Tuesday Morning Standler: Small Ball Sockeye
By Bryan Jones
Tuesday Morning Standler now brings you an evening edition, courtesy of a weekend involving sleeping in JFK, roaming San Jose, looking for a hotel on Labor Day and a 12 hour travel day on Monday.
With Labor Day in the books and preliminary final rankings released, the regular season is now complete. Teams now have their sights set on the series. Let us take a look at what happened this last weekend.
Small Ball Sockeye
The story may be that they took home the title this weekend, but Seattle Sockeye exorcised some demons on the way there. The championship featured opponent Johnny Bravo for the second time in the tournament, but the biggest win was over Revolver in the semi-finals. The game started out so familiar, high and mighty Revolver down a few breaks at half, tying the score to force yet another universe point. Last year, Revolver sent Sockeye to the backdoor bracket at Northwest regionals, coming back from a 14-12 deficit to win on universe. This time, the Fish didn’t scatter. Phil Murray put the double move on Russell Wynne, giving Matt Rehder a wide open target for the win.
In this era of ultimate, many team offenses are designed around athletic playmakers, guys who win the 50-50s and an offense that can grind down the field if need be. But not Sockeye – they love the grind. Their offense consists of fast moving parts, cutters always changing direction and clearing out space. Other offenses rely on strict vertical stacks and reset cutters who find space after the primary man clears out. Sockeye strives for quick movement of the disc, keeping the defense on their toes. To the untrained eye, it’s chaos. Handlers bust deep on what seems like a whim, cutters fill, and the disc is hardly held for more than a couple of stalls. Normally teams are looking to huck to those playmakers, trying to find a high percentage throw. It’s not that Sockeye doesn’t have those players, but they are seeking to maximize the game, not the name. With other teams choosing to go the “simpler” route, why does Sockeye embrace the chaos?
One reason may be the amount of chemistry the Fish have developed. They practice throughout the week, as opposed to weekend practices. Timing quick throws without much hesitation requires player movements and actions to be in sync. Ever try to employ a fast moving, complex offense on a new team? Normally there are turnovers because someone throws in the wrong direction, or the communication between the receiver and thrower isn’t there. These types of offenses often have numerous mistakes due to those reasons, but Sockeye has cut down on them by playing together so often.
Another reason is personnel. Look across the roster, and you’re going to be hard pressed to find any giants. Matt Rehder is the only player at 6’3, with Simon Montague, Moses Rifkin, Jacob Spiedel, and Frank Devin Barich above 6’2. Sockeye’s average height is just under 5’11, while Doublewide’s is just under 6’3. It’s hard to compete with the deep shots when most other squads have three to four inches on you across the board. The Fish have nine players listed below 5’10. These players’ talents are maximized in a system that values quickness and fast movement.
Of course, talent is important to winning, but so is a belief in a system that can breed confidence. Sockeye has a singular vision this year, as opposed to last year when they were changing universe lines on the first day of regionals. Other teams are tweaking major elements, introducing impact players late in the season, while Sockeye is simply looking to fine tune their strategy.
Play of the Day #2 B.J. Sefton with a grab in the finals.
See #1 later.
Revolver down, but not out.
Revolver ended their weekend on the universe point loss to Sockeye, which could be a good and bad thing for the rest of the country. San Francisco has a history of rebounding after losses, but this year they look especially vulnerable. It’s not enough to say that the loss of Bart Watson is having this much of an effect on them. Despite being one of the major pieces on offense, Revovler didn’t look true to form at Worlds. On the weekend they looked less than stellar, beaten by Sockeye, Doublewide, and Madison Club also took them to universe point.
When asked about the state of the team, head coach Alexander Ghesquire said that “losses can be good,” and that they had a lot of work to do. Part of their philosophy after Worlds was trying to regain competitive motivation by “going in cold” said Ghesquire in regards to Emerald City Classic. After only a few practices after Worlds, Revolver was still one point away from the finals of a premier regular season tournament.
The new look Revolver has featured Cassidy Rasmussen handling, Jordan Jeffery as a continuation cutter down field and Ashlin Joye is the primary under cutter looking to put it deep. While the offense has had the usual mistakes from changing things up, the defense has not been as dominant. Mark Sherwood was not available on the weekend, but it might just be that everyone is another year older. Revolver was also missing Sherwood for the majority of the season last year and didn’t face any difficulties. With two months to go, Revolver has their work cut out for them.
Bold prediction I never stated publicly #1: “Revolver will lose 3-5 games this regular season”.
Will the real Doublewide please stand up?
Doublewide’s intimidating height carried them to the Championship bracket before losing to Bravo in semis. Big man Will Driscoll returned from NexGen and made a huge difference on offense over the course of the weekend. His height forces other teams to use one of their big men, which will be especially terrifying after Brodie Smith and Kurt Gibson return to form. Kurt played early on and late, but missed a few games after banging his knee. They already have Kevin Richardson, Jake Anderson, and Mike Nattenburg in terms of height. The additions of Cole Sullivan and Tim Gehret have paid dividends, but you have to wonder how a healthy Gibson and Smith will be integrated.
This is why the story on Doublewide this year is not complete. When push comes to shove, there are only seven people on the field at one point in time. How does that rotation work? Where will they fit in? The offensive line is already running pretty smoothly without them. How many more points a game are these players worth? What if they aren’t completely healthy? These questions aren’t going away either, as Doublewide will likely get one test at regionals, and then be thrust into pool play at Sarasota. What we do know for sure is that this is a very talented team that will have all eyes watching come Nationals.
Doublewide also features former Florida coach Kurt Dahlenburg and current coach Cyle Van Auken.
I don’t say “wow” too often. Wow.
If you haven’t heard the news, Dylan Freechild is fast. Freechild decided that a universe point loss for Rhino wasn’t in the cards, so he defended deep, went deep, and threw for the score. Overall, Rhino didn’t have a weekend like they did at ECC but came with an impressive victory over Doublewide. We’ll have more about all of the Championship contenders next week.
Johnny Bravo proves to be no slouch
One of my questions coming in this weekend was “Is Johnny Bravo a semis team?” After a win over Doublewide in the semis of Labor Day, I’m more impressed, but still skeptical. Last year, I thought their athleticism could match up against most teams, but they lacked skill and a system. The Rocket Men did a good job this weekend of possessing the disc with Owen Westbrook and Jimmy Mickle helping the offense flow. On defense, Austin Gregersen was a weapon, taking on one of the toughest matchups on defense while delivering the disc deep after a turnover. Their win over Doublewide is noteworthy, but the rest of the weekend seems to just leave us with more questions. With most of the contenders in pool B, Bravo didn’t take on Revolver, Chain Lightning, or Rhino and lost to Sockeye handily twice.
Bravo was without Jack McShane (ankle) for the weekend and coach Bob Krier was playing Grandmasters.
Last team in: PoNY gets in the top 16
With the preliminary rankings being released, we decided to do a breakdown of the last team in for a bid. This year it’s PoNY, sneaking by Southpaw. Below is a chart of their rating game by game. Note: The final rating for PoNY is not the same as USAU’s as information for Dark or Light is not available because they did not reach 10 games.
Date: Date of game played, used to calculate decay with current date of the rankings
Opponent: Who they played
Win: 1 for a win, -1 for a loss, used to calculate whether the score differential is a positive or a negative for calculating rating.
Winning and Losing Score: I hope you can figure this one out.
Opponent Rating: Found next to the teams name in the rankings, how good your opponent is.
Score Rating: The points awarded for score differential
Game Rating: Score Rating + Opponent Rating
Days: Days between the rankings and the date of the game
Weight (Wt.): The Decay function determines the weight based on how far ago the game was played.
Weighted Rating: The Weight multiplied by the Game Rating.
Pony’s Rating: Sum of Weight Ratings divided by Sum of the Weights. Like we mentioned before, the calculation is off due to the Dark or Light game, but also off because rankings are kept to the decimal place, but simply not reported by USAU.
Game by Game
Now that you’ve gotten thoroughly confused, take a look at the game ratings for PoNY. Against Phoenix they scored a 1678, and against Ironside a 1687. A one point loss to Ironside was barely better than an eight point win over Phoenix. If you’ve read our past articles on these rankings, you’ll know that it is just as good to beat up on easy teams as it is to play top teams close. Wins over Voodoo and Cash Crop helped increase PoNY’s rating, while close losses to Furious and Sub Zero pushed it the opposite way.
Looking at the weights, it’s very easy to be alarmed. The game against Ironside was worth 39% weight, while the game against Condors was worth 81%. When comparing June to August, that may be understandable. However, look at the weights between Revolver and Tanasi. The game against Revolver is worth or 59% and Tanasi is worth 78%. Should games that are played in August be weighted differently? Also note that games that took place on the same weekend can have a different weight.
The numbers are even more alarming when comparing Labor Day vs. Chesapeake. Chesapeake in the final rankings will be worth approximately 80%, while Labor Day will be a 100% weight. 20% decay over the course of one week? If we simplify the system and make the weight of every game 100%, PoNY would have a rating of 1434.
Next week we’ll take a look at the contenders for Club while maybe, just maybe, looking towards the college season.
(Feature Photo by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com)