Warriors are defined as much by their fighting ability as they are by their perseverance and unwillingness to quit. The 4-7 Vancouver Warriors will need to embrace the latter have of that ideology if they hope to make a playoff run, especially since they currently sit in last place of the West Division heading into their game against the Georgia Swarm on Saturday night.
Following the team’s first win streak (two games) since moving to Rogers Arena, the Warriors have gone 1-3 while allowing 13.5 goals in that span. That’s a far cry from the 5.5 goals they were allowing per game during those back-to-back wins.
In order to get back to putting together dominant defensive efforts, and ultimately winning games, Warriors’ Head Coach Chris Gill and his team know that the battle to win is both physical and mental. Being able to respond to adversity, whether it be after a tough loss or after giving up a string of goals, will be key to their potential success for the remainder of the season.
“I think we have to reset and get ready for the next shift,” Gill said. “It’s about mental focus, mental toughness. As coaches, we have to get the boys regrouped on the bench when things go sideways for a couple of shifts. As players, they have to regroup and refocus too. It’s got to be a group effort to get to where we want to be again.”
Despite their unfortunate run of late, however, the Warriors aren’t throwing in the towel just yet, regardless of their position in the standings. There are seven games left on their schedule, including five West Division matchups and four home games (two of those are both). In the hyper-competitive Wild West where all five teams are separated by 3.5 games, the fact is, it’s anyone’s race, and Coach Gill has told his team not to lose focus of that.
“We’re not out of this race,” Gill said. We’ve got to bear down and get focused on winning games. I’ve seen it as a player and a coach, things going crazy and unpredictable. You have to expect the unexpected at all times, but we have to focus on doing our job and not worry about what the rest of the league is doing.”
Unfortunately, the fight for the postseason will be a tough one for the Warriors. They are slated for challenging games against teams such as the West Division-leading 6-2 Saskatchewan Rush, the North Division-leading 7-2 Halifax Thunderbirds, and this weekend, the 5-4 resurgent Swarm.
Having won three of their last four contests – it would have been four straight if the Calgary Roughnecks hadn’t scored 18 goals in their thrilling 18-17 OT loss – the NLL’s only South Eastern team looks more similar to their 2017 NLL Cup-winning selves than they did early in the year.
There isn’t anyone on the Warriors from either side of the ball that believes the Swarm won’t be firing on all cylinders. One of the Warriors’ hottest offensive players of late, Riley Loewen, knows that he and his teammates are going to have to step up their game this weekend to have a shot at matching the excellence of the Swarm.
“Their offence is high-powered,” Loewen said. “Our defence is going to have to step up, which they’ve proven they can do this year. We’ve got to put it all together, get the offence and defence going, which we haven’t really had this year.”
Using recent history as his reference point, Warriors’ Captain Matt Beers watched as the Roughnecks were able to exploit the Swarm’s defence last weekend. He understands that with the number of extraordinarily talented players on the offensive side of the ball, the Warriors’ back-end will need to play better than they have the past couple of weeks.
“They’re one of the best offences in the league,” Beers said. “They have some of the most dynamic players in the league right now, so we’re obviously going to have to play a lot better defensively and then capitalize on our offensive opportunities just like Calgary did [against the Swarm].”
A key home win on Saturday could spark a necessary Warriors run that could potentially shake up the playoff race. However, losing another game at home – the Warriors are 2-3 in Rogers Arena – could create a hole too deep to dig out of. Whatever the outcome may be heading into the game, the Warriors are going to be ready to fight (maybe literally) to keep their postseason dreams alive.