The Warriors are coming home to Rogers Arena this weekend to start their longest home stretch of the season. In a series of three straight home games (and seven consecutive West Division matchups), the Warriors begin this consequential run on Saturday against the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush.
It’s been a tough start to the year for the Warriors, and at 1-3, head coach Chris Gill understands the importance for this new franchise to establish themselves in the lacrosse-loving city of Vancouver.
“We have a really good fan base [in Vancouver],” said Gill. “Wins always bring more fans to the game, so we want to show that we’re a good team to come out and watch.”
“If you lose a couple games at home, fans don’t always want to come back and watch, right? So, we have to make them want to come out and watch our games and hopefully that starts this weekend.”
With a roster filled with guys from (or living in) Metro Vancouver, it’s been beneficial for the team to have practices as a nearly complete unit. That luxury is one that Coach Gill said helped the Warriors before the headed down to Georgia.
“We could tell right away that we could go hard, do a lot of 5-on-5 and work the guys in game situations,” said Gill. “I felt that this team had a whole lot of jump and a whole lot of legs throughout the entire Georgia game and that was definitely a factor.”
Not having to account for travel will allow this Warriors team the luxury of consistent practices, workouts and proper rest before each of the next three games in Rogers Arena.
“We’ve had two long travel weekends in a row to the East Coast – they aren’t the easiest road trips,” said Gill. “It’ll be nice to be home and settle in. Hopefully we can get some familiarity in our home rink because it’s kind of new to us as well and then build some confidence and defend our home turf.”
Going face-to-face with the Rush will be an important early-season match-up as the first-third of the NLL season winds down.
In their last matchup against the San Diego Seals, the Rush looked like champions on the night their banner went up to the rafters. Nine goals from Ben McIntosh and Jeff Shattler and seven others from six more players helped the home team cruise to a win following a strong second half.
“Every team in this league is really good, but this team is exceptional.” Gill said of the Rush. “We have to stick to what we’re best at and what we want to do. We need to stick to what are systems are and to be able to feel good within those systems. They have an unbelievable power play and we have to be disciplined and not give them easy sets, so it’s going to be a tough test for us.”
“But, you know what? We’ve played Calgary; they’re a great team. We went into to Buffalo, into Georgia, so it’s not likely something completely new to us. We’ve been playing against good teams for the first four games this year.”
The Warriors need to prove sooner rather than later that they can beat one of these likely championship contenders. The direction the team is heading should mean that there is a competitive battle set to take place on Saturday night at 7:00pm PST inside Rogers Arena. A streak of home wins through January would surely put fear in the rest of the West Division that the Warriors are here to surprise the league.