Watch It Wednesday: 2016 US National Championships – Semi-Final

Seattle Riot v San Fransisco Fury


Seattle Riot entered 2016 Nationals as 2-time National Champions and 2-time World Champions but were most highly regarded for their consistency, Riot have made the semi-finals consecutively for the last 20 years.

Thanks to an excellent off-season they began the tournament as 1st seeds and went unbeaten in Pool Play before defeating Vancouver Traffic 15-9 to reach the semis.

In 2003 San Fransisco Fury defeated Boston Lady Godiva (7 Championships from 1995-2002) and began their own dynasty. From 2003-2012 they won 8 National Championships and 2 World Championships.

The emergence of Boston Brute Squad, Denver Molly Brown and DC Scandal has produced greater parity in recent years but Fury remain as competitive as anyone. They reached the Semis with victories over Scandal and Texas Showdown.

Game Analysis

00:50 – On Fury’s first possession we see a zone. This is a 3-4 diamond zone, there are 3 defenders close to the disc and 4 defenders downfield each responsible for covering players in a different area of the field.

The ‘deep’ covers offensive players who go deep. The ‘wings’ cover players that move towards the sidelines and the ‘mid’ covers any players in the middle of the pitch, between the front defenders and the ‘deep’.

Crucially these players are marking offensive players, NOT Space (Empty space can’t throw and catch so poses less of a threat). So if no offensive players are in that space they find another way to help, whilst staying close enough to there space to recover if an offensive player does populate it.

At 1:15 you can see the ‘mid’ stops marking a player as they move into a handler position. She instead looks around and finds another player in the mid space to mark.

4:30 – We now see a zone from Fury. Structurally it looks similar to Riot’s, there are 3 defenders very close to the disc and a diamond of 4 downfield.

However, note how Fury often have 6 players within 20/30 metres of the disc. This may be because the Fury zone is more aggressive (a more condensed zone means short passes are harder but players are left unmarked in dangerous positions further away from the disc – for example Seattle no.6 at 4:58) or that Seattle’s zone offensive style involves more players near the disc and the Fury defenders are just reacting to that spacing.

The 4th point of the game includes a lot of turnovers, primarily on over aggressive decisions by the throwers so it is not a surprise that a timeout is called after the goal. Most timeouts are called when one of the teams is struggling offensively and wants to discuss tactical adjustments or give players time to calm down and focus more clearly.

At 10:55, we see a “Space Throw” reset, something we worked on at training on Saturday. The space near the thrower looks very congested and so the thrower decides to throw the disc into empty space backwards, rather than asking her teammates to cut until they get open.

At 11:30, Fury put on a different zone. This one took me a while to work out, it is pretty unconventional. Fury #3 is man marking #25 Alyssa Weatherford. The other 6 players are 3 near the handlers, and 3 downfield, a mid, a deep and a wing. Evidently Fury decided that Weatherford was key to Seattles offence and decided to play 6v6.

CUSB Bologna executed a very similar tactic against German side Bad Skid in the semi-finals of the European Championships last year.

Around 15:45 Fury lose their offensive structure completely. This can be seen in the distance between the cutters and the throwers – it is way way way too big. This means there is no deep space to attack, so cutters can only come under.

This is interesting because as a club we struggle a lot with our receivers  ending up too far away from our throwers.

20:25 – Whilst some of the throwing decisions in this game have been poor the catching has been exceptional.

21:00 – After a period where both teams played person defence we now return to zone. Here Seattle are running a traditional ‘junk’ set. A junk involves having 4 defenders near the disc, spaced to create a semi-circle (called a cup), a wing on each side of the field and a deep.

24:30 – Again the Fury receivers are very deep and it means deep throws require a lot of power. That power comes at a cost of accuracy and control.

24:45 – Great space throw into the break side here. The force was preventing a throw directly to the cutter so the thrower placed it out wide into space for the receiver to run onto.

29:00 – In the 1st half both teams played quite passive zones. This means that the primary objective of the zone was to force lots of passes and patience from the opposition.

But after half time we see a more aggressive zone from Seattle. It is the same 3-4 diamond but notice how the front 3 defenders are positioning themselves to prevent passes to the near side of the field. This is called a ‘trap’. The idea is to force the disc to a sideline and then trap the offence in that position by preventing throws to all the receivers near the disc, even those behind the thrower.

35:00 – Often a zone will be passive on the up wind sideline more aggressive on the down wind sideline. The idea being that the offence is weakest when it has to throw into the wind, so that the best time to try and force a turnover. Here Riot are passive with the disc near the camera but get lots of players close to the thrower once the offence is trapped on the far sideline.

39:30 – Zones typically have two of three key objectives.

1. To force the offence to complete lots of passes.

2. To fore the disc into vulnerable areas and then put pressure on to create a turnover.

3. To confuse and disrupt the rhythm of the offence, in an attempt to cause poor decision making.

Both teams have mostly used 3-4 zones. These zones typically struggle to achieve objective 2, with only 3 defenders near the disc the defenders can’t prevent all possible short passes. 4-3 zones can achieve objective 2 but often at the expense of objective 1, there are less defenders downfield so when the offence finds a gap they can move the disc forward easily.

I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy the remainder of the game in peace 🙂

Watch Smart

In zone, just watch a single player and think about how her role changes as the disc and other players move and how she absorbs information as quickly as possible.

Watch how both teams swing the disc laterally to change the offensive angle of attack. Note how often and with such conviction they fake throws.

Both teams really struggle to complete deep shots, why do you think this was?


Andrew Hillman

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