Monday, October 05, 2009

Top Seven

So I'm walking on the sidelines of the backdoor finals, feeling decent about the game. Our defense got one break early, but our defense gave it back just before the half to keep things on serve (our opponent's advantage). Now we're in the second half (8-9), and things are still on serve when I walk by AJ. He asked me something along the lines of "when it is time to go top seven." My first reaction was the honest one . . . we don't have a top seven. I wasn't trying to make some bold statement about our team and how we'll play everyone regardless of the situation. We just really don't have a top seven. Realizing that was a somewhat unsatisfactory answer I was able to give it a second try and say somewhere around 11. AJ thinks earlier, but I worry about going top seven too early, getting a small push and then not being able to finish it out because our top line is too tired.

Rival has always been a team that uses its depth. Part of playing mixed in Atlanta is that between Chain and now Bucket, we're not grabbing insane talent that just shows up. We've got to grow our talent, and deal with the fact that we are going to have relatively few players that are awesome everywhere on the field. We maybe have a top 4 or 5, but after that we've got a stable of people who could fill in those remaining two spots. As the game pushes on to 9-10, I go with AJ's advice and tell our sub-caller to put in the best line we got. We score the O (10-10) point, and then keep pretty much the same line in for D. They work hard, but are unable to get the block (10-11).

Many of those players (top-seven) are cores to the offense, and we just ran them hard on a unsuccessful defensive point. So they go out there and get broken. Then it happens again. Now they are even more tired, and we're running into problems. We're down (10-13) and our best offenders have run the last four points at the end of a nine game regionals and have to go produce again. Say what you want about how we should have run more track workouts, our people are tired and we have to come up with a solution. We put in other players for this O point. None of us are two way threats when cutting, and we're not the best defenders on the team (just ran the last 4 and one of them is about to tear his hamstring). I'll reference my other post about mixing it up, but we score this point with relative ease, putting us back on defense.

Now comes the big question: who do we put in one defense? We're down 11-13 in a game to 15 and our best defenders have just gotten a point rest. Surely this is a time when we put in our top seven and get the breaks we need. But when look at the line, I see some of our youngest, least experienced players out there and another captain who I don't think will be upset when I call him "not fast." Players on our sidelines are getting antsy asking "is this the best line we can put out there?" I'm curious myself, and look to our defensive captain (who is on that line) and he gives me the "it's cool" hand motion.

That D line, featuring a slow guy, two girls around 5'2" and two guys around 5'8", threw a 3-3-1 zone and got the turn then the break as that "slow guy" lays out on an in cut for the score. Then they keep the line and do it again. The game is tied 13-13 and our best line has just gotten 3 points of rest.

The lesson I take from that experience is that "top seven" is the best seven at the time, factoring strategy into the mix. We hadn't been very successful against their offense all game. The players we put in (while good) were no where near our best players, but they knew how to run this one D (that we put in for rare occasions). By mixing up the defense (which we had done before) with different personnel we maximized the confusion as their handlers held the disc for a long time looking all over the place. Maybe when you have a lineup of people that can't be stopped the idea of top seven becomes less situational, but there is no doubt in my mind that our defensive captain (Michael Wood) knew what he was doing and that was the best seven we could have put on the line at that time.

One last thought. This reminds me of a post on Zaz's blog about all racing for the same end point. Zaz points out that many teams seems to be playing the same style which turns the competition into who is the best athlete or at least who is the best at Style X. Throughout the game Wood had learned that we weren't necessarily going to beat them at Style X, so we switched it up and learned that they weren't very good at Style Y.


wood said...

Don't give me all the credit. Teddy mentioned the 3-3-1 earlier in the game. Our 3-2-2 had made them work in the first half and I felt like it was time to try the 3-3-1. Looking back I've thought of lots of things we probably could have done differently. I think our 2-3-1-1 would have had a lot of success.

One thing that happens in stressful situations is that you make more conservative decisions, and I think I did this by playing more man than we normally play. Even though we mixed up the coverages a little, it just wasn't working and it took too long for me to pull the trigger on changing it up. Or, maybe we suckered them with all the man and they weren't ready for the zone. Who knows.

Yaacov said...

Great post!

Andy said...

Nice post

Since I'm unfamiliar with your team, who plays the role of sub-caller?

My team tried to have a sub-caller but since the team is relatively new the sub-caller got a lot of heat for his decisions. What do you do about people complaining about playing time?


Martin said...

We have 3 captains, one of which (Teddy) calls subs. He is very good at it, and it is a difficult task to manage so he doesn't have to do much else (aside from play). We focus on playing everyone in the right situations, which is part of why the burden is so heavy for Teddy.

I don't know how often people complain about PT. We try to keep things as flat as possible, but it can be difficult, especially over the course of one game. I know there were people that were upset that they didn't play more in the finals.

Our captains do a good job of setting a tone about PT. We trying to play everyone as much as possible, and often we don't play our captains as much as we "should." Our goal is always to put the right people in for a certain situation, based on the over all team strategy.

jonathan said...

Could someone describe how those Rival zones (3-2-2 and 3-3-1) differ? Is it just simply 2 deeps vs. 1 deep? Thanks!

Kyle Weisbrod said...

This is a great post.

I have a lot to talk about from this weekend and will post soon, but I do have one question. At 7-7, point to take half, don't you put in your top 7 on that line?

Especially considering you started on D (and were on D at 7-7), I was surprised that you didn't put out a better line at this point. This break would have been worth two and if you didn't get it your top 7 would have had halftime to recover.

That said, I'm not intimately familiar with your team. I was really surprised (as it sounds like you were) that the 7 that got those two consecutive breaks were able to do so.

Martin said...

The biggest difference in the our 3-3-1 and 2-3-1-1 is the movement of the players and where the open passes are. In our 2-3-1-1 there is an open pass to the middle of the field unless our roamer (one of the 1's) pulls all the way up. In the 3-3-1 there is a person in the middle who will step up and mark if the disc gets to the middle. We hope (between the two) to switch up where people are looking and get them to take a pass without accurately assessing it.

At 7-7 we played a strong line, but not our "top 7." It is a good point the we should have played a better line at 7-7 because the break would be worth two (assuming we could score on O, which we have to assume). However the line was very similar to the line that got us our early break.

Maybe it is just our team, but our defensive goal is to put a team in a situation where they have to throw a pass that they can't evaluate well. Jukebox had great ladies who were on average faster than our defenders. Putting Tree on Curtis changes what they do (which is good) but if that means shifting their offensive focus to their ladies (where they have a more clear advantage) it may be bad for us. I'm not suggesting that this is the reason the line was called, but as a hypothetical (and the reason for the post) our best 7 players may not be the best 7 to have on the field in a certain situation.

Kyle is right, getting the break then would have been worth 2, so regardless of the strategy, a team should go with their immediately optimum strategy for that point due to the rest at halftime.

teddy said...

The second half breaks were:

1. Right out of halftime (Jukebox went up 7-9)
2. Two points later to 8-11.

Then traded to 11-13.

The 7-7 point was: Sam Mitchell Diesel (best woman man line); Wood, Sean, Fox, Paul. Wood and Fox are easy choices there, Sean was playing well, and Paul looked fired up. I'm not sure who else would be the best line (Tree or Kress, who hadn't played any D?; Edge was hurting some, KFunk hurting; Kocher or Mati?).

I will publicize my 3-3-1 only if Kyle erases it from his memory right after!