After an eventful week of signings, the DC Breeze 2017 roster is now at its February pre-tryout target. Over the last ten days, six players have joined this year’s squad. The team is excited to welcome back a handful of returning players and add some fresh faces. This wave of signings brings the team’s roster to 20. Open Tryouts for the remaining roster positions will take place Sunday, March 5.
Although their names are not new to the upper club echelons, Keven Moldenhauer, Eric ‘Astro’ Miner, and Lloyd Blake will all don Breeze jerseys for the first time in their professional careers this April. Joining them in this signing round are three returners: Brian Marshall, Max Cassell, and Troy Holland. Combined, these six players bring 17 seasons of professional ultimate experience to the team.
All three of the returners will be playing in their second season with the Breeze. Marshall and Cassell joined the team last season and Holland was a part of the organization in 2015 before focusing on his final year at Georgetown in 2016. In each of their previous seasons, they spent the majority of their field time on the defensive line.
Of all the defensive cutters in 2016, Marshall had one of the best defensive plus-minus performance on the team with 15 and overall had a plus 32. Marshall was consistently one of the team’s starters on the defensive line. He was fourth on the team in terms of blocks (15) and also reeled in 20 goals.
“I am particularly excited about the Truck [Stop]/Breeze merger and its influence to consolidate long time Truck teammates under one Pro organization,” Marshall said. “Bringing these teams together will encourage cohesive growth to optimize performance, and it can offer flexibility to reduce burnout for a more sustainable dual season.”
Cassell played in six games last year with split time as a hybrid on both the offensive and defensive sides of the disc. A local talent from the University of Maryland, he is one of the best all-around athletes on the team and plays bigger than his 5’10” height. In 2016, Cassell had a perfect catching percentage (47 catches). This season, expect Cassell to have a bigger role in the team’s defensive unit.
“The AUDL is revamped this year with a new talent pool, and it seems like East benefited the most. The Breeze has already locked up the best of DC ultimate and I am excited to be a part of the team once again,” Cassell said upon executing his 2017 contract.
With only seven games of professional ultimate under his belt, Holland is the least experienced of all the players in this signing class. During his 2015 season with the Breeze he served as reliable backup on the D-line. Despite limited action, he was still able to score seven goals and throw six assists. Holland is another local area talent and Georgetown University graduate.
“April 1st can’t come soon enough,” Holland said. “With the growing distribution of talent in the league, 2017 is already shaping up to be a great year. I’m grateful for the opportunity that the Breeze have given me for the upcoming 2017 season. I look forward to joining an already extremely talented team and hope to quickly prove my worth to my new teammates and coaches.”
The three newcomers to the team are all seasoned veterans with the MLU’s Washington D.C. Current. The MLU suspended operations in December 2016. In 2017, these three players are expected to have an instant impact on the Breeze’s roster.
Moldenhauer, at 40 years old, will be the oldest player to make a Breeze roster. In addition to playing on the field he brings with him three seasons of coaching professional ultimate. The Salisbury University graduate currently has the longest Open Club Nationals streak, having made his 15th consecutive appearance last October. As a skilled handler, Moldenhauer will bring another talented and consistent thrower to one of the deepest parts of the team’s roster.
“I am very excited to have the opportunity to represent the Breeze on the ultimate field this upcoming season,” Moldenhauer said. “The level of talent is outstanding and the professionalism and dedication to the team by the staff and ownership is inspiring.”
With a long and lanky stature Miner, commonly referred to as Astro in the ultimate community, adds another element to the Breeze defensive unit. At 6’5”, Miner can work as a mark defender or cover downfield against some of the tallest players in the league. He is not known for drawing blocks or scoring goals, but simply as a role player that is always in the right place at the right time. This will be his fifth professional ultimate season.
“I’m pumped to be part of the Breeze. I’m really excited to see how this particular group of guys, and the rest of the team that comes on, will mesh,” Miner said. “I’ve seen some really promising things in the past from the organization and I think this year is going to be a really great one.”
Blake will be yet another handler to suit up for the Breeze. He was a primary offensive handler for the Current in 2016, but he also has experience as a D-line handler, a secondary, and even tertiary, handler. His size, 6’5” also gives him an instant mismatch advantage against smaller mark defenders. As a result, he is one of the more talented give-and-go players in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“Having played with a good part of the Breeze roster, I am excited to be joining a team with a bunch of friendly faces. I look forward to building on the success this team had in 2016,” Blake said.
The twenty-man roster reflects the consolidated top talent in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. Five of the players so far were not on the Truck Stop roster last season: Chuck Cantone played for Richmond’s Floodwall while Matt Kerrigan, Cassell and Holland were all members of Maryland’s Medicine Men. Blake was a member of Floodwall in 2015. He also did not play for Truck Stop last season.
These strategic signings position the Breeze to execute at a higher level than ever before, and inch the team one step closer to an East Division title. Only twelve coveted spots on the 2017 squad remain. As the number of vacant spots dwindle, make sure to attend the Breeze’s open tryout on March 5th if you hope to make the team.
Staff writers Libby Chamberlin and Tyler Byrum contributed to this story.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this story indicated that Lloyd Blake had played for the Richmond’s club team Floodwall in 2016, rather than Chuck Cantone.