Sunday, April 23, 2006

06 Metro Boston Women's Sectionals

For the Whiptails, this story begins last weekend at Yale Cup and involves a subplot that I didn't get into in my recap post. Going into that weekend, the team goals were clear: advance to pre-quarters and give it our best shot for quarters. However, we were also aware that the tournament had direct seeding implications for Sectionals...and Regionals. One of the things we have been working on as a team is grappling with a paradox of athletics: how to remain in the moment when you aware of that your actions, in the present moment, impact what occurs in the future. I think separating outcome goals and process goals can really assist players in developing the maturity to manage this paradox. As a team, we are having much clearer discussions about what might occur in the future, based on possible results, but I have been so impressed that the girls do not develop expectations and are able to remain focused on the present task at hand.

So, going into Yale Cup, I was aware that it was likely that Metro Boston was going to be, in the words of Adam Tarr, the "dreaded" 9 team/5 advance format. For those of you not up to speed, it is a pool of 5 and a pool of 4. The winners of the pools play one game on Sunday for 1st and 2nd. The other 7 play in a round robin to decide 3, 4, and 5. My goal was to place higher than Harvard and Northeastern and snag the coveted 3rd spot behind Tufts and MIT. I have the greatest respect for MIT, but, this year, I felt that the only shot we had at the championship game was to be in MIT's pool at Sectionals, not Tufts. I feel that my speculation was correct based on the the end results at Yale Cup (10-5 loss to Tufts, 9-7 loss to MIT).

Beth N, being the great SC that she is, rewarded teams for their hard work at Yale Cup and used those results to seed Sectionals. We, as predicted, were seeded #3, and while we felt we earned it, we by no means felt entitled to that spot. We felt very well set up to achieve probably our primary outcome goal for the year: qualify for Regionals. Pool A was Tufts,
Harvard, BU, Brandeis, and BC. Our Pool was MIT, Wellesley, BU, and Tufts B. I spent a fair amount of time talking with my captains, Nell and Naomi, about how we were going to approach the weekend. I felt we developed a solid plan for subbing and tactics, and we had a brief meeting after one practice to over with the team what we were planning. As the week progressed, the weather forecast for Sunday got worse and worse. By Thursday, it called for an inch of rain and 20-30 mile an hour winds. Clearly, winning our pool and avoiding playing four games in crap weather became more urgent.

Our start time, due to the fact that we were in a pool of four, was a very civilized 12:30pm, and our opponent was Tufts-B. Our plan was to open up the rotation and rest some players that were a bit tweaked. The conditions were a bit windy, but we were able to score upwind goals and beat them 13-0. They went on to have a tough day in that they did not score a goal, but the girls on that team are getting great experience. It is their presence that leads to the solid foundation upon which that program enjoys great success. I would love to have a B team like Tufts-B.

The next game was against BU. We had beaten them in a scrimmage two weeks before, so we felt we could beat them. We did want to manage our rotation, though, and save legs for MIT. We came out strong and took half 7-3. In the second half, we went up 8-4, and then I felt like our rotation lost some focus, or. perhaps, BU dug their heels in and scored on an upwind goal after we had trouble getting organized after a turn. Before you know it, is 9-8, 12-10 good guys receiving. We were able to trade it out to cap 12-10. I spoke to Nell about whether she felt our confidence was rattled, but she felt we were fine.

So, now comes the death match. I think we won all our flips during the weekend, and we choose side each time...going downwind. MIT pulled to us, but we couldn't score. They basically ripped though us and scored on a big upwind flick. They scored downwind to make it 2-0. We receive going downwind, but can't score. They go upwind again with ease, and as one of their players catches it for the goal, I say to Nancy "We are taking a time....." There is a call. Disc goes back. Turnover. We score downwind. We get a chance to set up our zone and we get solid play from Snitch, Jersey and Tyke. With LB as last, Nell and Langdon can push to the difficult wing spots. MIT seems to make some mistakes, and we are able to get it to 3-2, good guys. Our rotation is very tight at this point, maybe 8 players. Our sideline is wonderfully selfless. Active, engaged, and trusting that the right decisions are being made. We discuss before pulling it that we sometimes give up runs during the second part of the first half. We decide that we won the game to three and now it is 0-0, game to 4. Both teams are playing well and battling hard. We manage to take half 7-4, and Beth informs me that cap will go on in 15 minutes. I felt that the game was going to go to cap, so we needed to maintain that buffer. I made the team aware of the cap, but I told them that we could not play for the cap....we had to earn the win.

While we had some unfortunate turns on goal attempts, MIT also had goals that were dropped. MIT had some very good displays of sportsmanship, the most noteworthy being Darlene uncontesting a strip call by Angie that the MIT sideline clearly felt was not a strip. We ended up scoring upwind in a series of points in which both teams traded upwind goals. After MIT scores to make it 8-6, Nell calls a timeout because we need to refuel for the last several points. I look at my watch. It is 5:12pm and the cap is going on in three minutes. Now, I think it can be unseemly to "play the clock", but I think it important to keep in mind what is at stake: achieving our goal of qualifying for Regionals and avoiding playing 4 games with 11 players in the cold rain. The next point has a lot of turnovers. MIT gets close to scoring, but can't convert. I can hear the people gathering saying how hard the teams are playing. We can't convert. Then, finally, Naomi throws a big backhand around the mark to Tyke, and it is 9-6. I look at my watch and it is 5:24. One minute to hard cap. I go over to Beth to confirm what is going to happen. Beth remarked to me frequently over the weekend how much she loves this event, which is, for many of the teams in our section, the big tournament of the spring. She is also clear about the rules and their implementation. She spoke to Nancy and Nurit and we played the point. They scored...hard cap went on....game over...9-7. That always feels like a strange way to win. That does not take away the fact that my girls worked very hard and played well against a very talented and experienced team.

As it turns out, the weather was not so bad today. Our game against Tufts (who won their pool) was at 11:15am. The game started, as Josh McCarthy put it, "very clean", and we traded to 2-2. Our O seemed a bit edgy, though, and we took a lot of deep shots. I think the decisions were good ones, but we seemed a slightly frantic. As the first half progressed, we began to have trouble with their cutters and they seemed to be very good at taking what we gave them. We kept trying to adjust, but if we overplayed the open side, they dumped it and went around the other side. I mentioned in my Yale Cup post that they seemed "high strung". I do think that they were much more calm in this game. We did have some success playing zone against them. We were able to force some risky throws, but they were able to come down with them. They took half 8-4, and we ran out of gas. They closed it out with a 14-4 win. Alicia and Sangwha (the Tufts coaches) are quite the pair, though. Alicia came over and gave me a big old hug after the game, but Sangwha, as usual, never has the time to shake my hand. And I have been her freaking teammate for the past two years. I thought Tufts played very well and are right where they need to be heading into Regionals. I was very proud of my girls for going out and achieving what they wanted to do. They showed a remarkable ability to remain focused.

I had a chance to peruse the SRT and, based on the results from our region, I will take a whack at seeding the top 9 for Regionals.

1) Dartmouth- beat Tufts at Yale Cup
2) Tufts-obvious
3) Wellesley-has to be seeded higher than MIT
4) MIT-Beat Brown at Yale Cup
5) Brown
6) Northeastern-has to be seeded higher than Harvard
7) Harvard-beat Vermont at Yale Cup
8) Vermont-
9) Yale

18 comments:

Sam TH said...

Much as I like your seeding, there are a couple results that might challenge it.

1. Vermont beat Northeastern 9-8 at Yale. However, Northeastern was missing their star handler at Yale Cup, and Harvard beat Vermont 10-2, so I think having both Northeastern and Harvard above Vermont is right.

2. Yale lost to Smith (13-4) on the second day of Yale Cup. The result wasn't reported as part of the tournament results, so you need to look at Smith's or Yale's individual score reporter page to see it. Smith will, at best, be 5th in their section (results not entirely reported yet). Seeding Yale behind them would put them down around 13th. It would be nice to know the other results from that pool at Yale.

Finally, a stab at seeding the rest of the field:

10. Hampshire
11. Williams
12. Middlebury
13. Smith
14. UMass
15. UMF (lost to UMass and Smith)
16. Amherst (no real way to compare them to UMF)

sam th

Sam TH said...

Here's what the score reporter thinks about the seedings:

http://betainverse.googlepages.com/newenglandwomen

Note that this doesn't take into account the requirements for regionals seedings, plus some of the WNE results are still missing.

beth said...

i'm going to take a crack at the top 9 for regionals, too, although, i do agree with your top 5:

1. dartmouth
2. tufts
3. wellesley
4. mit
5. brown
6. yale (did they beat northeastern at yale cup?)
7. northeastern
8. harvard
9. vermont

thanks for a highly competitive and spirited weekend!

Gambler said...

Congrats on qualifying for Regionals and good luck!

gcooke said...

Sam.

Thanks for those points. I forgot about the Smith win, and I agree...it would be good to have those round robin results.

Also, thanks for the bottom part of the bracket. I did not mean disrespect by leaving them out...I was just too tired to work on it.

Beth and Gwen,

Thanks!

-G

beth said...

after doing some crazy research for the results from yale cup, i'm changing my initial 6-8 seedings:

6. northeastern
7. harvard (finished better than yale and northeastern at yale cup, but finished behind northeastern at sectionals)
8. yale

the bottom half is a wash due to the finish at sectionals; i believe a couple of the teams in wne did better than others at yale cup but failed to finish the same way at sectionals.

regionals will be very exciting....i can't wait!

beth

gcooke said...

OK...well it sounds like we have it all figured out.....

I will start planning....

-G

Sam TH said...

Just when we thought we had it all figured out ...

It turns out that Amherst and UMass didn't play their final game on Sunday [1] (probably due to rain), and so that game (which determines who goes to regionals) has to be made up later. Also, WNE only gets 6 bids, and SNE gets 3. So 1-12 remains the same:

...
10. Hampshire
11. Williams
12. Middlebury

After this it gets complicated. If UMass beats Amherst, they finish ahead of Smith. Then the bottom 4 would be:

13. UMass
14. Smith
15. UMF
16. Conn College

If Amherst beats UMass, they finish *behind* Smith. Then the bottom 4 should be:

13. Smith
14. UMF (better RRI than Amherst)
15. Amherst (better RRI than Conn College)
16. Conn College

All very complicated. But at least it's easier than the mens' seedings, since UMass, who would have been the 1 seed, lost to Amherst, who would probably have been the 10 seed at best.

[1] http://www1.upa.org/scores/tourn.cgi?div=122&id=2473

gcooke said...

Hey Sam,

Thanks for the update. I appreciate it.

-G

Lucy said...

Perhaps it's administratively impossible, but isn't there a place for 'strength' as well as 'size' in determining bids to regionals? I'm clearly biased, but the ENTIRE metro Boston section (5 bids)seeded ahead of the WNE section (6 bids) makes it seem a little harsh on BU...

Lucy
Harvard #57

gcooke said...

Hi Lucy,

It is interesting that the subject of strength bids to Regionals does not come up more often.

From my perspective as a coach in the Metro Boston Section-

For the last 3 years, our section has been 9 teams 5 advance, and there are 6 teams that tussle for these 5 slots. While I felt that this year was our best shot in the last 3 of finishing higher than 5th (where we ended up in 04 and 05), I think our outcome goal of qualifying for Regionals acknowledged both that it is a very competitive section and that we were by no means a "lock". Clearly, BU's performance, while missing one of their stars, shows how much parity there is in the section and, honestly, I felt going in that we could end up any place between 2 and 6.

This does not at all answer your question, though. To do that, hopefully, a bit better, my perspective as a National Director might be more helpful-

The subject of strength bids to Regionals has come up in our discussions. I think it is fair to say that the UPA views growth as a priority in terms of achieving more stability, both financially and competitively, and promoting growth is a prominent component of the UPA's mission statement. I think most players would agree that growth is especially important, and needed, in the women's division (both college and club). So I think creating incentives for more teams, and players, to participate is the prudent course of action. If, for example, due to this year, BU (or another team on the "bubble") works hard to create a B-team and another new team were to form within the section, then Metro Boston would have a good shot at a 6th bid. The UPA is pretty consistent about this and there are many threads on RSD which question why the UPA prioritizes regional representation over getting the best 16 teams to Nationals.

There will come a time in which strength bids to Regionals could be a viable option. I just don't think we are there yet.

Lastly, my own little soap box moment-

Maybe I am naive, but I view participation in the Series as a kind of "contract". Meaning that I understand the rules and regulations. This is why I am a huge fan of frequent and early communication (more on that in an upcoming post) by tournament and UPA coordinators. As one of the 4 teams vying for 3 spots every year, we take sectionals very seriously, and going into Sectionals viewed our game against BU as a "game to go" and the most important game of the year. This is not to say that I am making a comment on BU's preparation or their understanding of the situation. I am just trying to bring to light how we (meaning Wellesley) frame the year in terms of both the state of our section, and the UPA'S commitment to growth and stability.

-g

Sam TH said...

George -

To return to the original topic of this post, the beginning of the sectional finals was, as Josh said, very clean. Everyone in our little spectating section was impressed that both teams scored upwind without a turn on their first posession.

But after that, the game became significantly less clean, on both sides, with both teams taking low-percentage shots and having several turnovers per point. Why do you think this was? Did the defenses adjust, and take away the easier options? Did people get greedy, and try to score right away? I'm curious.

Lucy -

Search RSD for "strength wildcard" or "size wildcard" or "2 bids per region". You'll find every argument anyone could ever come up with, many times over.

gcooke said...

Sam,

OK...first I am offended that you did not come and introduce yourself. Or...more likely...we have met before and I didn't put your face to a name.

Tufts puts consistent pressure on our offense. We have to work very hard and suffer minimal mental lapses in order to secure any kind of success. I think we did not have the physical and mental desire to sustain such an effort.

I think both teams are very good at adjusting and have acknowledged to each other that we enjoy the chess game.

In terms of the number of turnovers per point, I think that the O efficiency of all teams was much higher than in the past and that fewer teams are playing solely a field position game (another post on that coming soon). This is not disagreeing with you about how clean it was, I just feel that a lot of progress has been made. I am actually not concerned about how clean the game is and ugly is fine with me....I just don't want to waste our legs in doing so.

I can't speak for Tufts, obviously, and I don't really want to talk about what I think made them play less clean.......don't want to play my cards just yet......

-g

Sam TH said...

George -

I didn't realize you didn't know who I was, since we've spoken a bunch of times. I'm Katie on Harvard's husband, and an observer, as well as on WMD.

parinella said...

George,

Is there any talk of guaranteeing each Section at least two spots to Regionals, since most Regionals have at least that many spots to Nationals? It seems that the UPA jumps through way too many hoops in crafting their formats to make sure that everyone gets a "fair" shot just in case the top 6 teams all ended up in the same pool, but ignores this simple case. Imagine the horror if one day Sockeye and Furious have an elimination game at Sectionals because the Bay Area had a 60 team Div 2 Sectionals and got 13 of the 16 spots to Regionals.

gcooke said...

Sam,

Of course. My bad. As I said, I couldn't put the blog name with your face, and I had you pegged as living in Connecticut for some reason.

Now I have got it.....

-G

Jim,

A "minimum # of bids to Regionals" concern has come up in the ND meetings. I believe we spent some time on it this past Jan. I don't seem to recall the specifics of the conversation.

In terms of that specific example, "horror"?? I am not sure I think of it like that. Maybe that would be the final step toward Sectionals actually meaning something, so instead of moving toward a direction in which teams are guaranteed that they have slots based on "strength"...they would have to actually earn their way out of Sectionals.

Seriously, the above is in jest. My real point is that it is in the mix as far as items of concern go.

-g

Sam TH said...

Returning to regionals seedings, I emailed Keri and now all the games played Sunday at Yale cup are up on the score reporter. [1] Because of format changes, some of them are reported under "other results" at the bottom of the page. There aren't really any results that change my opinion on how the seeds should go.

[1] http://www1.upa.org/scores/tourn.cgi?id=2257

Neva said...

Just wanted to say, nice recap, I like the coach's perspective. Can't wait for the day when I can coach college women's ulty again. In the meantime, these kinds of posts are helpful as a captain prepping the team for big tourneys. Thanks.