Tuesday Toss: A Wild, Wacky, and Wonderful Week 4

May 21, 2024
By Evan Lepler

On a rare May Saturday evening when I wasn’t broadcasting ultimate, I accepted a last minute invite from a friend to attend a comedy show where I was required to turn my phone off for several hours. It was refreshing and different, but as several noteworthy UFA storylines came into focus, I remained innocently unaware of the drama until around 11:00 PM that night. 

Then I saw Connor Newell’s mocking tweet and smiled wide. Clearly, that was just the tip of the iceberg to a wild, wacky, and wonderful Week 4. 

Catching up on all the chaos over the past couple days has been a thrilling whirlwind in itself. As for the headlines, last year’s finalists going a combined 4-0 on the road was seemingly simple and impressive enough, though New York and Salt Lake both showcased noteworthy progress perhaps even more important than the actual results. Pittsburgh and Houston also both edged a rival on the road, with the Thunderbirds’ one-goal victory at Minnesota truly stunning the ultimate universe and potentially reshaping the Central Division. 

And then there’s the bona fide insanity that unfolded in DC, with the Breeze somehow surviving and escaping with a double overtime victory over the Philadelphia Phoenix. Depending on your frame of reference, it was either an exhilarating comeback or a brutal collapse. Either way, it was a roller-coaster of emotions and the most frenetic finish we have seen across the league through the first month of the season, not to mention being another absolute gut-punch for a Philly team that has become painfully familiar with that exact feeling. 

The Full Field Layout

Heading into Saturday’s action, the Breeze had beaten the Phoenix in each of their last 12 meetings. Over the previous 14 matchups, DC had gone exactly 13-0-1. The last time Philly won a game in the series, on June 3, 2017, was the same day that Detroit lost for the fifth time on its current streak of misery, which now sits at a stupefying 77 straight games. 

But that’s very much besides the point.

The Phoenix have frequently played the Breeze super tough in recent years. In four of their last five regular season matchups, prior to Saturday, the final margin was one (or two in overtime), the lone exception being DC’s rout 22-10 rout in Philly earlier this month. But with the Breeze missing some of their staples and the Phoenix offense finally rounding into form, Philly held the lead for nearly the entire game.

‘We made some changes coming into the DC game after not starting the season how we wanted to, and they worked,” said Philadelphia handler Jordan Rhyne. “Team played with a ton of trust and energy, stayed high even when things weren’t going our way. And it paid off with us getting a chance to win the game in double overtime.”

Indeed, even after coughing up a 20-17 fourth quarter lead by surrendering a dramatic 4-0 run that put DC ahead for the first time since the first quarter, the Phoenix still gave James Pollard a chance to snag the equalizer at the buzzer, and the big man did not miss. 

“As soon as the disc was released, I was confident we were coming down with [it],” said Pollard, who also skied the pack for a score at the first quarter buzzer too. “Walking out to the line with 30 seconds to end the game, I told the throwers that if we have to throw it at the buzzer to just give me a chance. I knew no one on DC could jump with me.”

He was right. 

Tied at 21 after the thrilling finish to regulation, overtime beckoned, and neither side could dispossess the other in the initial five minute period. The Phoenix thwarted DC’s desperation shot at the buzzer, creating a double OT universe point with Philly receiving. 

First, it looked like Pollard completed a huck to the brink of the goal line, but it came back on a travel call. Then, Paul Owens was whistled for an offensive foul that negated another positive gain. Still, despite these setbacks, the Phoenix worked the disc into the red zone and had a golden chance to close it out. 

Veteran Sean Mott, with 340 career UFA assists to his name, had the disc on the sideline and saw Pollard open, but the edge on his potential game-winning toss was slightly off, miscalibrated just enough that it faded out of bounds as Pollard helplessly watched, unable to make another game-saving snag. 

Suddenly, the Breeze had their chance, and after a timeout, DC’s international import did not hesitate. 

The 21-year-old Frenchman Elliot Bonnet saw Tyler Monroe streaking deep and confidently ripped a forehand huck. Moments later, the Breeze celebration was on. 

DC 24, Philly 23 in double OT. 

“People always front me super hard, and I had success already in the game cutting deep,” said Monroe. “Something about our European imports, Ben [Oort] last year and Elliot this year, I know they like to throw those ones on the L cut. Elliot is cold-blooded and has already had so much success on big stages, so I had a feeling [the throw] would come up.”

As soon as Bonnet released it, he knew it was perfect.

“I didn’t even watch my throw, and we can’t see it on the stream because the cam isn’t on me, but I was facing the crowd [with my arms] open because I knew Tyler [would] catch it,” said Bonnet. “I love how the stress was so big before every point of this overtime, and then when I start cutting, everything is so easy with those guys on the field.”

Somehow, the Breeze found a way, improving to 3-1, and the feeling was a combination of joy and relief.

“Beating Philly always feels good,” said Monroe. “This was a roster with a lot of young players, so for our offense to do just enough to cash in all the great work from our defense felt really good.”

On the other side, the Phoenix, despite showing signs of immense progress from their first two games, still crushingly fell to 0-3 on the season. 

“We were gutted,” acknowledged Pollard, who produced a ridiculous 10 scores and nearly 1,000 total yards. “But [team owners] Jeff [George], Christina [Chung], and [coaches] Tom [Glass] and Roger [Chu] brought us up a bit. They really pushed that we played for each other, lifted each other when needed, and most importantly celebrated each other throughout the game. Going into Friday, we are ready to tweak a thing or two and come out firing against New York. We’ve been building here in Philly, so be on the lookout when we catch fire.”

The Empire head to Philly on Friday, with New York having won 12 consecutive matchups in that series. But the HotBirds are getting closer, and this week feels like another do-or-die quest for a major breakthrough. If the Phoenix can’t snap the losing streak against the Empire, they’ll be sitting at 0-4 for the second straight season, which would become a virtual death sentence for their quickly evaporating playoff hopes. 


Speaking of the Empire, New York hit the road in Week 4 after a couple weeks of reflection following their first loss since the 2021 title tilt. With their 31-game winning streak now fully a thing of the past, the Empire regrouped, refocused, and turned their attention to rediscovering their championship form.

“I really think the Atlanta loss was important for us,” said Empire Captain Jack Williams. “Mainly in facing a championship level team that early in the season [...] We are still figuring a lot of stuff out in terms of personnel and playing style. In years past, it felt like we had the luxury of being able to experiment and try out new ideas without a real threat of losing ground in the standings. This year, it feels like we have to be more purposeful in the moves that we make and how we prepare for games. We lost over 40 percent of our offense from last year, our best thrower and our two best deep receivers, so there was obviously going to be some holes that we needed to figure out how to fill. Personally, the loss in Atlanta was exciting and refreshing.”

Reinvigorated and determined, the Empire impressively never trailed for a single second over the course of 96 minutes of Week 4 frisbee, but that doesn’t mean New York’s weekend was completely devoid of drama. Firstly, Friday featured the emotional circumstances of Boston’s Jeff Babbitt and Ben Katz facing their old team for the first time. 

“I always enjoy playing against friends,” said Katz. “Love to have some good natured back and forth with the guys. This one had a bit more edge to it, wanting to do well for several reasons. Getting a W for Jeff was definitely at the top of my mind. More importantly, trying to instill confidence into the guys on Glory who aren’t used to winning the big games yet. Once that mindset shift happens, this is going to be a very hard team to beat.”

The shift almost came late in the fourth quarter, as the Empire saw their five-goal lead whittled down to one with 1:20 left in regulation. For a brief moment in the last minute, it looked like the Glory would steal possession and get a chance to tie, but Katz was whistled for a marking foul on New York’s Ethan Fortin, keeping the disc with the Empire and enabling them to close it out with a Williams to Ben Jagt shot at the buzzer. 

New York 17, Boston 15.

“We had a solid double team set on Ethan,” said Katz, delving into the late call. “I felt like the contact I initiated was pretty minimal and that the frisbee came out too easily to be a foul. But after watching the tape, it seems like the contact happened while it was still in Ethan’s throwing motion. Probably the right call, and if you are basing a win or loss on one call, you are already grasping at straws.”

Babbitt finished with a game-high 441 total yards against his old team, scoring five goals and completing all 33 of his throws, while Jagt tallied a game-leading five assists to go along with his four goals scored, leading the new-look New York O-line that shifted Fortin and Jeff Holm onto the unit for the first time.

Williams mentioned how proud he was that New York’s offense was nearly perfect through the first three quarters, particularly with all the unique circumstances surrounding the first time battling Boston this season. 

“It was obviously a bit awkward to play against Jeff and Ben on Friday,” acknowledged Williams. “I was surprised how easy it was to forget about all of that during game time. At the end of the day, I play for New York and I’m rooting for our side to win and the other side to lose. Obviously, they are friends of mine and I hope they are doing well; I still have a lot of love for the two of them and I wish them the best.”

After only getting broken two times against Boston, the Empire offense endured five breaks on Saturday in Montreal. But New York’s D-line was the difference north of the border, breaking the Royal nine times in an 18-16 victory. Similarly to the Glory game, the Empire built a lead as wide as five and never trailed. 

“We had a lot of players step up,” said Williams. “Josue [Alorro] was a total killer on Saturday. They’re going to be a huge piece for us this year in order to be successful, a truly elite defender who can drive the ball on a turn. They’re phenomenal. Connor Russell also stepped up and made big plays for us and brought great intensity.” 

After going 0-for-3 on their hucks in the Boston game—the first time the Empire haven’t completed a huck in a game since tracking began in 2021—New York went a more standard 6-for-10 against the Royal. Montreal went 7-for-10, but 23 turns, including nine throwaways from rookie Tobe DeCraene, prevented the Royal from having a chance to win late. 

“Yea, that one was a little bit of a gut punch,” said Montreal’s Kevin Quinlan. “Just so many execution errors on our side. It definitely was encouraging for us to play that sloppy on O and still be in the game though.”

During New York’s 31-game winning streak, a whopping 84 percent of the victories—26-of-31—came by three or more scores. This season, the Empire find themselves at 3-1, with all three wins coming by the same two-goal margin.

Not exactly dominant, but they are still in first place, tied with the Breeze atop the East.

“I feel really good with where we are at right now,” said Williams. “The message to the team after the Atlanta game was ‘we’re exactly where we need to be.’ We didn’t come into the season saying we have to win a Week 2 game against a talented out-of-region team. It was great to set the 31-win record. From here on out, it’s all about racking up more championships. Losing is inevitable and part of the game, but I’m really proud of how our team responded to that loss so far. We’ve got two-plus months to figure out how to make ourselves as good as we can be.”


While the Empire are still tinkering in search of the best version of themselves, the team they soundly defeated in last year’s title game has unquestionably leveled up. 

The Salt Lake Shred undoubtedly authored the most impressive overall performance in Week 4, producing 18 breaks over the course of their convincing 41-30 master class against the West’s other top contenders. The Shred did not lose a single quarter against either Oakland or Colorado, bringing precise offense and relentless defense to cement their midseason stature atop the entire UFA. 

“I’ve got to give so much credit to our D-line this weekend,” said Jordan Kerr, who led the Shred with 10 assists in the two wins. “They got multiple breaks in both games right off the bat, and that takes so much pressure off of our O-line. There was a consistent level of pressure throughout the weekend, even in the fourth quarter against Colorado. Joe Merrill, Chad Yorgason, and Ben Ashton seem to run nonstop and get blocks like it’s nothing. On the counter-attack, Kyle Weinberg, Nathan Huff, and Jonny Hoffman were relentless yet patient.”

On Friday against the Spiders, Salt Lake led 14-10 at half, 20-14 thru three, and prevailed 25-19. The Shred played from behind for a measly 32 seconds, when they were down 1-0 after Oakland’s opening hold. In Colorado, they technically trailed 2-1 for one minute and 48 seconds before a 3-0 run created a lead that they would never relinquish. 

“They have a great team that’s in fantastic shape, but also skilled,” said Colorado’s Alex Atkins. “They punish the little mistakes we make on offense and push us to be better.”

Over the course of two games, the Shred wore down the other team’s top distributor, creating four throwaways from Oakland’s Evan Magsig and getting seven from Atkins, three more than the next highest single-game total in his 20-game UFA career. 

“One of the worst days of ultimate I’ve had in a while,” said Atkins, “which is great because it’s humbling and motivating, but also sucks. Yin yang.”

Both the Spiders and the Summit enjoyed some strong sequences over the course of their four quarters, but overall they were clearly outplayed by a Salt Lake squad that’s ready to shift its focus in pursuit of a championship. After Saturday’s game, Shred Coach Bryce Merrill intentionally upped the stakes for his team. 

“Bryce had a very powerful message for us at the end of the Colorado game,” said Kerr. “The whole preseason and up to this weekend, Bryce had been telling us the only thing that mattered were the first five games of the season. He didn’t want us thinking about the playoffs, facing off again against New York, or anything else. Just our first five games. In the locker room, he told us now that those five games were over, we have a better idea of who we are as a team and that we’re able to set a goal for ourselves.

“He said the one goal we have now is to win a title. Everything we do from practice, time in the gym, in games, everything is done with the intent of building to win a UFA title. That was very exciting to hear, and the team is very excited to have earned the opportunity to work towards that goal.”


Coming up later today in “Seven On The Line”, the full story of Pittsburgh’s epic upset, Atlanta’s strong statement at Indy, and all the rest of the Week 4 details across the UFA.