Riptide Rue Fateful Five Minutes in Seattle
Photos copyright Jeff Bell
Story by Scott Lewis
The Vancouver Riptide faced a big test for their first game of the 2016 AUDL season when they journeyed south to Seattle to face the Cascades on Saturday night.
The Cascades are consensus picks to battle the San Francisco Flamethrowers for the West Division crown this season, so the Riptide knew that this was their chance to make a statement that they are an improved team from the one that finished in last place with 4-10 record last season. Although the final outcome was a 25-21 win for Seattle, the teams were very even through the entire game except for a brief stretch which made the difference in the final outcome, so consider the statement made, albeit not quite so loud and with fewer exclamation marks than the Riptide had hoped.
The game stayed extremely tight through the first half. Seattle did manage several two point leads, but then Vancouver played what Assistant Coach Matt Doyle called their best quarter of the game to take the lead 9-8 before giving up two late scores to allow Seattle to go ahead 10-9 at the half. After the break, the Riptide battled back to take the lead 12-11 before the crucial five minutes that in effect decided the final outcome, as the Cascades outscored them 6-1 to take a 17-13 lead, an advantage they maintained to the end of the game.
What happened in those fateful five minutes? Alex Davis explained it with his typical thoughtful approach.
“Sometimes mistakes cluster together. The reasons that combined to cause those turnovers in that five minutes of death were present before and after, but most of the turnovers just happened to come at the same time. Seattle stepped up their defensive presence, so we had less use of the open side and hence had to break the mark more often or huck farther. But our break throws around the marks were coming out with too much edge, so there wasn’t much margin for error — they were floating too high or sinking too fast. And our hucks had too much lift — they were air-bouncing. So we were in a position where we weren’t executing the appropriate throws with the appropriate touch, and our percentages suffered.”
Once Seattle had taken that lead, with only a little more than a quarter left to catch up the Riptide had to start pressing, never an easy task against a good team.
“After that, it put a lot of pressure on our defense to generate turnovers in a short amount of time,” said Davis. “We had to use tactics to milk the most points possible out of the last quarter. The philosophy of “make them score quickly or turn over quickly” takes over in that situation, which is why there was a lot more trading of quick points as the game wound down.”
“In general, we were starting to force some choices rather than take what Seattle was giving us,” is how Doyle summed it up.
Davis, who was out injured for the game so had a perfect position on the sidelines to observe what was going on, points to another factor which got in the way of the attempted Riptide comeback.
“I think that as fatigue set in, we weren’t as quick to recover and to apply the no-huck marks in time, and we saw Seattle capitalize in the third quarter with a lot more hucks for the score. And that’s a self-discipline issue; we need to make fighting through seven seconds of pain more of an automatic habit.”
Doyle points to two lessons he and Head Coach Tasia Balding learned from this game.
“The biggest thing we learned was the individual compete level of our team is very high. There were some great individual efforts, both defensively and offensively, that came down to pure desire. That is something that makes coaching very easy.”
“The other big learning experience for us was adjusting to the speed of the game, very fast. We did make some adjustments with line calling and such throughout the game, but we’ll definitely be better prepared for the next match.”
Something that was very noticeable during this game is that the Riptide are moving away from the traditional O-line vs. D-line grouping of the players on the team. Sometimes this just happens as a game develops, but this time it was all part of the plan.
“We’re adopting a policy right now of rolling lines for offense and defense,” said Davis. “There will be very few players who are classified as defensive or offensive specialists under this system. Last year, we found that our offensive lines were often predictable and susceptible to fatigue in late games; this year, we want to cultivate a more varied and robust offensive identity.”
“The lines did get a little tighter as the game wore on, as we attempted to get some positive momentum for a comeback that unfortunately, that did not materialize,” added Doyle.
The Riptide’s next game is a rematch with Seattle in less than two weeks. What will they be focusing on in the interim?
“Team skills like team cutting and team defense are very high priorities for us right now, but I think that the coming weeks will see us address throwing execution and marking,” said Davis.
And Doyle emphasizes that they are not worrying about who they are playing at this point in the season.
“We will be continuing on keep our focus internal, emphasizing team development.”
Kevin Underhill was the Riptide’s top scorer with 6 goals and an assist, while Gagan Chatha led the team with 3 assists. Newcomer Morgan Hibbert had a strong game, leading the Riptide with 4 Ds and a plus/minus of +8 while playing 25 points.
The rematch, Vancouver’s home opener, will be held at Swangard Stadium on Saturday, Apr. 16th, at 6 p.m. You can buy tickets here.