Riptide playing spoiler against visiting Flamethrowers
by Spencer Luyben
Playing the part of spoiler is always fun.
Although the Riptide have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, their spirits will remain charged through the chance of spoiling a post-season hope for a divisional rival in the third-place San Francisco Flamethrowers.
With a 6-5 record, the Flamethrowers sit a mere game ahead of the 5-6 San Diego Growlers in the West division, and are poised to lose their spot unless they find success in the final stretch of the 2015 season.
The Flamethrowers will start a back-to-back weekend against the Riptide this Saturday, and will finish it in Seattle against the second-place Cascades on Sunday. They will then complete their season against the West division’s best team in the 2014 AUDL Champion San Jose Spiders.
Talk about a tornado of talented opponents.
With that in mind, the Riptide are perfectly poised to deliver a potentially fatal blow to San Francisco’s post-season chances given the difficulty of their schedule after that.
The mantra echoed by the Riptide players should be the opposite of a certain famous cliché: If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em.
And because they are unable to join San Francisco in their playoff push, they might as well keep try to keep them out of it too.
Although they will be playing to preserve their pride, it’s a positive sign that the Riptide have something to play for, an end-goal they can all focus on and strive for, even if that goal is something as simple as keeping your opponent out of the playoffs.
From the Flamethrowers’ point of view, Canada’s coastal crew will be nothing more than a smooth patch before a bumpy road. But there are players on the Riptide who certainly have a different perspective…
Kevin Underhill and Joel Bellavance have been on a torrid pace producing assists with 45 and 46, respectively. Their energy and elite skill levels promote a high work ethic and production rate, and they fuel their team to perform at a higher level each game.
These two fan-favourites rip through opponent D-lines and regularly assert their status as dominant AUDL players who need to be watched closely. Handling is hardly an easy job – it requires a skill that cannot be learned through training – but the natural ability possessed by these two make it look like it is.
Gagan Chatha’s been setting the AUDL on fire with his 43 goals over nine games and has been performing at an all-star caliber level all year. His slender, tall frame gives him an advantage for hanging passes and floating discs and his natural athletic ability makes him a priceless weapon within the Riptide artillery.
Alex Davis, Rumi Tejpar and Myles Sinclair solidify their D-line through intelligent positioning and a freakish ability to read plays before they happen. Even against teams with strong offensive weapons, it seems these guys throw down Ds every game and will be relied on heavily against San Francisco.
Even with stellar athletes like these, coupled with a solid depth department that offers valuable options in difficult in-game situations, the West division’s parity is just too strong.
Undoubtedly the toughest division in the AUDL, the West is full of teams with a wealth of experience and an undying desire for success. Every other division seems to have that one team that seems out of place in the AUDL who totals no more than a single win the entire season.
Except for the West.
The balance between skill levels employed by teams in the West is unmatched by any other in the league, and it’s difficult to overcome a bad game, let alone multiple – especially in a season that lasts only 14 games.
The Riptide have stumbled in 2015, but it doesn’t accurately reflect their ability and potential. If they were aligned within the South division, they would most likely hold a playoff position because of the drastic difference in skill levels teams possess.
But, sadly, they don’t.
They play in the toughest division in the AUDL, and with that comes heartbreak for all teams involved – this time, it happened to be Vancouver’s turn to lick their wounds as their foes journey into the post-season.
But the season is far from over, and the Riptide can still leave their mark in 2015 if their top players continue to produce numbers at the same pace and if they can keep San Francisco from a playoff berth.
The game’s pull is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. at Swangard Stadium.