Riptide Welcome Cascades for Home Opener

By Scott Lewis

This Saturday night at 6 p.m. the Vancouver Riptide will be looking to avenge their season-opening defeat by Seattle when they host the Cascades at Swangard Stadium for their AUDL home opener.

After losing what was an even game save for a short stretch in the 3rd quarter that decided the outcome when the Cascades went on a 6-1 run, the Riptide feel they have a good chance to win the rematch, particularly with the support of the home crowd. With new coaches, new players, and a revamped leadership group, the early games were always going to be a bit of an adventure, but the season will begin to yield more wins as things settle in. Lessons are being learned.

“Regarding lessons we took from the first game of the season,” said Assistant Coach Matt Doyle, “the biggest one is still the speed of the pro game. The downtime between points is minimal, and for our players more schooled in club and university competition, this takes a bit of getting used to. [Head Coach] Tasia Balding and I have been working on ways to better use this break between points, and we believe we have a good plan to improve team communication in the short time we get.”

The speed and intensity of the pro game is also a primary reason the Riptide have abandoned the traditional use of O-lines and D-lines. What the players are used to from club play, having a core group of 7-10 players play upwards of 25 points a game, just doesn’t work in the AUDL.

“As a result,” said player Myles Sinclair, “we have changed our strategy, identifying groups of players that work well together and putting them out on both O and D. The hope is that not only will the players remain fresh, but we’ll also force our opponents to continually be concerned with match-ups. It’s a new strategy, only one game old, so we’ll have see how it works in future games, but it definitely jolted the players out of familiar habits and kept them on their toes and focused on what was happening with every point regardless of whether we were on O or D.”

“This rotation has definitely facilitated getting each individual player to explore what they have to offer on both sides of the disc,” added fellow player Fred Lam. “For me personally, it’s feels so different to start on offense, but getting those offensive reps has helped me gain better perspective on where and how I need to improve my own skills.”

The coaches were pleased with what they saw in the practices leading up to this game.

“With respect to the team,” said Doyle, “we learned in Game 1 that we have some ballers, and that everyone is keen to buy into the system. Over the last two weeks we have been honing some finer details of our offensive scheme, and expect to see improved spacing and timing on the offense this weekend.”

“With this focus on offensive timing, spacing, and lots of throwing, we are aiming to become more efficient with the disc, which would allow us to have more energy throughout the game. Some of the points during the last game were too long, and we could see the effect as the game extended on our ability to perform.”

Doyle and Balding have been pleased to discover how coachable this year’s team is.

“The team has responded well to this focus. This group is great at picking up ideas in practice and transferring them to scrimmages and game situations.”

And the new coaching team is more than willing to dive into modern sports analytics, according to Doyle.

“We had a chance to review some behaviour specific metrics from the last game, and were encouraged with the story behind those statistics. We’ll track them again this weekend, and expect to see an improvement that demonstrates our growth, even in two short weeks.”

Last season the Riptide were plagued by late game collapses that cost them a number of victories, but Sinclair doesn’t feel what happened in the season opener is a continuation of that trend.

“While the 3rd quarter mishap might appear similar to last year’s 4th quarter lapses, I do not think that the cause is the same. The issues in Seattle were what you’d expect early in the season, i.e. nerves and rusty execution, rather than the fatigue and lapses in attention that dogged us last season. This week I think that the team will have settled into their roles and we should see a team that is ready to play a full sixty minutes without any lapses.”

The coaches have been working on giving the players the tools to avoid bad stretches.

“Regarding specific game situations,” said Doyle “we continue to work on the mental toughness of the team. We have developed some ‘reset’ words and phrases that we believe will allow us to play in the moment, arresting any potential skid. The focus through the pre-season has been on having short memories, and we will continue that focus into Saturday’s game.”

Fred Lam takes a philosophical tack. He trusts that the process of team-building will get the Riptide where they need to be to win games.

“H and cold stretches will happen. Through focus, practice/training, and preparation, we try to tilt the percentages, but it will always be less than 100% and so there is always a chance to go on a slide, or conversely, a big run. At this point in the season, I don’t think it’s a huge concern. Being able to play a “full 60” is something that gets increasingly important as the season goes along, but for now I’d say that it’s more important to flesh out what it is we want to focus on.”

Given that this AUDL season coincides with both the close of the university season and the upcoming WFDF World Championships in London, Riptide management knew they would have to build a deep roster, and we are seeing that come into play already, with a number of line-up changes for this game.

Kevin Lore and Brett Anderson, who both played in Seattle, are out with injuries, and a few other team members will playing elsewhere this weekend as the university season comes to its climax. But fear not, replacements are to hand. Veterans Alex Davis and Mat Goodkey will be back from injury to bolster the rotation, and this game will mark the season debut of Jordan Dhillon. He’s young and raw but has the physical stature and skills to become the latest member of the Riptide Air Force.

“We’re excited to give Jordan the opportunity to show us what he can bring in a game situation!” said Doyle.

The game, Vancouver’s home opener, will be held at Swangard Stadium on Saturday, Apr. 16th, at 6 p.m. You can buy tickets here.

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