find tossing a disc on the University of Pittsburgh quad to play. But, it should be acknowledged that seven of the twenty active players were making their team debut.

There have been times in past seasons when the Mechanix were scheduled to play against a team missing a chunk of their typical active roster due to club conflicts or a social event like a wedding. In each of those instances, Detroit came close–maybe even leading in the second half–but could never come away with a win.

There was the game on June 17, 2023 when the Mechanix hit all eight of their hucks, came back to tie their game against Indy in the fourth quarter, but lost 20-19. There was the game on August 7th, 2021 when the Chicago Union needed their owner and coach to suit up to cover for player absences. Detroit led by three at halftime but lost 20-16. There was a game on July 6, 2019 when Pittsburgh needed 12 assists from Sheppard to escape with a 24-23 win. Or on June 30th, 2018–a 20-19 win for the Thunderbirds. On May 28th, 2022 Detroit played Indianapolis sans talisman Travis Carpenter. They rostered both Johnny Bansfield and Mac Hecht for that game, but still couldn’t pull out the win. After losses close and of the blowout variety, the Mechanix never lost their belief that the eventual win would come.

Detroit grinded through multi-possession early points and built a 5-2 lead that would last throughout much of the game. The fourth quarter became a celebration, as the Mechanix poured in eight of the nine goals scored in the quarter. Longtime Mechanix player (Mechanic?) Terry Gaither led the team with six goals. Rookie Jacob Felton threw nine assists. Colin Beauregard led the defensive effort with three blocks. It was truly a team effort. All but one player scored a goal, threw an assist, completed 15+ passes, or notched a block.

“When you start a program with 27 strangers/rookies in a 35 person program that is attached to the longest current losing streak in professional sports, you have to BELIEVE that all things are possible,” Detroit owner and head coach Brent Steepe wrote after the win (emphasis his). “WE stand as proof of that concept.”

The Mechanix improbably still have a very narrow window in which they could qualify for the playoffs.1 They will need a lot of help, but I know Steepe isn’t taking too long to enjoy his first win of the 2020s and is already focused on the next game ahead.

Meanwhile, this game is a big blow to Pittsburgh’s playoff push. The Thunderbirds are a game behind Madison, who they do play the game after next…but that intervening game is a tough matchup against Carolina. It will take a pretty big effort for Pittsburgh to climb back into the playoff race. If they need inspiration, well, the Detroit Mechanix just won a game, so anything is possible.

News and Notes

  • In the most anticipated game of the week, the Atlanta Hustle beat the Carolina Flyers 25-19. The Hustle scored impressive wins earlier this season against New York and Colorado, but had yet to beat the Flyers. This was the first matchup played in Atlanta and the Hustle survived a nervy opening few minutes to build a small lead–6-4 after the first quarter–that they would not relinquish. Jeremy Langdon’s four assists and three goals led the Hustle. Lukas McClamrock’s three assists are a lot for a game of this magnitude against a team that really values possession of the disc.
  • Montreal had a rough road trip stateside. Philadelphia beat Montreal 21-10 to scoot above the Royal in the standings. Scott Heyman’s five assists and 485 yards led the team. DC also beat Montreal with Jacques Nissen’s game-leading 412 yards to go with two assists powering the Breeze.
  • New York and Boston each beat Toronto to keep pace in the East Division playoff race. The Rush may have found a new offensive weapon though: Zachary Armstrong scored 14 goals across the two games. Prior to this weekend, he had seven total in 2024 while playing primarily on D-lines.
  • Dallas went 0-2 this weekend. The Legion held a two-goal second half lead against Austin, but the Sol pulled together in the fourth quarter and held on for a 26-21 win to regain their place in the South playoff picture. Dallas also lost to Houston 21-18 despite once again holding a multi-goal lead. Jimmy Zuraw had another great game with two assists and four goals.
  • The Mountain Time teams won their home games. Salt Lake beat LA through a full-team effort. Nearly every player had at least one goal, assist, or block. Colorado beat San Diego thanks to a five assist, four goal, two block performance from Noah Coolman.
  • The Growlers also lost in Oakland. Raekwon Adkins, fresh off of a D-I College Rookie of the Year Runner-Up finish, led the way for the Spiders with seven goals.
  • Will Brandt’s eight assists powered Minnesota to a win over Madison to stay atop the Central standings. Dylan DeClerck had a +5 day on the D-line.
  • In other Central Division action, the Chicago Union outlasted the Indy AlleyCats 19-14 in a game that featured 63 turnovers.

Mailbag

Have a question about the UFA? Send it in to [email protected] with UFA Mailbag in the subject line. You can also message me on Twitter at @StallSeven, or subscribers can DM me in the Ultiworld Discord.

Shout out to Alty who emailed me to note that “Seattle bageled Portland in the first quarter,” and ask, “How many bagel quarters have happened in UFA league history?”

I do not have enough capacity to research this on my own and pull off a full and complete answer, but I appreciated the question so I did a cursory search through a few seasons of the teams I thought were most likely to get bageled (score 0 points) in a quarter. There actually was a bagel earlier this season; on May 11th, the Glory shut out the Phoenix in the second quarter. I found several occasions when the Nitro, Havoc, and Mechanix scored one goal, but that was the only bagel I found in my brief search.

At the professional level, even the worse teams are still really good. It’s hard to shut out opponents. It is no surprise that the two teams to do it this season (Seattle and Boston) are both teams ascending up the power rankings due to an improved sense of collective buy-in within their teams. It takes more than just skill to blank an opponent; it also takes mental fortitude and a certain desire to really punish an opponent for their mistakes to make a statement that powerful.

UFA Power Rankings:
Rank Team Change Prior
1 +1 2
2 -1 1
3 - 3
4 - 4
5 - 5
6 - 6
7 - 7
8 - 8
9 - 9
10 - 10
11 - 11
12 - 12
13 - 13
14 +1 15
15 +3 18
16 - 16
17 - 17
18 -4 14
19 - 19
20 - 20
21 - 21
22 - 22
23 +1 24
24 -1 23

  1. Essentially they need to win out and hope the results fall in such a way as to create a tiebreaker among teams with 5-7 records, and have the best point differential among those teams. 

  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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