April 1st, 2017 – A rivalry game was the perfect way to kick off opening day of the 2017 AUDL season, as the San Diego Growlers hosted the Los Angeles Aviators at historic Balboa Stadium. Many ultimate players and fans from the region were already in town for the annual One Love One Beach tournament, which began earlier that morning. With some key player acquisitions in the off-season, the Growlers were hungry to earn a playoff bid, something the Aviators achieved last year.
San Diego started strong on defense by converting their first break chance of the game when Steven Milardovich connected with former LA captain Hunter Corbett. The teams traded scores with easy offense, until LA took advantage of a layout block and punched in their first break to pull ahead 3-2. Both teams continued to trade points until Dan Bellinger broke up a hammer attempt, and Zeke Ivers found Jeff Silverman with 2 seconds left in the quarter to take back the lead, 6-5.
LA drew first blood in the 2nd quarter when they capitalized on a Growler turnover and secured the break to tie the game. Both offenses traded goals until the Aviators notched another break to go up 8-7. The Growlers tied the game on the next possession, and after LA dropped the pull, SD could not convert a golden opportunity when they dropped the disc in the endzone for the go-ahead score. This was a huge momentum shift in the game, as LA proceeded to score 3 times in a row to increase their lead to 12-8 with under two minutes remaining. San Diego stopped the bleeding, scored on offense, and had a great chance to break, but the half ended with the score 12-9 in favor of LA.
After LA scored on offense to start the third quarter, they broke the Growlers once again to extend their lead to 14-9. The two rivals traded several points in a row, highlighted by a huge Sean Ham layout catch, until Milardovich got the block and Bellinger fed Max Hume for the break, 16-13. The Aviators scored on O, secured another break, and then the Growlers did the same, 18-15. More trading ensued, but LA was able to squeeze in another break score right before the end of the quarter, 21-16.
The 4th quarter began exactly how the Growlers needed if they were to make a comeback, with Dom Leggio hucking deep to Ham on offense and then getting the immediate break on defense, 21-18. But the Aviators stood tall and delivered a score and a break of their own, 23-18. San Diego could never recover from the early hole they dug themselves and the teams essentially traded points until LA was victorious, 31-26. The Growlers’ miscues and their inability to consistently produce break chances led to the game getting away from them in the second half. That combined with a huge offensive performance from LA’s Mark Elbogen, who racked up 11 goals and 3 assists.
The Growlers were led by Tyler Bacon and a +6 performance (2 assists, 4 goals), with Trevor Purdy (3 assists, 1 goal, 1 defensive blocks) and Steven Milardovich (3 assist, 2 goals, 2 defensive blocks, and 2 turnovers) coming up with solid +5 games as well.
San Diego will look to bounce back after a double bye when they travel north to play the San Jose Spiders and the San Francisco FlameThrowers on April 21st and 22nd. The next home game will be at 1pm on April 30th as they host the San Francisco FlameThrowers at Balboa Stadium.