August 8, 2019
By Louis Zatzman
The following interview is a preview of Championship Weekend from the perspective of the San Diego Growlers. The interview was conducted with Travis Dunn. Click on the following links to find pieces from the perspectives of the New York Empire, Dallas Roughnecks, and Indianapolis AlleyCats.
What was the most exciting moment in the regular season?
I would say maybe the second time that we played in Los Angeles [on June 1]. We were down by a pretty considerable margin. We fought back and fought back, and finally with a minute and a half left, I want to say, we broke through and got the lead. In that game, we had points in the game where we were down by four goals, and to come and get that one [20-18], our resiliency and not folding, that was huge for us. It proved to me that we're a different team this year than we've been in years past.
What was the most difficult moment in the regular season?
Going up to Seattle early on [May 4] when we were 4-0 and feeling pretty good about where we were at, and it felt like maybe we were overconfident, or maybe we were trying to do too much as individuals... That was the only game this year where I felt like we kind of let down on our end, as a group. It sucked in the moment, but at the same time, [losing 21-25] was a good learning moment for all of us to step back and say ‘hey, if we want to continue winning like we had started this season, then we've got to go back to playing the way we were.’
What was the most surprising moment in the regular season?
I wouldn't call it quite surprising internally, but probably looking from the outside, it's been the way that Scott Radlauer has stepped up on defense. What I think is surprising is that he's gone even beyond what I would have anticipated. I think in our last game at San Jose [on July 7], he had seven blocks, and that's pretty incredible for any game in the AUDL.
Have you had a chance to zoom out and look at the road this team has taken to Championship Weekend?
Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, to look at where we started, the first year it was strange. It felt like they were trying to get big names in the door and see if that would bring people out. Year two was a big struggle. It felt like we were trying to take a step back and make it what it is, which was southern California. And then see if we could build from there. That year was rough. We kind of slowly started integrating pieces from out here in the Southwest, and slowly developing what we really were as a team, and are now as a team. The benefit has been, now we've had three years. We've got a couple holdovers from year one, I want to say that I read somewhere that it's only five players, but the number of players who've been playing for the last three years is probably the majority of the team. It's been nice to have carryover for a couple years now, and everyone comes in on the same page, and instead of starting from square one, we're starting where we left off.
How does it feel for your team to be playing at Championship Weekend?
It's pretty awesome. I've been with the team for all five years, and it finally feels like we've accomplished at least something, to make it there, I know last year we made it to the playoffs and everything. But that felt more like we did just enough, rather than really feeling like a successful season. We haven't been over .500 until this year, and now to go 10-2, and to win the West in the regular season, and to follow it up with a playoff win. It's exciting to get the opportunity to go play teams from the other divisions that we don't normally see. Let's see what we can do.
What’s the single biggest reason why your team has made it this far?
I would say depth and going into games with 20 guys. We've done a great job all season of everybody making plays. There's guys on defense that were relatively unknown to outsiders prior to this year, and maybe even still to this point, if people aren't paying enough attention. But they've stepped up and done what we know they're able to do. That's really provided a huge lift for us. The resiliency of the group has definitely been a huge factor this year. It's been much different than in years past, and that's been huge for us.
What are you most looking forward to, off the field, at Championship Weekend?
I think it will just be cool to be a part of it. I had the fortunate opportunity to go to the All-Star Weekend this year. That was fun to be there, be a part of that event. Meet and see guys from around the league. Different people who I didn't know, hadn't met before, and feel like there was some excitement around the sport of ultimate. We're trying to grow that nationwide. I hope for the same thing, just to see that the sport as a whole is growing, and gaining that recognition with fans and the public.
Is the season already a success because you’re here?
Yeah, I would say. Definitely. We've been pushing at this for five years and never had anything close to how we finished this year. That's huge for the team.