Monday, April 16, 2007

Sectionals

Marathon Monday. Rainy, cold, windy. I heard a radio report that this is the worst weather for the event since the early 70's. The marathon has never been canceled. I was joking with my girls that I think this might be a year in which a person from Africa does not win the Marathon. I think it will be a 5'4" 200 pound Scottsman with about 20% body fat wearing hiking boots. He will win in a 4 hour war of attrition muttering "Ay, 'caint tell me this is rain. I'll show you some frigging rrrrain. Come to the Shetlands with me, Laddy....now that is rain".

I find Sectionals stressful. In fact, it is the same kind of stress that used to make me so nervous as a player in Club Regionals. Perhaps one has to lose a few games to go in order to have their mental awareness aggressively push out into the future and concern itself with the cloud of a season ending too short; in the case of my seniors, a college career coming to a close weeks before we had planned. In our little section, there are 6 pretty clear "upper tier" teams battling every year for 5 spots. We had hoped, due a bump from 9 teams over the past few years to 11 this year that we might be able to snag that 6th bid, and, in fact, it looked like we had 6 bids up until roughly Thursday when a UPA HQ miscount was discovered and we found ourselves in the comfy confines of the ubiquitous 5 bids. Just as a side note, said from the perspective of National Mixed Director, I find it frustrating that the number of bids (obviously pending participation) is not listed on the SRT for each Section (along with other details such as the number of fields, etc, etc). I think I am going to make my SC's put this kind of info on the SRT come the fall. With the general exception of Tufts (I think they might have played in the "game to go" in 03...at least that is what I recall Bernie saying to me this past Saturday), the other 5 have gone through years in which they danced with missing the cut. MIT(new to that club this year), BU, Northeastern, Harvard, and Wellesley. Just the latest edition of the Death March in Boston(well...RI this year).

First, I must say that Sam TH and Katie did a great job running the event. They were organized, communicative, and were clear about dealing with a Sunday of cold rain and sleet. About as good as one could hope for from a SC.

I must say that I received some flak this weekend about my "Death of Huck and Play D" comments two weeks ago. I think folks are not reading my insightful comments with enough care as I CLEARLY gave myself a huge out: "Unless the conditions merit such an approach". In my book, with a lot at stake, the conditions on both days, most of time, were troubling enough (Sat: Windy, Sun: Rainy) that a prudent person might at least give HAPD, at the minimum, brief consideration. In all our games, except for Tufts, I felt we did a good job of taking high percentage long looks and minimizing giving the other teams short, easy goals. I do think that in the Tufts game that we were too quick to pull the trigger when going upwind. By the end of the game, we did have some moments of finding our offense...I just wish that I had pushed my girls to try to establish it earlier. While Tufts might carry itself with the refined air of a vintage wine that looks down upon the working class malt of HAPD, they had, for the most part, just as much trouble scoring as we did on Sat. So, to overhear the Tufts players disrespecting our team by chiding our lack of offensive abilities certainly did not sit well with me or my players. I do think it is the responsibility of the top dog to not flaunt...well, in this case it would be the desire to be a fine wine.

It was great to see some new teams and faces this year. The section welcomed the addition of Bently College (I believe the name is Wubus.....I spent some time trying to figure that out and I didn't feel like bothering their coach with my inane banter). Always great to see a new program getting going. Just a few years ago, BC was in this position, and they have made great strides with Rosie Ano coaching them. They have an effective 4-person cup, and are developing confidence in their ability to throw and catch. My understanding is that they were up on BU in the 5th place bracket before BU got it together and won the game. Great stuff from a new program. Also, Brandeis is an improving team. Well, any team would benefit from Dory Ziperstein (and Peri Kurshan as a coach). I had a chance to catch up with her on Sat and she seems to be very much enjoying working toward building a team. I understand. It was only a few years ago that I was in that position.

Then there is Tufts-B and my own Wellesley-B team. It was just a year ago that I wrote that I wish I had a B-team like Tufts. Well, we do. It has been very hard for me to give enough time to both teams. Work is busy...blah blah blah. Excuses. Luckily, Nell Weiner (a captain from last year) descended upon us and has been taking the lead with the B-team. Really couldn't be better as Nell is the same calm and positive presence that she was for the past 4 years. Not that things are totally Hallmark Card material. My girls are frustrated some of the time. They work very hard to improve upon their fundamentals. They have some veteran leadership (Liz K, Pam, Tori...who might have broken her ankle on Sat). However, they are process oriented, so my hope is that the foundation is laid for these girls to have a great 4 years as a Whiptail. The B-team drove down today, in the pouring rain, to play one elimination game with Brandeis. That is a dedicated bunch.

My A-team girls had a good go of it on Saturday. Our first game was against...Wellesley-B. Lovely. I wrote Sam TH and proposed that we have the game be our Friday scrimmage and that we could just show up for the second round. He didn't go for that for some reason. Damn UPA folks are such sticklers. I spent a little time during our first round checking out MIT vs BC. BC, as I mentioned above, has improved. We went into our second round against them determined not to overlook them, and we had some work to do on our zone. Surprisingly, it seemed like BC really struggled against our zone. We were able to get a lot of short goals and secure a much easier victory than I anticipated. Next round was against MIT. Big game. A win maintains us with our 2 seed in the pool and gives us a good shot at Tufts. We have some success with our zone and are able to go up a couple when a very strong player, Erika(?), for them lays out for an errant throw and breaks her hand. This is a big loss for them. After that, they seemed a bit deflated. We found our offense (Angie, who was not feeling well, played a few points and was great with her break mark throws) and had success with our zone. As I have said before, Nancy and Nurit are great coaches. The team is strong fundamentally and they play good defense. MIT would go on to lose its first round on Sunday to Harvard and will play BU in the game to go at a later date as the last round of the tournament was postponed. Lest a coach become a bit cocky with their success, let's remind ourselves that MIT is just 4 years from the best run a NE team has had in College Women's Ultimate. They will be back...and it might be in just a few weeks.

Our final game on Sat was against Tufts. The are a very good team. Caroline Chow is clearly one of the best throwers in the Region. They are deep, play good defense, have a patient offense, and they crushed us a Yale Cup. My girls, however, really wanted to come after them. There were many incentives at play: qualifying for Regionals with the win, getting a later start on Sunday, plus there was, I guess, a large party to attend on campus that night. I don't even really want to know about those kind of things. I felt this was an opportunity to work on our mental toughness as we could play with the awareness of what was at stake without the tightness of be concerned about what was at stake. Good training for Regionals. The game was not pretty, really. There were several very long points in which Tufts would turn it against our zone and we would sort of stand around...and, with no cuts, we would just throw back into Tuft's end zone...repeat ad nauseum. In general, Tufts really challenged our zone with good popping and handling. We were able to force a lot of turns and get some risky throws out of them, but I think if you give a team 40 looks at your zone...they better break it. 65 minutes later it is 5-5, capped game to 7 (in our pool of 6, games were to 11). We pull to Tufts and get a nice turn in the open lane, but can't convert. Tufts scores upwind to take the lead 6-5. We receive but turn and then start trading with Tufts. About half way through the point, Sam TH says to me that we forgot the half. I thought to myself, "The Half...what is he talking about". Oh yeah, it is a game to 11, remember. I guess We (meaning Tufts and Wellesley) forgot about the half and just "played through" without mirroring, or more importantly, us PULLING to Tufts. Obviously, we had just gained an unfair and significant advantage. Well, Tufts scores to make it 7-5 and the game is over, clearly. There isn't even a discussion. Looking back, though, I wonder what would have happened if we had been able to punch it in and tie up the game? My opinion is that the "course of action" should be consistent. In other words, we are either "playing through" OR we are replaying the point. It is inconsistent to have the possible outcomes be ONLY: a) Tufts scores and wins or b) Wellesley scores and we replay the point. So we were able to avoid a potential nasty problem. Luckily. Tufts went on to beat Northeastern on Sunday to win the section. Congrats to them...they are clearly the top of the class.

Our loss to Tufts and the three way tie in pool A meant that we played BU on Sunday morning. Loser of that game drops into the 5th place bracket. In the pouring rain. And sleet. My girls showed up on time and in good shape. I think most of them didn't even go to the big party. BU is clearly amped up and gunning for us. I warn my girls about hypothermia and that they need to self-monitor. We go down 0-2 as we can't throw in the rain and BU is playing good defense. Kathy Dobson has done great work there. BU is athletic, has confidence in its O, and they play good defense. We manage to score and have a chance to put pressure on their offense. We play zone and they really give us all we can handle. We are able to get some short goals, but we have very little offense as open side cuts to the forehand side are heavily fronted and several long forehands literally slip out of our hands. We struggle to 6-6...capped game to 8. We take half after we tweak our zone a bit and get a short goal. We pull to them to start the next point and are lucky to get an early turn which we punch in to secure the win and a bid to regionals. My girls ran into their cars to keep from getting too cold. BU is a very good team. I see that they are playing MIT in the "game to go"(postponed). Boy, both those teams really would be quality additions at that event.

Our final game was against Harvard. Jeff Listfield said to my captains that he was going to open up his rotation to get PT for his newer players and prevent injuries for his starters. We walked the disc up through their zone to take the first point, so we never saw zone again. Harvard is a much stronger team now that Ellen has returned. She killed us with her forehand. Basically, they scored most of the time that Ellen and Lucy were on the field, and we broke them when they weren't. I thought we played well, though, and earned a 13-7 win. After shaking hands, everyone ran into their cars and headed home. Sam TH made the right decision to postpone the final two games(MIT v BU, Wellesley v NU) to a later date.

So, it was a successful weekend for us. Min came up to me and said "I was a bit worried after Yale Cup. I thought that was as good as we were going to be". There is always work to do, but we are certainly building in a positive and organized way.

12 comments:

gapoole said...

For whatever reason, I feel like Sectionals was not overly stressful for me on Saturday. This is somewhat surprising, because the tournament was poorly run in several ways--site changed at the last minute, format changed at the last minute to fit only four fields at the new site, only 2 bids to Regionals because the SC is new and inexperienced, Sunday cancelled because of the weather. The entire tournament was reorganized into one big double-elimination bracket for 15 teams, and we now have to fight through the back door to get the second bid to Regionals. Despite all that, I think we worked through early-morning jitters and found our offense for our last two games on Saturday.

It's good to hear your girls are playing well, especially on the mental side. I feel like this aspect of the game has been raised for a lot of teams lately, that mental toughness in general is gaining popularity as something important. I find that having a coach at a tournament, like we did on Saturday, is an enormous boon.

Congratulations on making Regionals.

gcooke said...

Hey Glenn,

Thanks for the comments. 15 teams...2 bids...that is tough. I looked over the schedule and your results. Looks like you are in a pretty good place to fight for that second spot.

Good luck in the make up games.

-G

Tarr said...

Just as a side note, said from the perspective of National Mixed Director, I find it frustrating that the number of bids (obviously pending participation) is not listed on the SRT for each Section (along with other details such as the number of fields, etc, etc). I think I am going to make my SC's put this kind of info on the SRT come the fall.

That would make my day. It's really frustrating for me to try to puzzle out whether a SC was trying to work around a problem with a given format, or whether they just put the format up wrong. Let alone cases like this where the SC makes a subtle mistake creating the format and I don't catch it, or a case like this where the SC never puts the format up at all, despite me trying to help a few times. (I am working at getting something published there, so that link might stop looking bad later.)

I would actually prefer if the standard way to create a series event involved a script that asked you the basic questions, and then automatically imported the proper format.

Tarr said...

Here is the link I screwed up last post.

Glenn,

Glad to hear it went OK for you guys. Your format was simply the best option in a very bad situation.

It would be nice if your section had more bids, but given the incredible size of the Metro East open division, you shouldn't really have expected any more than three bids. That one extra bid could make all the difference, though.

gapoole said...

I suppose I don't have much experience with tournament formats, especially when the results are important for bid allocation, but it was a little disconcerting to get all the information late, and have that info include only 2 bids in a double-elim format. I am envious of sections with 5 bids, that's just ridiculous. I like the idea of having a script->format generator, it could be adapted for general tournament use to help out TDs everywhere.

It's true, though, we still have to take care of business. Is there any way that the situation could have been improved, other than getting the teams to submit everything on time? Incidentally, how do we get the ratio of teams-on-time to Regionals bids?

gcooke said...

Hey Glenn,

Those are some good questions.

In terms of the first question (improving the situation), while it is by no means official, if one had been paying attention, one would have noticed that changes to the Club Series Guidelines (specifically around rostering deadlines) preceed the College Series Guidelines by 1 season. I would suggest taking a look at the CLUB series guidelines to get a sense of what MIGHT happen next year.

Second question(How is ratio determined?). That can be found in the college series guidelines. Here is the specific link:

http://upa.org/college/2007_college/series_guidelines#reg

-G

Sangwha said...

George,

On behalf of all of the Ewo, I want to apologize for any disparaging comments that may have been made about your team or your team's strategy during or after our game against the Whiptails at Sectionals. I whole-heartedly agree with you that Sectionals can be very stressful and, despite our relative success this weekend, it would be wrong for observers to think that our team walks into Sectionals assuming that we will win games, particularly when we're tied at 5s with the soft cap coming on. I hope you and your girls will accept our apologies and chalk up any unpleasantness on our part as a bad reaction to a very stressful situation.

The Ewo work very hard at becoming better frisbee players but we also recognize the paramount importance of Spirit of the Game and respect for all opponents. I think that most teams that play us would agree that my girls usually play with a lot of Sprit and respect. If we failed in that respect in some way this weekend, we should work harder on that aspect of our game, just as we would on our forehands.

Thanks for a great game and see you at regionals.

Sangwha
Coach - Tufts Ewo

gcooke said...

Sangwha,

Thank you very much for those kind and thoughtful comments. Apology accepted. No lingering feelings at all. I just want to make sure that I point out that we very much enjoyed playing your team and that we enjoy playing a quality team like yours that takes SOTG to heart. This minor occurence was dealt with in our huddle and I think your perspective of the stress of the situation is very savvy.

As you say, we work hard at being good frisbee players and your team's obvious abilites serve as a role model for all of us in the section.

-G

Tarr said...

it was a little disconcerting to get all the information late,

Agreed, that's a problem. As you say, probably an inexperience thing. It was disconcerting for me as well, trying to figure out a 15 team tournament on four fields.

and have that info include only 2 bids in a double-elim format. I am envious of sections with 5 bids, that's just ridiculous.

No, it's not ridiculous, it's normal. 2 bids for 15 teams, at the sectional level, is ridiculous.

Is there any way that the situation could have been improved, other than getting the teams to submit everything on time?

My favorite idea for a solution is to introduce another layer of tournaments between sectionals and regionals for Metro East college Open, and any other regions that get that big. This is not easy logistically, but it allows us to give more teams a good bang for their UPA buck.

samth said...

George -

Thanks for your kind words about the organization of Sectionals. It was lots of work, but certainly worth it to see all the great ultimate this weekend, and all the players giving it their all despite the weather.

I also want to say that one of the things that I definitely appreciated over the weekend was the benifits of having so many experienced coaches, almost all of whom I already knew. It certainly makes it easier when teams have the experience and continutity that coaches bring, and all of you were a big part in making Sectionals run well in tough conditions.

And finally, I would be remiss in not thanking Brian Sauro (aka Cape) at every opportunity, without whom this tournament would surely not have happened at all.

Rosie said...

Hi George,

It was really great to catch up with you at Sectionals. It's wonderful to see the Whiptails continue to improve from year to year, especially with some big wins over BU this year. They are quite fortunate to have you as their coach. I had a chance to chat with Nell who is just such a lovely gal. She did a great job coaching your B Team, and I appreciated the kind words she had to say about my BC girls.

And thank you for your shout out to BC:
Always great to see a new program getting going. Just a few years ago, BC was in this position, and they have made great strides with Rosie Ano coaching them.

This is actually my first year coaching this very young and talented squad (before that I was involved with the BU program 2001-2006). There are only 4 returning players from last year, none of them seniors, and all of whom had some pretty bad habits to break (hope they aren't reading this!). The rest of the team are first year players, mostly freshmen. Our focus this year was to build our bench strength, work on fundamentals, and to improve on last years' record (they didn't win a single game). They are a dedicated, hard-working, and extremely motivated group with exceptional leadership through their captains, Meagan Brown (junior) and Jackie Ouellet (sophomore). You can expect to see great things from BC in years to come.

Best of luck at regionals. I'll see you out there.

Rosie Ano, Coach BC Flix

gcooke said...

Hi Rosie,

Very nice to have you chime in. Nell has really been a savior this year. It has been a bit of a "problem" for me (I really can't call it that at some levels) trying to be involved in both teams this spring. I feel like I haven't given the B-team enough. Nell, however, is perfect. She is positive plus she is informed by experience on that very team her first year.

I am glad to hear that your team had a positive year. It is an exciting time when a team senses that it can build from year to year. Great stuff and they surely benefit from your consistent presence.

Awesome.

-G