July 24, 2019
By Owen Krucoff
The 2019 DC Breeze season came to an end on Saturday with a heartbreaking 22-21 loss to the Toronto Rush in the AUDL East Division Playoffs.
After splitting their regular season series, DC and Toronto met at the home field of the New York Empire in New Rochelle, New York, to settle the score on a neutral field. Rowan McDonnell racked up 12 combined goals and assists for the Breeze, tying his season high, but it wasn’t enough as DC fell just one point short of advancing to the East Division championship.
Cody Johnston and Nathan Prior had excellent games as well in the losing effort. Johnston threw three assists on perfect 34-for-34 passing, while Prior added three goals and two assists with zero drops on 67 touches. Prior also set a Breeze playoff game record with 59 completions on the night.
The Breeze led by as much as four in the second half, but the Rush steadily crept back into the contest before taking a 22-21 lead in the final seconds of the game. It was Toronto’s first lead since the first quarter, and it left the Breeze without enough time to mount a buzzer-beating possession.
While DC didn’t find the postseason success it was looking for, the 2019 season still had its share of highlights. The Breeze remained one of the AUDL’s top teams on home turf, going 5-1 within the brand new confines of Catholic University’s Carlini Field. The lone loss came by a single point to the still-undefeated Empire on June 1.
McDonnell, the reigning AUDL MVP, put together another standout year with 67 goals and 51 assists in 13 games. His 59 regular season goals set a single-season record for the franchise, while his eight-goal performance on Saturday was a Breeze playoff game record.
On the defensive side, AJ Merriman and David Bloodgood shared the team lead with 12 blocks apiece.
The Breeze finished the regular season tied for second place in the East with a 7-5 record (officially third due to the head-to-head tiebreaker), wrapping up a playoff spot for the fourth straight season and fifth in the last six years. Had they beaten the Rush on Saturday, DC would have had the chance to take another shot at the top-seeded Empire for a spot in the AUDL’s Championship Weekend. Instead, New York registered a 19-16 win over Toronto on Sunday to keep its perfect season alive and win the East Division title for the second consecutive year.
Stay tuned to the Breeze and AUDL websites/social media as the playoffs continue to unfold and details about the upcoming 2020 season emerge, including the second annual AUDL All-Star game, which will be held in the District next season.