Vancouver Riptide Head to Seattle for Season Opener
By Scott Lewis
The Vancouver Riptide are heading south to Seattle to play the Cascades this Saturday night in their AUDL season opener.
Last season was a frustrating one for the team. They managed to beat the top teams in their division, including two wins against Seattle, but frittered away a half dozen great chances to win against lesser teams on the way to a last-place 4-10 record.
But this is a new season, and the team not only has new coaching and management but has also added some experienced players who will fill some holes. One of the biggest problems last year was that the Riptide D-line was very poor at converting breaks, but the addition of veterans Anatoly Vasilyev, over from Toronto Rush, and Morgan Hibbert, who played the last three seasons in MLU, will help greatly in that respect, as well as increasing the overall defensive intensity.
The O-line should also be improved this year with the addition of Brendan Wong and William Vu. The veteran Wong was hampered by injuries last year, but in 2014 he broke all the MLU scoring records and was the MVP of his division. With his ability to get open and his nose for the end zone, Wong should be able to build a great connection with Vu, an up and coming young handler with a vast array of throws and a real feel for the game. And Vu has ice-water in his veins; he thrives in late game pressure situations and should slide nicely into the handling spot vacated by the departed John Norris.
Last year’s Riptide was already dominant in the air with the likes of Gagan Chatha and Joel Bellavance, but with the addition of Hibbert and high-flying youngsters Jordan Dhillon and Ari Nitikman, this should become an even greater strength. Functioning well as a unit, and intensity, especially on the D-line, should also be positives for this year’s version of the team.
“We have assembled a squad full of young, hard working, determined players for the 2016 Riptide season,” said co-coach Matt Doyle. “The majority of the team has played together on pro and/or club teams last season, so there’s a level of familiarity with each other that will help early in the season. Overall, I believe our strengths will include our disc movement, our downfield spacing, and especially tenacious defense.”
Rumi Tejpar, a returnee from last year’s Riptide, notes that Doyle and co-coach Tasia Balding have really worked the team hard on basics during the preseason, which he thinks will help in the crucial end-of-game plays that decide whether the game is won or lost. He also sees the continuity of so many of the players as an advantage.
“Even with the important additions we have made, the middle part of the roster is relatively unchanged. The benefit to this is that we have a year (or two in some cases) under our belts to have built chemistry. I think at the end of last season you started to see some offensive and defensive strategies come to fruition, although I will admit that a large part of why we didn’t succeed last year was because we just weren’t polished or good enough at the little things.”
Given that Seattle and Vancouver has been fierce rivals on the Ultimate field for almost 30 years, with each team enjoying periods of supremacy, the Riptide players and coaches are familiar with the Cascade, as a team and as individuals, from having played them many different times in different competitions and configurations. But this is a new season and each team has made some changes, so Vancouver is going into this game concentrating on executing their game plan without worrying too much about who they are playing.
“In the first month of the season.” said Doyle, “we plan to focus on implementing some of the concepts and skills we’ve been working on developing. At this point, the focus for the Riptide needs to be internal, working on continual improvement of the concepts that have been discussed throughout the preseason.”
“It’s important to look at the things that WE can do better as opposed to focusing on them,” added Tejpar.
Consensus around the AUDL seems to be that Seattle and San Francisco will be the cream of the West Division this year, with Vancouver the favourite for third place, the final playoff spot.
We’ll get our first indication as to whether the prognosticators are correct on Saturday when the Riptide and Cascades hit the field at Memorial Stadium.
If you are going to be in Seattle, you can buy tickets and get more information here.
The first home game will be held at Swangard Stadium on Saturday, Apr. 16th, at 6 p.m. You can buy tickets here.