Fans inside Rogers Arena last night couldn’t have asked for much more from the Vancouver Warriors and the Colorado Mammoth, who fought it out until the final buzzer with the scoresheet saying the Warriors were 7-5 winners.
It was a game that only had 12 goals (the fewest combined goals in an NLL game this season), but it was still a treat to watch from start to finish.
The Warriors needed a win after being dominated by the Philadelphia Wings 18-10 last weekend, and they delivered, in large part due to a much-improved defensive effort, particularly from rookie Sam Clare, as well as an outstanding 48-save effort from Eric Penney in goal.
Even though the Warriors allowed an opening goal to the visitors, they bounced back with a goal of their own 30 seconds later and never let the Mammoth to take the lead back the rest of the night.
The aforementioned Clare played his part in that by grabbing his first NLL goal, assist and caused turnover in just his second career game, while others such as Justin Salt had three caused turnovers.
The heroic effort from the back-end was exactly what Head Coach Chris Gill and his staff were looking for from their players this week. When they needed it the most, the Warriors faced their formidable opponent and took them down.
“We challenged our guys all week,” Gill said. “We challenged them for four quarters and [we played] desperate lacrosse in do-or-die playoff style. It was kind of a win-or-go-home scenario, and that was our focus. That win is on all the players. They stepped up and did what they had to do.”
The sense of desperation was apparent during each face-off, each loose ball, each scoring opportunity, each defensive set. That feeling of desperation was instilled by the coaches because of the team’s 1-4 start, but, as forward Joel McCready stated, it was brought to life because of the players’ desire to win, not just for themselves, but for their teammates.
“When you’re in that [locker room] – I’m sure there’s a lot of doubters out there – but no-one doubts each other in that room,” McCready said. Everyone’s got each other’s back. We said that in the huddle before, we said we were going to play for each other tonight. Sometimes if it’s hard to get up for yourself, you do it for the guy beside you. I think everyone went out on that floor and played for the guy beside him.”
Clare, coming off his breakout performance fully believes that this win could snowball into something that is season-changing for this team. He is one of the many players who has already vowed to spend the team’s time off next week not taking too many opportunities to rest and instead, continue to get fit and prepare for the next game.
“You always have to be a student of the game, always trying to learn, always trying to get a step ahead of the opponent, and I think we did that this week,” Clare said. “If we keep doing that, watch out because here we come. I know it’s just one week, one game, but if we can make it two, maybe three, maybe four, then look where we are. I think we’re starting something good here now.”
After such a momentous win, the last thing players want to do is rest. Unfortunately, the Warriors have a bye week in Week 9 and won’t be playing until Feb. 1st against the (for now) undefeated New England Black Wolves. If the Warriors continue to play the way they did last night, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another upset victory from this never-quit team.