Take some time to learn from Andrea Esparza

Every now and then I see a player shine in a game and I’m left speechless. Andrea Esparza (#5 on Austin Torch) put together one of those games last weekend in the Torch’s game against Atlanta Soul.

The game film is here:

One of the ideas that’s a little hard to capture in the highlight film format I like to use is how versatile Esparza is on D. She was everywhere D during the game – what really impressed me is that she was as effective (and comfortable) guarding handlers as she was guarding downfield cutters. If you are a younger player looking to watch and learn from Esparza’s play, this versatility might be the most important lesson. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into specific positions on O or D. Play all the positions, guard all the players and someday you, too, will be just as comfortable guarding Mira Walker as you are guarding Cate Woodhurst!

On to the game.

The first clip I wanted to show involves Esparza in the center handler position on O (after an Atlanta turn) helping her team move down the field. I stopped the clip at a travel call, but even in this short clip you’ll see immediately that Esparza is great at finding the right player with her throws and also great at attacking open space with her cuts:

The next clip shows Esparza moving the disc down the field with a big flick immediately after a turn. I love the attacking decision here, and really love how fast she gets down the field after this huck to help. The long forehand goes up from the corner of the endzone at 0:07 in the film and Esparza gets the disc on dump at the 50 yard line 10 second later.

If you are guarding Esparza, you better not be sitting around watching!

He’s a clip of her handler D while guarding Cate Woodhurst. You can see how hard Woodhurst has to work both to get an inch of separation and then to get off the dump pass.

I love Esparza’s movement to fill the throwing lane immediately after Woodhurst’s pass goes up, too:

I think the lead in from Miranda Roth Knowles is the best way to introduce this next clip -> “Watch Esparza run the show on this point.” Indeed – DAMN.

Finally, a play you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Probably the most exciting end to an ultimate game that I’ve ever seen. There are 8 seconds left on the clock when the disc is put in play here, and Austin (pulling!) is down by 1 . . . .

That last play is going to get lots of attention – and it deserves every bit – but Esparza’s entire game was incredible. Again, if you are a young player looking to learn from some of the best players in the game, take some time to watch Andrea Esparza. You’ll learn a ton.

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Anraya Palmer reminds me of what I want to strive for on and off the field

I’ve been following Anraya Palmer’s ultimate career ever since the 2016 game between the All-Stars and Ozone. I wrote about the game here – including Palmer’s incredible cut and throw to Emily Lloyd to put Ozone up by 1:

Ozone vs the All-Stars – what a game!

After learning more about her during the 2016 season, including about her work in youth coaching, I awarded her the 2017 Michelle Ng Inspiration award:

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

Here’s the incredible point (at 14-14) in Ozone vs All-Stars game that really introduced me to Palmer’s game:

In the Atlanta Soul vs Austin Torch game last weekened viewers got to hear Miranda Roth Knowles’s thoughts on Palmer (#9 on Atlanta Soul) early in the game:

At the end of the first quarter we see Palmer get a great block deep. Really nice positioning and field awareness here. Also, as there were only a few seconds left on the game clock, nice time awareness, too!

Once of the slightly difficult things about writing about Palmer’s play in this game is that she was mainly on the D line and point after point after point the player she was guarding wasn’t touching the disc! That’s a great illustration of Miranda’s point that the right things were happening on the field.

Here’s one example, and I want to highlight the footwork, too, since the “great footwork” comment from Miranda in the last video was unluckily when Palmer was not in the camera shot.

Finally, here’s a nice example of the Soul’s O running through Palmer. This play was called back because there was a time out called, but the players didn’t seem to know and didn’t stop playing (maybe in the pro rules you can call time out from the sideline, I’m not sure what happened).

But, even with this play not actually counting, you’ll see that Palmer is fantastic when running the Soul’s O. The catch, turn with the disc, and throw move around 0:17 in this clip is (for me) one of the most important skills for young players to work on.

I love watching Palmer on the field and I especially love all of the coaching work she’s doing, too. She’s a constant reminder to me of what to strive for – not just in ultimate but in everything: work hard to be your best at what you do on the field and off, and work just as hard off the field to help kids be their best.

I’m a big fan of Cate Woodhurst

The Atlanta Soul vs Austin Torch game last week was incredible. I’m not going to spoil it in case you’ve not see it. Here’s the full game film:

I hoping to have the time to write about several players who played in this game. To start that series I want to highlight the play of Cat Woodhurst, #26 on the Atlanta Soul. She caught my eye playing for Ozone last year – I just love her game and think that she’s an absolutely fantastic player to watch and learn from. Here’s a pic of her matching up against Anna Nazarov that I have on my office wall:

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I picked 5 plays from the Soul vs Torch game to highlight Woodhurst’s play. She is an extremely versatile player. You’ll see her back handling on O most of the time, but she’s not afraid to sneak down the field a bit and score. She’s also a tremendous thrower (with great fundamental skills that are worth studying carefully and copying!) and a pretty smart defender, too.

Here are the clips:

(1) Some really nice throwing and cutting skills

Although this is the shortest clip, I think it highlights Woodhurst’s fundamental skills really well. You’ll see

(i) A nice backhand to Maddy Frey,
(ii) Some great body positioning on a horizontal cut to get the disc back, and
(iii) A beautiful flick up the line.

Nothing here is forced at all – Woodhurst looks great running the Soul’s O!

(2) Woodhurst as a deep threat

This pass is incomplete, but it shows that Woodhurst doesn’t just sit behind the disc. You’ll probably have to watch the clip twice to understand all of her movement here because she is only on camera for about 1/10th of a second before the pass goes up.

She starts in the handler position on the opposite side of the field from the disc. About 0:13 in the film you’ll see her at the bottom of the screen heading deep. When the pass goes up you’ll see that she’s wide open.

Although the pass missed, this is a great piece of cutting from Woodhurst.

(3) Some really smart D

The clip here is from the end of the 2nd quarter and I only noticed it watching the game for the 3rd time. Austin has the disc as time is running out, but they are maybe 5 yards from scoring. Just as the clock is running out watch Woodhurst leave her player to jump in front of the thrower to clog up a cutting lane for a second. This is a really smart move – especially with 1 second left on the clock!

(4) Another smart play at the end of the 3rd quarter

I love how the crowd is counting down the time in the background of this clip!

This is a really smart play given the time constraints, but also a an example of terrific fundamental skills. Watch how Woodhurst attacks the disc when she catches it and then watch how a subtle fake moves her defender a bit and gives Woodhurst more space for her backhand. What a great play to end a quarter!

(5) Three more skills to round out the post.

I didn’t really know which one of these to pic, so I just included all of them! Two nice goals and a no big deal lefty backhand!

I’m definitely excited to learn more about Woodhurst’s game this year – both for Ozone and for the Soul. It is so great to have a seemingly endless supply of games to watch online these days! Hopefully I’ll get to see her play in Cincinnati, too.

Post publication update – Maddy Frey published a highlight video of the game a few hours after I wrote this blog post and it had a Cate Woodhurst fan sign!!!

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Georgia Egan-Griffiths is a great player to learn from

Saw a really nice game between Rogue and Elipsis 2 last night. I so happy about how many games are broadcast live these days!

Here’s the film of the broadcast:

One player who really impressed the hell out of me in this game was Georgia Egan-Griffiths -> #13 on Elipsis 2.

Here’s the first play that caught my attention. I love how she looks the disc into her and had then reacts immediately to the deep cutter. Her play her is an outstanding example of both great fundamentals and quick decision making:

Here Egan-Griffiths shows off some super smart handler cutting skills. After that, she sees the deep threat immediately just like last time. Shout out to Shannon Bubb for the deep help from the far side of the field.

Here Egan-Griffiths moves up the field quickly and finds a great position to help her teammates. Once again she unleashes a beautiful huck.

In this clip you’ll see her poise with the disc. I love how she moves the mark and I super duper love that backhand for the goal.

In this clip she’s getting the disc every other pass. It is so great to watch players take over a point like Egan-Griffiths does here. Also, the catch, turn with the direction of the disc, and quick through around 0:10 is a demonstration of what I think is a super important fundamental skill.

I probably could have included 4 more short clips, but this will be the last one. A really nice up the line d. Egan-Griffiths is a nightmare match up on both sides of the disc!

I love watching “new to me” players excel on the field. Hope I get a chance to see Egan-Griffiths play at World in Cincinnati this year!

Learning from Revolution’s D against a vert stack

I wanted to highlight the two defensive sets from Revolution on the 9th point. Their match up D – almost a version of a clam D – really disrupts Riot’s O.

Ome moment to highlight from the first clip show how Revolution hands off Cassie Swafford to the deep defender (Elizabeth Mosquera who is off screen) and picks up Sarah Griffith:

Here you see Swafford heading deep:

First Vid Pic 1

Here you’ll see the same defender (sorry, I can’t see the number) picking up Surge who is coming under:

First Vid Pic 2

The other thing to note in this clip is that the defender guarding Alex Ode from Riot (the defender in the white hat) doesn’t seem to be looking to switch. Since Ode seems to start up front with the handlers, it looks to me that Revolution’s D set here is to match up with the handlers one on one and play a little zone D with deep help with the other 4 defenders.

An interesting change here is that all of the Revolution players (aside from the mark) seem to be looking to help / poach / play zone. Notice here how the defender in the middle of the field (in the white hat) moves to pick up Nora Landri who is coming in from the back. That movement is easy to miss because of Ximena MontaƱa’s amazing poach block!

Here’s the initial set with the defender in the white hat in the middle of the field looking to pick up players coming in from the deep space:

2nd video pic 1

Here’s a pic showing her moving to pick up Landri:

2nd Video pic 2

Here’s the full clip of the D on Riot’s second possession:

I think there’s a lot to learn from watching Revolution’s D here. The trouble the D gives Riot feels like a good indication of the trouble this D would give any team playing a vert stack. It is too bad we don’t have a great view of the full field to see how Elizabeth Mosquera is positioned, but even with only part of the information on the D I think there’s something worth trying here.

A few notes from Revolution’s first possession on the 4th point

The fourth point of the Riot vs Revolution game has a couple of possessions and I was watching the first one tonight and noticed a few things.

Here’s the full possession:

The first thing that caught my eye was switching opportunity. Riot’s Molly McKeon is in the front and Bailey Zahniser is in the back and trailing Manuela Cardenas. This looks like a situation where a quick switch on D would have been easy and disrupted Revolution’s flow a little bit.

Next, an incredible play by Laura Ospina. I didn’t really notice it the first few times through the point, but she catches, goes to the ground, spins around, stands up, sets herself, and throws a perfect pass . . . in 3 seconds. I know this is a small thing and I know we’ve talked about Ospina a lot already – but wow is she amazing!

Finally, check out the cut from Yina Cartagena to get open on Jaclyn Verzuh. There’s a couple of really impressive points -> where this cut starts, the burst of acceleration to move down the field when the pass goes up from Ospina, and finally stopping and reversing direction in the blink of an eye. What a nightmare it must be to guard her!

I also want to point out some really great help deep D from Riot’s Lucy Williams. Watch her in the back stepping back to help as Cartagena bursts deep and they staying in that help deep spot until the turn. This is great work by Williams

The athleticism in the Riot vs Revoluiton game is incredible

I’ll have a couple of things to say about the 4th point of the Riot vs. Revolution game. For a quiet Sunday, though, just enjoy the athleticism on display. Wow!

(1) The huck to Shira Stern and the D by Forero

(2) Ospina vs Kelly Johnson

(3) Riot’s goal

Hopefully I’ll get a chance during this game to write a bit about the goal thrower – Lucy Williams. I think she’s one of the most underrated players in ultimate.