Aviators Finish Regular Season With Victory Over Growlers
The Los Angeles Aviators defeated the San Diego Growlers 30-24 on Saturday evening at Occidental College, completing their 2016 regular season on a six-game winning streak and stockpiling critical levels of momentum heading into the playoffs this coming weekend.
With the victory, Los Angeles (9-5) finishes the regular season in 3rd place in the AUDL West, behind the San Francisco Flamethrowers (11-3) and Seattle Cascades (9-5, head-to-head tiebreaker). This is a 4-win improvement over last season’s 5-9 record. It gives the Aviators an overall .500 record in their two seasons in the league (14-14), wins the season series over the Growlers, 3-1, and gives them a 5-4 lead over San Diego during these two years.
The game was deceptively competitive at times, and yet not as close as the score would suggest at others. Los Angeles started the game by taking a 1-0 lead with a break point, but San Diego scored three straight to go up 3-1 five minutes into the game. LA responded with four consecutive goals of their own, with Peter Zhou (#11) and Jeff Silverman (#19) getting key blocks to lead to scores. The teams would then trade points until Los Angeles lead 7-5 after the first quarter.
The Los Angeles offense scored to start the second quarter when Adam Bronstein (#44) tracked down a throw down field and Steven Brooks (#6) eventually found Mark Elbogen (#8) for an 8-5 lead. San Diego went on their own four-point streak to go up by one, with help from a poor huck by Elbogen that got swatted away in the end zone, and another turnover the following point on a throw into traffic. After Elbogen connected with Bryan Nguyen (#12) well behind any defenders to tie the game at 9, Los Angeles scored consecutive break points again via perfectly executed box outs by Brandon Severson (#80) and Grant Boyd (#91) to maintain possessions and create scoring opportunities. The Aviators went into the half with an 11-9 advantage.
The second half started with points being traded to a 13-11 Los Angeles lead. The Aviators earned another break when Trevor Smith (#13) and Hunter Corbett (#17) combined for a block and Zhou found Smith later on for the score. San Diego held on their offensive point, then Los Angeles scored again when Michael Kiyoi (#1) connected on a deep shot to Nguyen, his third goal of the game. When both players returned to the sideline after the point, Kiyoi praised Nguyen’s indefensible speed when he remarked,
“It’s pretty easy to throw to you. I just throw… Far.”
That goal put L.A. up 15-12. The lead increased to 17-13 with less than five minutes remaining in the quarter when an Elbogen hammer floated for the taking, but Nguyen’s flailing catch above a crowd led to him assisting Tim Beatty (#24) for the goal. As the quarter wound down, Los Angeles had possession and the disc again found itself traveling in Nguyen’s direction. In his efforts to secure the catch, which he somehow managed, his momentum upon contacting the ground forced his entire body to rise straight into the air over his head, which was planted firmly in the turf. He literally stood on his head to retain possession for Los Angeles. The clock wound down during the drive, and Eric LIssner (#43) launched a hammer into the end zone. While warding off a defender with one hand, Elbogen used his other hand to stretch out, slow the disc down, steady it, and bring it in against his body for the catch and goal. With those theatrics, the Aviators held a 19-14 lead after three quarters of play.
The fourth quarter quickly turned into a back-and-forth scoring barrage. Zach Theodore scored three goals in the quarter, totaling five for the game. He punctuated the last one, giving Los Angeles a 29-21 lead with just over two minutes left in the game, by pulling off an acrobatic backflip with a twist, showcasing his underrated athleticism. In the end, the Growlers would score 10 goals in the fourth quarter, while the Aviators would tally 11. It was the second time in franchise history (both coming in the span of the last five games) that the Aviators had reached the 30-goal mark. The FlameThrowers were the only other West Division team to reach that mark more than once during the regular season.
The Aviators had 13 different players score goals, eight of whom had at least two, lead by Theodore’s five. Fourteen players recorded an assist, lead by Elbogen’s four, and ten players in all had multiple assists. The offense continues to play with a cohesion the franchise had not experienced in its history before May 21 of this year. In the ten games since then, Los Angeles is 8-2 and has scored at least 25 goals eight times.