One thing that caught my eye in the World Games final

There are a few articles out already about the World Games final and I wanted to write a quick note about something that caught my eye watching the game. It isn’t something that makes the highlight films or the stat sheets or anything like that, but rather some nice (and quiet) work on D by the US on the Colombian woman.

At the start I want to say that the footage is a little fuzzy and doesn’t allow me to identify the two players from Colombia in the clips. I’m only able to identify the US players because I know them well and can recognize them even when they are a bit fuzzy on the screen.

The skill I want to show is defending away from the disc. The first example involves Team USA’s Anna Nazarov starting around 5:30 on the game clock:

You’ll see Anna highlighted in the box in tight person D even as the disc moves to the opposite side of the field.    It certainly wouldn’t be unusual for someone in Anna’s position here to start poaching in cutting lanes.  The fact that she wasn’t looking to poach made me think this tight person D away from the disc was an intentional defensive strategy by Team USA:

Anna1.jpg

About 7 seconds later the disc is moving up the other sideline and Anna remains 100% locked in on her player.  The only change in position is that Anna is now a bit deeper and looks to be giving up the underneath space to prevent a deep cut.

Anna2.jpg

Another 7 seconds later the disc is swinging back across the field.  Anna is still totally locked in on her player.  The only change now is that she’s moved to take away the under cut.

The disc here is in the middle of the field  (with the Colombian player positioned directly under the game clock on the screen).  The player with the disc and the two cutters coming to him are all wide open, so again this leads me to believe that something about Anna’s D here was an intentional part of the US Team’s strategy.

Anna3.jpg
Later in the game we see a similar idea with Claire Desmond.

The picture below shows the position at 38:47.  You’ll see the disc moving to the far side of the field and Desmond positioned about 1 foot from her player:

Desmond1.jpg

5 seconds later Desmond and the player she’s guarding have moved 5 yards down the field, but are still right next to each other with Desmond now positioned to prevent a deep cut.  As with the first example, Desmond could easily be poaching in the lanes here – especially since she has deep help behind her.   The fact that she’s not makes me think the defensive positioning is by design.

Desmond2

Finally, another 5 seconds later the disc is on the far side of the field.  The player Desmond is guarding is now behind the disc in the middle of the field and Desmond remains inches away from her.

Desmond3.jpg

I hope we hear a bit more about Team USA’s defensive strategy when they return to the US.  In the articles I’ve seen so far, Nazarov and Desmond are being praised (rightfully) for their stellar play on O.  I wanted to point out that they were also making important contributions on D, too.  Those contributions weren’t necessarily showing up in the stat sheet or as the camera followed the disc around the field, but rather those contributions were showing up as Colombia struggled to create open cuts from the far side of the field.

Is Team Canada’s Catherine Hui the best ultimate player in the world?

Scott Dunham posted a video of the Potlatch finals earlier this week. Thanks Scott!

The game is absolutely fantastic and both teams play really well. If you don’t want some accidental spoilers, watch the game before reading this post. If you’ve already seen the game, though one thing you might have picked up on is Team Canada’s Catherine Hui went completely bananas.

I posted a video of one of her points in my FB study group and got the following comment from Undergroud’s coach Frank Nam:

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 7.45.21 PM.png

After that I saw a fun tweet from Jesse Shofner:

Those two comments must have stuck with me because when I was out walking my dog tonight I started wondering if Catherine Hui was the best player in the world right now. So, below isn’t really a set of highlights, it is nearly all of her touches in the game. I’m sorry it is so long, but I didn’t want to make it shorter 🙂

In the game, Hui is wearing a red hat, a blue shirt and white shorts. The red hat is a lucky break for those of us watching the film because it makes her very easy to identify on the field.

(1) This example is a beautiful scoring cut after a huck. Watch especially Hui’s reaction when the huck is in the air. That’s when she gets so much separation on her defender.

(2) In this clip Hui is back handling and puts up a beautiful huck. The play her shows what makes her so unbelievably hard to guard – force her deep and she scores, force her under and she throws goals.

(3) Here she has one step on her defender when the disc goes up, but that’s all she needs . . . .

(4) This is the longest clip at 47 seconds. Even though her huck misses, what I wanted to highlight in this possession is that Hui is getting the disc whenever and wherever she wants it. She’s seeing the field so well – the game must feel so effortless for her right now.

(5) What I love here is, once again, the separation she’s getting when the huck is in the air. She’s not watching the huck, she’s cutting to score . . . which leads to another goal.

(6) This clip shows that her play is starting to change the game. Once again she gets a lot of separation when the disc is in the air to someone else. That separation causes another US defender to poach over to guard Hui and that leaves a player open for a relatively easy goal.

(7) [whoops, in my haste to publish the points I accidentally published clip 6 twice . . . ]

(8) Canada comes down in zone and matches up after a few passes. Hui is on the mark and the US player she’s marking cuts for a give and go. Hui gets a run through catch.

(9) This clip comes from later in the same point as the block in (8). Hui is poaching in the cutting lanes — way far away from the player she’s guarding. Eventually the pass goes up deep to Hui’s player and Hui has made up all of the ground and gets an easy block.

It is especially insane to note that when Georgia Bosscher catches the pass prior to the huck, Hui has just left the video frame.

(10) This clip is the 3rd example of Hui getting incredible separation when a huck is in the air to someone else. When this huck goes up Hui is 5 yards up field of her defender, and when the catch happens she’s 5 yards down the field. That hustle leads to an easy goal.

(11) Is she even on the field this point? Oh, yep . . . .

(12) Watch the poacher come flying into the lane when Hui comes under in the beginning. She’s completely changing how the US is playing defense. Watch the goal, too, I guess 🙂

So, there you go. One of the great individual performances in a game that you’ll ever see, and doubly impressive because it was against one of the best teams around.

Last year I wrote this blog post after seeing her play in a different Team USA vs Team Canada exhibition game:

Team Canada’s Catherine Hui is absolutely amazing

One year later I think last year’s post was understated.

Things I’m looking forward to in the 2017 ultimate season part 5: The rest :)

I’ve been writing about the upcoming club season. The first 4 posts are here:

Part 1: Thanks to Michelle Ng

Part 2: Riot and Fury

Part 3: Molly Brown

Part 4: Heist and Wicked

Here’s sort of a random collection of remaining thoughts:

(1) Players I hope I see on club rosters later this season

So many . . . but I saw that Kate Scarth and Mira Donaldson were not on Traffic’s roster.  They both are excellent players that I got to watch through the All-Star tour.  I hope to see them somewhere this season.

Scarth.jpg

Hayley Wahlroos made a surprise mid-season appearance on Nightlock’s roster last year – I’m hoping for another surprise this year.

Stanford’s Monisha White has been terrific in the college scene the last two years.  I would love ti see her in the club division.

(2) Veteran Players I’ll definitely miss


I saw last week that Heather Waugh isn’t with Nightlock this year.  She’s been an a key player for them forever and always a joy to watch.

Someday I hope to get permission to send my son’s clay Grumpy cat to Heather!

Also, I only noticed after writing about Fury that Sarah Carnahan wasn’t back this year.  She was incredible to watch – here’s how I drew up her play in analyzing an old Fury game:

Finally, Kimber Coles is not on the Schwa roster this year.  If you ever feel like being really really happy about ultimate, just watch the All-Stars vs Schwa game from 2015 and listen to Chelsea Putnam rave on and on about Coles.    Definitely will miss watching her play.

(3)  Speaking of Schwa . . .

They picked up Mariel Hammand which was a huge surprise.  She’s sensational.  If you’ve not seen her play before check out the 2014 college semifinal between Central Florida and Oregon:

(4) Jenny Fey on Scandal’s roster!

Wasn’t sure if she’d be giving it a go again in 2017, but I was super happy to see her name on the roster! I’ve secretly been a huge fan of her’s for years. If you watch last year’s Scandal vs. All-Stars game you’ll she why:

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Jenny Fey

Here is one crazy goal from that game:

(5) Julia Schmaltz and Jaclyn Verzuh

Both dominated at college nationals. I’ve never met Schmaltz, but I can’t wait to see more of her:

I already know Jaclyn from Riot and the All Stars when she was doing things like this:

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-40-50-am

So far this club season I’ve seen Jaclyn doing some amazing work in the clinics that Riot does in Seattle. I think this is going to be an absolute break out year for her on the field.

(5) The World Games Team

The World Games team is always a mixed bag for me because there is just no way to whittle the best players down to that small of a group.  I’ve been both totally shocked and super excited by the selections over the years, but I’ll just stick to the positives here.

I already mentioned in the post about Fury how happy I am to see Anna Nazarov on the final team.  I’m just as happy about seeing Sarah Griffith returning to her usual super amazing form after a knee injury.

Someone who has put in a ton of work over the last decade is Carolyn Finney. Here’s her Callahan video from 2011 just to remind you how good she was *then*:

I first saw her play in 2009 when Brute Squad played the UCSB team at club nationas and Finney had the unenviable (and impossible) job of guarding Kathy Dobson. More recently, watching her destroy teams on Fury’s pull play led to Gwen and Rohre “borrowing” Fury’s pull play for the All-Stars O.

It has been great to see Finney grow as leader for Fury and I’m really happy that she’s been selected to represent the US in Poland.

Away from the US, I’m really excited to see Cat Phillips representing Australia at the World Games. I wrote about her here:

I’m a huge fan of Cat Phillips

Here’s just a quick example of her skill:

Can’t wait to see who matches up against her when the US plays Australia!

(6) Finally, I’m planning to watch a bit more mixed this season

I’m always struggled with mixed because I don’t understand the cutting lanes and I get really confused trying to understand what’s going on. But I watched a bit more last year because there were players I wanted to follow more – Drew Johnson and Claire Revere on Mixtape, Margot Stert on Polar Bears, and Sarah Anciaux on Drag ‘n Thrust, for example.

Watching them I got to learn about players like Sarah Meckstroth on Drag ‘n Thrust:

Bert Abbot on Mixtape:

and I’m really hoping to see some more of 2015 All-Star Carolyn Normile on Amp this year. I don’t have much video of her playing, but you can get a sense of her cannon arm with this huck (start around 19:15 in the video) at the 2016 NW Challenge:

Overall, although I doubt I’m going to be able to see any games live this year, I’m really excited for the 2017 club season!

Things I’m looking forward to in the 2017 club season part 4: Heist and Wicked

I’ve fallen behind in my series because work got busy. Here are the first 3 notes:

Part 1: Thanks to Michelle Ng

Part 2: Riot and Fury

Part 3: Molly Brown

Today I want to write about two teams from the midwest – Heist and Wicked.

I grew up in Omaha, my first ultimate tournament was in the summer of 1988 in Pella, Iowa, and I also spent a couple of years playing with Sub Zero in the mid 90s. So I’ve got a lot of reasons to root for teams from the Midwest. You don’t need to be from that part of the country to be excited about either Heist or Wicked, though, both teams are actually impossible not to root for!

Heist

I’ve followed Heist closely since getting to know Robyn Wiseman. She’s returning from a knee injury this year and a absolutely can’t wait to see her back on the field. The knee injury didn’t slow down any of her contributions off the field, though, and to recognize that work I gave her the inaugural Robin Davis coaching award earlier this year:

Announcing the 2017 True Veteran, Michelle Ng Inspiration, and Robin Davis Coaching awards

Also joining Heist this year is Sarah Anciaux. I haven’t followed mixed carefully in the past, so my first exposure to Anciaux’s play came when she played with the US National team last year. My reaction from seeing her play is here:

Some excellent examples from Canada’s Kate Weerry and the US’s Sarah Anciaux

I’d planned to throw together a little package to highlight Anciaux’s play from that game for today’s blog post, but the highlight film form the game that Nick Kolakovic made has so many of her great plays that I’ll just share that! Look for #78 starting around 0:50, then a couple of D’s and finally another goal around 2:20! You can also see a bit of her Heist teammate – #18 Georgia Bosscher Shriwise.

I’m really excited to see what contributions Anciaux makes to Heist this year.

Finally, Heist gets my “roster surprise of the year” vote adding former Fury player Bryn Martyna and Japan U24 player Yuna Iwaoka. You never know who is going to turn up in Madison, I guess!!

Wicked

My introduction to Wicked came from Caitlin Fitzgerald and Clare Frantz who played with the All-Star Tour.

As I mentioned above, I’m always happy to see players from the middle of the country succeed, and both Frantz and Fitzgerald showed that the could play with anyone:

Here’s Frantz vs. Fury:

and here’s some Fitzgerald highlights from the Ozone game:

As I was starting to learn more about Wicked this year it was really cool to see that one of the captains, Jenna Galletta, came from Ohio State. It is exciting that players from big time ultimate programs are moving to the Kansas City area.

Also fun for me is that there are players from Nebraska! Robyn Wiseman told me that Amanda Borders (the SOTG leader on Wicked) used to commute to Heist practices from Lincoln, NE – as a practice player. That’s dedication. Can’t wait to see what she brings to Wicked this year!

Things I’m looking forward to in the 2017 club season part 3: Molly Brown

I’m planning to spend some time this week writing about a few things I’m excited about for the upcoming club season. Yesterday’s post was about Riot and Fury. Here’s the series so far:

Part 1: Thanks to Michelle Ng

Part 2: Riot and Fury

Today I want to write about Molly Brown.

Don’t even know where to start with this year’s Molly Brown team, so I’ll just ramble . . . .

I was really lucky to a couple of Molly Brown games live at the US Open last year. They were on the same fields as Riot and Scandal, so there were lots of great games to see in that little corner of the fields. It was actually super lucky because I got to see one of the most outrageous athletic plays I’ve ever seen in person when Megan Cousins made this catch (that’s been up on the wall behind my desk ever since!):

As exciting as their team was last year, some of the additions for this year are beyond exciting!

They’ve added Hannah Leathers who I got to know a bit through the 2015 All-Star tour and who is just sensational on and off the field. In 2015 after Ultiworld announced they they were broadcasting an Ozone game I thought it would be fun to write a blog post highlighting her play on D. The problem was that there weren’t really any good examples on camera because the players she was guarding didn’t touch the disc at all for the entire game. Not once! So much for that blog post – ha!

An amazing memory from the 2016 All-Star Tour was listening to Qxhna Titcomb and Miranda Roth Knowles rave about Hannah during the Ozone game. It makes practically cry every time I hear it.

Another player that Molly Brown added this year is Jesse Shofner. Shofner is doing so much great work in ultimate right now that it would take forever to try to mention it at all. One happy surprise was to see her out editing film with the Fulcrum Media Group folks at college nationals. What can’t she do??

A favorite Shofner moment for me is this short interview in the recap of the 2015 Riot vs All-Stars game. Also, reason number 2,432 to love Molly Brown this season will be seeing Shofner on the field with Lisa Pitcaithley again 🙂

Along with these two new additions, Molly Brown has players that I’ve loved watching for years. Sally Lambert was the first new player I saw throwing at my very first Brute Squad practice in 2008 – it has been an absolute joy to watch her career. Claire Chastain is one of the most fundamentally sound players I’ve ever seen and the player that I’d tell anyone looking to learn more about ultimate to watch. Megan Cousins is phenomenal, too. For me she’s a lot like Jenny Fey in that her style of play fits so well with how I think about the game. I’ll never get tired of watching her play.

Two years ago I was writing about a game that Ultiworld filmed between Molly Brown and the Capitals. That was my introduction to Rebecca Miller and Kirstin Johnson. I don’t have the game film, but here’s that blog post:

Molly Brown vs Capitals part 5: Rebecca Miller and Kirstin Johnson

Miller is an absolute super monster on the field. Watching her play is like watching the old honey badger youtube video on fast forward. If you’ve not seen her, make sure you get to Molly Brown sideline sometime this year.

Johnson’s play in that Capitals game was so great that I wrote to Opi right after the game to find out who she was. I think she missed last season with a knee injury, but I’m really happy to see her back this year. Can’t wait to see more of her in 2017.

Finally, I want to give a little shout out to Carolyn Matthews who is back with the team as a coach this year. She won a gold medal with the US Masters team last year and had this play on the final point:

I gave her the 2016 True Veteran Award

Announcing the 2016 True Veteran Award and the Michelle Ng Inspiration Award

It makes me really happy to see her back with the team this year!

Tomorrow I plan to write about Heist and Wicked

Things I’m looking forward to in the 2017 club season – part 2 Riot and Fury

I’m planning to spend some time this week writing about a few things I’m excited about for the upcoming club season. Yesterday’s post wasn’t about something I’m excited about, though, it was a thank you to Michelle Ng:

Part 1: Thanks to Michelle Ng

Today I want to write about Riot and Fury.

I’m really excited to see Riot being led by Shira Stern and Julia Snyder. My first encounter with Shira was at the 2013 US Open in Raleigh. It was her first big tournament with Riot and she was already drawing big match ups!

and she’s come a long way since then!

It has been great to watch her grow both as a player and as a leader.

I don’t know Julia well, or really at all. But I’ve watch her play a ton. This point from the Riot / Fury semifinal game last year really showed me a lot about her as a player:

From the roster announcement it looks like they’ve picked up a ton of great players including Steph Lim from Fury (and the All Stars!) and Lucy Williams from UW and Mixtape who I’ve loved watching for years.

Happy, too, to see players like Sarah Davis and (hopefully) Qxhna and Rohre returning from injuries, Surge playing at the World Games, and Calise, Paige, Dom, and Gwen playing with the beach worlds teams (sorry if I missed anyone).

I could really go on forever . . . the team is full of people who have done amazing things for the sport. It is so fun to follow them.

Fury –

There’s a lot to love about Fury, too 🙂

I’m happy that there’s even more MIT representation this year with Yelena Gorlin returning to the roster and joining Nancy Sun.

I’m beyond happy that they’ve picked up Beth Kaylor who has been blowing me away since I saw her matched up with Hannah Leathers at 2015 club nationals when she was with Schwa. Here’s just a little taste of Kaylor’s athleticism from the 2016 All-Star Tour (and, for fun, a nice comparison with a Lisa Pitcaithley catch from 2015:

They’ve also picked up Opi Payne which will add some fire power to . . . everything!

It is sort of a fun coincidence that I posted the video of Michelle Ng speaking at the Philly Fusion tournament yesterday because that tournament was also the first time I met Opi. Talk about a fun career to follow! Earlier this year I gave her the True Veteran Award for all the work that she’s doing to promote ultimate:

Announcing the 2017 True Veteran, Michelle Ng Inspiration, and Robin Davis coaching awards

Finally, I’m not sure how I could be a bigger fan of Anna Nazarov, so I can’t wait to see everything she does this year – both with Fury and with the World Games team. Her essay about not making the final cut for the 2013 team left a huge impression on me:

Getting Cut

She’s spent the four years since writing that working and working and working and the results have been some of the highest level play that I’ve ever seen:

And she’s done all of that work while promoting ultimate all over the place and coaching the Berkeley B team. Some people are really easy to root for 🙂

Tomorrow I hope to write about Molly Brown

Things I’m looking forward to in the 2017 club season – Part 1

I want to spend a little time this week writing about some things I’m looking forward to in the 2017 club season. Maybe 5 blog posts in total – I’d like to talk about Riot, Fury, Molly Brown, Heist, Wicked, the World Games team, and probably a few other things that haven’t come to mind just yet.

First, though, I want to start not with something I’m looking forward to, but something I’ll miss.

Phoenix’s roster is out – see here to view the list:

One name not on the roster this year is Michelle Ng.

If you are reading this blog there’s acutally no way in the world that you can be unaware of the impact that Michelle has had on ultimate in the last 10 years, so I don’t really need to go into very much detail.

I first met Michelle at the 2010 Philly Fusion tournament. Fortunately I was filming games and lent my camera to Beth Nakamura and Sara Jacobi who made this short video of the skills clinic:

The video is only 5 min long, but if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing just watch Michelle for 30 seconds 1:15. It’ll give you a tiny glimpse into what motivated her to give so much to ultimate.

Even though Michelle won’t be lacing up the cleats for Phoenix this year, it isn’t as though she’s going to go missing from the ultimate scene. So, the next time you see her be sure to thank her for all the work she’s done. People like her don’t come around very often!

My own way of thanking her was to name an award after her – the Michelle Ng inspiration award. This year’s winner was Anraya Palmer of Ozone. My short note about the 2017 awards is here:

Announcing the 2017 True Veteran, Michelle Ng Inspiration, and the Robin Davis coaching awards

Tomorrow I hope to write a bit about some of the 2017 rosters. With all of the changes, though, that might need to be split across two blog posts 🙂