San Jose Spiders take a bite out of the Riptide
For the first time, some of the biggest names in North American Ultimate came to Swangard Stadium this Sunday to face off against the Vancouver Riptide. A few days ago, Sykd magazine released their AUDL power rankings, putting San Jose in second behind only the defending champions, the Toronto Rush. The names Beau Kittredge and Ashlin Joye were speculatively tossed around as fans sat down. Would the Riptide be able to respond to the Spider’s nearly unstoppable deep game? With an average height a solid couple of inches lower than the San Jose dream team, Vancouver was definitely the underdog coming into the game.
However, the Riptide refused to be written off in this historic match-up. From the very beginning, Vancouver used their quick under game and chemistry to get on the scoreboard. The return of O-line all-stars Edward Guo and Derek Fenton was significant, and the offensive success rate was much higher in this game in comparison to the match against San Francisco. Precise throws to small but fast receivers found their way around the big San Jose defence and into the endzone. Despite two early breaks for the Spiders, the first quarter of the game was largely the two very different O lines trading points.
When a big D by Landon and some solid handling by Hunter got the Riptide their first break back to make it 8-9, the crowd was pumped. San Jose responded with some unstoppable long bombs and began to take control of the second quarter, but just before halftime a brilliant double-happiness point from Hunter kept Vancouver within three. The score was 15-18 at halftime, with some stellar play from our boys, but it somehow felt like San Jose hadn’t shown us everything yet.
When going over the stats, one in particular stands out as representative of the game. On the Spiders, over half of their points were scored in under four passes, with an impressive number of one-pass scores. In contrast, the Vancouver Riptide scored more than 80% of their points in eight or more passes, with a not insignificant number requiring 12 or more passes. This really demonstrates just how strong the San Jose deep game is. Although the Riptide defence was often with the Spiders step for step speed wise, it always seemed to be the Spiders bringing down the long bombs. Additionally, Riptide’s handlers deserve accolades, especially Kevin Lore, Pierre-Yves Lavertu and Ryan Lee, who played to their strengths and patiently worked the disc up the field to score. Will Vu, an O line handler, was second on the Riptide for goals with 4 points, showcasing the strength of Vancouver’s handling core.
In the second half, the gap in experience between the two teams was more evident. Though I never completely wrote Vancouver off, a few forced and unforced errors from our boys on O were quickly capitalized on by San Jose. Riptide’s defensive line was unable to come up with the D’s to make up the growing gap on the scoreboard. Other than one brilliant play by Darren Wu deep in the endzone, Vancouver was simply could not shut down the Spider’s long game in one-on-one matchups.
It was only with perfect throws and smart catches, like a particularly memorable grab in the final quarter by unsung hero Ted Chu, that the Riptide were able to use their own previously successful long game. Fenton, usually a big presence in the endzone, took the difficult matchups in stride and worked the under passes, making an impact with an impressive 9 assists. However, this was not enough to contend with San Jose.
Near- perfect conditions, speed from the Riptide, and the exceptional efficiency of the Spider’s offence all combined to make this a very high-scoring game. The final result was a 32-39 loss for the Riptide. Though other teams have reached a higher individual score, the combined score in this comparatively tight game broke AUDL records for point totals. On the ground, this made an exciting, fast-paced game, one of the most entertaining to watch so far. The caliber of play from the Riptide seems to be improving every week, and I can’t wait to see a repeat match up against San Francisco at this level. Sunday’s game really showcased the young Vancouver team as a serious contender for one of the Western division playoff spots.