The Vancouver Nighthawks are proud to announce the first signings for their second season of MLU, featuring defensive stalwarts Morgan Hibbert and Alex Davis, and up and coming offensive force Aaron Loach.
Morgan is one of the guys that sets the tone for our team. He competes at a high level and gives the rest of our guys confidence. When the team needs a big play, it’s often Morgan who delivers it. –GM & Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin
Defensive cutter and captain Morgan Hibbert has a very positive attitude. You can feel his excitement at returning for season two.
“I felt like in season one both the Nighthawks staff and the MLU did an excellent job of getting the team and league running in a very short amount of time, but it was clear that it was just a fraction of their vision. With a year’s worth of lessons learned and more time to plan, I feel like season two will be a more accurate representation of MLU’s true vision for professional Ultimate. I am excited to be a part of that and to see it blossom.”
The Nighthawks did not do as well as hoped on the field last year, and partly due to the injuries suffered by Hibbert, their veteran defensive leader. With his intimidating combination of size, speed, and savvy, he can dominate a game, but only if he is able to play.
“Health has always been and will forever be a constant struggle for me. I have recovered from the major injuries that sidelined me towards the second half of the MLU season [a broken thumb requiring surgery and a pulled hamstring]. I also broke my nose in the club season but that has healed and left my face as pretty as ever. I am currently as healthy as I have ever been and am looking forward to throwing my body around as recklessly as ever, causing my lovely mum and dad all sorts of heartache.”
It is fascinating to watch Hibbert work through a transition that may be unprecedented among top level Ultimate players. As a result of a wrist injury a few seasons ago, he is making the switch from being a right-handed thrower to throwing left-handed. Just imagine working for years to develop your throwing with one arm, and then being forced to start all over again in the middle of your career.
“I am continuing on the long path of converting to becoming a predominantly left handed player. At the moment I am focusing on strength development in my left arm to help offset the natural muscle imbalance from previously being a right handed athlete my whole life. In addition, I continue to explore and experiment how I can be more effective in a non-traditional role of playing Ultimate ambidextrously. This involves improving my basic left handed disc skills as well as learning in which situations I want to throw with each hand. Hopefully I can develop my disc skills to the point where I can be relied upon more frequently on the offensive side of the disc instead of predominantly the defensive side, as is my traditional role.”
I wouldn’t bet against him achieving that goal.
Aaron really improved last season and became a key part of our offense. The next step for him is to be a little more consistent, which I think he’ll do. –GM & Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin
Offensive cutter Aaron Loach was one of the pleasant surprises on last year’s team. You could watch him grow in confidence and take a larger role on offense as the season wore on, and injuries to other players gave him an opportunity which he was ready and willing to grasp. He too can’t wait for season two to begin.
“Last year, though fun, was a little disappointing in that we didn’t place where we wanted to. The staff did an excellent job last year of promoting our team, and supporting us in every way, and it’d be nice to reciprocate their success. Once again, I am feeling very excited to be apart of the league. It is such an honour to be apart of this incredibly fresh, new, and exciting endeavour.”
Both his teammates and Loach himself are expecting big things from him this year in his role on the offensive line.
“For myself, I am hoping to build upon what I was focused on last year as initiating lane cutter on the O line. My offensive game, though it improved greatly during the season, is still not at a high enough level. I need to work on being crisper in my cuts and executing my throws at a higher percentage. I am working hard to become faster, because last year it was very apparent that I was not able to do as much as I wanted based purely on my top speed. Those are my two main focuses this coming season, plus I will still be working a lot on my overall fitness. And of course, there is never a shortage of things to work on if you want to play this game at a high level: disc skills, defensive positioning, being more dynamic, and so on.”
Watch for Loach to take another step forward this season.
Davis is one of the fittest guys on the team and it shows. Every season he finds ways to improve his game. We use him to cover top offensive players on the other team. He’s a key guy for us defensively. –GM & Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin
Defensive cutter Alex Davis became a key component on the Nighthawks D line last season, particularly after Hibbert was injured. He is a very intelligent man, a deep thinker who plays Ultimate as much with his brain as with his abundant physical skills. Here’s what he had to say when I asked him if he was excited about the upcoming season.
“You know, this is what we do. Everyone here is a competitor. We compete; it is a necessity and habit of daily life. When people ask if I’m excited, it gives me pause, because it draws attention to something I treated almost implicitly: my eyes have been set on next season ever since the last one ended. Yes, I am excited. I am grateful that I again have this opportunity; it is a gift, and I intend to make the most of it.”
Like Loach, he’s working on every aspect of his game.
“There is never a shortage of things to work on, and we play at a level where nuances make all the difference. Personally, I’m chipping away at my historical weaknesses: fast-twitch acceleration and throwing. The latter is particularly important since the Pulsar we use in MLU has different characteristics from the Ultrastar I am used to throwing, and nothing but practice can familiarize you with the differences. Our defensive line as a whole needs more throwing skill, and I need to be able to contribute more than I have.”
“In this league, against these opponents, every match is a game of nuances. The struggle for us as a team and as individuals is to recognize the adjustments and then to make them. That is a matter of mental agility and it’s tough, because a lot of us, especially D liners like me, got here by working as hard as possible. This league consistently calls for the awareness to recognize when you’re working harder than you need to. So learning to vary my habits and to shift gears is a continual exercise of mine in off-season training.”
Davis has put his finger on what makes a top-level athlete in any sport, the ability to harness the talent you have and all the hard work you have done by relaxing and making decisions almost unconsciously, to let the game come to you.
To rise to the top of MLU, the Nighthawks players — who will be even younger than last year as the result of a generational shift currently underway among elite level male Ultimate players in Vancouver — will need to master this skill, which comes only with experience. The more experienced Hibbert is already there, but as the rising stars like Davis and Loach get there too, it will greatly increase the Nighthawks’ chances of dominating the Western Conference.