Defense Wins Two Titles
For a long time I have wondered if it is possible for a team to be brilliant offensively and defensively at the same time. The mindset that goes into playing clean, focused offense is so different from that of playing brutal, brain-on-fire defense. This is why teams separate into O- and D- squads; this is why O-squads struggle to play defense and why D-squads struggle to score.
Ryan Farrell had a stunning assessment after losing and while I agree with him “that [Revolver] team is more capable of multiple turnover points than other Revolver teams,” I don’t necessarily agree that they are more vulnerable. When a defense first team wins, that’s what it looks like; it looks ugly. In playing Bravo and then Sockeye, Revolver took on the top two offenses in the country and completely suffocated both of them. They did it using a very simple game plan that relied on force-forehand or force-backhand precisely executed. The famous Revolver system shifted this year to defensive integrity; each player must take on their match up with energy, focus and flawless positional technique.
Scandal put on a defensive show as well. Want to see how to use a sideline trap to destroy a team and suck all the life out of them? Watch the Riot semifinal. Riot’s offense had its issues, but the way Scandal sealed off the Seattleites’ resets was very, very impressive. The handler defenders prevented the up-line, the downfield defenders played tight enough to stop the inside-out and the open side comeback and the markers played a 90 degree mark. This is classic, classic defense, but against an accomplished team the footwork and positioning required from the downfield defenders is quite a challenge. Scandal played it excellently.
You may have noticed a similarity between the two champions. That shouldn’t be surprising considering the impact of Alex Ghesquiere on both teams. The Revolver system can be defined by a few characteristics – technically sound man-to-man defense, long swing resets that shift the field, creative flexibility for the star offensive players, great fitness and most importantly, trust in the system. These characteristics were clearly evident in both the men’s and women’s finals.
This is a very, very good system and has now totaled 7 titles. Wait! 7? Revolver’s three, Scandal’s one and Furious’ three from a decade ago. The basic characteristics are the same, although individual characteristics a bit different. The two keys are the defensive work from every player and offensive freedom for the stars. For Revolver, it was Beau and Joye (before that Cahill and Watson). For the Monkey, it was Grant, Lugsdin and Cruikshank.
Format, Depth and Talent
Revolver and Sockeye both delivered on the soon-to-be classic approach to the new format. On Thursday, win your pool with depth so that you are entering Friday rested and healthy. If you can get through Friday on depth as well, great. Both Sockeye and Revolver did. Revolver took great advantage of this, particularly in the finals where they played Beau a ton in the crucial opening sequence that saw them take a tone-setting 5-2 lead over Sockeye. Boston fatally did not make this adjustment in the semifinals, opting to stay with a standard O- and D- subbing strategy that left too many great players on the bench watching the Sockeye offense shred. By the time they finally brought the stars in, it was too little, too late. For the top talent, this a much easier schedule. They play one less game and a nasty power pool game is replaced with a round of 16 game against a wounded 0-3 team. Add in the one game a day factor and you’ve got a recipe for playing your stars a lot on Saturday and Sunday.
Doing a lot with a Little
A lot of credit has to go to Sockeye for doing the most with the least. Of the top teams, they are the shortest and the slowest. Speed and height aren’t the only kinds of athleticism and the Fish used quickness to their advantage, often running out an O- line of Kosednar, Karlinsky and Lenon. When you add in the small-ball minded Castine and Sefton, you’ve got a brilliant mix of players for that system. There have been a lot of small ball systems over the years (Jam, Rhino, Japan) and this is unquestionably the best. Had the weather been better, we might be talking Sockeye’s 4th title – Beau admitted as much. The take away on this is that you need a system that will work for your personnel. As great as Revolver’s system is, if Sockeye had tried to run it, they’d have been lucky to make quarters.
Random Thoughts on Men’s
Bravo will look back on this as a lost opportunity. They had a championship quality team and were playing great. They let Revolver dictate the tone of the game…Doublewide’s championship hangover was hard to watch. They didn’t seem to play with the same urgency. Except perhaps Dalton Smith; it’s too bad he threw that last turnover. It wasn’t really his fault and he’d played brilliantly in bringing them back….Lots of interesting formations. Some teams (Bravo, Ironside) are playing very open and very deep formations while others (Truck, Sockeye, Chain) are playing much more compactly. The Ultiworld footage is much better for this; ESPN runs their camera frame too tight….I am not sure how much longer Ironside can keep doing the same thing and getting the same results. In the face of another failed campaign, the pressure to make a big shift only increases.
Random Thoughts on Women’s
Despite the big upset in the finals, the women’s field was pretty chalk; the same four teams were in the semifinals….I am surprised that Heist and Nemesis haven’t combined. Chicago to Madison is only a couple of hours and neither team has the depth for a real campaign…Riot’s lack of handling (following three brutal ACL losses in Rohre, Alyssa and CO) really showed in their loss to Scandal…Speaking of Scandal, I’ve rarely seen a team clicking that well. Everything they did worked. Look at Opi’s flick goal to go up 5-2; O’Conner wasn’t open when Opi let go of the disc….Fury’s defense in the finals was below their usual standards….congrats to Showdown; I was wrong on that one.
I’d like to do a Nationals Q&A next week. I can pull questions off of the comment section or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.