Written by Aiden Chan
After a tough loss to the Seattle Rainmakers in their MLU opener last Saturday, Vancouver Nighthawks are aiming to recapture their mojo against the San Francisco Dogfish during their home opener at UBC Thunderbird Stadium on Saturday night.
One thing the Nighthawks will have in their favour is the memory of the stirring comeback in the Seattle game, where they brought the score from 14-6 down early in the fourth quarter all the way to 14-12 before they ran out of time. Their sluggish play in the third quarter and the way they took over the game once they had righted the ship was a good lesson for the team.
Head Coach Andrew Lugsdin says they need to concentrate on their own game.
“Yes, the Nighthawks will need to find a way to slow down the San Francisco offence and generate some turnovers — all of the teams we play have lots of talent — but what we need to be most focused on is our own play. If we can’t make some adjustments and play better offence then it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re not going to win at this level. We’ve been working hard this week to make those adjustments.”
The Nighthawks have slightly modified their line-up and plan to improve their offensive flow and execution. They will focus on moving the disc from side-to-side much more quickly, creating more efficient end-zone plays, and plan to improve their continuation cuts from lane cutters.
Says Lugsdin, “I know the talent’s here, but we need to get everybody working together within our system to be successful. Too often we would move the disc down field and then not be able to continue flowing. Our lane cutters need to do a better job of getting open for each other. On defence, we need to play with more intensity.”
Offense Handler and Co-captain Oscar Pottinger concurs.
“If we play our system we should fare well. We will need to force them to make a lot of throws and then capitalize on their mistakes.”
One of the Nighthawks’ biggest advantages on Saturday night will be a home crowd expected to be at least 1500 strong. The stadium has hosted many big games over the years, including the World Ultimate Club Championship finals in 1997 and the World Ultimate and Guts Championship finals in 2008. The thousands who attended the 2008 finals witnessed one of Canada’s greatest Ultimate triumphs when the Canadian Open team, which included a number of players currently on the Nighthawks, captured the world title. Many of the spectators who cheered on the home team in 2008 will be there again on Saturday night cheering for the Nighthawks.
Co-captain Mauro Ortiz fondly remembers playing on the 2008 finals, particularly the support they got from the home crowd.
“I think it will make a big difference in our favour, as we will be getting the support of our friends, family and fans. We will use all that energy to amp up our game. Expect us to put on a great show against a really good team. I am so looking forward to being part of this.“
With doubleheaders across the league and the second batch of home openers, this is going to be a very busy weekend across MLU for players, staff, and spectators alike. The Nighthawks staff has been going all out to make Saturday night’s experience a memorable one for the fans. Even the weather is helping out; according to the weather forecast the rain should stop before game time.
So if you are in Vancouver Saturday night, come out to Thunderbird Stadium for what promises to be an exciting evening of Ultimate. Doors open at 6 pm for a 7 pm start.