Old foes Vancouver and Seattle resumed their longstanding Ultimate rivalry on a windy Saturday night last weekend.
This time the teams were professional and they were playing under the new rules used by MLU, but as usually happens when Seattle and Vancouver meet, the teams delivered an exciting game which received a standing ovation from the crowd of almost 1000 enthusiastic spectators.
Actually, it was more like three games in one.
For most of the first half it was fairly even, with Seattle getting a few breaks to take an 8-6 lead near the end of the second quarter. The Nighthawks were struggling with their offensive spacing, and everything seemed to work out for Seattle, including managing to score with a Greatest. (A Greatest happens when a player jumps from in-bounds, catches a disc heading out of bounds and before he comes down out of bounds throws it back into the end zone to a teammate for a score.)
But when Seattle received the pull with six seconds left in the first half and managed to score, and followed this up with another quick score soon after the start of the second half to make the score 10-6, this seemed to set them off.
I asked assistant coach Jeff Cruickshank what happened to give the Rainmakers the advantage in the 3rd quarter.
“In that part of the game we really struggled with our end zone offence. We were fairly consistent moving the disc 60 yards down-field, but the last 15-20 yards we weren’t disciplined enough to play our system. As a result of fairly chaotic spacing and cutting, we made poor throwing choices and execution.”
Morgan Hibbert, one of the key players on the Nighthawks defensive line, had these comments from his side of the disc. (A ‘sky’ is a leaping catch over an opponent.)
“The Nighthawks defence played well early but Seattle made some spectacular catches, including bringing down a bobble for a goal and pulling off not only some spectacular skies against good D but also a Greatest. Playing good D without getting a result can sometimes be hard on you mentally, making you lose confidence and energy. This was probably why our D tailed off and was not as effective in the 3rd quarter.”
“The offence was strong for us early and kept us in the game. Seattle brought the fire in the 3rd quarter and we didn’t match their energy and effort level.”
By the time the 4th quarter rolled around it was 14-6 and it looked like the game was effectively decided. But then Vancouver found another gear, powered by a revived defence, and scored five breaks in a row to make it 14-12 with just over a minute left to go.
Hibbert comments on the comeback.
“In the 4th quarter the Nighthawks D found our inner fire and got back to our bread and butter, playing honest man to man D and winning the one-on-one match-ups. This fire helped turn the momentum back into our favour. And the O line that was substituted onto the field after the D line had generated a turnover was doing am excellent job of outworking their opponent and punching in hard-fought goals.”
Co-captain and O line stalwart Oscar Pottinger agrees with his assessment.
“The late comeback was on the backs of the defence, not the offence. It was poor execution that hurt the offence.”
The Nighthawks were unable to complete their comeback with so little time left in the game, but it left them feeling much better about themselves than they had felt at the end of the 3rd quarter. I asked Cruickshank what the Nighthawks needed to do to win their next game.
“We need to play tougher man on defence right from the start of the game. We need to be more ready to fire on all cylinders right from the beginning.”
“We need to win our one on one defensive matchups earlier in the game, and to give the team some breathing room by getting some early defensive goals. And on offence we need better spacing. We need to move the disc more quickly and more across the field rather than just trying to always go up and down the field.”
I asked Hibbert, Cruickshank, and Pottinger who they thought were the Nighthawks standouts in the game, and two names were mentioned by all three: Aaron Loach on O and Aaron ‘Prez’ Liu on D.
Said Cruickshank, “Offensively, Aaron Loach had a great game in the lanes. He did an excellent job getting open both underneath and going away, and he made several good downfield throws. Defensively, Prez had an awesome game. Not only does he have exceptional shutdown skills on both handlers and lane guys, he’s extremely intelligent and adjusts his defensive positioning perfectly based on his field location, the direction his teammates are forcing the thrower, and the conditions.”
Hibbert made sure to compliment the Seattle audience.
“The crowd was very loud and very involved the whole game. They did an excellent job of giving their hometown team some energy.”
“I’m really looking forward to what the Vancouver fans will bring next week for our first home game. Based on my previous experience playing in Thunderbird Stadium the energy from them is going to be amazing.”
You’ll get your chance to find out what those Vancouver fans can bring this Saturday at 7 pm. when the Nighthawks look for their first win, hosting San Francisco Dogfish at Thunderbird Stadium.