Riptide edge past Cascades for first win of the season
On Saturday evening, the Vancouver Riptide hopped on a bus to take on the Seattle Cascades at Memorial Stadium in the shadow of the Space Needle. The crowd was the biggest the Riptide have played in front of in 2015, with the Cascades expecting to feed off the energy of their fans at home. The stadium was decked out with Cascades flags and banners, ready to be featured on ESPN3 as the game of the week.
Both teams had just come off of back-to-back away games in the opening weekend. The Cascades finished 2-0 over L.A and San Diego. Meanwhile, the Riptide had battled through two tough losses against the Bay Area teams. The Riptide took all this added pressure in stride, stepping on the field with the intention of simply playing their game.
In pre-game talks and strategy, Vancouver’s leadership drew on their knowledge from the club circuit of the Sockeye regulars on the Cascades line up. When Riptide captain Alex Davis was asked after the game what was discussed in the locker room, his reply was that they “warned the offense about Seattle’s characteristic marking tactics”, among other “signature moves”. The Vancouver open club team, Furious George, has a long-standing rivalry with Seattle’s Sockeye: though this was the first time these two Western Conference teams have played many of the players have been matching up against each other for years, and finding the defenders best suited to shutting down Seattle’s stars was a part of the Riptide strategy. Davis claimed that “Matching Richie Tam’s superior agility against Danny Karlinsky was a critical pairing”. In the club scene, Furious has not had a win over Sockeye for a while, perhaps making that ‘W’ a bit more coveted. This win was also the only planned present from the team for co-captain Kevin Underhill’s quarter-century birthday. Not bad!
The Riptide started the first quarter on offence, but coming out of the gate the Cascades D-line quickly showed what they were capable of. Capitalizing on a few unforced Riptide errors, two of which were the disc getting stalled down, the Cascades went up two breaks against a jittery Riptide O-line. However, before the quarter ended, the Riptide offence began to find their stride. Darren Wu pulled down the first D of the game for the Riptide, getting the disc back for the O-line and pumping up the entire squad. The Riptide defense fed off this energy and stepped up their play with similar events to follow: Mark Leduc had several successful interceptions on Seattle huck attempts, Mitch Dozzi-Daigle had an early handblock which was converted into a Vancouver score. The score at the end of the first quarter was 5-6 with the Cascades leading, and would have the Riptide pulling to begin the second quarter.
Tam helped set the tone for the second quarter with a huge D in the opening minute. The D line was able to capitalize on the opportunity, scoring their first break of the game with a beauty from Dozzi-Daigle to Tim Tsang. Tsang, previously playing for the Montreal Royal, laced up for his first game of the season. He was immediately recognized as an impact player on the D line, especially effective in the Riptide’s transition offence. The Riptide got their second defensive break of the quarter a few points later. It was the longest point of the game, with the Cascades making them fight for every inch gained on the field and a stellar endzone D by Myles Sinclair. After a few more turnovers, the Riptide called a timeout and put on their O-line in order to take advantage of the opportunity their D-line had handed them. When Underhill eventually scored this crucial long point, the Riptide took the lead for the first time at 9-8 going into halftime.
The third quarter was an excellent showing by the O-lines of both teams. Young gun Darren Wu began to play his best game, with an assist and two goals in three consecutive offensive runs. He brought down a couple floaty hucks and had one impossible -looking layout grab which was later named the catch of the game. Seattle used their speed to run down a couple laser-like shots to the end zone, and the third quarter finished with an even score of 6-6 for the quarter, 15-14 for the game.
As the final quarter began, the tension was palpable in the stadium due to the close score and intense completion. Both O lines continued to play to their strengths, which for the Riptide meant using the amazing chemistry between Underhill, Joel Bellavance and Andre Gailits. UBC-star and AUDL veteran Edward Guo added to the offense’s success, making some great plays throughout the game – it’s safe to say that taking the day off from the college circuit contributed to the Riptide’s success on the field. Points continued to be traded back and forth, until the tide turned at 18-17, in favour of the Riptide. A monster D from Tam surprised the Cascades offence, and the Riptide captains made another strategic time out call to bring their O-line on the field. They did their job as they had been doing it all game, and earned the crucial break with a put from Bellavance to Gailits for the score.
In the dying minutes of the game, the Riptide shone by playing the most patient offence they played all game. They took their time point after point, keeping possession and working the disc upfield with uncontested dump-swing movement for each score. However the Cascades did not give in easily, and scored a defensive break to tie the game 20-20 with only 2.5 minutes to go. Despite the pressure, the Riptide O-line continued to play the same patient game, and used nearly two minutes to work the disc downfield with no loss of possession. As the clock ticked below 30 seconds, the sidelines and fans became frantic, but the seven players on the field stayed focused. The scoring pass was a smart thread the needle look across half the endzone from Wu to Guo, who had managed to get wide open in the front of the endzone. It was 21-20 for the Riptide with two seconds remaining. The final attempt by the Cascades was unsuccessful, with Gailits making a defensive play on the disc down after an unsuccessful Seattle boost, making Saturday night the first win of the 2015 season for Vancouver. What a game!
Can the Riptide repeat their victory next weekend when Seattle comes to Vancouver for our home opener at Swangard Stadium on Saturday? Whatever happens, with a rivalry like this one, it is guaranteed to be another hard fought game. See you there!