Riptide Aim to Tap Growlers at Swangard
by Scott Lewis
If you want to understand one of the main reasons the Vancouver Riptide are having a tough start to the AUDL season, take a look at these numbers.
The team has played six games, covering a total of 288 minutes. Multiply that by the seven players on the line and there have been a total of 2016 minutes of playing time available so far this season
Darren Wu has played in a single game, totalling 11 minutes.
Gagan Chatha has played in a single game, totalling 27 minutes.
Brendan Wong has played in two games, totalling 53 minutes.
Toly Vasilyev has played in two games, totalling 67 minutes.
Fred Lam has played in three games, totalling 86 minutes.
Morgan Hibbert, who normally gets more field time than any other player, has played in three games, totalling only 105 minutes.
The list could go on, but you get the idea. The experienced core of the team has been largely unavailable, due to injuries and responsibilities to the national and university teams they also play for.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the university season is over till the fall, and the Team Canada players will be back from their training camp and tournament in Colombia and barring injury, ready to resume their responsibilities for the Riptide when the team hits the field against the San Diego Growlers this Saturday night at Swangard Stadium.
To be successful, athletes have to maintain a positive attitude at all times, even when things haven’t been going well. And they know there is no point getting frustrated about matters they cannot control.
“It’s definitely presented a challenge not having a consistent squad to field week in, week out,” said Fred Lam. “However, I don’t think that’s the source of much frustration. We decided prior to the season that we would be rolling through a large roster to allow our top players the flexibility to attend to other commitments.”
Alex Davis even manages to find positives in the roster churn.
“In some ways, it’s convenient to go without our veterans for a spell; if anything, it makes it easier to rotate the roster and to field less experienced players. And mentally, it is healthy for those players to be on the field without feeling they should defer to or rely on veterans.”
Continuing with the positivity, D-line maven Davis noticed some very encouraging signs over the two losses last weekend in Los Angeles and San Diego.
“In short, we began playing defense instead of just going through the motions.”
“In our first four games, we mostly looked like we were just escorting opponents around the field, waiting for them to make mistakes. Last weekend, we began to shut down cuts, to interrupt offensive flow, and to apply genuine pressure. I think we have finally turned a corner there and while we make some technical errors, we are beginning to make defensive effort a matter of team and personal pride. ”
“That was a major goal of ours going into the weekend. And on top of that, we showed a lot of resilience in our second halves. We didn’t suffer any third quarter lulls, which used to be a problem on this team.”
Lam also found some positives from the trip.
“I think that the time spent together as a team was good for our development. As a large roster with quite a few new faces, just basic time spent together is useful.”
“As a team that is trying to commit to ‘sticking with the process’, the meaning of the phrase can become lost, especially in long stretches where you’re not being rewarded on the scoreboard. We have managed to put ourselves in a place to truly consider what it means to stick to the process, as opposed to it being just lip service.”
All those nice things aside, the team did continue to have problems with execution errors, particularly throwaways and drops.
“It’s a chicken and egg problem for us. Execution errors lead to a lack of confidence, which predisposes you to make more errors in two ways. First, lack of confidence make you play with tension rather than relaxing and playing with flow, in the moment. Second, and more insidiously, a lack of confidence freezes you from making the cuts and throws you need to make, stagnating the offense and leading to high-pressure situations where mistakes are even more likely.”
This will be something to watch for this Saturday night. Will the return of the veterans lift some of the pressure from the younger players, and allow the entire team to play with confidence on offense?
Given the way forcing turnovers leads to more favourable situations in which to play solid offense, the newfound defensive pressure Davis alluded to could prove a key contributor to the Riptide committing fewer execution errors with the disc. It’s a lot easier to complete a pass when thanks to a turnover the defense is scrambling and there are mismatches to take advantage of.
What else do the Riptide need to do to avenge their loss to the Growlers in San Diego last Saturday?
For Lam, it starts with building on what they achieved during the last three quarters of Sunday’s game against Los Angeles last Sunday. After falling behind in the first quarter, the Riptide managed to outscore the Aviators the rest of the way, albeit not by enough to pull out the win.
“We want to put more emphasis on playing aggressively. By now we all know what our systems are, and by playing aggressively on both sides of the disc, we’ll put ourselves in a position to win the little battles we need to win to come out on top at the end of the game.”
Davis wants to see two improvements in particular on Saturday night.
“We need to improve our first-quarter focus and offensive spacing around the thrower. We tend to play very hesitant offense in our first quarters right now, and the deficits we incur thereby have tended to decide our games. We have already shown that we can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the conference in the remaining three quarters; now we need to believe that and act on it from the moment the first pull goes up.”
“Secondly, we’re misplacing our intensity on offense and it manifests as freneticism around the thrower. We rush past him left and right and we make contorted/convoluted cuts right beside him. That pattern of movement is stifling our own throwing options. We need to clear those spaces out and give him some room to work. If we can correct that on Saturday, I think we will see a lot more flow on offense.”
The return of the veterans will certainly help with offensive spacing and with starting the game off on the front foot, not to mention exhibiting confidence and mental toughness. Also helping will be something the players really appreciate, plenty of noise from the stands, as there will be several large groups of kids coming to the game.
Add this all up, plus conditions that will be less clement than the Growlers are used to, and this game looks like a good chance for the Riptide to break their duck and set themselves up for a better second half to the season.
The game will be played this Saturday, May 13th against the San Diego Growlers 6 p.m. at Swangard Stadium.
You can buy tickets here.