Photo by Scobel Wiggins –

These Don’t Lie

The Boston Area Women’s All-Star Game

This whole game was excellent. So… Go watch it. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who is aware of the women who play ultimate in Boston for Brute Squad, Slow White, Wild Card and Siege, but for obvious reasons, here at the MLU we often get into a male-centric view of ultimate. This game is a perfect example of how deep the pool of ultimate talent is across genders in the U.S.

This game had everything a spectator could wish for from positive runs from both Team Old School (8-4 first quarter) and Team New School (7-2 over final 15:06), to quarter-closing plays (More on this later…), to a goal- and game-saving Kara Hammer layout in the end zone with two seconds left on the clock.

There were baited blocks, on-point hammers, off-hand breaks, give-go’s maintaining leverage, hucks, skies, point blocks, poach blocks, surprising drops, blown coverages and more. In short, this game was ultimate. Sounds reductive, but it is important to me to note the women’s ultimate and men’s ultimate and coed ultimate are all just… ultimate.

One of the differences in this game was that team Old School and team New School agreed to play four quarters rather than to points. If they had played to points, the game would have ended 15-10 in favor of Old School. Instead, team New School went on a 7-2 run to close the game and nearly managed to tie it up and send the game to overtime. The game took just under two hours (1 hour, 55 minutes) and ended 17-16.

In short, I’m pretty much finished with the notion that games to 15 are appropriate, let alone games to 13 or 11. Time between points should be reduced, point totals increased and consideration should be given to playing to time in club as well as in the MLU and AUDL. Forty minutes of play can be consistently accomplished in under two hours.

Anyway. Back to the gameplay proper. Let’s look at some stats from this game in comparison to the MLU game records in 2016: (Head here for the full box score.) 

PlayerStat2016 MLU Rank
Kami Groom8 Points (4G, 4A)Tied for Second
Aly Heath4 BlocksTied for Fourth 
Lien Hoffman6 IncompletionsTied for Third
Claudia Tajima1.955 TPOP12th Highest
Angela Zhu38 Catches8th Highest
Angela Zhu44 Completions5th Highest
Angela Zhu46 Throws7th Highest
Angela Zhu3 DropsTied for First

One of the things I’ve been trying to work out for ultimate this year is a variation on basketball’s concept of Usage Rate and below you’ll see the top five in a set of categories based on usage rate, points per 100 possessions, TO per 100 possessions, and different btw points / 100 and TO / 100: 

PlayerTeamPGATOCmpThrCmp%TPOPUsagePts/100 PossTO/100 PossUsage Diff
Lien HoffmanNew School5236142070.00.84632.69 9.6223.08-13.46
Kami GroomOld School8442131586.67.95030.0020.0010.0010.00
Shellie CohenNew School321391275.00.87528.13 9.3818.75-9.38
Becca LudfordOld School44026875.00.75025.0012.5012.500.00
Kate FloodNew School21127977.78.76923.087.6915.38-7.69


PlayerTeamPGATOCmpThrCmp%TPOPUsagePts/100 PossTO/100 PossUsage Diff
Kami GroomOld School8442131586.67.95030.0020.0010.0010.00
Becca LudfordOld School44026875.00.75025.0012.5012.500.00
Elena SchwamOld School51417887.50.47616.6711.90 4.767.14 
Lien HoffmanNew School5236142070.00.84632.69 9.6223.08-13.46
Becky MalinowskiOld School5411131492.86.69213.469.623.85 5.77 


PlayerTeamPGATOCmpThrCmp%TPOPUsagePts/100 PossTO/100 PossUsage Diff
Lien HoffmanNew School5236142070.00.84632.69 9.6223.08-13.46
Amber SinicropeOld School1015212680.771.0.4022.002.0020.00-18.00
Shellie CohenNew School321391275.00.87528.13 9.3818.75-9.38
Angela ZhuNew School3125444695.651.51620.974.8416.13-11.29
Kate FloodNew School21127977.780.76923.087.6915.38-7.69


PlayerTeamPGATOCmpThrCmp%TPOPUsagePts/100 PossTO/100 PossUsage Diff
Kami GroomOld School8442131586.67.95030.0020.0010.0010.00
Elena SchwamOld School51417887.50.47616.6711.90 4.767.14 
Eliza ChangNew School202077100.00.4386.
Becky MalinowskiOld School5411131492.86.69213.469.623.85 5.77
Chelsea MurphyOld School101099100.00.6253.


PlayerTeamPGATOCmpThrCmp%TPOPUsagePts/100 PossTO/100 PossUsage Diff
Amber SinicropeOld School1015212680.771.04022.002.0020.00-18.00
Courtney VerhaalenOld School00021333.33.21414.290.0014.29-14.29
Lien HoffmanNew School5236142070.00.84632.69 9.6223.08-13.46
Eliza PughNew School0002151788.241.13313.330.0013.33-13.33
Sarah CookOld School0003222588.001.12512.500.0012.50-12.50

I’ll note that I’ve adjusted the Turnover numbers from the official MLU stats (likely to the dismay of Statman Luke) to count every incompletion and drop. This leads to double counting of some turnovers (like each of Angela Zhu’s three drops are tallied against her as well as the player who threw the pass she dropped) which does not happen when the Turnover stat is counted by the MLU. This is a slightly different philosophical outlook on my part in that “if you’re throwing a lot of drops, you may be part of the problem.” Anyway. The thing about usage rate is that it takes into account the ending of possessions.  That is, what percentage of the team”s offensive possessions are you ending via turnover or goal?

There’s Something about the Dogfish D…

… that keeps holding Portland under 20 points. The Dogfish, while they’ve lost both games by six points, are the only team to hold the Stags under 20… and they’ve done it twice!

Is there something here that other teams can learn from? Is it an ability to simply make the Stags take more time and throws? Or from having the correct players to matchup with the top of the Stags roster?

All I’m certain of right now is that the Rainmakers should comb over those taps for any tips they can find. I’ll be doing the same in prepping for the Western Conference Championship game…

Poach Block on the Reset

Great defensive awareness from Groom. Vicky Negus pushes upfield. Katherine Sullivan, covered by Laura Bitterman, moves in as the reset. Groom, rather than blindly following Negus upfield reads the structure of the offense and poaches into the backfield for a block. Malinowski goes deep immediately from the mark and gets the goal from Groom. Perfect poach block, assist and fast break. 


Kickblocks never lie. 

Catch in Traffic by Becca Ludford

With Lauren Sadler and Lien Hoffman sandwiching well on defense, Ludford controls the space around her, picks the perfect read and pulls down the disc.

Khalif in the Second Half

At the half, El-Salaam had one assist and his team was down 15-9. By the end of the game, El-Salaam had five goals, four assists and a Callahan and the Rainmakers had a 22-18 victory.

That’s a gamechanger.

These Do Lie

Clearing Cuts in Which the Receiver’s Back Is to the Thrower

If you watch this point, keep an eye out for the backs of players on the New School (Navy) team facing to the throwers. Specifically, #5 (Zoe Hecht) and #12 (Tess Johnson) will show their numbers as they clear. You’ll also see Johnson clearing toward the bottom of the screen blind to the thrower.

I saw a lot of these in the women’s game on Saturday. I’m certain that it is part of the design at more than one of Brute Squad’s offensive sets, considering how often it occurred. What I’m unclear on is why this would be a dominant strategy, or a chosen style of motion. Often, this player is clearing from the live side to the dead side. By that I mean that the cutter is clearing from the side both with the disc and with a large open cutting lane over to the side of the field without the disc and with a stack of 4-5 receivers on the sideline.

I fully grasp that there is a reason to get from the live side to the dead side. My question is why is this done without view of the thrower? The turn, rather than with the back to the thrower, can be made in the other direction. Similarly, the vision of the receiver, when on the sideline, should be back to the center of the field rather than straight ahead. And the followup is: Why didn’t more defenders in this situation leave their matchup and get into the lane either to constrict the throwing lane or to go get a block?

Downwind OB Pulls

This is what happens when you pull downwind and inbounds:

First throw turn
Second throw turn
Comically dangerous catch (6th throw turn)
Tipped block on 7th pass for goal
4th pass drop
(Midfield) Callahan
(Midfield) Chest block on pull-fielding (10th throw turn after a truly questionable call)
Ninth throw goal with a chance at a block
Tough fielding 9th throw turn
Fifth throw turn
Twelfth throw goal (one chance at block)
First throw drop
Fourth throw turnover
First throw turnover
(Midfield) 9th throw, game ends

That’s three goals on 15 possessions with one callahan. On three out of 15 possessions, the receiving team reached the end zone.

This is what happens when you crank downwind pull out of bounds:

Sixth throw goal (two chances at blocks)
Fourteen thows, timeout. Four throw goal (18 total)
Fourth throw block in end zone
Fifth throw block in end zone
Fifth throw turnover in end zone

That’s two goals on five possessions with zero callahans. On five out of five possessions, the receiving team reached the end zone.

Pull it in bounds, kids.

No Upwind Midfield Pulls?

In the Philly vs. D.C. game, there was not a single midfield pull going upwind. Which I find quite confusing. In a windy situation you can get a short field turnover going upwind simply by getting the disc into the opponent’s end zone and merely making them go 80+ yards rather than 40 or 50 before a goal. Particularly in a game in which players had difficulty pulling in bounds going downwind, an in-end zone upwind pull could change the tenor of the game.

The Fast Break… and the Fast Break Interruption … And the Fast Break Completed Anyway

Lien Hoffman deep block, then takes off the other way immediately, pulling two defenders. Hoffman is open for the completion across the field but Caitlin O’Connell clogs the fast break and brings more defense into the picture. In the end, O’Connell gets the goal (it was a pick’em between her and Hoffman who were both open), but the structure of the fast break is better maintained if she slows at first and avoids rushing downfield.

Trying to Call Offsides without Officials

So… who is meant to be able to make this call? Sideline players cannot make calls, and no one on the field is in a position to make the call.

This Is a Catch by Groom!

As we see this play develop in slow motion, Groom reaches in over Kate Flood’s head to get to the disc first. This is revealed only on multiple replays as the disc begins to move before Flood’s hands close on the disc. I bring that up to state that no matter what officiating system you use, this is a 50/50 call. To prevent this, Flood should catch with both hands on the front rim of disc in this scenario rather than on either side so that Groom’s hand would close in on flesh and bone rather than plastic.

This Call Lies and Lies and Lies

Let the kids play! Seriously… this is a ridiculous travel call. Yes, Bartenstein traveled. And yes, Esser bumped him. Let it go and let the kids play ball. You can see from both Esser and Bartenstein that neither thought a foul against him was appropriate. I agree with both of them.

Midfield Heaves as Time Expires

What follows is an accounting of all quarter endings in the Boston Area Women’s All-Star Game:

18 seconds to go, 70 yards
Old School manages the clock perfectly! They work up the sideline and then Hammer leads out a nice outside-in flick to Ludford for the goal. No time left on the clock.

23 seconds to go, 56 yards for New School
With a nice downfield completion to Hoffman in space, there is then a sweet give-go for the goal from Emerson to Hoffman.

The only criticism of the previous play is that New School nearly left Old School with enough time on the clock to score! Six seconds to go 63 yards for Old School was almost a half-ending goal for Heath going up over O’Connell for the sky!

28 seconds to go 65 yards for Old School
Malinowksi and Groom go to work until Schwam delivers the goal to a levitating Groom.

33 seconds to force a turn and score a goal for New School
Hoffman gets a block on the second pass, picks the disc up and calls a timeout.

24 seconds to go 23 yards for New School
Which leads to Kara Hammer’s game-saving block in a situation where she either gets the block or gets beaten and we go to overtime!