Photo by Bob Durling –

Table Setting

The double worst double… legendary failed comeback… slipping the upline switch… a double dip for yours truly… third handler says what…



Short Sips of Hot Bitter Blackness. A hint of far-off stone-fruit sweetness. A smoky thickness lingers from the roast.

The double team is fun. It challenges throwers, allows defenses to be more creative and in turn forces offenses to be more aware and adaptable. There is nothing about it I don’t like.

The key to an effective double is setting a trap for the offense and springing it on them unawares. Many teams do this on the sideline and use two defenders to prevent the throw back across the field while relying on the sideline to further restrict the offense.

In other occasions teams use a sandwich double, placing one mark on the forehand side and one on the backhand side (or really any opposite sides). This is an interesting variant as it restricts the ability of the thrower to wind up and deliver a deeper throw but provides space between the marks in two clear directions.

Another type of double, which can turn into either of the above, is the situational double. This double usually comes from a reset defender or from the mark on the previous thrower, by any defender close to the disc can initiate. The second defender generally anticipates that the new thrower will look upfield first and, as such, leave a blindspot for the double to attack from. Common to all of these is that setting a sufficient mark to prevent a quick throw which neutralizes the double is vital. This does not always happen:

The worst worst double team.

Both Eric Miner and Brent Bellinger get down on the pull and decide to pressure Ben Faust, who has received the first pass from Andrew Bosco. This is good. However, neither Miner nor Bellinger stops the wide flick Faust floats to initiate the offense. More than that, they both (before the forehand is out of Faust’s hand) run away from where the disc is headed in order to cover Bosco (the original pull-catcher) who is now fading to the near sideline to create space for the offense. Bellinger and Miner only realize this after Faust has taken full advantage by cutting upfield. By the time Faust’s foray finished he was involved in every other pass of the offense which advanced the Rumble to about 15 yards from a goal. And now Fast, marked by Miner, easily centered the disc to Bosco, marked by Bellinger. This is a strong opening for an offense based on the miscue at the original point of contact with the defense. Until this it was unknown that Faust was sufficiently learned in the ways of the force to convince D.C.’s pair of defensive Storm Troopers that the disc in his hand was not the one they were looking for.

The worst best double team.

Alex Simmons picks up the disc near the pylon dring a tied game with 52 seconds to halftime. Jake Rainwater is covering the dump and freely concedes the upline cut to Matthew McDonnell. Nick Hirannet, on the mark, bites on the around and gives away the inside. McDonnell catches the disc as Rainwater is trailing by four yards and slowly closing down on the mark. Hirannet seizes this opportunity to survey the field. McDonnell sees nothing in front of him and then decides to look at nothing while executing a huge own-head-turning-away-from-the-field backhand fake which Rainwater utterly ignores as he applies a strong mark.

Hirannet takes this opportunity to sneak up on the thrower. Which is a good plan. But he neglects to take into consideration that Rainwater is also unaware of the coming double. Rainwater pivots to take away the around (which was very clearly one of Philly’s dominant strategies in this game to combat Boston’s empty-backfield vertical stack) and Hirannet slides behind him to take away the already-taken-away around.

The thrower takes the unguarded inside to an uncovered Whitecap (who has two uncovered players in-frame he can throw to- one in the center and McDonnell on the sideline), AND THE DOUBLE-TEAMED MCDONNELL CUTS UPLINE TO GET IT BACK. Billy Sickles, sprinting in, comes to a stop three yards from McDonnell and apply the mark. Hirannet and Rainwater, who originally doubled McDonnell, are four yards behind all Whitecaps. Might be a good time to double team… instead, as Sickles hops to take away the around which isn’t coming, the throw goes to Christian Foster who is open by four yards directly in front of him, who then throws to a Thomas Edmonds who is open directly in front of him by over five yards.

This is where it defies expectations the way only ultimate can: Edmonds turns to his resets, of which there are three: One of whom is trailing by quite a lot and not really covered, one of whom is not really covered and near the center of the field, and the third and closest is covered quite tightly.

The mark, Matt Glazer, does the same thing that every other mark on this possession has done for the Spinners: Rotate entirely around on the mark to stop the around pass. This time Edmonds flicks the disc directly into Glazer, who had committed to blocking that pass before the thrower considered throwing it as that was the Spinners’ clear dominant strategy during this point. Excellent execution on the part of Glazer. As chronicled previously, this is was a quick fastbreak goal for Philly.

Hirannet and Rainwater: The worst double team, saved in the most ultimate way. This could have been a Boston break going into half, but the Spinners stuck to the script as a team and fended off the Whitecaps.

Be careful out there with your double teams. A good player can run away from you or break down the defense all the better.


Tastes good so far. Future health consequences are sticky.

Some things which happen in sport simply boggle the mind.

The rule of thumb I’ve used is that it takes about one minute per point to stage a solid comeback in the MLU.

The Whitecaps this past weekend were down four points with 2:22 remaining in regulation. That means in order to stage a comeback, they would need to average under 36 seconds per goal without letting the Spinners score or drain the clock.

This began inauspiciously as Boston received the disc, worked it up past midfield for Tyler Chan to chuck it out the back of the end zone to Josh Markette well-covered by Gabe Colton. Turnover.

By 1:48, Colton has run the disc to the front of the end zone. It remains unclear why he didn’t take longer at least to compose myself if not overtly stroll the disc into play. Regardless, things were marginally less bleak than previous for Boston. Markette decides to brighten the outlook with a gentle handblock above the goal line at 1:46, followed by picking the disc up and throwing a goal in one motion by 1:43.  (One 39-second goal.  That’s over three seconds too long.)

Boston proceeded to run its time-saving device of pulling an inch or so. This remains a mind-bending end-game gamble. It certainly saves time, but it also presents the opponent with a remarkably short field and, if they’ve done their homework, they will be prepared for your play. (Take a gander at Misha Herscu vs. Trey Katzenbach at the ISO spot in front of the thrower for solid body-position ultimate). Philly loses 20 yards on a reset to Hirannet, who fakes a swing to and throws an easy upline pass behind Dave Baer who sees the pass bounce off his hand.

Execution error gives Boston the disc with 1:31 left. By 1:21, they’ve scored to pull within two.  (That’s more like it: a break goal in 22 seconds.)

Boston calls a timeout to pull from midfield. Philly gets the first pass off cleanly, but Hirannet then throws an upline pass to Katzenbach, who is D’d in the end zone by noted block-producer Christian Foster. By 1:05, Boston is down one.  (And this break goal was all of 26 seconds!)

Good distance on the ensuing pull, and good coverage. Philly shows patience though possibly too much passivity as multiple players are standing still covered tightly. Then Sickles throws a reset turn to Hirannet going backwards. Poor execution and by 0:11, the game is tied.  (A 54 second goal to cap off the run!)

Woah. Would have liked to see that in-person to understand more about the field state during a comeback like that, and also to better gauge the fan crowd involvement. Sometimes in these situations it brings the crowd into the game, in others it is the crowd who brings the team back into the game. When that happens more often in ultimate, we will have true home-field advantage.


Ah, the core of the non-veganoid breakfast. Boiled. Scrambled. Poached. Fried. Loco Moco’d.

And now the slip counter to the upline cut switch.

As mentioned last week in this space, one of the ways to counter a defensive switch on an upline cut is to get a throw into the space between the switchers before the switch completes, which leads to an unmarked thrower.

In this clip, as the trail defender lags and the lead defender opens his hips, the cutter, Dan Suppnick, stops his upline motion and slips into the space between defenders. The trail defender has not applied the mark yet, so there is no pressure on the throw, and the lead defender has established neither positional advantage over nor proximity to the cutter. Both defenders are conceding the inside lane. Suppnick takes it and the thrower delivers the near-goal.

The space for both the thrower and the cutter are available for this play on many switches. However, the league will adapt to counter this tool too. What then? The fake slip to the continued upline cut?

Stake with your eggs?

First place in the East, respect for New York hosting Boston, possibility that the Dogfish are coalescing, ability for D.C. to win in 2015 without Alan Kolick, Portland to not let off the accelerator, Philadelphia to prove whether they can hold onto the top spot, tiebreak for second playoff spot in the West, true midpoint or farther for all teams…

Waffles or Pancakes?

Choose… but choose wisely.

Philadelphia 21 at D.C. 23

As we’ve discussed previously, the Spinners, in their wins, tend to have a large group of players who complete 100 percent of their passes and throw a lot of passes. This has been the script each time that the folks from Philadelphia have bested the Whitecaps. When they swam against the Current previously this season, the volume throwers of the Spinners all suffered errors on the day, as every Spinner to throw more than seven passes also threw an incompletion. That is characteristic of the Current: They force their opponents to make mistakes. Their downfall in 2015 compared to their title run in 2014 has been their ability to avoid sloppy play.

Seattle 16 at Vancouver 19

Seattle’s strength seems to lie in forcing the opponent into unusual offensive decisions via scheme and awareness. The issue against the Nighthawks is that their offense features Kirk Savage behind the disc, Brendan Wong ahead of the disc and a healthy dose of Morgan Hibbert. Alongside this starter set for an ultimate club, there is a strong cast who, while they each possess distinct characteristics as players, fit into the style of the Nighthawks. The folks from Vancouver should pick up their second victory (and season series tiebreak) over the Rainmakers. This game could have lasting implications on the playoff picture, unless the Dogfish make a run of it.

Boston 21 at New York 17
This game should be a drawn out yet definitive Boston victory. I don’t see that the N.Y. defense has the wherewithal to force Boston out of the style they’ve developed. In last weekend’s loss to Philadelphia, the Whitecaps were overmatched by an offense which dominated the game (and were the only line to touch the disc during double overtime), despite the late execution errors in regulation. N.Y.’s offense has yet to show that type of sustained ability to convert against anyone other than D.C. I doubt Boston’s offense will allow the N.Y. D to score consecutive breaks.

Portland 22 at San Francisco 16
Portland wins easily. They’re firing on all cylinders right now on offense and defense. Their command of the disc when they are on offense either after a pull or after a turn is the clear identifying characteristic to their play. The Dogfish aren’t ready yet. That sounds odd nearing the middle of the season, but some teams simply take longer than others. Others still never coalesce into anything of meaning. While we don’t know what the separate Dogfish will unite to form, they are not yet equipped to tag a Stag.

Beverage of Choice

Players or matchups to watch.

Khalif El-Salaam
Last weekend El-Salaam looked out of sync with his fellow Rainmakers on offense. Despite that he registered a block and a highlight grab over his defender for a goal. That is to say, he was still putting the work in, but was consistently off such that his timing cost him either the space or the time necessary for his cuts to come in the flow of the offense. This week he’ll have a tough matchup against the Nighthawks who, like D.C. in the East, have an ability to take their opponents out of their offensive game plan but are themselves uneven on offense. What El-Salaam is able to manufacture downfield will go a long way to determining whether the Rainmakers will have a chance in this contest.

Blake, Oung, and…?
Who will be the third cog in the D.C. offense from behind the disc? While the D.C. offense is dynamic in the sense that players move around and are not tied to one section of the field, it is clear from the early season that Calvin Oung and Kolick are the prime starters for this offensive unit. Not only that, but they both come in as subs (Frequently along with Peter Prial) to score on defensive points or to play on hybrid lines in specific circumstances. By playing close attention his weekend we will get to hear the D.C. offense speak for itself without its clubhouse leader in offensive vocabulary.

The Place to Be

A tour of Catholic Universities on the weekend starting at The Catholic University of America on Saturday to see the first place battle between the Spinners and the Current. Then to St. John’s University on Sunday to see the Whitecaps attempt to flummox the Rumble in their first visit to Queens.