Photo by Scobel Wiggins – Ultiphotos.com
These Don’t Lie
Be Quick But Don’t Hurry
This old chestnut from John Wooden is concerned with making your movements and actions effective at pace, but at your pace, not that of your opponents. If you instead, rush, you may well fall into the trap of letting your opponent dictate something about your game. When you give your opponent that advantage, the risk is a higher rate of error:
Both of these turnovers would have been goals if the thrower had executed a very simple throw at his own pace. That John Wooden knew what he was talking about.
End of San Francisco
Last week, San Francisco finally got eliminated from the playoffs, despite having only one win on the season. This seems to be scheduling imbalance more than any indication of strength on the part of the Dogfish. Over the first four weeks of the season San Francisco played two games, and as such have had, for the remainder of the season, fewer games played than their opponents. In addition, Seattle and Vancouver both started out 0-2 while the Stags started out 2-0. It seemed only natural that the Dogfish would be in the race for the second place spot!
Even based solely on last season’s late-season improvement, it seemed natural that the Dogfish would be in competition for the second playoff berth. It was not to be. The Dogfish garnered their first win in the first week of play and have dropped every game since, as they have the league’s longest losing streak at six games. While we have seen solid play from individuals on their team over the course of the season, they have failed to cohere into anything more than the sum of their parts. I’d argue that they haven’t even gotten to the “sum of their parts” level as they seem incapable of stringing together offense on either side of the disc. In ultimate it is as much about connecting the dots as it is having the correct dots to connect.
Bask in the glory of the best throws:
Love this sequence. It begins of with Cole completing an upline pass of a double team, but the beautiful bit is Jeremy Norden’s crossfield flick to poached Riley Meinershagen who then finds that Sam Franer has sprung wide open for the score.
In both cases, the dramatic and immediate change of the angle of attack sets up a continuation which attacks the open deep space. If you have all of the throws, the field is your oyster.
Blowouts in the West
Seattle outscored San Francisco 7-2 in the second quarter. Over the rest of the game, the Rainmakers were ahead 13-10. 13-10 is a reasonably close game, but 20-12 is a blowout. This stretch included miscues and blocks and easy breaks and hard-earned breaks for Seattle, but how it happened is almost immaterial to that it occurred at all.
This is the one stretch that made Seattle the solid victor. For a closer look at the makings of a run like this, we’ll dive into some of Vancouver’s foibles against Portland, as the Nighthawks set a league-wide season low in breaks (zero) matching four other occasions a team has gone breakless in MLU play (New York vs. Boston, New York vs. Philadelphia, Seattle vs. Boston and Portland vs. Seattle). Of course, Vancouver had three break possessions in the nearly three-minute long first point:
While this sequence may have prevented Vancouver from ever getting a lead in this game, the sequence which turned this game into a blowout came in the final 14:58 of gameplay which took the score from 15-8 to 27-10 via a 12-2 Stags run. Below is a tally of Vancouver’s turnovers and goals during that run:
|First Turn||Throw to opponent|
|Second Turn||Floaty swing pass block|
|Third Turn||Overthrown upline into block|
|Fourth Turn||Layout block from Stags|
|Fifth Turn||Reset thrown to no one|
|Sixth Turn||Uncatchable upline pass|
|First Goal||Huck to Nathan Lam covered by Perston. Lam is surprised to score|
|Seventh Turn||Throw to two Stags|
|Eighth Turn||Reset thrown to no one|
|Ninth Turn||OB throw which Woodside blocks well off of the field|
|Tenth Turn||Huck into single coverage which neither O nor D touched|
|Eleventh Turn||Floaty huck to a cutter covered by Perston. Easy Perston block|
|Second Goal||Around break|
The way to a blowout is not often paved with blocks and spectacular plays, but instead relies on self-inflicted wounds like when Plaxico Burress takes a gun into a nightclub.
These Do Lie
12 Ties in the Boston vs. Philly Game vs. 3 Ties in the Boston vs. NY Game
On the face of it, the first seems like it would be the more exciting game what with both teams matching goal for goal over the course of a long stretch of game play. However, the second game featured New York going on separate 5-point and 4-point runs against Boston, while Boston went on one 7-point run, one 4-point run, and two 3-point runs. In fact, let’s take a look at how the scoring broke down in this one:
|Boston||# Cons. Points||# of Times||New York||# Cons. Points||# of Times|
The difference in these two games highlights something unusual about ultimate when compared to other major field sports: When the offense is scoring at will, the game is dull for all but the purists among us. When the defense is forcing and converting break opportunities the game is exciting for everyone.
Contrast this with the way we think of high scoring football games, soccer matches, and basketball games. Only the sport-mad among us enjoy the 13-10 football games, 1-0 soccer matches and 75-72 basketball games. Those games are loved because of the tension created by the paucity of scoring and the relative strength of the defensive sides. In ultimate, a game which features teams running up and down the field and rarely conceding a break results in very little variation from point to point. These types of close games then turn on a single converted break. When both teams give the disc away and go on extended scoring runs, it is due not to the offense, but to the defense.
In many ways, ultimate is the mirror image of other sports. Exciting games require great defense in ultimate. Exciting games require great offense in others.
Escape from New York
If you told New York going into their home game against Boston that they would score more breaks than holds, they would imagine a win. If you told Boston that they would have more breaks than holds, they too would have assumed a win. If you told each team that both teams would score more breaks than holds, they would scratch their collective heads and try to do mental math. In this specific game, both teams tallied more breaks than holds (Boston – 13 breaks, 9 holds; New York – 9 breaks, 7 holds), and only Boston came away with the victory.
In spite of New York’s impressive 81.8 percent First Break Scoring Efficiency, the Rumble were unable to manage a win, in particular because of their inability to score on offense. Their OSE was 30.4 percent which is well below their season rate of 46.8 percent. Boston managed to convert on 50 percent of their offensive points which is lower than their 64.8 percent season average.
First Throw Goals
In both of these situations the offense is preying on an over-eager defense. The defense rushes down on the pull, but forgets to maintain defensive structure and balance. If it is a simple man-to-man defense, then each individual defender must protect the giant space they have just vacated. If it is not simple man-to-man defense, whomever is responsible for providing umbrella coverage to prevent the deep shot must commit to doing so.
Midfield Heave(s) as Time Expires
Nice play design and execution here from the Nighthawks. The disc moves upfield and they maintain the space necessary to get a deep look to three open players with seven seconds left.
After a timeout with 14 seconds left, the Spinners play design creates an opportunity for Vince Reydams to find a well-placed backhand floater from Nick Hirannet.
After a first throw turnover from New York, Boston’s Coach Rosenthal wisely calls a timeout to give Boston a shot to go up three heading into the fourth quarter. Just before the disc comes in, the motion from Boston starts as a handful of Whitecaps cut to the low side of the field. As Tanner Halkyard cuts to the high side of the field, Alex Cooper lets fly a moonshot hammer. While not one, not two, but three Rumble defenders read the play well enough to arrive in the vicinity, Halkyard goes Goldilocks and picks just the right spot to go up strong to come down with the disc.