Riptide Look Forward to Home Opener
By Scott Lewis
After losing their two games of the AUDL season on the road in Seattle and Los Angeles, Vancouver Riptide are eagerly anticipating their home opener on Saturday night against Seattle Cascades
“I’m looking forward to going through my normal pregame routine without feeling rushed, rediscovering the routine of driving to the stadium and feeling the support of the home crowd,” said the Riptide’s Anatoly Vasilyev. “I believe that if we want to do well this weekend we need the crowd to be big, loud and having fun!”
“There is no better field than Swangard,” added teammate Rumi Tejpar. “The turf is unbelievable, the atmosphere unforgettable. I’m looking forward to making a mark this season with the Riptide.”
Indeed, the Riptide went some way to establishing Swangard as their fortress last season, going 5-2 at home with one of the losses coming by single goal. They will need to re-establish that mentality quickly, as unless they win their next two games, both at home, it will be hard to keep their heads above water in the playoff race
Asked about the slow start, Vasilyev and Tejpar first mention factors like being low on numbers, but quickly zero in on psychological factors.
“We have a lot of young talent that is new to the system and also to high level ultimate,” said Vasilyev, “so naturally they feel some jitters to start. But I hope this will disappear as the season progresses and the players realize that they are capable of not just matching up against the best in the game, but beating them.”
“In our opener against Seattle, they were firing on all cylinders,” added Tejpar. “Unfortunately we missed a few shots and gradually lost our aggressiveness and confidence for the end zone, something we have when we are playing well.”
“I would go so far as to say that I don’t think we really were able to bring our level up in our game against Los Angeles. That game was closer because L.A. wasn’t making as many plays as Seattle had.”
Coach Troë Weston points out a few more factors that contributed to the slow start.
“Seattle definitely outplayed our team that first game, a big reason being that they had quite a few more practices under their belt than we had. We have some really fantastic players on the roster this year and I have no doubt that with a bit more time playing together, we’ll be able to gel better as well.”
“We did come out of the half time break against Seattle with a bit of a drop in our focus and our energy. We coaches are deploying tactics to improve that for future games; note that we had a much better second half against L.A.”
Given that both Vasilyev and Tejpar played the second half of last season with Toronto Rush while stationed back east for national team duty, they have some unique insights of the differences between the current state of the Riptide vs. the very successful Rush squad.
Tejpar started the comparison by pointing to differences in size and talent between the rosters.
“Toronto has a different system because their top players are literally at the top of the game. Several of their players are arguably among the most physically gifted players in the world, so it is not surprising that they lean on their big boys a lot and try to isolate them as much as possible. Here in Vancouver we of necessity have to use a system that leans on all of the players since we aren’t blessed with the likes of Cam Harris, Mark Lloyd, and Isaiah Masek-Kelly. Our cutters are smaller but quicker, so our advantages will have to come from working together and overall chemistry.”
Toly emphasized the difference in mental outlook between the teams.
“It’s interesting how the two teams (and their Canadian counterparts in Montreal and Ottawa) all play a very similar style of ultimate and use very similar playbooks. The difference is that Toronto has a history of success in this league, so every time they step on the field they expect nothing less than a win. The Riptide need to adopt this mentality. They need to channel the confidence of old school champions Furious George.”
It is no surprise that the last few sentences echo recent comments by Riptide teammate Morgan Hibbert, who is veteran enough to have played many games for that Vancouver club when they were the best in the world. Mental outlook is a huge part of being a winning team, so that is a key component of what coaches Weston and Tasia Balding are concentrating on when training their charges
“Our team focus is really not on the outcome of games, but of smaller goals within the games,” said Weston. ”Right now we are focusing on getting our systems down and gelling as a team. There was a noticeable improvement from the first game to the second, and the improved mental outlook has also been reflected at practices.”
“Of course we always love to win and want to win, but it’s more important for the team to look at the season as a whole and be building as we go, not just focus on winning game by game. So on that note, the team moral is good!“
“If the team finds focus, confidence and patience we are capable of going places,“ added Vasilyev.
It’s not how you start the season, it’s how you finish…
The Riptide home opener will be held on Saturday at 6 p.m. when the Riptide get a chance to avenge their season-opening lopsided loss when they host the Seattle Cascades at Swangard Stadium. You can buy tickets here.