The Best in the League: The Raleigh – Atlanta Rivalry
Raleigh and Atlanta Bring a Shared History Back to the Field
Ultimate in the south is a sport defined by rivalries. The college series has been packed with high profile games between some of the best programs on the east coast. In the club division, Raleigh and Atlanta teams fueled each other’s rise with the biggest games often occurring at regionals. The AUDL South is no different. The very first game game for both the Raleigh Flyers and Atlanta Hustle was the opening weekend AUDL game of the week in 2015. Raleigh and jump started its 2015 season with a convincing 29-22 win at WakeMed Soccer Park. The following meeting between the two teams in Atlanta would deliver one of the most unpredictable and exciting endings to an AUDL game. As the 4th quarter wound down Raleigh was in control of the game 26-25 and receiving the pull from Atlanta with 37 seconds left on the clock. The Flyers did not need to score to win but a shot downfield to Justin Allen was intercepted by Trenton Spinks who stayed downfield in the end zone to entice and intercept an errant shot deep. The improbable D was followed by an improbable sequence of play with five seconds left in the fourth quarter. A desperate Hail Mary into the Raleigh end zone was tipped by Raleigh defenders into the hands of Jay Clark. In overtime, the Hustle capitalized on several key Raleigh turnover to take the game 29-28 and set the trend of winning every home game in Atlanta. It’s a winning streak the Flyers have yet to break.
Flashback to the Atlanta Hustle and their insane Snake in the Grass play
Posted by American Ultimate Disc League on Friday, July 8, 2016
Atlanta’s snake in the grass play in 2015 was truly one of a kind.
In terms of personnel, the Hustle has been a mix of old and new home grown talent. Dylan Tunnell has been the dreadnought powering the Atlanta offense, but it has been the contributions of Atlanta’s younger players, particularly Matt Smith, Elliot Erickson and Nathan Vickroy, that have turned the Hustle into a playoff contender. The raw talent the Atlanta picked up between 2015-2016 may not have given them the kind of star firepower of other teams in the Southern Division, but they didn’t need it. With Vikroy and Smith the Hustle had a pair of stars in the making. Vickroy brought a host of skill sets to Atlanta’s offense and cemented himself as a true triple threat with his throws and athletic plays on both sides of the disc. Matt Smith’s small frame is easy to overlook in a league where big goons dominate the defensive lines of every team, but underestimating Smith’s abilities is a huge mistake. In the air and on the field he is a hard player to contain and was a frequent downfield target in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Raw talent combined with the steady and grinding efficiency of a main battle tank like Tunnell gave the Hustle all the pieces they needed to get to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2016.
Nathan freaking Vickroy had a big year for the Atlanta Hustle in 2016.
Posted by American Ultimate Disc League on Friday, March 3, 2017
Nathan Vickroy was largely unknown outside the Atlanta ultimate scene until his tremendous breakout season with the Hustle in 2016.
The stage was set for a showdown between the Hustle and the Flyers in the opening round of the Southern Division Playoffs. A lightning delay Saturday evening pushed the game to Sunday. When play resumed at midday, both teams delivered a nail biting performance. Atlanta and Raleigh traded breaks in the first half with the Flyers defense fueled by big plays from Josh Hartzog, Mark Lin and Tim McAllister. The Flyers took control of the game in the third quarter and entered into an offensive shootout as the clock ticked into the 4th. The Hustle matched the Flyers shot for shot in the deep space and capitalized on key turnovers to rally and take the lead with only three minutes left to play. With 1:40 left to play and Atlanta receiving the pull at 24-23, Raleigh needed to score a key break to tie the game. Forcing overtime was the Flyers’ best hope to advance to the Southern Division Championships against Dallas. Atlanta calmly worked the disc through the Flyers defense and demonstrated a great deal of discipline retaining possession for 1:20 before finally closing the point with a goal by Matt Smith. The Flyers were unable to answer on offense and a subsequent turnover on quick hail marry to the end zone closed the door on Raleigh’s season.
Jack Williams battles in the air during the 2016 AUDL playoffs against Sam Little and Elliot Erickson, two young products of the University of Georgia’s elite ultimate program.
Congratulations to the 2016 #AUDL MVP: Dylan Tunnell Atlanta Hustle
Posted by American Ultimate Disc League on Thursday, August 25, 2016
Dylan Tunnell was awarded MVP honors by the AUDL following an outstanding season for the Hustle in 2016.
The rivalry between Raleigh and Atlanta has been a franchise defining one that has pushed both teams incredibly hard. Raleigh’s status as the top dog in 2015 forced Atlanta to evolve as a franchise and bring in powerful young weapons that can challenge the Flyers’ aggressive offense. The Flyers on the other hand have had to come to terms with the reality that Atlanta can truly challenge them both at home and on the road. The lessons that both franchises have learned from each other about resilience on defense and balance on offense have kept the rivalry fresh and exciting. The 2016 season left plenty of unanswered questions about how far both franchises can truly go. The presence of a Dallas super team may have cast a shadow on both programs, but if 2016 proved anything, the destiny of the Hustle and the Flyers might not necessarily be decided in Dallas. Opening weekend on April 1st will be the first of two meetings between Raleigh and Atlanta in the regular season. Those two games are potentially must win opportunities that cannot be overlooked in a division full of parity and deep teams.
On April 1st we return to WakeMed Soccer Park where it all began! Opening day against the Atlanta Hustle is just three weeks away! We are excited to kick off another season with the American Ultimate Disc League RSVP on the event page below and grab tickets at http://raleigh-flyers.com/tickets/ Be sure to like and follow The Hangar fan page for updates on game day tailgating #FlyersFamily #AUDL2017 #OpeningDay #AUDL2017 https://www.facebook.com/events/745128765653007/
Posted by Raleigh Flyers on Sunday, March 12, 2017
The rivalry returns to Wake Med Soccer Park April 1st.
Join us April 1st at WakeMed Soccer Park as the rivalry continues! Rock your red and come out to support the Flyers as they kick off the 2017 AUDL season at home. We will be releasing weekly content including game recaps and player profiles throughout the course of the season. Stay tuned for more news and highlights as we ramp up for the 2017 season. For all of the latest news and updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @RaleighFlyers. For season tickets head over to http://raleigh-flyers.com/tickets and follow the gear tab to check the latest merchandise courtesy of Five Ultimate and Discraft. Join the conversation using the hashtag #FlyersFamily and be sure to RSVP and share Flyers events on social media.