As a child you’re taught: When you fall, you get right back up.
In the minds of all of the Vancouver Warriors, it would be hard to fall any harder than they did a month ago against the Philadelphia Wings. Following their 18-10 road loss, Warriors Head Coach Chris Gill wasn’t shy to express how his team was outplayed in every facet of the game and thusly were tremendously embarrassed in Philadelphia.
With a lack of positive takeaways from that contest, according to the Warriors’ Tyler Codron, the coaching staff expressed that enough is enough, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
“The coaches challenged us after the [Wings] game,” Codron said. “We were very disappointed in our play, the coaches were disappointed in us, and they challenged us to be more aggressive, not let anyone in the middle, cross-check hard, so that’s what sort of changed. Everyone grabbed that challenge, grabbed that bull by the horns and ran with it.”
On the whole, there seems to be a more positive energy in the Warriors locker room this season compared to last year. But, following their third consecutive loss at the hands of the Wings and dropping to 1-4 on the young season, the Warriors leading point-getter Mitch Jones said that losing game after game was starting to wear on the team mentally.
“When you lose a game, and we had lost three in a row, you start to second-guess yourself,” Jones said. “We started to go back to the drawing board and see what we were doing wrong. We want to be a playoff team, and it’s hard for us to find reasons why we shouldn’t be.”
A playoff run seemed like a pipe dream after the Wings game, but, to their credit, the guys have answered the call of their coaches to perform better. Even with players such as Logan Schuss, Matt Beers, and Bob Snider missing time in the lineup over the last two games, the Warriors are still cracking down defensively, producing enough goals and getting enough possessions despite those absences.
The offense is only averaging 8.5 goals per game in their last two matches, and they only won two of 20 face-offs last weekend versus the New England Black Wolves. However, as of last weekend, the Warriors have finally managed to win back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history since they took on their new name thanks in large part to their defense.
The team’s 11 goals allowed across two games is their fewest in that span in the team’s long history dating back to 2000 when they were the Albany Attack. A historic defense will surely bring wins, and it has. Codron mentioned that the changes on the backend have begun because every player is fighting for the guy next to them.
“We’re playing more as a five-man unit,” Codron said. “Your defense is not going to be a one-on-one battle every time. It’s going to be a guy sliding over or a guy helping out, a guy doing a little extra on the floor, working with each other to shut their big guns down.”
When a coach or player says they are playing as a unit and buying into the system, it sounds like an overused cop-out. However, for the Warriors, the belief in those principles is palpable. It no longer sounds like lip service, and you can see that on the floor and in the stat sheet.
There may be significant absences on this roster, but where Schuss and Beers are missing, guys like Sam Claire, Derek Lloyd, Riley Loewen, Brandon Goodwin, and Lyndon Bunio have stepped up. They may not be the household names, and by their own admission, the Warriors don’t have as many of those types of names that some of the NLL’s other teams do, but they’re stepping up when called upon.
Coach Gill knows that the ability for those lesser-known players to inject the skills needed to win is what this team is going to need to have a shot at winning games. He added that once all their pieces return to the lineup, if all those pieces can help the Warriors sneak into the postseason, it’s a clean slate come May.
“If you want to win games in this league ,you’re going to need your best guys playing,” Gill said. “Unfortunately for us, last weekend we didn’t have two of our top guys playing, and a couple of them haven’t been playing throughout the year, but we’ve done ok without them. We’re happy that guys are stepping up and are filling positions.”
“Every coach wants all their guys to be available and firing because that’s how you get to the playoffs. In the playoffs, anything can happen.”