2024 Radicals Preview

Ryan Baker

It’s been nearly ten months since the Madison Radicals concluded their rather disappointing 2023 season.

It was a season that saw a 4-8 record, with six of those losses being by two points or less, injuries that derailed the team early in the season, and lapses for just a few minutes at a time that caused a majority of those close games not to go in their favor. 

However, all of that is in the past with the 2024 season in the near future for the historic program. Madison is opening up the year with two straight weeks of byes and won’t play their first game until May 11. Once they start their season, there will be a Radical game every weekend for the rest of the year.

The ten months has allowed the team to heal up, mesh together, add some new guys, and get on the same page of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since the championship win in 2018. If this team can stay healthy, they are going to be a dangerous squad led by head coach Tim DeByl. 

“We expect to make the playoffs, to contend to go to the Final Four. We had a poor record last year but our on-field play, we were actually pretty happy with that. I would say outside some bad fourth quarters or bad six minutes of play, we generally performed pretty well,” said DeByl. “I think that we had some holes in our game that we are working hard on fixing and hopefully this season we can have better results.”

The team looks almost identical to the roster of last year. Two key losses that the Radicals will be reminded of this season were in workhorse Henry Goldenberg and Jake Rubin-Miller both signing with division rival in the Chicago Union. They were able to counteract those losses with adding players in Charlie Benoforado, Tyler Williams, Pieran Robert, and Gabe Vordick, all whom will be making their UFA debuts. 

Despite the lack of additions and subtractions from the team this year, the Radicals will look a lot different on the field than they did just ten months ago. Injuries played a huge role in the teams up and down year that hopefully will be avoided this upcoming season.

Injury Issues

Arguably one of the biggest storylines of the season last year for the Radicals was losing their star player of Kevin Pettit-Scantling (KPS) before the year even began. While he is still recovering from his knee injury, it looks like he could make a return at some point of this season. In the meantime, DeByl is using KPS as more of a coach and off-field leader to aid the defensive line. 

Other key players that are back to full health are Brian Hart, Jack Nelson, Kai Marcus, Max Sample, Sterling Knoche, and Mitchell McCarthy. All of these guys were supposed to play big roles last year, but only combined for a total of eight games played last year between the six of them. Injuries are something that every team has to deal with, but having all of them happen early in the season can create a certain level of uncertainty every week.

“I think for many teams, its player health and mentality. Last year was really tough having so many injuries early in the season, and you can tell it was hard to find our identity in some parts of the game without those players. I’m hoping we can get back to that next up mentality we had in previous years, where we were able to seamlessly have the next guy in the lineup fill in effortlessly,” said veteran Victor Luo.

Total yards leader for the Radicals last year in Luo was one guy that also dealt with a multitude of nagging injuries last season. A big reason for those was because so much was asked of Luo since the other guys went down. The talent of Marcus, Nelson, and Sample on offense will bring a whole new dynamic, and allow for players like Luo to return to their roles to stay as fresh as possible.

“Our offense has looked really confident, especially with the return of Kai Marcus. When you have a thrower of that caliber, it really opens up the field and allows other players to push downfield with confidence. We’re also getting Jack Nelson and Max Sample back from injury, so it’s exciting to still be tinkering with our offense to find an optimal lineup,” said Luo. 

Having more impact players at their disposal will allow for cornerstone guys in Andrew Meshnick, Kelsen Alexander, Jack Kelly, Avery Johnson, Luke Marks, Ted Schewe, Daniel Garlock, and Joshua Wilson to let the game come to them and play within themselves. 

Building from Last Season

A big misconception from last year was that the porous record that the Radicals produced reflected their on-field play, winning just four games, two of them being against a team that hasn’t won a game since 2017.  One of the biggest red flags for them were closing out games and breaking down at the end of quarters, and being able to keep their focus from start to finish.

“I think that they that the younger group maybe didn't understand how important it is to stay in the game the whole time and keeping your foot on the pedal. I think that maybe the older group wasn't tolerant enough of or understood like how hard it is to expect those players to play the same way that they do. I know as a coach, it's hard for me because I am coaching such a wide group of  players,” said DeByl. 

This was a team that sat in the middle of the pack for about every statistical category. They were 11th in offensive line conversion rate, 7th in defensive line conversion rate, 14th in red zone conversion rate, and 9th in completion percentage. Despite being the middle in most areas, the Radicals turned over the disc the fifth least as a team last year. Turning up the notch on offensive efficiency is going to be a big key for their success this year.

“Our goal to help out our defense this year is to get our offensive efficiency up. Just a little bit, it doesn't need to be leaps and bounds. We're kind of middle of the pack in the league right now and we need to get to the middle half of the top. Our defense can be top five still, it just needs the help of the offense to give them the confidence and energy that they can go out and win games with that offense playing,” said DeByl.

It looks like an achievable feat for DeByl’s squad, with his young core in Anthony Gutowsky, Jake Carrico, Sam Stark, and Joe Leibforth developing their play. Third-year player Carrico and sophomore Leibforth look to provide a spark to the defense as they combined for 18 blocks in 2023. Meanwhile, sophomore Stark showed flashes of stellar throws last year. Finally, Gutowsky is coming off of a rookie year where he scored 37 goals, 19 more than any other Radical, earning him second-team all-rookie honors. 

“My expectations for myself this season is to start where I left off, score a lot of goals and draw defenders to open up space for my other cutters. To build off my rookie season, is to improve on the other aspects of my game. I got to start looking to throw the disc up-field more, which I think I’ll be able to do now that I’m more comfortable in the league,” said Gutowsky.

Schedule Outlook

The schedule looks a lot more favorable for the Radicals this season, as last year they had a stretch of five games playing just the Minnesota Wind Chill and Indianapolis AlleyCats. A stretch that gave them five straight losses. 

The year will kick off for Madison by traveling to Highmark Stadium to play the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, and they will stay on the road for a matchup with the Detroit Mechanix the following week. From there, they will alternate by hosting at Breese Stevens Field and hitting the road for the next six weeks. A Super Series home game against the Wind Chill, away in Chicago against the Union, hosting then going to Detroit is the order of the first four games. 

The fifth game of that stretch will be their most anticipated matchup of the season as they host one of the top teams in the league, the Colorado Summit. Hosting one of the top teams at the ultimate frisbee capital of the world is going to a game for the ages. 

“It's going to be obviously a tough game. It's easy to get people excited for a home game against the team that we're playing, who's considered one of the top teams in the league. We're only playing Colorado once and we may never play them again. So let's make something out of this,” said DeByl.

After the huge matchup against Colorado, they will play Minnesota and Indianapolis on the road, then conclude the season with three straight games at Breese Stevens against the Thunderbirds, Union, and AlleyCats, respectively. 

Overall, the schedule for the Radicals looks to be an advantageous one, especially considering they have the sixth easiest schedule according to records of their opponents from 2023. However, division rivals in the AlleyCats and Wind Chill both have easier schedules, with the Thunderbirds not far behind them. If everything goes to plan, the central division may see some of the best records in the entire league.

Starving for Salt Lake City

This year every team in the UFA will be aiming to punch their ticket to Salt Lake City in August for championship weekend. The Radicals seem to all be on the same page of where they want to end up come the end of summer. 

“Our expectations haven’t changed, that is to win a championship. This is one of the most strenuous and yet most rewarding sports. However, the focus and the way we approach this is the main thing that will be changing. In doing this, it will involve all of us directing our focus, taking it one game at a time, one point at a time, not aiming for perfection, and most importantly, to hold on to our passion and grit when faced with adversity,” said Marks.

“The only thing on my mind is making it to championship weekend,” said Gutowsky.

“We expect to be in the playoff hunt in late July,” said Luo.

It will be a matter of staying focused and staying healthy for Madison to be able to fulfill those expectations. If this team can stay healthy and close out games, they will be a force to be reckoned with, and could provide a shock to the rest of the league. 

Watch all of the Radicals here!