On Saturday evening at Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver will host the Seattle Rainmakers in their third matchup of the season.
We knew this was going to be a tough third season for the Vancouver Nighthawks due to all the new players, and now the team has been dealt another blow.
They were counting on veteran Matt Berezan for leadership both on and off the field, but he was lost to injury even before the season started, and is still three weeks from returning. Now another veteran, Jordan Tessarolo, who has been Vancouver’s best player at times this year, is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Meanwhile, two of the other veterans, Kirk Savage and Brendan Wong, have also been battling injuries. Savage had to sit out the Nighthawks’ last game, but both are expected to play when the Nighthawks host the Seattle Rainmakers on Saturday night at 6 p.m.
It might seem like the disc gods have it in for the Nighthawks, but no matter, sport lives on hope. Your team could still win the next game no matter the situation or the odds, and upsets always grab attention, so the Nighthawks have to remain positive in spite of their perilous situation, in danger of dropping out of the playoff race. They need to believe they can win the rematch with Seattle even though they were beaten soundly in the same venue by the same team two weeks ago.
“The guys were a bit down after the last game, which was natural,” said coach Andrew Lugsdin. “But since then, they’ve been working hard and having fun getting better.”
Captain Morgan Hibbert likes what he has seen in the last two weeks.
“Team spirit is really good. We’ve been saying all year that this will be a process, a long one at that. We are keeping our focus on the short term, getting better one play, one point, one game at a time, and everyone is still on board with that.”
And the team has been working hard during the bye week.
“The week off gave us an opportunity to work on some skills that aren’t opponent specific,” said Hibbert. “We had more time to focus on ourselves. We did a lot of individual skill development and pushed the pace in training. Vancouver legend [and former Nighthawk] Mauro Ortiz made a guest coaching appearance, which really helped us with our disc skills.”
And that focus on disc skills is very appropriate, because while the Nighthawks have generally been good on defense this season, their offense has been inconsistent at best, as expected with a young team. While playing defense is more a matter of hard work and intensity, playing offense is more a matter of skill and experience, and those are attributes that take longer to develop.
“The focus has been working on our offense,” said Lugsdin. “We’ve been making sure that everyone is on the same page, and then building some confidence.”
One traditional aspect of Vancouver offenses over the decades has been reliance on the huck, but that has been almost absent this season.
“We’d like to see it be a bigger part of our offense,” said Lugsdin, “but only if we execute it well. Our timing has been a bit off in that regard.”
“The huck is never something we try to force,” added Hibbert. “It is a product of the type of offensive personnel you have and the type of defense employed by the other team. It might be less exciting for the fans without the hucks, but we have had more success with a quick disc movement focused offense this season.”
Whether the huck returns to the Nighthawks’ arsenal on Saturday or not will be greatly affected by how well Kirk Savage, their best thrower, recovers from hamstring problems.
“I have been working hard to get over my injury,” said Savage. “I have been running, stretching, massaging and [lifting] weights. I am planning on being ready for Saturday.”
Let’s hope he and Wong are ready to go, because it is going to be a glorious night for a game in the picturesque setting of Thunderbird Stadium. With near-record temperatures predicted for Vancouver, the fans will be in a good mood, and the players would love to deliver a win for them to cheer about.
You can buy tickets to the game here.