The Vancouver Nighthawks came into their sixth game of the season in San Francisco hopeful of reversing a last-second loss on their home field to the Dogfish last month. They knew it would be a tough game. Playing conditions in San Francisco’s home stadium are always difficult due to strong and shifting winds, and they were missing one of their most experienced handlers Oscar Pottinger as well as defensive standout Morgan Hibbert.
A persistent problem for the Nighthawks has been slow starts, but for the first time this season they started off a game well, with the teams trading points for a 4-4 score at the end of the quarter. But things started to go off the rails in the second quarter as the wind picked up and started to swirl, leading to a number of drops and throwaways by both teams.
How tough was it out there with the disc in your hands? I asked Nighthawks handler Mauro Ortiz.
“Conditions were very tough, probably the toughest I have experienced in long time. It felt like the wind was coming from different directions, which made the throwing adjustments more difficult.”
But Mauro hastens to add, “This is not an excuse for our poor performance. They were simply better than us.”
Says Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin, “It was a tough game for us for sure. For the first time this year, our team was clearly outclassed. We couldn’t handle the wind and challenging conditions as well as they could and the turnovers started to multiply on us.”
It is true that the same conditions have to be dealt with by both teams, but I am going to cut the Nighthawks a little slack on this issue. The Dogfish are simply more experienced at playing in these conditions. Although it often gets windy in the Nighthawks home at Thunderbird Stadium, the wind tends to be fairly consistent, and even if it does gust, the wind direction tends to be constant.
The Dogfish ended the first half with a 9-6 lead, and the teams traded points to 11-8, but during the rest of the third quarter the Dogfish scored 8 of 9 points to take a 19-9 lead three quarters of the way through the game, rendering the 4th quarter an exhibition match. The game ended with San Francisco on top 23-13, delivering to the Nighthawks their first one-sided loss of the season.
Lugsdin says, “In the first quarter we actually played reasonably well and were in the game but we then had some bad throws and some bad drops and then we seemed to stop playing our systems. After that we struggled to get open as our spacing and our cutting deteriorated.”
Of course, it takes two teams to create a one-sided score, and kudos must go to the Dogfish, particularly the depth they have on their D line.
According to Dogfish Assistant Coach Matt Ruby, “We can send our second and third lines on the field without much drop off in ability. We feel that the bottom half of our roster is probably better than the bottom half of any other team’s roster.”
Andrew Hagen was a demon on the Dogfish defense, getting multiple layout blocks, but it seemed that no matter who they put on the field in the 3rd quarter, the Nighthawks couldn’t move the disc, repeatedly losing it to poachers as the Dogfish D forced them into poor throwing decisions. (Poaching in ultimate refers to a player leaving his own mark or position to intercept a pass intended for someone else’s mark or zone.)
Missing key handler Pottinger certainly didn’t help with those decisions.
Says Lugsdin, “It was our offence that let us down. This was where we missed Oscar. He has more experience than some of our other O line players and likely would have helped when things started unravelling. That being said, you always hope other players will step up and unfortunately we didn’t have enough of this happening.”
“We definitely could have used Oscar, but at the same time we have a bunch of guys on our roster waiting for opportunities to play and help the team. Unfortunately we did not bring our A game against the Dogfish.”
So it’s back to the drawing board for the Nighthawks. To make the playoffs, they really need to run the table by winning their last four games, starting with this Saturday night’s home game against Seattle, starting at 7 p.m. at Thunderbird Stadium.
You can get tickets to come out and cheer your Nighthawks on to victory here.