Photo by John King – UltiPhotos.com

Seattle plays host to Vancouver on Saturday, May 31 for their third matchup of the season, and with the conference playoffs approaching, this week’s game matters for both sides. Will the Rainmakers float to the top, or will the Nighthawks soar?

If confidence counts for anything, the Rainmakers are upbeat about their chances.

“It has taken awhile, but I think we’re finally hitting the point in the season where we’ve built up some team chemistry, and we have trust in our coaches, leaders and system,” said Chris Rupp. “These things are beginning to pay dividends, and this gives us a feeling of confidence going into tomorrow’s game. We know what to expect in our home stadium, we’ve talked about how to deal with unknowns, and we’ve figured out our strengths and weaknesses and emphasized and reinforced them appropriately.”

In their last meeting, Vancouver came away with more than their fair share of 50-50 opportunities. Defensively, Seattle will need to do a better job of challenging these jump-disc opportunities if they hope to generate turnovers.

“Our coaches have watched Vancouver progress this season, and I think they’ve put together a great plan for forcing the Nighthawks into positions they don’t want to be in,” said Rupp. “We know we’ve got the athletes to make plays given half the chance, so in a sense that’s always our defensive focus: to give our athletes chances.”

Unfortunately, Seattle will be missing a few key names according to this week’s injury report, including defenders Reid Koss (7 defensive plays) and Duncan Linn (3 defensive plays). Fortunately, this week also marks the return of player-coach Mario O’Brien to the active list. O’Brien missed Week 5 when the Rainmakers lost to the Nighthawks while away on RISE UP Ultimate business and he is coming off a hamstring strain sustained in Week 6 when the team traveled south to defeat the Stags.

“Offensively, I don’t think it’s a secret that we’re pretty unstoppable when we stick to our system,” said Rupp. “We’ve turned our eye inward and refocused on doing the things we know we want to do.”

Seattle’s small-disc offense is composed of lots of short, crisp passes between starting O-line handlers Adam Simon (89.76% completion rate on 205 throws), Gavin McKibben (94.01% on 117 throws), and Chris Rupp (98.46% on 65 throws). Fans can also expect Matty Zemel (91.72% completion rate on 167 throws) to step into this position as needed.

Vancouver could be markedly weakened by the absence of some of their playmakers as well, including handlers John Norris, Rumi Tejpar and Nick Menzies and cutters Andy Collins and Marc Seraglia. Offensive handler Aaron Loach (88.35% completion rate on 103 throws) is expected to return to the field after a leg injury sustained in last week’s Vancouver loss to Portland.

The matchup that number crunches across the league will be keeping their eye on the closest is the points/goals war currently being waged between Seattle’s Donnie Clark (36 points, 30 goals) and Vancouver’s Brendan Wong (41 points, 29 goals).

“Donnie and Wong both score goals,” said Todd Sliva. “The difference? Donnie racks up the style points like none other in the MLU.”

Beyond looking good while being great, the Rainmakers stress that Clark’s contributions are more selfless than selfish.

“There are fast guys on every team in the league,” said Rupp. “The thing about Donnie is, he makes those fast guys look like they’re standing still. He’s a beast. I don’t know what that will mean for his goals scored this weekend, and I don’t think any of us care. Even more than his jaw-dropping athletic abilities, what I’ve seen from Donnie is his passion for helping our team succeed, and I don’t think he or anyone else seriously gives a hoot about any stats being tracked.”

Regardless of how high the score goes on Saturday, it’s sure to be a great game. Doors at Renton Memorial Stadium open at 6:00 p.m. and the first pull goes up at 7:00 p.m. Don’t forget to bring your Seattle gear to get 50% off your ticket at the door for our 2-0-Sickness theme.

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