Revolver is the putative favorite to win this year in Sarasota. As defending champs, they are sitting on a 33-1 record (with that loss well avenged) and are peaking at the right time. Current spreads have them as a 3.5 point favorite (or better) over every other team in the field. What will it take to stop them?
Disclaimer: read on at your own peril. Other people’s scouting reports are notoriously unreliable and I’ve been badly burned a few times by trusting a report without verifying it for myself. Usually, a report is a good place to start with your own observations. What it comes down to is that you can scout a team, but to beat a team you have to scout the interaction between your team and your opponent.
Revolver is a team with three major components: a stifling man-to-man defense, a possession offense and Beau Kittredge.
Revolver’s offense is a clean side-vertical with a slow reset tempo that focuses on an isolated cutter in the lane. They are not risk takers by temperament (except Watson) and will gladly dump-swing-comeback all the way down the field. Actually, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want to huck it. Hucks are too low-percentage and the Revolver players would rather take the 99% than risk a deep shot. Beau fits into this by providing a free, wide-open reset off of the back of the stack. Teams and individual defenders don’t want to be embarrassed by Beau and so they back him. This may help an individual defender’s stats (“He never scored on me“) but is detrimental to the implementation of an effective team defense.
At the elite level, defense isn’t about stopping another team (you can’t) but rather forcing them into uncomfortable situations where they will make 4 or 5 more mistakes than usual. Jon Gewirtz of NYNY taught me, “you make them beat you with their weakness. If they do, you make them do it again because it’s their f– weakness.” In Revolver’s case, this weakness is taking chances. Front Beau. Take away those easy resets and force the deep look. Will Beau humiliate you once or twice? Of course. That’s part of being a defender.
Additionally, Revolver’s side stack is very vulnerable to poaching. The art of poaching off of a vertical stack has disappeared in the last decade as most teams have switched to playing some form of a spread offense, but the possibility of it is as strong as always. Here’s how it works. The defender in the lane plays standard fronting defense, denying the comeback. The last back in the vertical stack drifts 10 yards off. This is delicate. You want to be far enough off to be able to reach a deep cutter, but not so far off that the other team blows up their offense into anti-poach mode. Ideally, you can sucker them into continuing to try to run their offense like usual, all the while ensuring it won’t. When the players in the stack eventually realize they are being poached, that vertical stack will start to disintegrate as poached cutters move to get the disc. Fortunately, you already have two lanes (deep and outside-comeback) covered. The third lane (inside-comeback) is covered by a switching defender from the interior of the stack. The far side of the field is covered by the stack and its defenders. Essentially, you are running a triangle outside, deep and inside with the inside defender pulling off only if necessary.
As good as Revolver’s offense is, dealing with their defense is a much more difficult task. They are in the fortunate position to be able to put out seven defenders who are as fast or faster than the seven players on the offense. Additionally, their handler defenders are exceptionally quick and all their defenders are very fundamentally sound with their positioning. These tools enable them to play honest, man-on defense with little or no separation. They are able to bring intense pressure on comeback cuts and resets, thereby taking away the easy pieces of offense. You can score on this unit through the front door, but only if you are spot-on perfect and maintain intense concentration. To maintain for 15 points is unlikely. Better to find an easy way to score.
A classic way to relieve defensive pressure is to break the mark. Against Revolver, break the mark on the inside. Breaking around, which facilitates advantageous field position and sets the thrower up for a great continue, is useless against Revolver. Their defensive speed and technique mean that they are recovering into position on the mark and downfield quickly enough to prevent a continuation. Breaking inside has two advantages. An inside break gains yards. Also, insides are so much quicker than arounds that the marker and defnders have little time to react before the new thrower can move the disc downfield.
While Revolver has speed, quickness and technique, they are not big. Several of their main defenders (Kawaoka, Kanner and Sherwood among others) are not tall. A big line up will put pressure on these defenders in the air. Revolver is smart about assignments, both through choices on the line or through playing zone for numbers. This means that their smaller defenders are used on handlers, increasing their effectiveness and limiting their exposure. To take advantage of size mismatches, you need to have the offensive flexibility to send handlers deep effectively.
To put all these ideas together into a winning game plan will require that it fits within your team’s game. As effective as a strategy may be, if your team can’t implement it, it is worthless.