If you’re a Warriors fan, you’ve likely needed to contact your medical professional after watching Vancouver’s team battle through their last two games.
In many cases, a final score will not indicate the closeness (or lack there of) in a lacrosse game, but in that first contest against the San Diego Seals, the one-goal difference marked a game that was as suspenseful as it sounds. In a very literal sense, much like following the bouncing ball in a children’s sing-a-long video, the skip of the lacrosse ball helped to determine the fate of the Warriors on that night.
As the clock wound down inside Rogers Arena, the Warriors tried with all their might to knot the score at 11-11 in hopes of sending the game to overtime.
After forcing a turnover around the team’s logo in the middle of the floor with 15 seconds remaining, the Warriors gained possession. The shot clock went blank and the home team scrambled to create a scoring chance against the unsettled defence. Time seemed to slow down as Mitch Jones, who was wide open, streaked towards the crease as he received the ball. Jones pulled back his stick for a quick shot. Seals goaltender Frank Scigliano got enough of the ball to create backspin as the ball passed behind him. The rotation and acceleration changed the trajectory of the ball right in front of the goal line causing it to avoid the back of the net and sneak past the outside of the post.
Jones, hands on his knees, was in disbelief. The team was robbed of a key West Division victory in their first ever match against the Seals.
The physical pounding endured in the heartbreaking 11-10 loss to the Seals could have been a back-breaker for the club, but the team’s mental toughness allowed the squad to avoid going down the rabbit hole.
Warriors’ captain and gritty defender, Matt Beers, who exchanged haymakers earlier in the match with Seals captain Brodie Merrill, explained that taking another defeat, particularly in that manner, was a tough pill to swallow.
“That was a game that we really wanted to win,” said Beers. “After playing a really good lacrosse game and the coming out with the result we did, coming up just short again, didn’t sit well with a lot of players. I know that we don’t have a lot of guys here from last year, but we didn’t want losing tendencies to creep in.”
“At the end of the day, we talked about that more than anything after the loss. We can’t be satisfied for losing. We’re a team that has to find ourselves and keep improving, to keep building on the good things we’ve done this year.”
When facing an eerily similar situation the next week, the Warriors refused to let another loss weigh them down. In another West Division matchup, the Colorado Mammoth pushed the Warriors to the brink. In key moments towards the end of the contest, it felt like the bouncing ball was going to curse the home team once more.
With Mammoth up a goal and looking for more five minutes into the 4th quarter, Ryan Benesch reared back and fired the ball at Warriors’ netminder Eric Penney. The ball ricocheted off of Penney’s pads, bounced up, hitting defensemen Jarret Toll in the helmet and went back in Penney’s direction, ultimately hitting the back of the net to extend the Mammoth’s lead.
“Even when the ball went off Toll’s head, the bench stayed positive,” said Beers. “We’ve got smart coaches that help us focus on what’s next. At the end of the day, you can look back at those moments and think the weight of the world is on you, but you look at the guys and they still have that fight and that hunger.”
Thankfully for the Warriors, the bounces became friendly at the right time towards the end of that match. It was almost as if the ball was experiencing some kind of reserve-karma and was trying to make amends with the Warriors after it’s unlikely hops against them. In overtime the ball bounced to the home team’s sticks twice after hitting the posts next to Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward. The fortuitous bounces would lead to the final shot (and goal) of the game. Logan Schuss rippled the twine with his put-back toss that sent the stadium into a frenzy.
There was a general feeling of exhilaration, relief and joy in the locker room after the win. But the Warriors-mentality immediately had the players looking ahead to the next game. Lingering on wins and losses can hinder a team from achieving peak performance.
“I don’t think we played our best last weekend,” said Beers. “I think we found a way to win, which is what good teams do, but I think we’re going to continue to improve and continue to follow the process.”
It’s not only the veteran leadership of players such as Beers, that think the Warriors will keep building off their successes in their wins and even their losses. Rookie defender Colton Porter highlighted that this win is stepping stone to something greater.
“Every week we’ve gotten better,” said Porter. “We just need one more [goal] to drop. I think we were gripping our sticks a little too tight to get that second win. Now that we’ve got a taste of the second win, I think winning is going to be contagious.”
“We all know what it takes to win, we just haven’t done it together. Now that we’ve won two games, it’s starting to come together.”
The mental fortitude from veterans to rookies, from primary scorers to the most-dogged defenders will allow the Warriors to keep fighting their way through the season and can bring them a significant victory against their fiercest rivals, the Calgary Roughnecks, on the road this Saturday.