Riptide to Host Growlers on Saturday Night

By Scott Lewis

It’s been a leisurely start to the AUDL season for the Vancouver Riptide, with only two games, both against the Seattle Cascades, played so far. But things pick up on Saturday night when the Riptide kick off a busy month by hosting the San Diego Growlers at Swangard Stadium.

Maybe leisurely isn’t exactly the right word. As every serious athlete knows, when you’re not playing much, you practice more, and the coaches have been making sure Riptide practices are as strenuous as possible to keep the team’s competitive juices flowing.

“Practice intensity has been very high during this break,” said Assistant Coach Matt Doyle. “Some players have returned to the team after fulfilling their obligations to their university teams, and this has kicked it up a few more notches.”

“We have practices twice a week and every practice is more intense than any AUDL game,” added Anatoly Vasilyev. “The coaches are making sure we can perform, making good decisions and accurate throws, even when we are fatigued.”

“It hasn’t been a challenge to keep the focus and level high”, said Doyle, “but we’re excited to get back out on the field against a real competitor.”

That competitor, the San Diego Growlers, is coming off a busy, albeit not so successful, opening month to the season. They started off well, losing two squeakers and winning another, before getting blown out twice in a row, most recently by Seattle, who the Riptide easily beat in their last game. But Doyle says the coaches have been making sure the team isn’t overconfident heading into Saturday’s tilt.

“We don’t believe that one good game against a tired opponent, in the win over Seattle, gives us the right to be cocky about our chances against San Diego. Our experience from previous years shows that we can be streaky, both good and bad, but we also believe that if we execute our strategy, we will be competitive against any team in the league. We know San Diego is a good team, and when clicking will be a handful for any opponent.”

It will be a substantially different Riptide team that hits the field Saturday night compared to the one that beat Seattle three weeks ago. Offsetting the return of the players from university competition, Vasilyev and a number of other regulars will be missing due to their commitments to national team preparation for the upcoming WFDF World Championships. Saturday’s team will include only 18 of the entire 30-man Riptide roster, but it is still a strong line-up, led by veterans Brendan Wong and Joel Bellavance and youngsters Jordan Dhillon and Ari Nitikman plus fan favourites Peter Yu and Gagan Chatha.

And the shorter line-up presents an opportunity for someone who has been turning heads around the league to step even further into the spotlight. Indeed, William Vu is a player built for that spotlight.

With his wide array of throws, ability to break the force, and unparalleled field sense, he just can’t seem to stop making highlight reel plays. Perhaps most importantly, Vu exudes the self-possession on the field that only the best of athletes possess, and being a lefty doesn’t hurt either, as it enhances the unusual angles and directions from which his throws arrive.

Doyle places Vu firmly in the lineage of the many stars the Vancouver Ultimate scene has produced over the decades.

“Will is a specimen.”

“His confidence in his throws and his vision on the field reminds me of some of the great throwers from Vancouver history. His development in the short time I’ve been watching him play has been amazing. I’m excited to continue working with him through the season, and looking forward to the excitement he brings every time he’s on the field.”

The fans have really started to catch on to what they have in Vu. Everyone takes notice when he has the disc in his hands because you never know what he’ll do with it. His teammates on the field also have to pay special attention, because without warning, an unexpected throw no one but Vu would even think of trying might suddenly arrive where only they can catch it. He has the ability to spot openings no one else sees, and the skills to deliver the disc to the right place with the right trajectory and speed at the exact moment it needs to be there.

Count the veteran Vasilyev among his admirers.

“I’m very fond of Will as a player. He is impossible to guard. He is so lanky and quick, and if you try to take away one of his throws he will beat you with something else as long as he has a target to hit.”

“The more experience he gets the more dangerous he will become for any opponent.”

“Watch out!”

So far this season Vu leads the team with 7 assists in the two games played, and given the difficulty of some of the throws he makes, it is remarkable that he has completed 55 of the 57 passes he has attempted, including all 31 of his attempts in the win over Seattle.

Vu was a key part of the offense that racked up 34 goals against Seattle the last game after an indifferent showing in the open game loss. What made the difference?

“I’m sure our offense still needs work,” said Vasilyev “but the most important thing that we were able to implement during our last game was patience. We were lacking it in our first game of the season and fortunately the team recognized that issue and made the adjustment.”

There is no better example of that adjustment than this play.

After catching the disc near the Seattle goal line, the Riptide had several opportunities to try to punch it in with a low percentage risky throw, but instead they calmly passed it around until they moved the disc to a position where the scoring throw was virtually 100% certain to be successful.

The game against the San Diego Growlers will be held at Swangard Stadium on Saturday, May 7th, at 6 p.m. You can buy tickets here.

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