Photo by Scobel Wiggins – UltiPhotos.com
The Vancouver Nighthawks are proud to announce the signings of three more returnees from last year’s team, Matthew Berezan, Kevin Underhill, and Andre Gailits.
These three represent a perfect example of where the team as a whole is right now — younger players coming into the peak years of their careers, discovering just how good they can be, learning how to develop the consistency in effort and execution that it takes to win.
Matt is one of the players that took a big step forward in our first season of the Nighthawks. He’s got great tools, being tall, fast, and quick; he just needed to develop his skills and learn the game a little more. When he’s on, he’s a big force for us. I’m expecting him to continue to get much better again this year, and to take his game to the next level. – General manager and head coach Andrew Lugsdin
26-year-old defensive cutter Matthew Berezan certainly looks like he is made to dominate on the Ultimate field; 6’5” with long arms and remarkable speed and quickness for someone that tall, and at 200 pounds he supplies a physical presence. But having grown up and spent his university years in Edmonton, he lacks a little in experience, a deficit he is busy remedying by playing as much as he can.
And you could see the results of that hard work on the field last year. Although he was inconsistent at times, the trend was certainly positive. He confidence developed and he learned how to dominate his area of the field and inspire his teammates.
Berezan can’t wait to get back out there for Season 2.
“I think we built a really good foundation last year to develop from. While our record at the end of the season wasn’t what we had hoped it would be, many of our losses were by only a point or two. This year I expect us to flip a lot of those close results around and put ourselves in the playoffs.”
He recognizes that the Vancouver Ultimate scene is in the middle of a generational shift.
“I’m excited for the amount of young and new talent in Vancouver. I’m sure we’ll see at least a few new young faces on the Nighthawks this year who will be making big contributions right away. Adding some of these guys to our already talented team will make us even more imposing to play against, especially at home in Thunderbird Stadium.”
“April 20 can’t get here soon enough!”
Kevin has really developed into a strong offensive player. When you first see him, he doesn’t strike you as someone who’ll be a big offensive weapon, but he’s really developed his skills and has a great head on his shoulders. He makes very good decisions, rarely makes mistakes, and has become a vital cog in our offense. – General manager and head coach Andrew Lugsdin
23-year defensive cutter Kevin Underhill is another up-and-comer on the Nighthawks. He’s the kind of consistent, willing to do what’s needed player who executes the little plays that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. He did score 8 goals and assisted on 8 more last season, but more importantly he kept the D line offense flowing.
Underhill may be young and frisky, but he’s been playing a lot in the last few years. He decided to take some time this offseason to recharge his batteries.
“I have finished my university career so this is the first time I’ve had an offseason in over five years. Playing the college season, club season, and pro season can take a toll. I’ve taken the time since the club season to get my body back into good health and I’m looking forward to getting in good shape for opening night. I’d like to see our team in the playoffs this season and we are certainly assembling a group strong enough to do so!”
With his body well-rested, other obligations completed, and another year’s experience under his belt, look for Underhill to take another step forward next year.
“I’m excited to have been asked to play with the Nighthawks again. We have such a stellar group of individuals and it’s great to have the chance to play with them again. The experience last year was something new and special, and I’m stoked to give it another go.”
“The home fans make Thunderbird Stadium a special place to play, and I can’t wait to play in front of even bigger, more excited crowds. Ours have already proven to be the best fans in the league and I expect that they will be even more impassioned this season. And I’m looking forward to the stadium experience, but also the high level of competition. Almost every game last season could have gone either way, and though we’re trying to win and make the playoffs, it’s awesome that each game is so tight!”
Dre is one guy I never have to worry about motivating for a game. He’s very consistent and always competes hard. His throwing really improved last season and I expect we’ll see more of that this season as he continues to get more confident. He’s at his best when he’s going deep, but he’s also great at coming under. He’s a great receiver who can really go up and get the disc. – General manager and head coach Andrew Lugsdin
Perhaps no player on the Nighthawks made greater strides last season than 25-year-old offensive cutter Andre ‘Dre’ Gailits, the only American-born player on last year’s roster. He is 6’1’ in height, but plays much taller due to impressive leaping ability and impeccable timing. In short, he’s a handler’s dream. If you see him striking, put it out in front of him and he’ll run it down or sky for it. If you need a reset, he’ll cut back in and give you a dump. And thanks to the improvement in his throwing, once he receives that dump or mid-cut he can turn and launch a scoring throw down the field himself.
Last season Gailits totaled 25 goals, second only to Mark Leduc on the Nighthawks and in the top 10 in the entire MLU. He added 10 assists to end up third in scoring on the team. In his most memorable play last year, he out-jumped two opponents for a key goal near the end of a Nighthawks win. This play won Gailits an Offensive Player of the Week award.
Gailits is a man of few words, preferring to make his statements on the playing field, but I did manage to coax a few out of him.
“I’m excited to have pretty much everyone back from last year and a few new additions. I feel like we’re going to be a lot better this year due to our familiarity with each other and the unique MLU game.”
“I’m currently just trying to rest my body from the long season last year and make sure I’m 100% healthy going into next season. Getting better on defense is going to be a big focus for me this season, as our O-line was terrible at getting stops after turnovers last year.”
Look for Gailits to continue to improve his play in Season 2. He has the chance to become one of the dominant players in MLU. It’ll be fun to watch.