Riptide Head to Bay Area for Doubleheader

by Scott Lewis

The Vancouver Riptide hit the road this weekend for two important AUDl games, on Saturday night in San Francisco against the FlameThrowers and on Sunday afternoon in San Jose against the Spiders.

The 3-2 Riptide need to get at least one win over the two games to establish a clear advantage over the 2-3 Los Angeles Aviators in the race for a West Division playoff spot. In Vancouver’s favour is that the Aviators will be facing a tough road game of their own this weekend in Seattle against the 6-3 Cascades. In the Aviators’ favour is that Vancouver and Los Angeles have not faced each other yet this year, which means that two of their three upcoming meetings will be during the period when a number of Vancouver’s best players will be in London to represent Canada at the WFDF World Championships.

In fact, those World Championships have already started to take a toll on the Riptide. Rumi Tejpar has already relocated to Toronto where he is playing well with the Rush while training with his national team colleagues, the majority of whom are based there. And last Saturday was the last game Anatoly Vasilyev will play for the Riptide this season, as he has also temporarily moved back to Toronto for the same reason.

Losing Vasilyev could be a major blow for the Riptide, particularly when the rest of the veterans are unavailable. The team has shown a tendency to become frenetic on offense at times this year, which was when you would see Toly step in to make the right pass at the right time to settle things.down and restore the flow.

“Losing Toly for the rest of the season will definitely be felt both at games and at practices,” said teammate Edward Guo. “His combination of intensity and patience on both defense and offense is hard to replicate, but as a team we have been trying to work on the skills he brings to the team, like hitting the first open pass and not hanging on to the disc for too long. With him not being here anymore, we will need to find another way to convert the frantic energy that sometimes takes over during a point into patience, which in turn leads to making good decisions. Execution and decision making has been something that we all need to improve on as a team and I believe it starts with patience.”

Assistant Coach Matt Doyle is more sanguine about dealing with Vasilyev’s absence.

“The process we’ve been going through this season will allow others to step up and try to fill this void. We’ve been rotating our line-up all season, with all players playing both sides of the disc. We believe this has allowed different players to gain experience in roles that they would not normally have played in. Also, we’ve gotten Malcolm back at the same time as Toly leaving, which fills that void nicely as well.”

The ‘Malcolm’ Doyle is referring to is Malcolm Bryson, who at 23 is one of the young group of up and coming players that makes the future of this team look so juicy. The win against San Jose last weekend was his first game of the year, so he played only 15 points, but look for him to play a lot more over this weekend’s games. Given that the Riptide will be taking only 21 plays on this trip, the sheer physical toll of playing two games only 19 hours apart means that having a cohort of youngsters like Bryson, Benjamin Burelle, Ari Nitikman, Peter Yu, and Gagan Chatha will be very important.

But as Doyle said above, the Vancouver coaching staff has in a sense been preparing for this all season, given that they have been rotating players on and off the field regularly and have spread the playing time out more evenly across the roster than most AUDL teams do.

“The double header (with the travel required) quickly turns into a fatigue management approach,” said Doyle. “I expect much more even playing time for our players through both games. We have been focusing on efficiency all season, and will continue working on that to allow us to maintain a high level of play across both games.”

Doyle quickly brushed aside any suggestion that the team might focus its efforts on what is likely the more winnable game in San Jose as compared to handing San Francisco their first loss of the season.

“Our process is internally focused at this point in the season. We will be using both games as a chance to continue to work on and fine-tune our game preparation, system implementation, and team chemistry. We believe that the roster heading on this road trip has the ability to win both games, and we will be working towards that goal.”

Reflecting that internal focus, the Vancouver coaching staff doesn’t really go into detail about their approach to defeating particular opponents, something echoed by Bryson.

“The team mentality laid down by the coaches is very clear; we are focusing on ourselves first and foremost. If we can stay in our system and work hard we definitely can beat any team in the division.”

Fortunately Guo is more forthcoming about the adjustments the Riptide will be need to make this weekend, particularly as it is likely both games in the Bay Area will feature windy conditions like the teams faced when San Francisco beat Vancouver in Victoria a few weeks ago.

“One adjustment we’ll need to make against San Francisco relates to what we saw in Victoria, that they are extremely good in windy conditions at both hucking and at throwing breaks. Their throwing skill across the roster is extremely good, which makes it imperative that our marks are flat so we are able to take away their inside shots. They also have multiple handlers that are dangerous with the disc, so if our coverage is able to stay on the lane cutters and handlers for even one more stall count than they are comfortable with, we can force more contested throws and catches.”

“As to the Spiders, they have several athletic cutters that can carve up yards both in and out. If we are able to force them in the direction that benefits us the most, we can really limit their offence and force them look to their second and third options.”

One odd phenomenon seen this season in the Riptide’s games, indeed in most match-up across the West Division, is the pivotal importance of the third quarter. In almost every game one of the teams goes on a post-halftime rampage, scoring multiple consecutive points to establish a lead they can usually defend until the end of the game. The Vancouver coaches have been working with the players to give them mental tools to stave off these lapses and regain their focus. We saw the fruits of this in last weekend’s win against San Jose, when rather than folding when San Jose made a third quarter run, the Vancouver players were able to settle themselves, end the run, and nurse the diminished lead to the end of the game.

“This is something that [Head Coach] Tasia Balding and I both found to be successful during our playing careers,” said Doyle. “The exercise requires players to have a word, or mantra, that they associate with calmness. During practice, prep time, and the like, they continuously think of that word while working on calming their body and mind. In a game situation, repeating that word will focus the mind, and allow the body to perform at full capacity.”

Guo has found this technique very useful.

“It really helps me is to have a word, as simple as just saying to myself ‘focus’ or ‘dominate’, that can instantly snap me back into focus mode. This helps me remember the things that I do best, to stay within myself and to not become over emotional or under-emotional.”

Given the travel demands and the conditions and the quality of the opponents they will face this weekend, Vancouver will need to draw on all their mental and physical preparation to make the trip a success Let’s hope for some third quarter domination by the Riptide.

Vancouver will play its fifth home game on Saturday, June 4th, at 6 p.m when the FlameThrowers come to town. You can buy tickets for this game and for the rest of the Riptide’s upcoming home games at Swangard Stadium here.

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