The best cure for losing is winning. The Vancouver Warriors are ready to start winning.
It’s been a rough to this NLL season for the Warriors. There’s no way around that. Starting 0-3 is far less than ideal. Canada’s most-western team currently has the worst record in the league. And, going back to last season, the Warriors have now lost eight games in a row and 12 of their previous 13 games.
Furthermore, this is only the third time in the organization’s long, complicated history going back to the Albany Attack days at the beginning of the millennium, when one of their teams started a season 0-3. The other times were the 2017-18 season when the Vancouver Stealth started 0-4 and then finished the year at 2-16, and then the 2012 season, when the Washington Stealth started 0-3 and finished that year with a record of 4-12. The franchise has not made a playoff appearance since 2017.
Head Coach Troy Cordingley was brought in over the offseason to change all of this. Cordingley, first and foremost, has a winning pedigree. He’s won two NLL Championships (2009 & 2011), and his teams have played in the NLL Finals four times. He has been nominated for the Les Bartley Head Coach of the Year Award (2009 & 2016) – he won the award in 2009. He also is one of five coaches in NLL history to have more than 100 wins as a head coach.
More important than the accolades and achievements themselves is how he can get the most out of his players. Cordingley is a hard-nosed, no-nonsense coach who loves his guys to play with passion and ferocity. He is not one to mince his words and is not afraid to shake things up if he deems it necessary. His respect is earned, not given, because he wants to know that the guys that play for him are giving as much of themselves as he is to the pursuit of winning games and championships.
He has the mentality that this club needs, both now and forever, and he hopes his current players will also adopt that mentality. His fiery post-game locker room speech following their 14-5 loss at home against the Calgary Roughnecks a few weeks ago was indicative of all those things, and now is the time to change.
“We’re a team, and that message was not just for the players in the locker room; it was for everyone that is associated with the team,” Cordingley said. “There’s absolutely zero finger-pointing, but we all need to look in the mirror, figure things out and figure them out real quick.”
“The message is: don’t let your teammates down – I know that’s how we’ve been thinking. I want to repeat that every single one of those guys in the dressing room cares, and they know that they can give more. It’s a little bit of adversity that we’re battling. I’m a firm believer that you deal with adversity by rolling up your sleeves and putting your nose to the grindstone, and you work. That’s the mentality that we have to have.”
Unfortunately for Warriors goaltender, Steve Fryer, he was the sacrificial lamb of sorts to show what happens when guys let their teammates down – Fryer was cut right before the start of the new year. This of course leaves the goaltending situation in Vancouver up in the air for the foreseeable future. The Warriors do have guys like Ethan Woods and Aden Walsh who will get some time in net, but, as younger guys in this league, it is unclear what they’ll get from either of them.
These messages sent by Cordingley and his staff appear to have been received, and hopefully, the play on the floor (and maybe in the results) will confirm that. For NLL-great Shawn Evans, who joined the Warriors this offseason as one of the summer’s most significant signings, he came to Vancouver partly because of Coach Cordingley and his ability to get the best out of his players.
Evans had played under Cordingley in Buffalo, so he already knew what he would bring to the Warriors. He understands that Cordingley wants the team to be successful and that the guys in that locker room want to do the same. Evans hopes that the impassioned message from the coaching staff will change how the rest of the guys approach the remainder of this season.
“I hope so, I really hope so,” Evans said. “After three weeks of having to dwell on what happened on the floor and what happened in the dressing room, we need to take that to heart. We need that kick in the [expletive]. It’s not fun going out there and playing and getting [expletive]-kicked and losing by 10, 11, 12 goals. It’s just not fun, and that’s not who we are. We need to wake up and have a fresh start.”
Defensive stalwart Reid Bowering stated that if there’s a type of coach in this league that you want to be playing for, it’s a guy like Coach Cordingley. For a physical, do-it-all kind of defender like Bowering, playing for a passionate coach who wants his guys to play a gritty style is the perfect match.
“You can see on screen [watching games] how much [Cordingley] cares, and obviously, we feel that in the locker room,” Bowering said. “There’s no shortage of caring or passion for winning in our locker room. It’s always great to play for a coach like that.”
“He holds you to a high level of accountability. He expects your absolute maximum effort every single shift, so there’s no way you can take a shift off – with [Coach Cordingley], you’re going to hear it if you do.”
Alternate Captain and offensive star, Mitch Jones, has been with this organization for a handful of years now, but he has never competed in the postseason with this club, despite his best efforts. Jones has scored the 2nd-most points (194) on the Warriors over the 4 years he’s been with the team – only Keegan Bal has scored more.
Like Evans and the rest of his teammates, Jones understands that it’s all tough love coming from the coaching staff. Jones mentioned that it’s time for the players to start turning things around and putting up positive results because the coaching staff has been giving all they have to help the team win.
“These guys have come in since day one and laid it on the line,” Jones said. “We know where they stand, and they’re behind us and want us to win. Obviously, when things don’t go your way, tensions can get high, and changes need to be made, but, I think at the end of the day, from our coaching staff to our players and our management, we believe in each other, and we’re in this together. We’ve got some time left to turn things around, and we’ve been working together to make that a reality over the holidays.”
As has been echoed by everyone around the team since the Warriors third loss this season, winning isn’t going to come from individual efforts. Both Evans and Jones spoke with urgency about the need for the entire roster to come together and start winning some games for their teammates, the coaching staff, the management, and, most importantly, the fans.
“It can’t just be one person; it has to be everyone who wants [to change] and wants it for the right reasons,” Evans said. “We need to get that first win under our belt, so we can get that feeling of winning and learn what it takes to win. Coach can only do and say so much; it’s our job to go out there and compete and do our jobs.”
“We’ve got a lot of good people in a dressing room,” Jones said. “I know a lot of the guys in the room, myself included, would agree that we’ve underperformed, but there have been very fixable things that we can change. It comes down to the question: do we believe in each other? I know the answer is: definitely, yes.”
If there’s any time to commit to a change, it’s the start of a new year. The Warriors 0-3 start happened in 2022. We’re in 2023 now, and this team is more ready than ever to step into this new year with their new mentality.
There are 15 games left in this season, and the Warriors still have a fighting chance at making the playoffs if they can turn things around. Coach Cordingley and his players have hopefully learned from their mistakes of the past year and will be poised to show that to the lacrosse world when they take on the mighty San Diego Seals this weekend.
With that in mind, Cordingley wanted to stress to the committed and devoted fans of this team that there’s still time to make things right. Time left this season to win a bunch of ball games through hard work and commitment to each other.
“I first would apologize, especially for that performance at home,” Cordingley said. “But, believe in us because it’s a long season. We know we have work to do – we’re all honest with each other about that. We’re just going to keep working.”
Watch the Warriors in action tonight against the San Diego Seals beginning at 10:00pm ET on ESPN+, TSN.ca and the TSN app.