Vancouver Riptide 2017 Season Preview

By Scott Lewis

Last summer was a season of changes for the Vancouver Riptide. The AUDL team had new management, new coaches, and an influx of seasoned veterans. The results showed both off the field, with increased attendance and a better fan experience, and on, with an improved record and more competitive games. If so many of the veterans hadn’t missed important games down the stretch due to national team duty, they likely would have made the playoffs instead of just missing.
 
The upcoming AUDL season will feature another set of changes for the Riptide. Most of these will be as a result of the demise of the rival Major League Ultimate and their local representatives the Vancouver Nighthawks. Most of the Riptide staff and players greeted the news with some sadness, as they had also worked or played with the Nighthawks, but also with anticipation, as now two teams and leagues wouldn’t be scrapping for players, fans, and sponsors in the same city.
 
“This year the Riptide can become the primary focus for fans looking to watch professional Ultimate in Vancouver,” said Riptide Manager Brian Gisel. “Both teams have enjoyed the support of their own group of loyal fans for the past several seasons, so the Riptide are eager to see those fans move over to supporting the Riptide in 2017.”
 
“Without the Nighthawks there are fewer “professional” roster spots in the city, which means that the Riptide will see an increased number of players who are young, hungry and developing looking to make the team. There is a lot of great young talent in Vancouver and both the Riptide and Furious see these players as an important part of what is sure to be a new golden age of ultimate in Vancouver.”
 
With what is essentially the unification of the Riptide and Nighthawks into a single team, the relationship between the Riptide and Vancouver’s top men’s touring team, Furious George will become closer than ever
 
“The Riptide’s connection with that club team continues,” said Gisel. “Furious will once again provide the Captains of the Riptide.”
 
Riptide veteran Morgan Hibbert is truly impressed with the talent on display this year, but he isn’t yet convinced that this group can reach the heights achieved at the beginning of this century, when he played with a Furious George generation that was the world’s most powerful men’s team for a number of years. It takes more than skill and talent to make a champion.
 
“It will be a long time before any Vancouver club even comes close to being in the same conversation as those great FG clubs. Those teams had a certain winning attitude that hasn’t manifested with this current generation yet.”
 
But Hibbert does think that this year’s version of the Riptide will be better than last year’s, if only because their top players wont be missing so many games this year. Some of the veterans will be representing Canada at the World Games this summer, but not as many of them nor for as many games apiece as last year. And after another year of experience the younger players should be better able to step up and fill the gaps.
 
Returning Head Coach Tasia Balding also sees the opportunity for improvement over last season.
 
“We’re always striving for improvement, in life and on the field. Our goals for the season are to build on progress made last year in terms of growth and versatility. We put players in all sorts of different positions last year, and helped people expand their game and their confidence. We’ll do more of that; it’s an exciting opportunity.”
 
Some familiar names will not be around at all this year, including Kevin Underhill, Ben Burelle, and Andre Gailits. To help offset that, Anatoly Vasilyev will be here for the full season this year, but it remains important that the young players raise their games and accept more responsibility. And there are some new youngsters to keep your eye on as they develop though the season.
 
Gisel waxed poetic about several of the new signings.
 
Victor Cheng is a UBC product who is also moving into the ‘big league’ for the first time. His quickness and smaller frame will remind you of Peter YuYi-Min Lin comes to the Riptide by way of Taiwan and should help boost the energy and pressure that the team’s D–line can put on opposition handlers.”
 
Ty Barbieri, who played for the Nighthawks and Furious George in 2016, is a recent World Junior Gold medalist who came from the Bonfire Club program in North Vancouver. The sky may be the limit for Ty, who should look to take a big step forward in his development wile playing against stronger competition then he has yet seen.”
 
Hibbert is looking forward to being on the AUDL field with Barbieri.
 
“As a fellow lefty I have a soft spot for him. He is very young but has an incredibly bright future with this team. I am excited to see him on this stage.”
 
Hibbert also mentioned Greg Moore as another newbie to watch. He has represented Canada at the Junior level and joined Furious George last year.
 
“I expect him to make a huge splash this season. He is really fast, and is a really smart player.”
 
One highlight of last season was a trip to play a ‘home’ game at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria. This year’s ‘home away from home game’ will not require a ferry trip en route.
 
“Our game on June 3rd will take place at South Surrey Athletic Park as part of Flower Bowl,” said Gisel. “We aim to bring out the many ultimate players who live in Surrey to that game to check out the AUDL, with the hopes that they will follow us back across the river for future games.”
 
“The team is also excited that the 2017 AUDL Championship weekend will take place on ‘home’ soil in Montreal Aug 26-27. We look forward to representing the West and Canada on that weekend.”
 
Will the Riptide do better than last year’s 6-8 record and finally make the playoffs, much less win the league? It’s hard to say. This team will likely be better, perhaps much better, than last year’s edition, but division-mates Seattle and San Francisco should also be much better than last year because now-defunct MLU teams controlled a higher proportion of those cities’ top players than the Nighthawks took from the Riptide.
 
Hence, we can’t really guarantee that the Riptide will roll through the season undefeated on the way to capturing the AUDL Championship in Montreal. What we can guarantee is that it will be a lot of fun to come out and watch them play.
 
The Riptide start their season with away games in Seattle and Los Angeles prior to their first home game against Seattle on Apr. 22nd at 6 p.m. at Swanard Stadium. You can buy tickets for that game here.
 
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