I didn’t get to Labor Day in person this year, but thanks to the hard work of Kevin and crew, we all got to watch some games. Here is the first half of my game by game analysis. I have a formula for watching video. The first time through, I just watch without taking notes. It’s a bit tricky and I have to work to be disciplined not to write anything down. I want to get a feel for the game and the narrative of the game out of the way before I actually start analysis, otherwise I am too distracted by what is happening to see the why. When I am charting a game, I will do this on the second time through. I didn’t chart these games because I wasn’t looking for that level of analysis but if I was coaching any of these teams or against any of these teams, I would have. Only on the third go through do I start to take analytic notes. The third run through is the slowest since I will take notes, running the tape forward and back on crucial pieces. It sounds like a lot because it is a lot, but this work has become essential to the game today; it is an opportunity to gain an edge on the opposition and not to be passed up.
Riot vs. Molly Brown
Molly Brown has a really impressive deep game: Lambert and Cross are both monsters and there are ton of throwers who can reach them. Nonetheless, they really struggle in this game, particularly against Riot’s various zone and junk looks. Considering there isn’t an issue with the technical ability of their throwers, the problems are structural. All too often they do a nice job of resetting the disc for advantage or sneaking a long shot through the middle of the zone and then…nothing. This was true of their man-to-man offense at times as well. Symptomatic of this lack of structure were the two hammers to no one (31:45 and 53:00). A note on structure: it doesn’t have to be formation based. There are plenty of other ways to run a structure; it could also be time-based or read-based or personnel-based. There are lots of ways. The requirement is that it generates certainty for the thrower and cutter.
Riot is impressively deep and are able to roll out line after line without a drop in talent. This allows them to play with an energy that other teams will find hard to match. (Watch McDowell, Grover and Cordell cover the pull at 52:40.) Riot’s marking is really interesting. They are very active and energetic, but in an unconventional way – they move their arms up and down – almost like classic basketball marking. It is inconsistently effective – sometimes it hassles the thrower into problems, but just as often it leads to easy breaks. Is it a good idea? That’s a style question and depends on how much of a ball-hawking team you want to be (as opposed to containment). Offensively, their tempo has slowed from last season, which really allows the downfield cutters like Cardenas and a rejuvenated Fontenette to make hay. It also has changed O’Malley’s game a lot and for the better. She isn’t carrying as much weight, so she isn’t as likely to be brilliant, but is much more consistent.
Chain vs. Revolver
Revolver is a team built on being really good and really boring. Not in a bad way, but unlike DW who want to play chuck-it-to-the-tall-guy or the Fish with their splishy-splashy, Revolver has always thrived on just getting it done effectively and efficiently. This kind of game requires incredible mental strength and the teams that have pulled it off like the championship DoG and Condors teams were great, great teams. This season, Revolver has struggled with consistency and that is a sign of fatigue – not physical fatigue, but mental.
Revolver is also in a mild reorganization – Bart Watson is gone and he carried a ton of weight for them. His departure and their offensive struggles at Worlds has pushed them to rearrange their O- and D-lines. Cassidy Rasmussen and Ashlin Joye have moved full time to offense and Adam Simon to defense. Ashlin and Cassidy to O-line makes a lot of sense. Their contributions are felt immediately in this game as they play big roles in the first two points for Revolver. Joye’s forehand at 12:45 (and throughout the game) is particularly impressive. As a thrower, Joye certainly demonstrates he can fill Watson’s shoes, but as a team Revolver is missing his 3-cutting. Bart was one of the most accomplished 3s ever and that makes a big hole. Right now, Revolver is filling by committee but that means at times they have to work harder than they’d like. Simon to D also makes sense. He struggled offensively in Sakai, but has the defensive chops and works well as a handler on the turn. It is actually more of a natural fit for his game.
Despite going 4-2 on the weekend, Chain looks really bad in this game. Their offense donates at will and their man-to-man defense is sluggish. Ignoring the defensive woes for right now (Revolver is good, 3000 miles is a long way to fly, no Joel Wooten) the offense looks dangerously one-dimensional. Dylan Tunnel and Jared Inselmann can throw it a long way but one-trick ponies don’t win very often. Traditionally, Chain has had a very nice reset game that allows them to maintain possession and be a bit more patient with their choices; that reset game is missing here. (Watch it struggle as they take point 6.) Attribute part of this to Revolver’s always excellent handler defense, but part is just bad throws. Chain shorts a lot of their resets, failing to switch fields, but they don’t two-pass them either. This is a direct cause of the three hucks blocked by defenders in the stack. Chain is also missing Grant Lindsley and Sam Chatterton-Kirchmeier both very accomplished comeback cutters. Also worrisome for Chain is their total inability to get the disc back. You can casually turn it over or you can not play defense on the turn and still be okay, but to do both is deadly.
The game is in three parts. At 2-5 Chain (21:30) just after a miscue leads to a Robbie Cahill forehand to the ground, Revolver looks toast. They are so calm and patient in the face of pressure. Watch the possession to score 6 (pt 1 27:40) for Revolver – that is how they want to play: composure and possession. Things settled for the Moon Men after that and when half came at 8-6 Revolver, the game was reasonably even. Sure Chain had yielded a 1-6 run to be down a break, but that’s no big deal. Regroup, replan and win the second half. Early in the second half, the game is starting to slither away from Chain – giving up easy, no turn offensive goals is very rough for a team down a handful of breaks. There’s only so much room in a game and Chain is running out of it quickly. At 7-10, they’re down two breaks and the flip, with only five opportunities to go. It’s a lot to ask of your defense. Even more so as Revolver three passes to get to 12. Then the two hucks blocked by defenders in the stack leave the game all but over at 14-9.
I liked Chain’s zone better than their man-to-man. One point in particular looks good (pt 2 11:00), but Revolver breaks it in two ways: the return to Cahill off of the dump (12:00) and Dahl fails to read Arenson and Erikson’s attack on the dumps (12:20) letting Joye get a high count reset. Dahl still pursues down and marks (transition is on) creating a vast space behind him. Ideally, he reads the attack and shuts Joye down, but barring that his mark needs to help the transition a little more. Playing either really soft (forcing a reset) or really hard (forcing multiple fakes) buys the downfield defenders time to recover.
Bravo vs. Doublewide – Semifinals
This is an incredibly sloppy game, most of which I attribute to the format. By the end of the day Sunday, after two days in the sun and wind and six other games, it is very hard to play your best. Things certainly cleaned up in the second half, but even there, neither team entirely controls the game. Bravo wins, but largely because they happened to be up late in the game. They give Doublewide plenty of chances and Doublewide declines the offer.
Doublewide’s offense runs a variety of sets off of the pull: vertical, horizontal and side stack. When they are in the vertical they often run a classic play which sends the front of the stack deep and the back of the stack under on the far side of the field. The hope is either man coverage (huck is open) or last-back coverage (under is open). It is a really effective play against teams that don’t poach or poach a little bit. It doesn’t work at all against a team that can pull off a double switch. (There’s a pretty good example of the under getting open at 18:35 of pt 1.) I was struck by how willing DW is to throw the jump ball. They lead off the second half of the game by throwing jump balls on 5 of their first seven possessions and the other two were hucks, just open ones. Tim Gehret is a good fit for this team and DW is a better fit for his game than the Fish. His natural tempo is pretty slow; slower than the Fish want to play and just right for DW.
Bravo is much looser structurally than Doublewide, relying a lot on the throwing creativity of Ackley reaching the athleticism of Mickle and Roehm. I am impressed with the play of those three. Bravo runs split handlers into a side stack or vertical stack, which gives the defense opportunities to poach both sides of the field. Unlike in a horizontal stack where the throw straight down the field is a viable option, in a vertical or side stack, you can’t go up the gut because the stack is in the way, which makes the poaches from the handler defenders that much more effective. (Watch Kevin Richardson’s poach at pt 1 43:45, there’s nowhere for the disc to go but back to Krug.) While we are on oddities, Bravo also runs spread as their endzone offense. Rather than get everyone in the middle and attack the edges, they get everyone on the edges and attack the middle. (Pt 2 17:00)
It is a close finish, with Bravo’s sophistication on offense and ability to possess the disc edging out Doublewide’s athleticism. It is also an odd finish. On DGP, Doublewide plays their standard D-line. Isn’t there somebody on the O-line who’s better than your seventh defender? Likewise, Bravo stayed with their standard O-line.
Really impressive to see Tina McDowell still getting it done. I wonder why she’s #39? Must be a October birthday….On a personal note, it was sweet to see Kate Kingery, Shannon McDowell and Bailey Zahniser all lined up together on d….It is a measure of Revolver’s talent and success that we would consider a double game point semis loss a total failure….No observers? C’mon, really?….I’m not that psyched on most of the uniforms. I am a traditionalist on color, so to see Sockeye in blue and Riot in neon green makes me a little nauseous. Also, black shorts are stale. The week-old bread kind of stale….Confidential to certain unnamed Bravo O-line cutter: haircut….Bummed to miss the other semis and Women’s final. Three of those games, Fish vs. Rev, Fury vs. Show, Fury vs. Riot were great….Regarding the intentional mack on D at 18:30 in Rev-Chain: macks should be legal. If you can pull it off and maintain possession, you should be rewarded for it. Less rules, not more!…The oddity of disc on strong side in a side stack is perplexing me. (Revolver-Chain 4:30 pt 2) I’ll hit this one more when I cover the Rhino game….Jay Clark gets called for a travel (pt 2 9:00) and its his fault even if it isn’t a travel. It looks like one, so it is going to get called and stop play. If he develops visually cleaner footwork that move is goal.
Feature photo by Jeff Bell – UltiPhotos.com