Sweltering Heat evaporates the ‘Tide’s playoff hopes
Los Angeles was unreasonably warm on Sunday June 21s. The Vancouver Riptide, coming off of a long day of travel and a difficult loss, were attempting to combat the heat and exhaustion with preemptive hydration. The field at Occidental College, despite being a beautiful venue, did not have a shred of shade. It was hardly one o’clock and the team was sweating under the California sun, the fans coming into the stands doing the same. An afternoon game meant that the teams would be playing in the heat of the day, and we’re pretty sure each of the guys was keen to be ‘skins’ in their warm-up scrimmage. However, with the stakes set at keeping playoff hopes alive, the game still promised to be high intensity.
Vancouver had successfully defeated the Aviators in their most exciting finish two weeks previously in Vancouver. After that overtime victory, both teams were determined to win decisively in regulation time. It was the second and final regular season matchup for the two west coast teams, both attempting to crack the top half of the division.
As the opening ceremonies began, a bunch of keen young ultimate players (participating in a skills clinic jointly run by the Aviators and E.R.I.C*) high-fived each of the Riptide boys as they made their way onto the field. While these kids showcased their own skills at half-time, they would definitely get to take in some spectacular plays from the two AUDL teams that day.
The Riptide opened the scoring with a collected point from their O line, but that was one of very few turnover- free points. The sun made the disc buttery, and both teams were suffering from uncontested throwaways and drops. Richie Tam got an early D, but the Riptide were unable to convert the break and the Aviators responded with a break of their own immediately afterwards.
In the first quarter, sloppy play from both teams kept the score even. Players were forced to make impressive, athletic plays to keep the disc alive on careless throws, keeping the fans excited. Our younger players seemed to be withstanding the heat well, with a few of those possession- saving plays coming from Malcolm Bryson and Connor McFadyen. Mark Leduc also took control of the offense at the midpoint of this quarter, striking and boosting the disc in turn. As the quarter drew to a close, the Riptide, determined to finish strong, fought through a marathon point with Ds from both Kevin Underhill and Myles Sinclair. After various turnovers and a time out from the Aviators, the Riptide managed to find Fenton in the endzone to end the quarter 5-6.
In the second quarter, Leduc continued to have an impressive game. He would end the game as the Stat leader on offense, with 4 goals and 1 assist- his peak so far this season. The next break of the game did not come until halfway through the second quarter, but when it did come it was from Leduc. He brought down a huck with impressive hops, playing with a level of intensity he has rarely shown on the Riptide. Underhill stepped onto the field as the Aviators took an injury sub, and managed to bring down a flip from Fenton for the score, converting the break to tie the game.
The momentum continued with a second break from Underhill to Clement Yip, another young player who seemed oddly untouched by the heat. Yip continues to earn his playing time with a willingness to learn and a consistent intensity to his play throughout long games. As the halftime buzzer sounded, the game stood tied at 10s, with the Riptide receiving to start the third.
Some beauty zone O from the younger players opened the half, with McFadyen and Darren Wu ripping it up. A few points later, however, after LA managed to convert a break with an insanely athletic gymnastic-like catch from Jeff Silverman, Wu took an injury sub, which ended out last the remainder of the game. D line captain Alex Davis had stepped out of the game with an ankle injury a few points earlier, after a series of huge defensive plays. With these two on the sideline, the already short bench was down to 17.
As the third quarter continued, marathon points in the heat began to define the game. After pushing through turnover after turnover, the Riptide lost more 5050 discs than they earned, and finished the quarter by loosing a ‘time break’, down 14-17. However, despite the heat, injuries, and errors from many top players, the game still felt quite evenly matched. The Riptide regrouped in the shade, and came out for the final quarter ready to fight through.
The final quarter of the game seemed to slowly slip away from the Riptide. While we still managed to get another break, and many players continued to have strong games, such as McFadyen, Gailits, Leduc and Kevin Underhill (who had been absent from the San Diego game the night before), the errors began to pile up. Additionally, in the final 12 minutes, the Aviators found an extra boost of speed and focus, which the Riptide were hard pressed to match. Despite opening up their lead to a five and then six point spread, LA did not become complacent. The final point of the game was an exciting buzzer beater to Carnagie, giving LA the victory at 27-26.
The end of this gruelling double-header weekend meant the end of the Riptide’s playoff hopes. Two tough losses on the books meant the rest of the season was going to be about player development for the club circuit, and building for next year. And aside from all that, simply playing some exciting ultimate.
*Find out more about E.R.I.C at http://www.earlyrecognitioniscritical.org/