Photo by Aaron Kupferman
Turnovers and Breaks Tell the Story in Aviators 26-17 loss to Cascades
When the Los Angeles Aviators looked across the field at their opponent before the start of Sunday afternoon’s tilt with the Seattle Cascades, they had to be feeling pretty good about their chances. No Danny Karlinsky. No Mark Burton. No Tim Gehret. No Kieran Kelly. By halftime, Adam Simon was out for the rest of the game with an injury. Matt Rehder had a huge ice pack on his shoulder as he talked to trainers before the first pull. The Cascades had just played in San Diego against the Growlers the previous evening. With a single shake of a Magic 8 Ball, accompanied by the question “Will the Aviators win against the Cascades today?”, the response likely would have been “Signs Point to Yes!”
Then Los Angeles looked at its own sideline.
Rookie defensive stopper Andrew Kohl was in San Luis Obispo, playing for Arizona State at College Regionals. Zachary Theodore was a late scratch due to bruised quadriceps. Greg Husak also pulled out late, due to falling ill. Nicholas Alexander’s reliable handling skills were also in San Luis Obispo, working on his coaching game. Bryan Nguyen was unable to suit up due to other engagements. And the most glaring absence of all was Tyler Bacon. Committed to his coaching position with the UC Santa Barbara men’s team, he too was in San Luis Obispo, trying to help the Black Tide secure a Nationals bid. (They would finish a disappointing sixth.) With all that playmaking missing from the lineup, Los Angeles was going to have to dig deep to come up with points on the board and accumulating defensive blocks.
The game started evenly enough. Mark Elbogen (#8) went out of his way to fulfill his pregame comments: “The skies look pretty open today so I think I’m gonna be letting them fly.” Deep shots to Eric Lissner (#43) and Eli Friedman (#53) gave the Aviators a 3-2 lead early on. Timmy Beatty (#24) made his Aviators debut and hit Brent George (#3) for a score. Sean McDougall (#10) had a thunderous hand block along the sideline to set up the first break point of the game. A 7-5 first quarter deficit became a 9-9 tie halfway through the second period on one of the unique highlights of the game. Grant Boyd (#91) launched a pass across the field to Lissner that hung up in the air for longer than intended. Friedman found himself in range of the target area, along with a Seattle defender. Too far away to make a legitimate play on the disc, Friedman deftly positioned himself between the defender and Lissner, boxing the Cascade out just long enough for Lissner to make the grab, then find Friedman in the end zone for the score. Veteran savvy at its finest. The momentum, though, ended there.
Seattle proceeded to go on a 4-point run, punctuated by two uncharacteristic turnovers by George that were converted quickly into break points, giving Seattle a 13-9 lead at halftime.
The Aviators hosted a youth clinic before the game started, and some of those youth were featured in a “showcase” game on the field during the halftime break. With all of the beautiful downfield throws put on display by the young guns, the crowd was hoping Los Angeles would be inspired and come out firing in the second half. Starting on defense, Andrew Padula (#7) applied fierce pressure in the dump set and forced a Seattle turnover. Zac Schakner (#22) found Simon Evans (#40) for the opening break. Seattle didn’t take to kindly to that, scoring 6 of the following 8 points, extending their lead to 19-12 late in the 3rd. A quick offensive conversion followed by a quick break for Los Angeles reduced the lead to 19-14, with Seattle receiving the disc with 20 seconds left. Common end-of-quarter defensive strategy involves playing solid man-to-man defense until single digits are on the clock, then dropping back into hail mary prevention. A communication break down in the L.A. defense left a Seattle cutter streaking towards the end zone all by his lonesome, hauling in the goal with mere seconds left in the quarter. A five point deficit may not seem much better than a six point deficit, but with the Aviators starting the 4th quarter on offense, a momentum swing was not out of the realm of possibility. With such a frustrating end to a quarter, coming out energized and passionate for the last twelve minutes was a tall order.
Those fears were realized when an Elbogen drop gave Seattle another break point seventy seconds into the quarter. Seattle earned a second break in a row after both teams turned the disc over multiple times, taking a 23-14 lead. The nine-point margin would be maintained for the duration of the game, culminating in a 26-17 final score.
While missing several key players is easy to blame, it should not be the excuse for this game. The stockpile of turnovers by the offense continues to be an issue for Los Angeles. Sunday wrought a total of 31. Credit Seattle’s defense with a handful of those (Ultianalytics tallied 12 blocks for them), but that doesn’t account for L.A.’s unyielding presence on the throwaway train. The Aviators have too many quality, intelligent players to allow themselves to continue on this path. Spurts of intensity and passion on the sideline during the game make it obvious that players are aware of the miscues and their respective solutions; it’s going to take making the conscious decision to implement their knowledge and skill on the field before things will change.
The loss drops Los Angeles to 1-3 on the season, placing them 5th in the West division. Only San Diego is behind them, at 1-4, though Seattle also has three losses to go with their three wins. Both San Jose and Vancouver match the Aviators with one solitary victory, although that comes in a total of just two games for each of those two teams. There is plenty of time to make up ground, even on the still-undefeated San Francisco, albeit it unlikely.
The Aviators have two full weeks off before taking their show on the road again, facing off with the Growlers on Saturday, May 21. It will be the teams’ third meeting of the season, second in San Diego, as the series sits tied at one win apiece. Opening pull is set for 6:15 pm as both teams will look to begin an upward arch in the trajectory of their season.
by Jacob Baumer
Aviators Beat Writer & Correspondent