Tuesday Toss: The Win-By-One Warriors

May 14, 2023
By Evan Lepler

Over the past couple UFA seasons, about one in every six games have been decided by one score. And then there’s the Oakland Spiders, who have made an uncanny habit of almost always going right down to the wire. 

“Yes, the last six Oakland Spiders games that I have coached have all been decided by one point,” said Spiders Co-Head Coach Dan Silverstein. “It’s become a crazy feeling to look up at the scoreboard in the third quarter and think, ‘hmmm, I wonder how this five point gap is going to end up being tied in the fourth.’ As I like to say, I have no more hair left to go gray.”

Silverstein was away from the Spiders for their season opener against LA, when Oakland casually routed the Aviators by three. But their three other games this year and their three final games last year were all one-goal thrillers. 

“From a coaching standpoint, I have gotten used to this by now,” said Silverstein. “And if nothing else, the situation no longer seems stressful or unusual; just here we go again!”

During the 2023 season, six of the Spiders’ 12 games were decided by one and another was ultimately a two-goal game in overtime. Add in the early results in 2024 and it’s 10 of Oakland’s last 16 games that have been either tied or within one at the end of regulation. 

“If there’s a Spiders game on in the fourth and you aren’t watching, what are you doing in life?” asked Silverstein, rhetorically. “Here at the Oakland Spiders, one of [our] primary goals is to entertain our community and we take that very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously.”

Prior to this most recent weekend, Oakland was an even 4-4 in their last eight nailbiters, but the Bay Area’s win-by-one ultimate warriors found a way to escape both Portland and Seattle with narrow victories in Week 3. 

Astonishingly, they went 2-0 despite getting outscored 13-7 in their pair of first quarters up in the Pacific Northwest. But after falling behind 6-4 on Friday against the Nitro, they crushed over the next 24 minutes, winning the middle two periods 15-8. Similarly, on Saturday in Seattle, they transformed a 7-3 first quarter deficit into their favor by winning the second and third by the combined score of 14-7. 

“I think a lot of our inconsistency comes from us still figuring out our identity on the offensive side of the disc,” said Oakland’s Walker Frankenberg. “Our offense looks different from last year, and building chemistry with the new pieces we have assembled takes time [...] The reason we’ve been in position to win these games in the first place is because of our defense, who has proven that they can get breaks and create pressure on opposing offenses.” 

Through four games, the Spiders D-line has averaged seven breaks per game. That unit capitalized on 15-of-24 chances, a 62.5 percent clip, at Portland and Seattle. For reference, the Austin Sol led the league last year with a D-line conversation rate at 57.4 percent. 

Silverstein also mentioned that somehow the Spiders have become an even younger team than they were last season, which adds to the variance, particularly early in games. 

“When you have a bunch of folks who are either new to the UFA or new to their role, it can take a couple points to settle in and channel their energy toward defense or scoring goals,” he said. “Once they get going, they really get going. But, as we saw last year, when you live by youth sometimes you also die by youth, and we’re still working on putting games away in the fourth quarter, although where’s the fun in that?”

On Friday, the Spiders led by as many as six late in the third, but were forced to hang on for the 21-20 triumph when the Nitro rallied back. One night later, Oakland had a three-goal lead and possession with less than five minutes left, yet Seattle still had the disc with a chance to tie in the closing minutes before Chris Lung’s block and Evan Magsig’s ensuing huck to Frankenberg helped close the deal. Fourteen completions over the final 45 seconds let the Spiders celebrate their 22-21 triumph and a relatively rare 2-0 weekend on the road. 

“In terms of Spiders games coming down to the last moment, I wish they didn’t,” said Frankenberg. “There’s a running joke on the team that if you come to a Spiders game, you’re probably going to get your money’s worth. What’s fun about that is that we know we have the ability to play with any team in the league, and we always have that belief that we can mount a comeback, regardless of the deficit. That belief helped fuel us through our first quarter on Saturday. We also have the ability to play down to any team in the league, and that inconsistency has bitten us in the past. But we know we have the pieces we need, and if we can put together four complete quarters, I like our chances against anybody.”

The 3-1 Spiders will absolutely need their best four quarters this Friday when they host 3-0 Salt Lake, but they also remember that they were able to take the Shred to overtime in the East Bay last season. 

“We love playing Salt Lake,” said Silverstein. “Nothing is more fun than taking on the top competitor. And personally, I enjoy working against reigning Coach of the Year Bryce Merrill. Stay tuned to find out what happens next. Hint: another one-point game.”

The Full Field Layout

While the Shred were off in Week 3, the Carolina Flyers made a compelling case to supplant Salt Lake atop the UFA Power Rankings with their 22-19 victory over Atlanta. Carolina completed 12-of-15 hucks, went a perfect 14-for-14 in the red zone, and were only broken once in the game’s first 47 minutes. Both teams were missing several key cogs, but the Flyers depth undoubtedly shined brightest.

“I was super happy with how our offense played,” said Carolina’s Anders Juengst. “Fax [Jacob Fairfax] and Terrence [Mitchell] are unguardable, Xander [Wilcox] is the most poised 20-year-old I’ve ever met, and Grayson [Sanner] and Dylan [Hawkins] did a great job filling in despite not having many practice reps with our O group.”

Juengst embraced the responsibility as a high-level hybrid facilitator, setting a new career-high in throwing yards (401) and completed hucks (4). Previously, in 32 past UFA games played, he had only surpassed 200 throwing yards on four occasions, and he had never completed more than two hucks in a game. 

“I figured that I’d probably end up with more touches since Allan [Laviolette] and Ethan [Bloodworth] were missing, but didn’t go in explicitly planning to huck a bunch,” said Juengst. “Dylan, T, and Grayson kept getting wide open deep, so I kept throwing it.”

The play of the game came moments after the Hustle failed to convert a rare break opportunity that could have inched Atlanta back within one a few minutes into the fourth. Trenton Spinks rushed a throw into traffic near one goal-line, and then Juengst launched long for Sanner, with the latter making a spectacular full-extension snag for the score.

“I’ve seen Grayson run those down for the whole preseason,” said Juengst, “so I was pretty sure he was going to catch it.”

As for Atlanta, the Hustle were certainly disappointed to not fluster the Flyers offense a bit more one week after their epic win over the Empire, but they also recognize that two early-season road losses to Carolina will not be what defines their season.

“Obviously, going 1-2 is not what we want, but I believe that our Week 1 loss propelled us to our victory in Week 2,” said Hustle Captain Dean Ramsey. “This loss in Week 3 will continue to help us grow and succeed in the rest of the season. I would love to grow and learn while winning, but this season isn’t about going undefeated. It’s about maximizing our growth and reaching the fullest of our potential. The Flyers still need to come to Atlanta for two games, so we’ll see them again later in the season. We’ll be ready for them then.”


Super strange game between the Glory and Breeze in DC on Friday night. Misty conditions, uncharacteristically low scoring, and the rare buzzer-beater that reigning MVP Jeff Babbitt did not deliver. 

“The weather was on and off misting rain for the entirety of the game,” said DC’s Thomas Edmonds. “Enough to make you think about it at the very least.”

But it was not like the teams traded turnovers recklessly. It was far from a clean game, to be sure, but five of the other nine games across the league in Week 3 had more turns than the 33 that Boston and DC combined for in their down-to-the-wire drama. 

“It was never outright downpouring,” Boston’s Gus Haflin explained, “but a fine mist settled on the playing field and the disc, resulting in extra drops. I think DC’s defensive pressure and the knowledge that this game was the biggest in Glory’s history also added some nerves. The story of the game really came down to defensive execution; there were very few clean holds for either team.”

Indeed, the Breeze offense did not produce a single clean hold in the first half, but DC still held a 6-5 advantage through two quarters. The Breeze, in part thanks to their first turnover-free hold of the game, enjoyed their largest lead of the night early in the third, but DC’s 8-5 edge quickly disappeared, as Boston evened the action at 9-all early in the fourth.

“I would say the main stories of the night were long offensive drives from both teams, which certainly helped foster the lower scoring nature of the game,” said Edmonds. “There were also fewer completed hucks than in your typical UFA game. That meant fewer quick scores and some more prolonged break opportunities.” 

Each team completed two hucks in four quarters. Ultimately, the Glory needed one more. 

With DC ahead 12-11 and the final seconds ticking down, Boston handler Colin Sunde saw several teammates, including Babbitt, jockeying for position near the end zone. Standing about 25 yards from the goal line and surrounded by a chaotic double-team, his high-release backhand ticked off Babbitt’s soaring hand while he was being fiercely contested by multiple Breeze defenders. After the deflection, Tyler Chan’s desperation layout attempt to clean up the trash also came up empty as time expired. 

“I knew we had a lot of big bodies in the end zone and just needed to give them a chance,” said Sunde. “I think we will win 50/50 balls against almost any team in the league. I remember seeing Gus and Jeff lurking behind a couple of DC players, figured out an angle I thought would work and let it rip. We had a pretty good shot at it in the end, but buzzer beaters are not what we want to rely on to win games.”

Interestingly, each team scored exactly three goals in every quarter on Friday, except for the second when Boston only found the end zone twice. There’s also the bizarre fact that 12 goals is the fewest the DC Breeze have ever had in a game that they won. Still, it was the 91st victory in Breeze history. 

“It’s always good to win your home opener, and while the game was sloppier than either team would have liked, I do think that lends itself to being an exciting game for our fans,” said Edmonds. “Shout-out to our fans for showing up and bringing the energy in the less than ideal conditions.”

With another critical contest on tap less than 24 hours later in Philadelphia, Boston did not have any time to dwell on their first loss of the season. The Glory started slowly on Saturday in Philly, falling behind 4-1 in the opening eight minutes, before rampaging back, outscoring the Phoenix 16-5 over the final three quarters in a 19-10 rout. 

“In the first quarter, we played defense as though we were matched up against DC or New York: limit their opportunities and force tougher shots,” explained Haflin. “But Philly doesn’t work like that. They’ll hit the tough shots and gain momentum. That’s when they’re at their most dangerous. Coach Sam Rosenthal implored the D-line after the first quarter to go out there, play matchup defense, and run them hard. He said that if we did, we’d come out on top, and that’s exactly what happened.”

In fact, the Glory shut out the Phoenix in the second quarter, the first time in 28 games across the UFA this season that a team did not score for a full period. 

“Boston has always been a tough and tight matchup for us,” said Philly’s James Pollard. “I knew going into the game that whichever team that took a lead early was going to end up giving it up eventually. Most of our games against each other have come down to the wire, so I was expecting a dogfight. Boston made adjustments against our offense, and we weren’t able to adjust.”

The Phoenix painfully dipped to 0-2, having been outscored 41-20 in two home losses against DC and Boston. Meanwhile, with a split of their weekend trip, the Glory sit at 3-1, still a half-game ahead of the Breeze for first place atop the East heading into this Friday’s showdown with New York.

“Saturday absolutely helped us rebound from the loss and will give us the confidence we need going into Friday’s game,” said Sunde. “There’s a lot to be improved upon, but I think our team is headed in the right direction and in a good headspace. I know I’m excited for another test against New York.”

The Glory have never previously beaten the Empire, a fact they are determined to change this weekend.

“I think the biggest takeaway is that we now feel in the top-tier of our division, though we all acknowledge that we need some marquee wins in the next three weeks to really secure our place there,” said Haflin. “Despite some early season blips, we’re a team with great potential that will only improve down the stretch. Friday’s going to be a blast. I only hope that we can break our streak of lightning storms as we play New York!”


Coming up later today in “Seven On The Line”, big road wins for Madison, Minnesota, and Montreal, Austin and Indy take care of business at home, and an early look at a pair of absolutely massive matchups on tap for Week 4.