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Furious Wins BCUC

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On Saturday evening, in Jericho Park — cradle of Vancouver ultimate — Furious George took home another B.C Ultimate Championship title and defended their #1 western seed going into the national championships.  This is how it went down.

With some 14 rookies in the system this year, and with only 5 legitimate practices under our belts, provincials were just as much about developing a team as they were about business.  And the qualities of this new edition of Furious are quite different from yesteryear, so both the old guard and the new need to feel out each other’s chemistry.  We need to experiment, to accomodate each other, and to find the style of play that will give us the most success.  Sometimes, this can be frustrating to watch from the side, because you can see golden opportunity or talent go unnoticed or under-utilized, respectively.  At times, watching our offense is a bit like watching a Redstone rocket careening across the sky — energetic, a little bit scary, and maybe not completely in control of itself . . . but if you point it in the right direction, it goes the distance.

The format for provincials this year was happily straightforward.  With five teams vying for an equal number of CUC bids, a simple round-robin adequately served the purpose.  Thus, the whole tournament played out in one afternoon (granted, 13:30-21:30 is a somewhat long afternoon).

We carried away our first 3 wins against Blackfish, Refinery, and Kelowna’s Sofa Kings without much to note.  Each team produced its own flashes of brilliance — these are, after all, genuine clubs that practice and take their games seriously — but without the consistency to pressure our offense for the entire game.  That afforded us the comfort of being able to feel out our offense, to make mistakes without the paralyzing fear thereof.  On the other hand, that same breathing room and margin for error can breed complacency, which is a problem unto itself.  I firmly believe that one of the defining traits that separates an elite team from a good team is the ability to differentiate and to evaluate the false positives of poorly executed successes and the false negatives of well-executed catastrophe*.  Walking that tightrope and always taking exactly the right lesson from every experience is one of the most mentally demanding aspects of sport, in my opinion.  It’s the reason why some teams can practice for years without a medal and why some seem to have the golden touch.

So, in that light, our real growth opportunity of the day came from Vancouver’s Richie and Friends.  Despite their disarming casualness,  Richie and Friends is a large team  (~25 strong?) populated by notably talented friendships (albeit reluctant to practice), including several U23 players, veterans of UBC’s 2010 apogee, at least a couple of world champions of one sort or another, and even a former MLU Nighthawk.  Richie Tam is a popular guy, evidently.

The Friends challenged Furious with the first good demonstration of poaches we had seen so far, and we fell victim to it right away.  We must have thrown the disc into the defense four times in the first five minutes of play, and the Friends happily surged ahead with two breaks.  After a time-out and a couple of vociferously-phrased reminders of how to play offense against poaches, the Monkey responded nicely.  Forcing turnovers and weaving more intelligently  through the poaches, we took the first half 7-3.

Not to be outdone, in the second half, Richie and Friends upgraded to an orchestrated zone defense (a footloose variant of a 1-3-2-1 “wall”) — again, the first that this edition of Furious had encountered.  And here, we stalled again, stumbling over our own differences in vision and tactics.  I happen to find this academically interesting, so here I digress.

There is, of course, no specifically “correct” way to play a zone defense and no singly correct way to play zone offense — one plays according to the context.  Most humans are reasonable intelligent beings, and they recognize risks and rewards.  The problem, though, is that habits built up thusly in one context can stick, and we may apply them inappropriately against a different opponent.  And in this game, it was visibly ironic that our speedy handlers tended to hold onto the disc and allowed Richie’s zone to collapse around them.  Whereas we had previously been guilty of rushing through our man-to-man offense, we adopted an excess of patience (of sorts) in the face of their zone.

Now, in some circumstances, this makes some sense for the offense.  The idea is to bait the defense — draw them over to one side, then break them.  Once you have, the defense is left lopsided and wrong-footed, and the offense has plenty of space to work with on the opposite sideline.  This style of baiting and playing the zone can even work very nicely . . . until you realize this zone is actually playing you back.  Richie’s zone wasn’t falling for any tricks, and they were in turn baiting the break attempts.  It was the kind of defense that one should fight with speed and footwork, but we were trying to fight it with our throws that day, at precisely those times when their formation was at its strongest.  So for the third quarter of the game, Richie and Friends found their way back into the game, getting as close as 11-8.

That said, Furious regained itself, and we adapted.  We scored, put our D-line on the field and took the game with a tally of 13-8.  Lesson learned.

Next lesson: Furious George vs NexGen.

 

*I am a master of well-executed catastrophe.
Photos by NKolakovic.

Alex Davis

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