July 18, 2021 --- The first place San Diego Growlers hosted the second place Austin Sol at Mission Bay HS on a hot and breezy afternoon. This was the first ever matchup between these two teams, and Austin was coming off a win in LA the previous night.
Jonathan Helton began the 1st quarter with an assist to Lior Givol, Austin held, and then Helton connected with Givol again, 2-1. After the Sol held and recorded the first break of the game, San Diego evened the score at 3s. Steven Milardovich and Khalif El-Salaam started the Growlers block party, then Michael Tran found Dom Leggio for the break. Each offense traded scores, and San Diego took advantage of an Austin throwaway for another break to go up 6-4. The Sol held and Growlers’ last second backhand was incomplete to end the quarter with a 6-5 lead.
Austin received the second quarter pull and held on offense, but San Diego followed suit, starting a string of trading scores. After a Sol throwaway, El-Salaam picked up the disc and threw an upwind flick to Reggie Sung who got horizontal for the layout break score, 11-9. The teams traded goals, and a Sol drop led to a Growlers timeout and Tim Okita’s assist to Helton made it 13-10. San Diego had all the momentum until the Sol last second hail mary was caught at the buzzer, 13-11.
The Sol picked up where they left off by breaking the Growlers offense twice in a row to tie the game at 13s. San Diego struck back with a hold and after a Sol throwaway, Paul Lally unleashed an upwind huck that Jesse Cohen rose up for and timed perfectly, 15-13. Austin fought back with an offensive hold, and a couple turnovers and questionable calls followed that took Growlers scores off the board, and eventually led to the Sol tying the game at 15s. The Growlers were able to score and successfully defend the last second scoring attempt by the Sol to take a 16-15 lead into the fourth quarter.
Michael Tran immediately sparked the team with a block and Will Turner rewarded him with the bookend break. Austin responded with a score and after a long point with multiple turnovers, Helton tossed a hammer to Givol for the 18-16 lead with 6:11 left. San Diego had a chance to break and possibly put the game out of reach, but the Sol were determined by scoring and breaking the Growlers twice to take the lead 19-18. The Growlers stopped the surge with a Lally assist to Dunn upwind with 1:24 remaining. With the Sol now going upwind, Steven Milardovich stayed aggressive and earned a layout block, then quickly dished to Zac Schakner for the go ahead score, 20-19 with 42 seconds on the clock. Austin remained patient downwind with a good series of strike cuts and tied the game at 20 with 11 seconds. With the pressure on, Lally received the short pull, swung the disc to Givol, connected with Milardovich, dished to Okita who threw to Wes Groth for the lead, 21-20 with 3 seconds left. On the final point, the Growlers defense forced the Sol to throw short of the endzone to secure the victory after a back and forth nail biter.
The Growlers were led by Jonathan Helton with a +5 performance (5 assists, 3 goals), and Jesse Cohen contributed a +4 effort (1 assist, 3 goals, 2 blocks). At 5-1, San Diego remains in first place in the Wild West Division, and will take the Texas Two-Step trip this weekend when they battle Dallas on Friday and Austin on Saturday.