The Alleycats are returning ten players from last years championship run team. Four of their seven starters from their O and D lines are back. In addition to their returning players from last year, they’re picking up four players from last years edition of the Columbus Cranes. They only went 8-8 last year, but finished second in the Western Conference and beat the Bluegrass Revolution 24-20 in the conference finals. Those are reasons for optimism. The reasons for pessimism are considerably clearer. Not only has Brodie Smith left for Chicago, but Jonathan “Goose” Helton has as well. They were undoubtedly the top two players for the Alleycats last year. Helton won the League MVP, and if Brodie hadn’t gotten injured he may have been the one to take the AUDL’s top individual honor.
But even without their star players, the Alleycats have the kind of continuity that all teams in the AUDL envy. Make no mistake, there is a difference between USAU Ultimate and AUDL (and MLU) Ultimate. There is an adjustment to be made. Not only are there active referees in the semipro leagues, the field is 13 yards wider, and fouls work differently. Last year all the teams had to make these adjustments at the same time. This year the Alleycats will have a leg up on the competition early on because of their experience with the different rules. And for those that think the adjustment is easy for players of this high calibur, you don’t need to look back further than the Chesapeake Invite last August with Southpaw. Southpaw, the club team which most Philadelphia Spinners played on, had difficulties going back to playing under USAU rules. They found themselves making such fundamental errors as forgetting to stall count. Every team will adjust, but the Alleycats won’t have to adjust to the degree of any other team in the AUDL.
The players that do return will be competing in the tough Midwestern Division. And Alleycats players may have valuable experience from their playoff run last year, they don’t have the type of elite Ultimate experience players from Madison, Chicago, and the Twin Cities have. But they still have some players that shine. Cameron Brock is one of those players. Last season he was one of the Alleycats top players, he and Helton kept the team above water while Brodie was injured. With Helton and Brodie gone this season, the Alleycats will be looking for Brock deep more than ever. He was definitely a fantasy sleeper pick until Ultiworld spilled the beans on that one. He’ll be making plays on the O-Line again this year. Most of the rest of the Alleycat roster hails from Ball State, Indiana, and Purdue, not national caliber teams but strong programs nonetheless. Most of the new faces for the Alleycats will be playing on their D-Line this year, with more of their returners on their O-Line.
The Alleycats website is not the most aesthetically pleasing, but it gets the job done, I guess. It has up to date information, and even video interviews. Team President Thom Held had his issues with Josh Moore and the power structure of the AUDL, but with the restructure and Moore in a more reserved role Held is happily still part of the AUDL family.
The Alleycats already had a preseason game against the Cincinnati Revolution, and they won 14-12. Their season opener is Saturday night in Detroit, and in the third week their game will be broadcast on UXtv against Chicago. They likely need a hot start to contend this season. After their away game in Detroit, a game in which they’ll be favored, they host Minnesota in the second week. It’ll be Minnesota’s first AUDL game, and an away game, so the Alleycats should start the season 2-0. But if they fall behind early on in the year, their experience advantage will matter less and less, and it could end up being a long season.