Aviators at Growlers
Coming off of their first victory of the season last weekend, a 21-20 nail-biter against San Diego, the Aviators look to achieve the first over-.500 record in franchise history when they face off against the Growlers again this Saturday, this time on San Diego’s home turf.
With Husayn Carnegie’s departure, and the absences of Andrew Kohl (#4), Trevor Smith (#13), and Mitchell Steiner (#14), the Aviators will have several new faces on the field for the first time this season. Rookies Andrew Padula (#7) and Brandon Severson (#80), mainstays on the elite Los Angeles club scene in recent years, will suit up for their first AUDL action. Of slightly more anticipated significance will be the dual presences of Michael Kiyoi and Eli Friedman.
Friedman (#53) will don an Aviators jersey after a flurry of random circumstances (including but not limited to pizza and Tinder) led to his expedient and timely signing this Monday. Despite his lack of ultimate involvement due to work travels over the last few years, Friedman brings Callahan-winning skill in both his throwing and cutting game. Read about his signing here.
Kiyoi (#1) finally gets to make his long-awaited, on-field debut for the Aviators. After suffering a torn ACL a year ago, Kiyoi used his vast ultimate knowledge and experience in a key coaching role for Los Angeles last year. But as every talented athlete knows, being on the sideline only makes you want to be on the field that much more. Kiyoi went through a rigorous rehabilitation process to get his knee back to full strength (which you can see part of in this interview) and ready for play this season. Kiyoi was a member of the 2014 San Jose Spiders squad, along with Tyler Bacon (#55), Mark Elbogen (#8), and Jeff Silverman (#19), that won the AUDL championship that season. So he adds another presence on the field that has been through what it takes to be a champion. The team and community are ready to reap the benefits of everything The Sultan (his college nickname at UCLA) has to offer.
Watch the video of Kiyoi’s road back here:
On the San Diego side of things, Dominic Leggio suffered an injury when physical coverage by Los Angeles’ Zac Schakner (#22) led to an inadvertent cleating of Leggio’s foot. While it didn’t take him out of the game, it did result in a trip to the hospital. Leggio’s status is uncertain, but his physical gifts and competitiveness will most likely see him suiting up on Saturday. The Growlers will surely be using their 4th-quarter performance, when they outscored Los Angeles 8-2, as motivation and a confidence boost heading into this week’s game. Down 19-12 entering the final quarter, San Diego proved that letting up even the slightest bit against them is unwise as their talent can put a handful of points up very quickly. The Aviators will have to lock down assist leaders Will Griffin and Matt Parisi, and goal scorers Steven Milardovich and Benet Clark, if they hope to leave San Diego with a victory.
With a win at San Diego’s Balboa Stadium, in front of a national audience on ESPN3, the Aviators would remain one game behind the West Division-leading San Francisco Flamethrowers, and create a 2-0 cushion halfway through their head-to-head matchups with San Diego. A loss would drop them to 1-2, creating an early hole difficult to crawl out of in the league’s deepest and strongest division.
Eric Lissner (#43) leads the Aviators with 8 assists (including 6 against San Diego last week) through two games, while rookie Brent George (#3) leads the team with 5 goals. If the first two weeks are any indication, the production will continue to be spread all the way through the lineup. Los Angeles’ 37 goals have been spread out over 17 players, with 10 having at least 2 goals. Additionally, 18 different players have accounted for a defensive block, paced by Smith’s four and three each by Elbogen and Zach Theodore (#16).
If you can’t make it to the game be sure to tune in online on ESPN3. First pull is scheduled for 6:15 pm.
by Jacob Baumer
Aviators Beat Writer & Correspondent