Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mixed Nats... A Different View

It's taken a while to write about mixed nats because right after I got back, I came down with a virus and slept for 60 hours in 3 days. It was kind of a good thing, because it kept me off my ankle for a while which is still recovering from a deltoid sprain less than a week before the tournament.

The injury was a pretty serious one, and the recommendation from pretty much everyone was don't play. My podiatrist was nice though, he said he could strap it and play on painkillers, but it probably wasn't a good idea. I decided before I left I definitely wasn't playing Saturday, and I'd see how I went for Sunday/Monday.

This changed my view of Mixed Nats. Normally I'm a receiver and rely on speed to get the disc and make some cuts. With a dodgy ankle, my greatest strength was going to be taken away from me and I was going to have to play as a handler. On the plus side, I had a day of watching the team to figure out how I could fit in, and attempt to contribute from the sidelines instead of the field.

I learnt two things pretty quickly. First, ultimate is frustrating from the sideline and second, games are really really long!

I think I was able to help out the team with little observations about the game in between points. One thing I noticed which I hadn't before was stack creep. While the stack initially set up in a nice spot, people returning to the stack always seem to return a little bit more on the open side than they started. During a long point, the stack would creep ever closer to the open sideline which crowded the lane. I even saw people who were looking to cut shuffling forwards and moving the stack with them. I think a simple solution to this is to get players to return to the stack on the break side of whomever is already in the stack. Hopefully that will arrest the stack creep.

I was playing with Flycatchers and the strength of the team was in the athleticism of the girls. Not many had handler disc skills, but their running and cutting kept the team alive, especially against zone. As soon as we were able to get a pass through the zone, there would be a series of 2 and 3 metre passes in rapid succession which advanced the disc through the middle of the field before the defence could set up. Even those girls with poor throws made very few turnovers because they didn't have a mark on them and their target was nice and close. It was pretty to watch.

I played the second and third games on Sunday and the games on Monday. Due to the fact that I couldn't run much I played all O points except the last one on Monday and mainly the downwind O points so that if there was a turn it would be less likely for a huck to go sailing over my head for a score. Not that that stopped Ant Dowle. I started out as the axis/swing handler and I think I did a pretty good job, but I switched to the strike handler and made some really good yard gaining throws for the team. On Monday my confidence grew a bit too much and I started trying throws that were less sure and had some turnovers, but overall I show myself that when I focus properly, I can be a decent handler.

I should say a bit about the draw. We were seeded 20th. We won one game in our pool which put us second on goal difference and guaranteed us Top 16, so we'd already beaten our seed. We lost all three games on Sunday which didn't seem to make any difference. On Monday morning, we had a forfeit which put us into the 9 - 12 playoff group. We lost the last two games and finished 12th. There are apparently 12 teams worse than us, even though we only beat one of them. We spent the whole tournament playing in pools which were a bit too high for us which was good experience, but a bit demoralizing as well.

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