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.