In 2014 the AUDL Eastern Division improved significantly and ended up sending two teams to the final four. Players from outside the region like Tyler DeGirolamo, Brett Matzuka, Noah Saul, and Justin Allen brought more top end talent to the division. This year, with AUDL teams in nine new cities, there aren’t as many players traveling out of region to play for teams in the East. With a new team in Ottawa and other teams experiencing roster upheaval, the race for second in the East seems to be wide open. Meanwhile, a familiar team is the clear and heavy favorite to win the division.
DC Breeze – Offseason Grade: D
Adding: David Boylan-Kolchin, Chip Cobb, Glenn Poole
Subtracting: Tyler DeGirolamo, Brett Matzuka, Alex Thorne, Justin Solis, Logan Rhyne, Tyler Kunsa, Josh Norris, Ryan Nam
Key Returners: Daniel Selwyn, AJ Jacoski, Alex Ghesquiere (Coach)
Last offseason DC did more to improve their team than any other team in the AUDL. Bringing in players like DeGirolamo, Matzuka, and Thorne helped the Breeze improve to 9-5, qualifying for the playoffs. Once there they went out with a whimper, losing 12-37 to Toronto.
David Boylan-Kochin, Chip Cobb, and Glenn Poole are all coming over to the Breeze from the DC Current, the MLU team that won the championship last year. All were role players on the Current D-line and will help provide some defensive spark to a D-line that struggled to create break opportunities last year.
With so many players having departed in the offseason, a few returners look to make a bigger impact in 2015. One to count on would be Daniel Selwyn. Last year he mostly provided support as a D-line handler to Brett Matzuka. This year he’ll play a bigger role, and we may see a near return to 2013 levels of production for him, when he recorded over 50 assists and 25 blocks.
This year, getting back to the playoffs would be a big surprise for DC. While a top-three finish seems very unlikely, it’d be a mistake to think that the Breeze will simply revert to their 2013 form. That season the Breeze only went 4-12, getting blown out by teams like Toronto and New York. This year the Breeze may not be playoff material, but teams won’t be able to walk over them.
Projected Record: 4-10, 5th in the East
Montreal Royal – Offseason Grade: C
Adding: Greg Moore, Oliver St Denis
Subtracting: Tim Tsang, Eric Dion, Chuck Cantone
Key Returners: Yoland Cabot, Jean Levy-Champagne, Philippe Thivierge
In 2014 the Royal generated a lot of excitement in Montreal. Fans showed up to games and the Royal packed a punch. They were the only team to beat the Toronto Rush during the regular season. Unfortunately, the Royal had the knack of giving up fourth quarter leads, handing away games to both DC and Philadelphia.
This year the Royal are missing a lot of their statistical leaders from 2014. Eric Dion led the team in assists, and is gone. Tim Tsang, who led the team in goals, was second assists, and third in blocks, now plays for Vancouver. Chuck Cantone was second on the team in goals, and also left Montreal. Last year the Royal skewed older, and though 16 players are coming back this year, the Royal are bringing in some youth in 2015.
Four players from this summer’s U23 Team Canada Open team (and one player from the 2014 U19 team) will be playing for Montreal this year. Greg Moore is one of them. Moore is not only on the roster for this year’s U23 Team Canada team, he also got important minutes in 2013 when the Canadian U23 team gave a star-studded Team USA a run for their money in the final. Adding some much needed youth could help the Royal close games this season, and the Royal figure to be in the thick of the playoff hunt once again.
Projected Record: 8-6, 4th in the East
New York Empire – Offseason Grade: B-
Adding: Jack Marsh, Ignacio Yz, Andrew Wilkes, Kamil Skwarek
Subtracting: Noah Saul, Justin Allen, Matt Bode
Key Returners: Billy Katz, Ryan Drost, Mike Drost
Last year New York was an impressive team, going 10-4 and reaching the semifinals. Much of that success was attributable to the trio of North Carolina players that aren’t back this year. Saul led the team with 56 assists. The only player on the team to have more than half that many assists was Matt Bode, another North Carolina player that left.
Even with the North Carolina contingent gone, this New York team has a lot of AUDL experience to fall back on. In 2013 these same players finished second in the East, giving Toronto a run for their money in the Eastern Conference championship. One player from that 2013 squad coming back to New York is Jack Marsh.
After playing for the New York Rumble last season, Jack Marsh is back with the Empire for 2015. Marsh missed a lot of games in 2013, but when he played he made a big impact on this team. Marsh scored on 36% of the points he played, and was a big reason New York was able to make a game of it against Toronto in the playoffs. In addition to Marsh, highlight reel friendly Ignacio Yz is playing with the Empire this year, as is PoNY captain Andrew Wilkes. The Empire have proved to be a great way for younger New York players to take the step into elite ultimate, and with four 2013 Metro East College All Region players on board for this season, including player of the region Kamil Skwarek, that should be truer than ever in 2015.
Even more importantly this New York team has a lot of players returning that are sure to step up. First there’s Billy Katz, who was second on the team in throws last season and had a 97% completion rate. While Katz will surely miss playing with Noah Saul, Katz and Lionel Wininger should make a dangerous and efficient handling combination for the New York O-line. Matt Stevens will be a frequent target for both. Last year Stevens had 57 goals, good for second in the league. The O-line retains its fair share of playmakers, but New York has always made its name on defense. Mike and Ryan Drost are back for 2015, and that tandem had 58 d’s between them last season. Izzy Bryant is back as well, and has played an important role as a defensive handler for the last two years. With the Empire bringing back the core this year, New York should find its way to the playoffs.
Projected Record: 10-4, 2nd in the East
Ottawa Outlaws – Offseason Grade: B
Key Players: Derek Alexander, Karl Loiseau (Toronto), Nick Boucher
The Ottawa Outlaws are the only expansion team in the East this year. Like Toronto, Ottawa is very closely connected to their local club team. The Outlaws have 18 players from Phoenix, the athletic team that upset the Buzz Bullets at WUCC in Italy last August and finished sixth at Northeast Regionals in the club series. Of course, the Outlaws have a few other additions as well.
Derek Alexander has for years been one of the primary handlers for GOAT. He has an arsenal of throws that should serve the Outlaws well, given the athleticism of the rest of the roster. Karl Loiseau is another GOAT player that’s playing for the Outlaws this season. Loiseau also played for the Rush last season, scoring on 18% of the points he played despite spending the majority of his time on the D-line. Nick Boucher is another player that’s used to playing on a bigger stage, having played on Team Canada for the U19 team in 2010 and 2012, then the U23 team in 2013 and again this summer.The Outlaws may not have the talent to beat Toronto, but the chemistry from having already played together could give Ottawa a leg up in the playoff race.
Projected Record: 9-5, 3rd in the East
Philadelphia Phoenix – Offseason Grade: C-
Adding: Sam Peezick
Subtracting: Kenny Wells
Key Returners: Kyle Wolf, Casey Startzell, Brian Magerr
Last year the Phoenix went through a rough transition. Matt Esser and David Brandolph had led the team to the playoffs the year before, and after they left to play in the MLU Philadelphia wasn’t the same team. They went 2-12, and though Philadelphia never beat a team other than Rochester, they were able to play competitive games. This year David Brandolph is coming back in a new role as head coach, and though Philly is a far ways from being competitive for the playoffs, they’re taking steps. New leadership and a better defense could help this team get a couple more wins this year.
Projected Record: 3-11, 6th in the East
Rochester Dragons – Offseason Grade: C-
Adding: Matt Cameron
Subtracting: Dave Ferraro, Greg Wakeman
Key Returners: TJ Burns, Max Rick, Kevin Quinlan
Rochester faces a tough road. The reality is that Rochester just doesn’t have the same kind of ultimate community that the rest of the division has, relying much more heavily on players that were stars on their DIII college teams. Rochester is less than a third the size of the next smallest city in the division. The Dragons went 1-13 last year and there’s not a lot of cause for optimism after losing leading goal scorer Dave Ferraro.
That said, the Dragons have always been young team, and this young team now has years of AUDL experience. They’re one of the more athletic teams in the division, and this year they don’t have their season opener until May 2. They are also adding a potent target in Matt Cameron, who helped lead Elon to the DIII championship game just last year.
Despite all that, and despite the downturn in top-end talent across the East, it’s tough to see Rochester passing Philadelphia or DC, let alone the more competitive teams in the East.
Projected Record: 2-12, last in the East
Toronto Rush – Offseason Grade: A-
Adding: Andrew Carroll
Key Returners: Mark Lloyd, Cameron Harris, Thomson McKnight, Jonathan Martin
Toronto has been the class of the East for the last two years. Both New York and DC were able to play them close at times last year, and Montreal even beat them once late in the season.
But Toronto always beats its Eastern counterparts when it matters most. Last year, in the first round of the playoffs, the Rush beat DC 37-12. In the semis they beat New York 31-16. The Rush didn’t play a very good game in the final and the Spiders took advantage, winning easily 28-18.
In the MLB, NBA, or NFL, teams that come up that short in the championship might react by making a trade, or going after a big free agent. That’s not really an option in the AUDL, and that might be for the best in Toronto’s case. Toronto already has incredible chemistry. Last fall GOAT beat Revolver in the quarterfinals of the club championships, and barely lost to Johnny Bravo on double game point in the semifinals. That kind of performance shows that Toronto is able to play with any team in the country. 22 of Toronto’s players are coming back from last year’s team.
That said, the Rush are doing what they can to ensure their roster doesn’t get stale. Of the six new players on the team, five played on a U23 Canadian national team in either 2013 or this year. Last year Toronto didn’t play San Jose nearly as well as Madison or San Francisco did, but don’t read too much into a sample size of one. Any conversation about championship contenders has to include the Rush.
Projected Record: 13-1, 1st in the East