Top 3 Rivalries In The West

April 6, 2023
By Ian Toner

Los Angeles Aviators vs. San Diego Growlers

Head-to-head all time: SD leads series 16-13
Head-to-head in 2022: SD won series 2-0
2023 regular season games: Saturday, June 3 @ San Diego | Saturday, June 24 @ Los Angeles

While the Los Angeles Aviators captured the West’s Championship Weekend berth in 2018, the San Diego Growlers clinched it in 2019 and 2021. The two Southern California franchises, whose home fields sit 120 miles apart, have fought to secure the region’s best talent, with stars and leaders completing stints with both teams. The full history of personnel switching allegiances deserves its own novel, but some major highlights have included:

  • 2017: Tyler Bacon and Jeff Silverman depart LA for San Diego

  • 2018: Silverman and Bacon return to LA, but Jesse Cohen leaves SD for LA

  • 2019: Cohen returns to SD

  • 2021: After five seasons with LA, Zac Schakner joins the Growlers; Silverman leaves LA (again) to rejoin the Growlers

  • 2022: Chris Mazur, an AUDL champion with Dallas in 2016 who played with LA in 2018, joins San Diego along with Sean McDougall, LA’s all-time leading goal scorer and block getter

“The San Diego-Los Angeles rivalry is bred from more than just ultimate,” San Diego’s All-AUDL Second Team standout Travis Dunn explained. “It feels like a true rivalry of the locales as a whole [...] regardless of which team is better in a given year, those games are always a battle. Throw in the fact that guys on each team typically play club together in the summer, and you really have people trying to get any competitive edge based on their knowledge of the opponents.”

“We are great friends and bitter rivals,” said Michael Kiyoi, a Los Angeles Aviators All-Star who won the 2014 AUDL title with the San Jose Spiders before the Los Angeles franchise existed. “We talk trash and we hug it out.”

Heading into 2023, Mazur, McDougall and Schakner have all migrated back to the Aviators roster, writing a compelling introduction for another contentious chapter in this complicated rivalry.

Colorado Summit vs. Salt Lake Shred

Head-to-head all time (2022): Colorado leads series 3-0
2023 regular season games: Friday, June 9 @ Colorado | Friday, June 16 @ Salt Lake

If we could fire up the way back machine, turn the dial back six or seven years and tell fans that one of the West Division’s best rivalries in 2023 would pit the Colorado Summit against the Salt Lake Shred, it might not sound impossible, but it would certainly seem farfetched. In the mid-to-late-2010s, the league was years removed from the Salt Lake Lions’ last game in 2014 and Colorado-based stars, with no franchise in their home state, were commuting around the country to compete with the likes of Dallas, San Francisco and other teams. 

What a difference a few years can make. The Summit and Shred burst into the league in 2022, vaulting to the top of the West Division table on the backs of high-flying offenses and supremely athletic defenders. After Colorado won two regular season faceoffs, the teams battled in Denver for the West Division crown, with Colorado pulling away in the fourth quarter to earn a Championship Weekend berth.

“Kind of a lopsided rivalry if you ask me,” Shred All-Star Jordan Kerr said through a chuckle. “But those games were intense, filled with highlight plays from both ends and really challenged us mentally, as well. I think what made it unique at least last year was the fact that we were both brand new expansion teams coming into the league. So not only did we want to win, but there was also that added motivation of who was going to be the best expansion team [...] sorry Portland.”

“All three games last year, both teams were constantly adjusting and implementing new strategies to get a leg up,” Summit All-Star Quinn Finer said. “I think something that makes Salt Lake so dangerous is their athleticism up and down their roster.”

“This upcoming year, we can’t wait to get our shot at them again,” Kerr added. “I think that the talent we brought in, as well as the coaching adjustments and strategies [coach] Bryce [Merrill] has been working on this offseason puts us in a really good spot to challenge them in the rivalry as well as best in the division this year.”

“I think both teams got better over the offseason,” Finer added. “I’m especially interested to see how they integrate Grant Lindsley. Adding someone like Grant is a huge win for them and I’m looking forward to playing against him. I love his game. He’s someone I watched a lot growing up.”

Colorado Summit vs. Los Angeles Aviators

Head-to-head all time (2022): Colorado leads series 2-0
2023 regular season games: Saturday, May 6 @ LA*, Saturday, May 20 @ Colorado

We’ll concede that the 2022 on-field match ups between the Summit and Aviators didn’t exactly bring the fireworks, with Colorado winning both games comfortably.

But the Aviators are wrapping up one of the splashiest off seasons in the league, sporting a revamped fuselage in 2023. McDougall, Mazur and Schakner are returning home. Former Summit utility man Daniel Brunker has joined the flight crew. Jason Vallee—who earned my vote for 2022’s most improved player—will join his former Chicago Union teammate Pawel Janas–one of the most prolific passers in league history–in Los Angeles.

“There is nothing sweeter than beating up on old friends,” University of Colorado-Boulder alumnus Janas said when asked about his first matchup against the Summit as an Aviator. “I’m looking forward to becoming the sharpest thorn in their side for the next six years. They don’t know what’s coming.”

While Aviators Coach Jeff Landesman has indicated that his son—Summit star Danny Landesman—may be unavailable for regular season matchups due to collegiate playoff conflicts, the prospect of father and son facing off in West Division playoffs adds another level of intrigue to the Summit-Aviators dynamic.

“They might give us a good game [...] but only because we’ll be missing all our college kids,” said Finer, referencing the Summit players expected to compete with the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Mamabird squad in the USA Ultimate DI College Championships Series through the end of May.


*Denotes AUDL Game of the Week