Vancouver Heads South for Another Vital Road Trip
By Scott Lewis
As they travel to Los Angeles for Saturday’s key AUDL matchup, the Vancouver Riptide have the LA Aviators right where they want them; a game behind Vancouver in the race for the final West Division playoff spot, and coming off a winning streak.
Unlike San Francisco’s eight- game winning streak the Riptide ended two weeks ago, or Seattle’s seven-game winning streak they ended last weekend, LA’s is only one game long, but hey, it’s a winning streak….
Yes, on the second game of the double-header Vancouver is traveling to San Diego to face the Growlers, who are not on a winning streak. But do not fret. San Diego is 1-8 so far this season with the lone win coming back in mid-April, so the lack of a winning streak to be ended should not present too much of an impediment to the Riptide’s aspirations for a win on Sunday.
In any case, Vancouver has other things to worry about, given that most of their veterans are off in London competing for Canada at the WFDF World Championships, meaning their team is shorthanded while facing the prospect of playing two games in cities 200 kilometres apart with the opening pulls separated by only 17½ hours.
But the Riptide will have something very important on their side this weekend, that most elusive of factors, particularly for a young team; confidence.
William Vu, who is as economical with his words as he is with his movement on the field (which never keeps him from being where he needs to be when he needs to be there), heads off any inclination to overconfidence by referring to the road trip earlier in the season when they lost to both San Francisco and San Jose.
“The two wins are a huge confidence boost for the whole team, considering our performances during the away games in the Bay Area.”
Teammate Edward Guo, more generous with his words and a non-stop buzz-saw on the field, is actually looking forward to the tough schedule with a short-handed team.
“To be honest I’m excited for the challenge. To be able to play a weekend of Ultimate against two strong teams with what is considered the younger core of the team is going to be super fun. I think this will be a chance to show how deep our team is and that no matter what group of players we put out on the field, we have a chance to secure a win. Our opponents are going to be surprised at how good we are.”
Assistant Coach Matt Doyle relishes the confident attitude this young group has developed.
“Yes, it’s been a pretty good couple of weeks, especially considering some relatively disappointing performances earlier in the season. The team is starting to gel more, and some of the practice focus has been more evident in the games.”
Doyle also points out that most of the missing veterans had already left for England before the win over Seattle.
“The roster this past weekend wasn’t too different than what we’re traveling to California with this weekend, so we’re confident in the team that we’re bringing down.”
“The back to back games are always a challenge, and the shortened roster won’t be a benefit. That said, it is another opportunity for players to step up, and this season has shown us that when given a chance, we have a very deep team. I’m excited for the challenge, and the team is looking forward to the trip!”
Guo points to the versatility the coaches have built into the team this season
“One key thing that has helped us a lot and prepared us for the challenge we face this weekend, is that our coaches do not set strict lines and let us play both ways. I think this has been extremely beneficial to the team, since each player has had a chance to feel the pressure on being on the O-line as well as needing to generate that turn on the D-line.”
“But we still need to continue to stay disciplined both in games and at practice to ensure that we breed good habits.”
Another positive indicator is that against Seattle there was no third quarter collapse, something that has dogged the team all season. On the very first point of the second half, Vancouver passed the disc around very crisply and confidently on the way to scoring, setting the tone for the entire half, something underlined when they scored the last two points of the quarter to tie it up heading into the final frame.
“We have improved lately on focusing and bringing the intensity during the second half of the games. I would have to say we’re looking steady,” commented Vu with typical understatement.
Guo is also a little cautious, given the Riptide have yet to win a road game this season.
“This weekend provides us with a big opportunity to deal with that particular demon. On the road, for whatever reason, we have had issues coming out strong after halftime, but I think if we really dial in on the focus that the coaches create for us, we can take control of the game right then and there.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the win over Seattle is that the Riptide limited what is normally a high-scoring offense to only four fourth quarter points on the way to the win. They were able to ramp up the defensive intensity late in the game the same way they had in the win over San Francisco the previous week.
“I would be remiss not to note that Seattle was short-benched,” cautioned Doyle, “so there was some fatigue on their side that contributed to their lacklustre showing in the fourth quarter.”
“That said, I was very impressed with how our team closed out the game. I think closing out a win is a sign of maturity.”
In any case, Doyle is feeling good about his charges this weekend.
“We’ve been rolling lines all season, with both the younger players and mature players sharing the playing time fairly evenly, so we’re confident we have the horses to challenge in both games. But we will need to focus on our offensive efficiency to really have a chance to compete.”
“I expect this weekend to be exhausting for the players, but I also expect it to be rewarding. Plus it’s always more fun playing with the youngsters!”
If the Riptide can sweep this weekend’s double-header, they will have taken a stranglehold on the final playoff spot, indeed will be nipping on the heels of Seattle and San Francisco, the teams above them in the standings. If they only manage a split, they will still be in a good position, and even if they get swept, their destiny is still in their own hands, considering they will have two more games left against the Aviators.
Fortunately, Vu will be back on the field this weekend after missing the two previous games with an ankle injury.
“I have been taking it easy at practice while running the drills, but my ankle feels fine. I just needed to make sure that I will be ready for this road trip when my teammates will really need me.”
You can buy tickets for the Riptide’s final home game, on June 25th game at Swangard Stadium against the LA Aviators here.