The Vancouver Warriors are seeing the fruits of a revamped defensive group this season.
Bringing in strong veteran defencemen has already proven to be valuable through their size, play, leadership, and experience.
Captain Brett Mydske is part of the returning defender group in his 13th NLL season, while Matt Beers, Ryan Dilks and John Lintz all joined the Warriors in free agency. Many of the veterans are coaches themselves and have seen the game from a different perspective and adding to their lacrosse IQ.
The Warriors’ coaching staff comes up with the game plan and the veteran group pitches in, whether that’s going over film with some of the younger players or helping them out in practice.
Warriors’ Defensive Coach, Rob Williams says the value of having a leadership group on the back end with decades of experience is immeasurable. The coaching staff preaches the importance of habits, work ethic and game planning and the veterans lead the way by example.
“Having guys that can calm things down and deal with runs is huge,” Williams said. “They’re just such good veterans and so calm in those situations, able to realize we have to get back into our systems and not panic.”
Oftentimes really great players stand out because they make their teammates better too. The Warriors’ veterans take an active role in teaching the younger players, and Williams has already seen improvement in the up-and-comers’ games in just a couple of months together.
“With Owen Grant in the draft last year, [Brayden] Laity this year, the young guys are sponging all the information up from these veterans. You can already see a marked difference. They were already really good players, but as I’m going over systems and other things I need to go over in practice and I see Beersy, Lintzy, Dilksy and Mydske helping the younger guys. It’s such a great leadership group.”
Over the first two games of the season, the Warriors are averaging just nine goals– against per game, compared to 13.7 goals– against last season. Against the Georgia Swarm, the Warriors were able to hold superstar forward Lyle Thompson to four points (2-2-4), Williams mentioning Dilks and Grant were great matchups on either line for the Warriors against Thompson and that the whole team bought in to be in the right spots to make things difficult for the Swarm offence.
It’s the buy-in and effort that Dilks, the 2016 NLL defender of the year, says is most important. Being an extension of the coaching staff and mentoring the younger players is important for the team to develop chemistry and improve faster. He attests that the learning never stops and loves getting insights from Williams and his teammates.
“We’ve got to be on the same page and when we’re working as a six-man unit out there with Boldy it’s fun to watch,” Dilks said. “It needs to be an honest effort, as Curt [Malawsky] likes to say, and I think that’s pretty important because you usually get honest results. As long as we’re all sticking together, staying to the game plan, not giving up on each other we usually have a good chance of winning.”
Dilks is a three-time NLL Cup champion and sees a lot of promise and upside with this group.
“I’m seeing a pretty solid D-core back there, we’ve got a great combination of some older guys and some really talented younger guys,” Dilks said, adding, “On top of that, we’re very deep on the back end, I don’t see any liabilities. If one guy goes down no one has an issue with the next guy stepping up. I think that‘s a luxury to have in this league.”
Williams compiles film for the defensive group to go over – things they need to clean things up and things they did well. Having won an NLL Cup as an assistant coach and a couple WLA championships as a head coach, he feels if they stick to their process, believe in themselves and continue to prepare, they can have success this season.
“It’s still early in the season. Where we’re at right now, we’re in a good spot and we’ve talked to this group about getting better every time we get on the floor so there’s little things we can clean up, but that was a really impressive game for our second game together as a group,” Williams said.
Dilks agrees that believing in the coaching staff and playing within their defensive systems is what successful teams do.
“Any time we get a plan and we follow through with that plan, when you see the results it’s a good feeling,” he shared, going on to say, “If we can shut down their best player, the player that runs the ball the most on their offence, then I think we’ll have a good night every night.”