Breeze Beat Philadelphia, Clinch Playoff Berth

Photo by Kevin Wolf

For the second straight season and the third time in franchise history, the DC Breeze are heading to the playoffs. With a 25-17 win over the Philadelphia Phoenix, the Breeze were able to celebrate their postseason berth in front of their home fans on Saturday night. Controlling the pace from the opening pull, DC never trailed and never seemed to be in trouble against their I-95 rivals.

Finishing 7-0 at home for the first time ever, DC will look to use and build this momentum into a playoff run.

Joe Freund. Photo by Kevin Wolf

In this contest the Breeze (9-4) did what they have done all season on their home turf, dominate on the offensive line. Only two breaks by Philadelphia kept the Breeze from a perfect mark in their home regular season finale. The three starting handlers of Alan Kolick (29/29 throws), Lloyd Blake (34/36) and Nathan Prior (37/37) had only two combined throwaways. In rarely turning the disc over the Breeze gave the Phoenix, who value transition opportunities, little to work with.

Max Cassell (four goals, two assists) and Joe Freund (three goals, three assists) were the primary targets for the dominant O-line.

Philadelphia (3-9) did not protect the disc as well as the DC O-line. The Philadelphia offense was primarily focused around one handler, Nicky Spiva. Although the former Breeze player finished with a goal and four assists, he often seemed alone in the backfield. This allowed Delrico Johnson to get blocks down field and Joe Richards to get them in the backfield. They each had three in the game, leading to the total 11 breaks for DC.

Cranston and Spiva. Photo by Rob Gilmor

The only players to thrive against DC’s defense was  Quinn Hunziker, who had three goals, and Marques Brownlee, four goals. Brownlee split his time on both lines (10 offensive, nine defensive) and was one of six Philadelphia players to register a block. DC was able to hold down one of the most electric players in the East Division, Sean Mott, to no goals and four assists. For Philadelphia’s defense, only Eric Nardelli had multiple blocks while Matt Esser and Greg Martin were relative non-factors.

The Breeze built an early lead in the opening quarter using five breaks to take control of the contest early at 9-5. The remainder of the game saw both teams seesaw back-and-forth as DC did not push the issue. It was not until the final quarter until the Breeze completely shut the door with a 7-3 edge to finish the game with an 8-goal advantage.

Despite the win, the team was still missing some key pillars on the roster. Tyler Monroe, Markham Shofner, and Rowan McDonnell were all absent for the win. Filling in for the offensive player (Monroe) was Alexander Taylor. Being the first significant playing time that Taylor has received this season, he had a goal, a block and completed 23 of his 26 passes. He has been a reserve for the O-line all season, but this was his first game as a starter.

Photo by Kevin Wolf

Another missing player was Nate Castine, who is still working on a full return from his injury.

Now the Breeze will be able to sit back and relax for a while with their next contest not taking place until July 22. That makes three consecutive weekends off for the playoff-bound squad. With a postseason berth clinched, the team will be able to watch the Montreal Royal try to hold off a determined New York Empire squad next week and then the highly anticipated Montreal vs Toronto Rush matchup the following week. The Breeze would lock up 2nd place and a home playoff game with a win in Philadelphia July 22 independently of any other results, but if things shake out the right way beforehand, DC could be lined up for the No. 1 seed with a victory in that last game.

Photo by Rob Gilmor

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