Monday, April 09, 2007

Yale Cup/Program Building/Death of Huck and Play D

I was only able to attend Yale Cup on Sat this year as my daughter turned 10 on Sunday. She was bit sad about leaving "single digits" and for my wife and me, it was a serious "Where have the year's gone?" moment. Perhaps it was better to be absent on Sunday. My girls did not play their best Ultimate on Sat, except for the point in which I had to go to the bathroom and they promptly discovered their offense and broke Dartmouth upwind. One of my girls said "We played a lot better at Southerns". I thought, hmmm, what has changed? With the win over BU on Sunday morning, maybe I should just gracefully exit stage left......

Despite a format that, in the words of Adam Tarr, results in "meaningless" relative final placement, there was a lot of good Ultimate down in New Haven. My prediction: the loss of an opportunity this weekend to establish strong data for determining relative inter and intra sectional strength will reek havoc in terms of seeding regionals.

...but enough whining, what about the Ultimate?

I might humbly offer that Sangwha(coach of Tufts) and I are somewhat "seasoned" at this point. We currently have the longest tenure of NE Women's coaches, and it is quite clear that College women's Ultimate has improved dramatically in the last 5 years. When I started, many teams played "Huck and Play D" as a concession to basically not having the ability to execute an offense. Now, the spring in NE is time is which even a seasoned club vet might take a moment to think, while facing driving wind, snow and rain, "should I throw this 10 yard pass? No, I think we will go for field position". So, while there were times in which HAPD "made sense", there were also times in which teams, in the most salivating of calm conditions, would offer no pretense of an offense. Literally, just pick up the disc and throw it as far as possible to no one. I think one of the biggest changes is that this is pretty much non-existent anymore (unless the conditions "warrant" such an approach). This is not to say that teams do not like the away game. It is just that now the long looks are becoming higher percentage. In addition, most teams attempt to break the mark and have enough facility to execute some form of offense. In addition, as recently as last year, it seemed that only the top 2-3 teams of a region (Tufts, Dartmouth) could quickly and effectively analyze and utilize "take what you are given" as well as take advantage of mental errors (especially D mental errors). Many turns in the past were "unearned". Execution errors on the part of the other team. Maybe the talent was deeper this year at Yale Cup, but most teams were much more effective than in the past in exploiting mental errors. That bodes well for College Women's Ultimate as there is more parity (at least in our region) and the standard of quality is increasing (for example, defense has to really earn their keep).

So, Yale Cup is an opportunity to check in on what needs work. I was not particularly concerned with results as much as keeping focus on working on our goals and trying to play good Ultimate. Saturday was a "rough" day for us, but (again, think parity) to go into the tournament with the mindset that games against teams like Williams and Yale(who made finals) can be checked off as wins (we didn't have that mindset) would be naive. Yale is a very athletic team. Always has been. The addition of Liz Middleton from Dartmouth has given them a strong and much needed handler presence. Williams is a tall team with some very talented throwers. They gave us all we could handle and we were lucky to escape with a 1-point win. Even Harvard, who we beat handily in a scrimmage several weeks ago, took half against Cornell...with 8 players(1 of which had never played with the team). The field is deep if a quality team like Harvard goes 0-4 on Sat. Then there is Dartmouth. Folks had pretty much written them off with the loss of Schmi, Rory, Liz, etc. We beat them 13-1 down in South Carolina a few weeks ago. I think everyone pretty much gave them up for dead and they came in seeded..what?..15th this weekend. Well, folks....they're back. They are fun, talented, and are doing pretty well considering the losses from last year. Tufts seems to be the class of the region, the loss today to NU in qtrs notwithstanding, as Sangwha is doing a great job there. I watched some of the Brown-MIT game. Brown, no surprise, looked quite good as they continue to re-build. They are still quite young, very athletic, and have solid fundamentals...which you would expect from a team coached by Mo and Mike K. I do think that Mike should wear his Tandem pink more often, though. It kind of breaks things up in a nice way. I think MIT had a similar Sat to what we had. Nancy and Nurit were working hard over there. They are great coaches. With all of our teams, it is easy to coach and work when we are flush with talent and experience. The real work comes when the bottom falls, players graduate, and a new foundation needs to be laid. The coaches that stick through those times are really grinding it out. I have great respect for how the coaches of Brown, MIT, Dartmouth, etc, return year after year, through the good and the bad. Our sport will benefit from their investment.

So, Sectionals will be very tough. Looking at the results, things were pretty shaken up by the Yale Cup Brackets. In terms of the seeding, I think the seeding matrix on the SRT pretty much gets this one right:

1) NU-win vs Tufts
2) Tufts-win vs Wellesley
3) Wellesley-win vs BU
4) BU
5) MIT-win vs Harvard
6) Harvard

I don't know enough about the rest of the teams except for Wellesley-B, of course, who should be seeded lower than Tufts-B due to head to head results.


Lucy said...

Funny, I had the opposite reaction to Yale Cup. Namely, (1) there was more huck-and-play-D than I found aesthetically pleasing, but if teams are going to give the disc back you can't really fault it strategically; (2) most teams will give it back, on relatively "unearned" turnovers; (3) that 'even Harvard' can take half against Cornell, and more generally be within fighting distance in each point (though not each game, this weekend) speaks more to the *lack* of quality at the top than it does to the depth of the field.

Harvard #57

gcooke said...

Hi Lucy,

Thanks for that perspective. Agreed that the line between "appropriate" HAPD (based on conditions) and "no real offense" is fine. I think that is interesting that you had a different experience.

You and I have discussed the difficulty with posting in blogs as the season progresses. We have to keep our cards hidden to a certain extent, so this blog is not as.....objective??....say, as a sports writer's blog. Also, I try to be very careful and pick my words carefull when talking about other teams. I don't think that you took my "even Harvard" language the wrong way, but I just want to make sure that I am clear. My wording there was to reflect that a quality team like Harvard was in every game and, yet, finished 0-4 on Sat. The same could be said for Williams who lost 2 double game point games. So, my intent was to say that "even" the teams that went 0-4 on Sat were in every game, and, it is not difficult to see that the differences between the top and bottom are not great. So, I hope it clear that I meant no disrespect. As to whether the top is getting worse or the bottom is getting better...that is good stuff to chat about.


Lucy said...

No disrespect was taken- my comment was meant tongue-in-cheek.

CTW said...

What would you think of have a mixed college series? Being both a big name in mixed and a college coach, you must have an interesting perspective.

Neva said...

It's great to hear there's more parity in the region these days. I think one factor that keeps the NW region so strong year after year is the parity - most teams have coaches with a few years of experience, and all teams play each other numerous times over the course of the year. By the time a lower level team has started to score points on a team like Stanford, they have gotten good at defense and at not giving away the disc - qualities that help them against all teams.

And it's really nice not to have to travel too far out of region for good competition.

gcooke said...


Thanks for the question. I am always delighted when someone asks what I think........

I have been keeping a bit of eye on the current RSD thread on this subject. As usual, the conversation dwindles into rigid belief statements (Cory, of course, is the poster child). Not really a productive forum, but I do think, amidst the dreck, there are some well thought out pros and cons.

While there will always be the "Mixed sucks because it is Mixed" circular arguments, I have to back to the UCPC/UPA Strategic Forum in which Steve Mooney put it out there that Mixed could be THE marketable product to promote Ultimate. The differentiator if you will. This is an open frame of mind that is not surprising from a person like Steve, but, of course, time will only tell how it will play out.

In terms of college, though, it seems like the primary argument for a Mixed Series is that it might allow some small, developing teams to get in the door. I don't think the backhanded compliments like "Mixed will be good if you like to hang around with women" really have much use. I do think that while many areas of the country could support a Mixed Div, that there very well could be areas that could not support all three divs and that is a concern.

I think the poster in RSD who suggested that college Mixed might have to start building on its own might have hit it on the head. Folks are going to have to take a "if you build it they will come" kind of attitude. Hold some tournaments. See what the interest is. Like many things, stepping up, taking a risk, investing in something you enjoy, and making something happen will probably be what's needed.

Mixed works well at the Youth level. Its what we do at NUTC. Having folks play some Mixed, if there is a convenient opportunity, when they are young will help the division and, perhaps, give folks a more balanced framework by which to make a decision about possibly participating as they go through their careers.