I came across this video of Stanford v. Cal at the 2009 Stanford Invite while checking out the Stanford Invite 2011 website. I linked to it, but figured that embedding it here would make things easier for everyone.
Some quick background info: the game is from pool play, and from the look of things it was played pretty late in the day. Later in the year, both teams made Nationals, with Stanford getting to Semis while Cal finished tied for last. The following is what sticks out after watching it a couple times…
- Stanford had a badass sideline trap that year, and you can see its building blocks from the starts. They force the disc to the sideline by not lunging to the force side on the mark and staying close to their men downfield even when they cut to the break side. More on this in a second…
- Early in the game, Stanford looks sloppy. Tom James has to make a huge layout grab to save a swing at 1-1, and you see a couple other miscues on the dump as well as a few defenders getting beat to the cone early in the game.
- Speaking of Tom James, he’s huge for Stanford all game, making extraordinary plays when needed and serving as the focal point of the Bloodthirsty offense. What happened to him playing with Revolver?
- Cal depends a lot on the huck, sending it deep on three straight possessions starting at 2-2.
- Another thing that Cal likes a lot is breaking the mark, especially with cheeky stuff like high release backhands. They’re pretty good at it, but they run into problems when they depend on it to the point that they look off swings and generally hold the disc longer. Again, more in a second…
- At 5-3, Stanford starts to turn the tide, getting its breaks back by clamping down on the dump and punishing Cal’s lack of disc movement. Stanford’s handlers start to strike upline immediately after throwing, and they bring the score to even at 5-5.
- After a Cal hold, Stanford continues the defensive intensity, getting two huge Ds to go into half up 7-6.
- Both teams hold out of half, but at 9-7, Stanford again brings defensive pressure that takes Cal off of its rhythm. This time they come zone, generating three turns in the same point all off of rushed Cal throws. They finally convert to go up 10-7, and they’re showed scoring again to bring it to 11-7.
- At this point, Stanford is able to cruise, getting blocks off of panicked and rushed Cal throws. To be fair, they have a few silly turnovers of their own (luck was on Bloodthirsty’s side all game, really), but it’s clear that Stanford is in the driver’s seat in the second half. They win pretty easily, 13-7.
Back to the sideline trap and handler D that made Stanford the better team. What sticks out in my head both in this video and from when we (Virginia) played them in Columbus in 2009 is Stanford’s ability to adjust to its opponent. In this case, Cal is clearly a team that likes to huck, and Stanford knows this. By forcing Cal onto the sidelines, they immediately made it harder for Cal to complete the hucks that it depended on. In our case, they knew we didn’t huck all that much, so they fronted us when the disc was on the sideline and dared us to put it deep.
I think that ’09 Stanford got quite a bit out of the talent available. Tom James was a beast, and there were certainly other playmakers (Nick Schlag sticks out in this game as an offensive force), but for the most part, the guys that made Stanford what it was were not the 6’3″ speedsters that everyone seems intent on recruiting. This team was a good example of where a coordinated and well-executed game plan can lead.