Opening weekend in Salt Lake City
Opening weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah was highly successful for the Riptide. Our boys played a double-header versus the SLC Lions on the road, with games played Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Riptide approached their inaugural competition with no expectations and expecting to play their best game, as the Lions have very few familiar faces from the club scene and are a bit of a wild card in the league.
Saturday night was breezy and warm in SLC, and there was a substantial crowd out enjoying the conditions for their home opener. Estimates placed the fans over 500, and they were vocal and energetic in their support of the Lions. For some members of the Riptide, this was their first experience playing in front of spectators, but the boys shook off the pre-game jitters quickly and stepped on the field looking smooth, confident and professional.
Lanky Derek Fenton ripped it up, leading the team in both goals and assists. His height, hops, and speed on his first step are quickly making him a force to be reckoned with within the AUDL. Experienced Ryan ‘Gnarlee’ also made his debut, working well with Fenton and Aussie player/coach Tim Lavis to create a tall and dominant O-line. Riptide took half 15- 7, and didn’t let up as the sun set and the second half started. The SLC Lions pulled out some great ultimate with raw talent and used the wind wisely, forcing the Riptide D-line to fight for the upwind breaks. Danish import Mads Gotlieb used his huge 6’7 frame to his advantage, leading the team in Ds and making his presence known on the field. With some quick conversions and heads-up play, especially by the famous Richie Tam, the ‘Tide nailed down a decisive first victory of 29-14.
Sunday afternoon arrived windy, cold, and featuring some heavy hail, with both teams showing up ready to fight for the win. Salt Lake was looking for redemption, but Riptide stayed disciplined and strong. Fenton and Gnarlee continued to show offensive chemistry, with Fenton leading the team with 6 goals and 5 assists, and Will Vu stepped up to take on a stronger role on the field. The weather meant for some exciting, wet and scrambling plays, with Matt Harvey catching his foot-blocked backhand and Gotlieb pulling down some big Ds in the air. Captain Graham Landon’s calm consistency on the field help keep the team together as a cohesive unit. Under his leadership along with Gnarlee and Tim Lavis, Riptide brought home their second victory with a final score of 21-12.
When asked for comments on the weekend’s games, Lavis seemed satisfied with the result and optimistic about the season. He said the increased speed of the AUDL game is a definite adjustment from traditional Ultimate, but it makes for and exciting and fast-paced spectator sport. He emphasized the importance of being able to adjust as a team and as a coach, and said “one of (Riptide’s) advantages this weekend was (their) ability to respond well to the increased game speed.” Riptide’s cohesiveness and chemistry helped the squad succeed in adverse conditions and to play well within unfamiliar rules and game structures.
When chatting with the guys about the weekend, most of the feedback I got was simply what a good time they had. The SLC Lions put on an entertaining event, and it is hard to know who enjoyed it more; the fans or the players. Whoever the DJ was should be awarded – his funky tunes got players from both teams pulling out dance moves between points. I heard rumours of the robot, disco throwbacks, and apparently Darren Wu won over the crowd with some amateur krumping. Let’s hope they bust out some moves at the home opener on Saturday at Swangard. Tickets are on sale online as of tonight, so make sure you pick yours up and use your favorite player’s promo code! Don’t miss out on the historic inaugural home game for the Vancouver Riptide against the Seattle Raptors. Ride the Tide!