April was an incredibly busy month for the Flyers as the 2018 AUDL season kicked off in Raleigh with the Flyers taking on Tampa Bay. Nail biter finishes, flashy plays, and new faces have defined the past month of play for the Flyers and with the Raleigh Radiance competing in their debut on the road in Nashville, there was plenty of great ultimate to enjoy. Here’s everything that happened in April and what’s coming in May.
Liu and Freystaetter Making Their Presence Felt
The addition of Mischa Freystaetter and Bob Liu to Raleigh’s offense has been an exciting development out of the gate this season. Liu had a statement debut for Raleigh on opening day with a perfect 41-41 possession rate in his first game. Liu has become a central part of Raleigh’s offense with a powerful array of throws and has helped Raleigh’s offense play at a much faster pace, something that became very evident during Raleigh’s road trip to Texas this past weekend.
Freystaetter’s growth within Raleigh’s system has been a very interesting development over the past month. The towering receiver slowly build up to an excellent performance on the road in Nashville and Dallas after battling with illness earlier in the season. Mischa showed skill both downfield as a cutter and with the disc with his hands in Texas.
“Mischa’s starting to find his place and show the skill and ability we’ve all been accustomed to seeing the last few years,” said head coach Mike Denardis.
With the Cannons coming to town this weekend Mischa will have yet another opportunity to match up with his former AUDL squad.
Radiance Make Their Debut In Nashville
The Raleigh Radiance took the field this month in Nashville with a game that came down to the wire in a 15-14 sudden death overtime win over the Nashville Nightshade. With many of the Radiance’s young players competing in the college series, the Radiance made do with a smaller roster in Nashville.
Behind the scenes, the creation of the Radiance came out of a desire from multiple players in the triangle to create an opportunity to play professionally. Discussions about the possibility of creating what ultimately became the Raleigh Radiance began midway through the 2018 pre-season. When the Nashville Nightshade became an affiliate ultimate program for the Nashville Nightwatch, an opportunity opened up for a women’s team to compete at home and road in the Southern Division. By the time of the season opener at the beginning of April, the Radiance had their name and a full roster of players selected to compete against Nashville.
The Radiance draw the core of their players from the rising college stars and from the women’s and mixed club programs in the triangle. Three current callahan candidates, Jenny Wei (UNC Pleiades), Amanda Murphy (Duke Swerve), and Ashley Powell (NC State Jaga Monster) compete for the Radiance.
“The triangle has ridiculously talented women and we wanted to make sure we tapped into each pool of talent, andI think that our roster really reflects that,” said Rebecca Widmayer.
With the college series wrapping up at the end of May, expect a full Radiance roster on the field when the Nashville Nightshade come to compete at home in June.
Redemption In Texas
Despite losing many of their stars for the 2018 season, Dallas retained the speed and youth of an entirely local team this season. The April 7th home game against the Roughnecks was a tough windy and rainy grind that favored Dallas’ play style on the day. With several key offensive players missing Raleigh struggled in the gusty conditions while the Roughnecks found their form behind the defensive playmaking of Chris Larberg and an impressive five assist performance by Chris LaRocque.
Winning in Texas on the road is no easy thing due to the double header format every team in the south faces. The stakes for Raleigh were high when they topped off three weekends on the road against Austin and Dallas. Raleigh’s Friday night matchup against Austin tested the team all the way to the end. Under the lights Raleigh put on a late run to take the game to overtime with Jonathan Goose Helton putting on an impressive show of athleticism, and at one point blind luck, coming up with two buzzer beaters. Raleigh came up short against Austin however losing in overtime.
Redemption on the road came in the form of a victory the following night against Dallas. What was probably the most notable aspect of the Flyers’ performance was the pace they were able to play at. Bob Liu and Goose Helton (who notably competed with a broken toe during the weekend) were hard to stop and the Flyers’ D line, which had trouble converting breaks earlier in the season, gave Raleigh a comfortable cushion of breaks starting early in the 1st half. Looking at the course of the team’s journey so far Denardis praised the team’s growth.
“In every game, we’ve gathered ourselves and showed good energy when pressed to do so. Clearly, the Dallas game was our most technically sound, but every week we seem closer to form despite our thinner rosters.”
The Ultimate Training Academy and the Month Ahead
The Flyers and Radiance will be putting on the Ultimate Training Academy at the end of June. The Academy is a four day evening camp for middle schoolers of all skill levels. Drawing on the coaching expertise of Mike Denardis and Jessi Jones, as well as a cadre of elite players representing both teams, the camp will provide young players with the skills they need to continue growing as ultimate players. The camp will run four evenings from June 25th-June 28th at Old Chapel Hill Rd. Park in Durham.
“We’re super excited to teach our campers many of the same techniques and fundamentals that our pro players use,” said Mike Denardis. “We’ll cover topics ranging from warming up like a pro, to effective throwing and cutting, to keeping ourselves loose and engaged in a game.”
Ultimate action for Raleigh resumes at home on May 5th for the Flyers’ 3rd meeting against the Tampa Bay Cannons. Jack Williams and Cannon’s star Nathan Vickroy are currently neck and neck as the league’s scoring leaders with Vickroy only three scores ahead of Williams heading into the weekend. Then it’s back on the road for Raleigh as the Flyers compete in their two regular season cross divisional games against the DC Breeze on May 12th and the Madison Radicals on Memorial Day weekend.