Thursday, February 28, 2008

Frisbee Strategy: The Intentional Walk

I'm fairly high right now.

We had the Men's Competitive League finals tonight, and our team was playing against the other team that made it to finals (as you might expect, given that we both won our semi-final games, which occurred last Wednesday while I was in Pasadena). Now, going into the game, I thought we had a decent chance against them, because we beat them the first time we played them. On the other hand, the second time we played them they crushed us, so I also thought they could beat us.

We started out on D and got a turnover, then scored the first point of the game. They scored the next two points, with us throwing a scoring opportunity away (literally) when an errant hammer toss floated westward out of bounds. We got it together with a nice huck deep to tie the score at twos. And then they reeled off three points in a row before we knew what hit us. It was around this time that the two best players on their team started to take the game over. They basically play at a different speed than all the other players on the field. If I were Nopey, I might call them "3-sigma" ultimate players. We hung in there though and got the next point to make it 5-3. But then they got two quick, easy points (largely thanks to the efforts of the 3-sigmas) to make it 7-3. The game had all the makings of a blowout.

It just irritated me that these two guys were totally dominating the game. I thought, shouldn't we be doing everything we can to stop these two guys, and make the rest of their team pick up the slack? We had tried a little zone defense, but it hadn't been very effective. I decided that it might time for a "modified" zone D, one where we have a normal three man cup, a deep-deep, a short-deep, and two guys who shadow their best players. The truth is that no-one on our team could come close to covering their best two players one on one, but if you have help deep AND help short, then your job becomes a lot easier.

Somehow we scored the next point (7-4 now) and after a brief discussion, decided to implement the game plan. After all, we HAD to do something. And then a beautiful thing happened... We scored the next five points and took half 9-7!! I was stunned. I had no idea it would be so effective. The first point we tried it, they weren't expecting it, so things were a bit chaotic on their side, and we capitalized for a quick score. They adjusted fairly quickly, trying a different strategy on the next few points. They figured they could send their two superstars deep, thereby making it a 5 on 4 in the shorter field and theoretically giving them an edge. Unfortunately for them, it didn't work too well. I'm not too sure why, exactly. I think our whole team kept gaining confidence with each point, and we just picked up the energy on D. We also played smarter on O, although it helped that we had a number of easy throws in transition.

Things kept going our way in the second half. We scored the first point after half (which was big because we were receiving). Then I'm pretty sure we got another D and score right after that. Finally they put one on the board, ending a streak of eight straight points for us. I was worried we'd lose momentum, but we kept going strong. Soft cap was called with the score 14-10. We got the next point (huge), but they got the next two and it looked like a comeback might be possible. But we shut them down and got the game-ending score to win 16-12.

It was an amazing game. It really looked like we were going to get blown out, and then all of the sudden they were the ones getting blown out! The funny thing is, if it had been a close game, I don't know if I would have had the courage to suggest a "weird" strategy on defense. In a way, it might be better that the game looked like it was getting out of hand early on!

I definitely had a blast. My first league victory of any kind in ultimate frisbee!


mandee said...

Yay! Great job! My team also won in finals today!

Jeffra Diane said...

That's awesome, Shane. Wish I could have seen it, sounds very exciting.